The beauty of social media marketing is the cost – free, for the most part, depending upon on how professional you want it to look.

Of course, this doesn’t include the time you spend coming up with ideas, working on graphics – if that’s your thing – and posting. So there’s a cost right there. Plus, as the web gets more and more crowded, various social media platforms have made it increasingly difficult for your posts to reach a large audience. That means you have to “pay to play” by boosting posts and targeting specific audiences.

These little costs begin to add up over time. Still, it’s a game that the vast majority of small businesses choose to play. In 2017, business in the U.S. spent $32 billion on social media advertising, according to Statista, and that’s expected to grow to $48 billion by 2021.

What’s the return on that investment? Well, many don’t know. A survey by Social Media Examiner found only 42 percent of marketers could measure their social media marketing activites, and eMarketer found that six out of 10 small businesses don’t know how to track return on investment from their social media marketing experts.

If you are one of the many who doesn’t really know whether your social media investment matches the return, Sysmos has a downloadable guide, “The Ultimate Guide to a Social Media Audit.”

Sysomos says a successful audit follows five key steps.

Network inventory

Unless you can afford a staff dedicated only to social media, you likely have to pick and choose what social media platforms you want to concentrate on. There are a number out there and what you focus depends upon who you are selling to. There are a number of studies on social media platforms by age and gender. The following numbers are from an eMarketer study down in the second quarter of 2017.

Social Media Platforms by Demographic

Obviously, you have to be on Facebook. It’s the new phone book. After that, you need to look at your audience. At Thinker, we focus on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram and also post to LinkedIn and a little bit on Twitter. We probably should use Twitter more.

As part of your audit, decide on what are your key metrics. There are a number of things to measure, including clicks to website, audience growth, impressions, engagement and conversion rates. Marketers by far value engagement and conversion rates as the two most important metrics. Create a spreadsheet and keep track of these numbers.

Policy review

It is especially important if you have more than one person posting to social media to have a social media policy.

  • Who is allowed to create and post content and on what channels?
  • A framework for the types of posts that can be made it terms of GIFs, photos, videos, links or text.
  • Who responds to users who mention your brand?
  • Does your policy change from channel to channel?

Brand activity

This is a deeper analysis into several metrics. A key trend today is “influencer marketing.” You need to research who in your industry has a national, regional or local following. Once you’ve determined who the key influencers are, you need to check out the channels the influencers are using. If you want an influencer to notice your brand and give it a boost, you have to be playing in the same sandbox.

You also need to track which posts drew the best engagement. See if you can pick up on any trends. Are original posts being shared widely, while curated posts go nowhere? Are blog posts driving engagement or is it video? Digital marketing gives you instant feedback and the data to make critical decisions. You just have to take the steps to gather the data.

Competitive insights

You may be happy with the growth of your social media audience. But if your competition is growing at twice the rate, obviously that’s a problem. If you really want a clear picture of how your doing in the social media world, identify your key competitors and then do the analysis laid out above on your competitors.

Pay attention to how often they post, how quickly they respond to questions or mentions, what type of content are they posting or sharing and the hashtags they are using.

Brand report summary

Once you’ve gathered the data, gather the team and go over the successes and the shortfalls. Everyone is busy and social media may seem like a bother. If you can visually show where you need to improve and detail the steps necessary to get there, you will get better buy in.