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As a healthcare marketing professional, how many times have you heard the phrase, “you can’t measure the return on investment (ROI) of social media”? A recent business marketing survey showed more than half of the respondents indicated that they don’t measure the success of social media initiatives because they either lack the appropriate tools or their initiatives are still relatively new.

Would this lack of measurement be accepted anywhere else in marketing? It’s doubtful.

Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have been tweaking their business dashboards for years trying to include more analytics for folks like us, who need to prove social media is worth the investment. But do metrics such as “likes”, “followers” and “reach” really mean anything?

In my opinion, the analytics provided by most of the bigger social media websites are weak and lack the intelligence needed to prove social campaigns are effective. Knowing how many people saw my post or like my page doesn’t always translate to the right people seeing my post or liking my page.

This doesn’t, however, mean that we can’t measure the impact of social media. There are several things we can look at to determine if and how social media is working for your business.

With tools such as Google URL Builder and Google Analytics, we’re able to determine not only how many people came to our websites or landing pages through social media, but which posts or campaigns garnered the biggest reaction. Activity that occurs on social media sites is important, but when a user clicks-through a link for more information, they instantly become a hotter lead.

For more robust insight, marketing automation software gives us the ability to not only see that a certain number of people are coming to our websites or landing pages from social media, but as soon as they fill out an on-site form and provide their contact information, we can match their identity with their past history on the site. For example, we can now visualize the following user’s activity, even before they fill out a form and reveal their identity:



Although this person may have not gone directly from Facebook to the shopping cart, social media was an integral part of the sale process and can be attributed to that transaction.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is determining exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve through the use of social media. Do you want to increase traffic to an online shopping cart? These visits can be tracked. Is the goal to educate your target audience? Then an important metric would be the number of whitepapers downloaded via social media. Are you trying to increase website visitors or grow your email database? Then your efforts should support those goals. Listing these key performance indicators (KPIs) up-front will enable you to really measure if your social media efforts are worth the investment.