This article first appeared as Anthony Bullick’s column in the Daily Post business section on 5 April. 

How to measure the success of your social media campaigns differs from business to business.

The first step is to identify your business goals and understand how social media can assist. This confirms why you have social media.

For example, are you looking to sell more of products ‘A, B and C’? If so, promoting products ‘X, Y and Z’ won’t help.

Or are you looking to position yourself as an expert in a particular service? Then it’s important to share related content on your channels.

Next, set targets and communicate what success looks like.

Typical KPIs for social media are attention, engagement, authority, influence, and sentiment.

In social media marketing’s infancy, attention was the go-to KPI. Increasing fans of your Facebook page and followers on Twitter was an easy stat to show.

But what does looking at an increase in fans in isolation actually mean? I could buy 10,000 fans tomorrow, but they’re not relevant.

The only exception re monitoring an increase in followers is for a new account seeking to build an online audience for the first time.

Engagement is another popular method of ‘proving’ social media success. A report showing an increase in retweets or shares compared to the previous month can be well received.

But, in isolation, this also doesn’t really tell us anything. Who was doing the engagement? Has this helped achieve objectives?

In addition, it doesn’t allow for changes in social media culture. For example, user behaviour on Facebook has moved from sharing and liking branded content to simply watching the video or tagging friends in the post.

In this instance, reach, video view time, and tags are the analytics to track and report on.

Review accounts that shared your content: are they an authoritative figure? Has it resulted in an increase in traffic to your website?

Third party tools including Followerwonk provide useful data on your Twitter followers. Such information includes how influential they are, geographic location, and a word cloud of common phrases in their biographies.

Moving away from social media-only analytical tools, Google Analytics provides valuable ‘after social’ data.

After the user clicked through from social media to your website, did they do what you wanted them to do?

Did they engage with the content? What other pages did they visit? Did they buy a product? Did they read a case study? Did they book onto an event or download a brochure?

Listening on social media also allows you to gauge public opinion: do people think positively or negatively about your brand?