To take a page from Ferris Bueller, social media moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around, you might miss it. What do I mean by look around? Examine your metrics. Of course, I’m not talking about a traditional “dollars in versus dollars out” analysis. 

A recent study from Business Insider (BI) found that the percentage of marketers tracking traditional return on investment (ROI) on social media is dropping; however, social media marketing budgets are ballooning. What gives? Why throw more money at something while toning down your efforts to measure your return? Marketers aren’t getting lazy or dumb. Rather, their social media efforts are evolving. “They've realized that social media isn't a transactional engine or sales machine, so they're dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return,” said John Heggestuen of BI. 

Social media strategist Tara Hunt concurs. In this post on her blog, she explains that social media is just one form of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, which is incredibly difficult to measure in terms of ROI. Luckily, social media offers a few metrics sources that other WOM channels do not:

  • Analytics: Most platforms—from Facebook to YouTube—allow you to measure clicks, shares, time spent on a page, and demographics.
  • Feedback: Comments, replies, messages, likes, retweets—these are all sources of instant feedback. Essentially, they’re the new focus groups. But they’re even better, because they’re your actual customers, and they’re sharing their feelings and reactions directly with you.
  • Dialogue: Where there is instant feedback, there is the opportunity for two-way communication. Social media naturally breeds dialogue, which serves as the foundation for relationship-building. You bond with customers at your practice, so why not strengthen existing bonds or build new ones with other prospects online? 

So, if not financial returns or direct sales conversions, what metrics should you measure online?

  • Audience reach: According to the The Minimalist’s Guide To Social Media Metrics, “Reach metrics are all about quantifying who is hearing your message...These metrics determine how large your potential audience is and at what rate it’s increasing.”
  • Engagement: Labeled the “metric you can count on” by Socialbakers, engagement examines the effect your messaging has on who it reaches. This helps you determine what content resonates most with your audience. In this category, shares are particularly important, “because normal users' posts are seen in a relatively high percentage of friends' news feeds (compared to posts by brand pages); between 29 and 35% according to one study,” according to BI.
  • Sentiment: Whereas reach is quantitative, sentiment is qualitative. As social business professional Liza Sperling explains in this HubSpot article, this metric helps you gauge how your audience feels about you. Furthermore, it provides context on varying degrees of engagement, from the granular (a single piece of content) to the grand scheme (your entire Facebook efforts over the past six months).

Beyond these valuable metrics, Tara Hunt notes the following invaluable intangibles:

  • It improves your “ability to listen. It’s priceless.”
  • It enables you to open “yourself up to constant and amazing opportunities to participate, and by participating, you will find numerous opportunities to lead the conversation and make a great impression.”
  • You gain “community instead of merely customers. The difference is incredible.”

Just like Facebook’s user interface, social media is always changing. If your physical therapy business uses social media, it’s important that you stay hip to your metrics. I recommend following free resources: WebPT’s social media page, Social Media Today, Socialmouths, and Social Media Examiner. Not currently social media-ing or want to beef up your efforts? Check out this infographic from American Express OPEN. I also recommend checking out David Straight’s recent video on Facebook: “There’s a little-known feature on Facebook business pages that you should use to spread the word about your physical therapy practice.”

While determining your social media ROI might not be as simple as money in versus money out, there is validity to time in versus reward out. Social media requires some effort, sure, but if you’re measuring and acting upon the right things, it can be quite worthwhile.

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