Social Media

Social Media Performance: How to Drive Real Value from SMM

The unhinged social media manager trend is thankfully behind us. Now it’s time to recognize social as a serious driver of growth and revenue. Welcome to the era of social media performance.

Bonus: Download a free guide and checklist to help you convince your boss to invest more in social media. Includes experts tips for proving ROI.

What is performance marketing?

Performance marketing is a modern approach to marketing that focuses on driving growth and revenue.

Traditional marketing goals can be somewhat vague. Think about a concept like brand awareness. Yes, it’s important for people to be aware of your brand. But it’s hard to link that level of awareness to your brand’s specific growth and revenue targets.

Because of that disconnect, marketing is generally seen as a cost center for the business. It’s something you have to spend money on, whether you want to or not — and you might not be able to tie that spend to real returns.

Performance marketing turns that approach on its head. Rather than a cost center, marketing becomes a high-ROI profit center. It supports real business goals like increasing sales and leads while lowering customer acquisition costs.

Modern marketing tools offer refined tracking, analysis, research, and attribution reporting tools. That data makes the marketing department a goldmine of actionable insights. The results can increase performance across the company.

Is social media a performance marketing channel?

Social media is often seen as a driver of “vanity metrics.” After all, the easiest results to see are things such as likes, comments, and shares. You can track these just by looking at your social accounts.

And, of course, those metrics have some business value — but it’s not directly tangible value. It’s impossible to say, for instance, that a like equates to a specific dollar value of ROI.

However, social media absolutely can provide tangible, measurable, concrete business value. But only if you apply performance marketing tactics and best practices to your social media efforts.

In fact, social media marketers have to become more performance-focused – and fast. Otherwise, they might see their budgets shrinking.

In 2024, marketing budgets are on a downward trend globally:

Gartner graph average budgets fall to post-pandemic low

Source: 2024 Gartner CMO Spend Survey

As budgets tighten, every dollar counts.

The industry is evolving. Social marketers who embrace the shift to a performance-based model earn a seat at the table for business and budget conversations. This creates new opportunities for career growth and development while supporting the success of your brand.

How to turn social media into a performance marketing channel

Here are 7 top strategies for making sure that your social channels contribute to the financial success of your business.

1. Align social goals with business-wide objectives

Gone are the days of setting social marketing goals in isolation. No longer a novelty, social media has matured into a critical pillar of marketing and communications.

With increased recognition comes increased responsibility to show value. It’s not about how much work you’re doing, or even what results you’re getting. It’s about how those results align with – and support – business objectives.

For example, emerging brands might aim for pure business growth. More mature brands might narrow the focus to profitable growth. Such distinctions will appear in the organization’s goal framework.

Social goals need to align with that framework. So, there’s work to do before you begin developing goals for the social marketing team. You need to unpack the organization’s KPIs (key performance indicators) and/or OKRs (objective key results).

If you’re not sure what your organizational goal framework is, your CMO or marketing manager will know.

Once you’ve done that research, dive into our blog posts on how to set social media goals and design meaningful KPIs.

Remember, though, that marketing moves fast, and goals cannot be set in stone. You’ll need to check in with your wider team (at least) quarterly. This will allow you to adjust your plans as business needs and social strategies change.

2. Set up smart data tracking

Track social media metrics

Next, you need to set up a system to track your data and analyze social media performance. A social media tool like Hootsuite allows you to choose the metrics that matter most. Then, you’ll set up custom reports complete with easy-to-share charts and graphs.

When thinking about how to measure social media marketing performance, you need to focus on the key metrics that align to your business objectives. These will vary based on the goals you set in the last section.

In general, the most relevant metrics for proving social media performance relate to sales, leads, and customers:

  • Engagement rate. This indicates how well your content connects with your audience. It indicates an interested potential customer base.
  • Click-through rate (CTR). The number of clicks to website content from a social post or ad relative to the number of people who viewed the content.
  • Leads generated. How many new leads social marketing feeds into your sales funnel.
  • Conversions. How often social content leads to a conversion event. This could include a subscription, download, or sale.
  • Revenue generated. How much revenue social marketing brings in.
  • Follower growth rate. This may seem like a vanity metric. But our 2024 Consumer Report shows that 70% of people who follow brands on social have explicit intent to purchase from them. And 59% have already made a purchase.

Set up social listening

Social listening is an endless source of customer and industry insights. That information has significant value for the social team – and for the organization as a whole. For example, with insights gained from social listening, you can:

  • Better understand your audience to guide overall marketing strategy and improve ad targeting
  • Uncover market gaps to guide product development
  • Understand customer frustrations so you can improve customer service and support
  • Get early intel on competitor promotions and new product development
  • Identify a potential brand crisis before it gets out of control

Intelligence from social listening impacts just about every value-generating department in the organization.

Clarify audience demographics

There’s no better source of real-time audience data than social media. Social media audience demographics provide extensive insights, such as:

  • who your audience is
  • where they live
  • what social media platforms they use, and
  • what their interests are.
bar graph from instagram insights showing age range of followers between 25 and 44

Source: Instagram Insights

Combine this with the data gathered from social listening. Use results to create customer personas. This will improve targeting efforts throughout the marketing team.

Set up attribution models

Conversion rate is a relatively simple calculation. It measures how many people buy (or subscribe) after clicking on a social link.

Attribution models take this concept a step further. They recognize that the customer journey is not as simple as one click, one conversion. Instead, you develop a relationship with a customer over time. This eventually leads to a sale. There may be plenty of social media posts seen, blog posts read, and shopping carts abandoned in the process.

Attribution tools like Google Analytics connect to your social media dashboard. This helps track how social drives conversions across the sales funnel.

Social is often seen as a top-of-funnel channel. This can be the hardest stage of the conversion journey to track. Proper attribution models ensure that you get a full picture of the customer journey, from engagement on social media to making a purchase.

To get this set up, you may need help from other people in your business. Depending on your organization’s structure, try talking to analysts, marketing ops, growth managers, or external agencies. These conversations provide a prime opportunity to make sure other teams understand both your existing contribution to the organization and your commitment to a performance-based model.

3. Unpack your results

Check your dashboards regularly

So you’ve set your tools up to analyze social media performance. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Your social media performance report is only as useful as the work you put into using it.

You’ll soon become familiar with the trends in your key performance indicators, social media metrics, and audience data. You’ll start to get a sense of the best cadence for check-ins and analysis. What do you need to look at daily? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly?

What kind of changes need immediate action?

Develop a plan to respond to changes in your metrics. Use a schedule that maximizes your ability to refine strategy while minimizing time spent looking at reports.

This is all about understanding how you can actually use the data for real strategic change. If it’s something you can change daily, check it daily. Think of post level metrics like engagement rate and click-through rate.

For metrics like conversion rates and revenue generated, you’re looking more at trends. So, you can likely track these on a weekly or even monthly schedule. On the other hand, spikes in social sentiment need attention right away.


Your social media performance data does not exist in a vacuum. To make the most of your data, you need to understand the larger context. Both for your own performance results and for the industry as a whole.

Just getting started with social media performance analysis? You may still have data on hand to establish baseline details. You’re likely already tracking many of the metrics needed. You’ve just been looking at them through a different lens.

As you shift your focus to a performance-based model, you’ll be able to identify long-term trends. Use these to benchmark your daily, weekly, and monthly performance.

You also need to benchmark your performance against competitors. This helps clarify expectations. You may also find you’re performing better than you realized!

Hootsuite industry benchmarking profile impressions

4. Report on ROI

Return on investment (ROI) may be the most important metric in your social media performance report. This is where you clearly identify the social media team as a profit center.

When looking at ROI, be sure to include all the dollar value your social team brings to the organization. Start with the net revenue generated from social marketing compared to your costs.

ROI analysis spend return and return by metric

To capture the full picture of your value, you need to take the analysis a step further. Look at the cost savings you bring to the organization as well. This might include:

  • reduced customer acquisition cost
  • increased lifetime customer value (based on social loyalty), or
  • better ad targeting efficiency based on insights gained from social listening.

Work with your benchmark data to show how social marketing impacts the larger organizational picture.

5. Reach for proven performance marketing tactics

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to social media performance. Here are some proven strategies to drive concrete results.

A/B testing

Social media is unique among marketing channels for its real-time feedback. You can see almost immediately what works and what doesn’t. This makes it a critical tool for refining strategy.

The most important thing to remember about A/B testing is that you need to test only one component at a time. This makes for slow going, but it’s the only way to really understand what changes drive results.

The downside of A/B testing is that you need to generate many new iterations of your social content. This is a prime use of AI copywriting tools.

For details, check out our full guide to A/B testing on social media.

Smart content distribution

It is not a good idea to blast the same content across social platforms. But it is a good idea to make the most of your marketing assets by creating relevant content for each platform. So, to promote a blog post, you might create a short video for TikTok. But you’ll make an infographic for Instagram, and a poll for X (formerly Twitter).

This also works in reverse. You can use traditional marketing channels to amplify the reach of social content. Include your social handles in email signatures, your website, and so on.

Finally, an employee advocacy program can exponentially expand the reach of your social content. Make it easy for staff in all departments to share approved brand resources with their social audiences.

Check out our guides on how to effectively cross-post on social media and how to extend your reach with employee advocacy.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing incentivizes influencers, partners, and even customers to promote your social content. In exchange, they get a commission on any sales they bring in. This type of marketing always has positive ROI because you only ever pay a commission on a sale.

On social media, you may see affiliates called brand ambassadors or associates. No matter what you call them, they have the power to extend the reach of your performance-driven social content and build the value of your social media campaigns.

Conversion rate optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of creating social content that simply drives engagement or click-throughs, you’re specifically focused on increasing conversion rate.

Rather than just getting people to your website, you want them to buy once they arrive. In turn, you lower your customer acquisition cost while increasing total revenue and your pool of highly qualified leads.

This requires a change in focus when developing your social content. Think about what you can offer your social audience to create a conversion event. Maybe it’s a whitepaper or report that requires an email to download. Or a live webinar with valuable advice from your organization’s top experts.

The important thing is to create resources with real value. Since these will live outside of your social channels, you’ll need to work with your larger marketing team to develop the resources themselves while planning out the social campaign.

Not sure what kind of offer your audience is craving? Social media is a great place to ask them.

6. Document success stories

Even with all of the metrics above at your fingertips, sometimes you need a good story to really drive home the value of social media as a performance marketing channel.

More than half of nonmarketing leaders think marketing has an “inflated view of its importance in cross-functional initiatives,” according to Gartner. Success stories provide the narrative to disprove that perception.

Checking your social media performance dashboards regularly allows you to identify these stories. For example, when you see a spike in conversions or revenue, work backwards to identify the campaign – or even the specific post – behind it.

Maybe you can highlight a high-profile engagement with a recognized influencer, celebrity, or thought leader in your industry. Or maybe your social content led to coverage in a traditional media outlet. All of that extra exposure has real value for the organization. Make sure the relevant stakeholders know about it!

7. Make strategic recommendations

As you develop your social media performance chops, you’ll become an important resource for the rest of the organization.

A/B testing, performance tracking, and social listening all provide essential intelligence that can only be accessed through the social team.

To really provide value to the organization, though, you need to go beyond simply sharing data. You need to parse that data and use your findings to make strategic recommendations. This is where you really earn your seat at the marketing table and justify an increased budget for social marketing.

Remember: When it comes to social media strategy, you and your team are the experts. When you combine your existing expertise with ongoing data collection and analysis, you can identify trends, opportunities, and potential threats as they emerge.

Planning for how to maximize your response – from one-off campaigns to major strategic shifts – will continually improve social performance. Your own work days will become more satisfying, to boot.

Prove (and improve) social media performance with Hootsuite

We’ve covered a lot in this post, and it’s clear you’re going to need some tools to help you implement all of these ideas. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that those tools are all built right into Hootsuite.

First up, Hootsuite has robust analytics and reporting functionality. Once you choose the right social media metrics to track, you can use the social media performance report template options in Hootsuite to design a professional, easy-to-understand report.

You can even use different templates to create a separate social media performance report for each group of stakeholders, and have them sent automatically at whatever cadence you prefer.

Link clicks to page cart additions

Hootsuite Analytics also allows you to conduct a competitive analysis on up to 20 competitive brands, or to benchmark your performance against the industry average.

Critically for the shift to performance-based marketing, Hootsuite Advanced Analytics has built-in ROI analysis, so you can track total spend versus total return based on factors like brand affinity, awareness, conversation and intent. This takes the guesswork out of your value calculations.

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Hootsuite is also a powerful social listening tool. Using Hootsuite Streams and Talkwalker, you can create a true social intelligence dashboard, monitoring your own brand, your top competitors, and the industry as a whole.

Discover new content trending Instagram hashtags hootsuite social media and canva

To extend the reach of your social content, set up an employee advocacy program using Hootsuite Amplify. This tool is specifically designed to bring the entire organization into the brand’s social sphere. Bonus: When employees are empowered to share brand-safe content, they are more likely to engage with and recognize the value of your work.

Hootsuite weekly share goals all content

On the paid social front, Hootsuite Social Advertising allows you to maximize your social ads budget. By tracking paid and organic campaigns from all platforms in one place, you are able to focus on cross-platform performance. You can quickly reallocate budgets and even boost your best organic posts automatically to increase reach and drive more conversions.

Finally, Hootsuite’s AI copywriting tool (fondly known as OwlyWriter AI) helps increase your team’s productivity, aids in iteration for A/B testing, and can repurpose your top-performing posts for effective cross-platform distribution.

Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. Publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage your audience, measure results, and more — all from one dashboard. Try it free today.

Do it better with Hootsuite, the all-in-one social media tool. Stay on top of things, grow, and beat the competition.

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The post Social Media Performance: How to Drive Real Value from SMM appeared first on Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard.

July 9, 2024

Original Source https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-performance/

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