links into leadsDoes your agency use social media platforms in its business development program?

If you do, how often do you debate the effectiveness of these tools? What metrics do you use to establish the true ROI of the effort? Are you defining success by the number of “likes,” shares, comments, tweets, retweets and clicks your content receives online?

That’s the problem with social media ROI discussions today. Unless your company ponies up for enterprise-level social media management software, you’re left to use free or low-cost platforms that offer little more than click tracking data.

But it’s all you have, so you use the data to develop and manage your ongoing social selling strategy. The problem is, once you upgrade to a social media monitoring platform that includes conversion tracking, you begin to see a very different world — a world where not all clicks are created equal.

A Click Is Not a Lead

The world loves free, insightful and helpful content. That’s why you can’t overvalue a click on a link. Many content marketers mistakenly believe all clicks signal a prospect need, when often it’s simply a person taking advantage of more free information.

For example, let’s say you post a lot of content around B2B digital sales and marketing strategy and consistently see good click-thru numbers on those links. Specifically, you may see a lot of clicks from inside a certain LinkedIn group that focus on B2B sales and marketing topics.

Because of this, you assume the members of this group want and need your advice about developing B2B sales and marketing strategies, and you devote more time to the group beyond just posting your content. You monitor the daily update emails, participate in discussions and begin to connect with other members.

Meanwhile, you’re not seeing as many clicks from another LinkedIn group, so you dial down the time you spend there to devote more attention to that click-happy LinkedIn group that seems to love your content. In your mind, you’re focusing your very limited time fishing where the fish are swimming.

But you have a big problem. The click data doesn’t tell you if the LinkedIn group activity is converting to new leads, downloads and subscriptions or if you’re just helping educate a lot of people who will never do business with you. At best, if you’re using Google Analytics and proper Google Analytics Goal design, you can correlate activity with growth in downloads or subscribers. But you wouldn’t be able to track conversion activity down to the individual LinkedIn group or post.

Turning Links into Leads

The missing link (pun intended) here is conversion tracking. It’s not enough to use Google Analytics to determine that your social and content efforts are driving traffic to your website. You need to separate the window shoppers from the real buyers. The only way to do that is by tracking conversions and linking those conversions to personally identifiable information such as an email address.

For every social media post you make, you need to understand how many clicks and conversions (downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter or buying a product) were generated. And you need to know who converted from each source so that you can better plan future content and social efforts against the source channel (a LinkedIn group, for example).

To do this, you need to invest in a social media management and tracking platform that will produce customized short links for each social post you create and track traffic from those links all the way through conversion. There are a number of enterprise-level solutions that will do this, or you can use something similar to Oktopost that provides this click versus conversion tracking and reporting for less than $100 a month. You can read my full review of the Oktopost Platform here to see if it’s something that might be right for you.

For now, let me show you a simple real-world example of how I use Oktopost’s conversion data to better target my business development efforts.

How Conversions Inform Your Strategy

The single most valuable benefit to comparing performance by click and conversion is time and effort management. The insightful reports can be quite eye-opening and really help you focus your limited time and attention to drive the best results for your business.

For instance, look at this campaign snapshot for my new book, The Invisible Sale. Because most people are not going to purchase a book that is still nine months from publishing (this campaign was in April), we designed the campaign to drive awareness of the book and newsletter sign-ups. My firm helps companies establish digitally powered lead generation and painless prospecting programs. Thus, anyone who signs up for the newsletter isn’t just a potential book buyer, but they very well may be a possible business development lead for my agency.

The figure below is showing the click and conversion (people who clicked through and then signed up for my Painless Prospecting newsletter).

If I were only looking at click data, I might feel that I need to place more effort on Twitter and less on Facebook and LinkedIn because Twitter drove significantly more clicks. But then you look at the conversion column.

The conversion column tells a very different story. Each of those platforms drove four conversions. However, LinkedIn drove those conversions at a much higher conversion rate. Thus, if I were looking for the most profitable platform to place my limited resources (time and effort), then LinkedIn would seem like a better option.

When someone clicks on your content, they’re indicating an interest or curiosity. They’re window-shopping. And in the world of business prospecting, they’re invisible. And while this is OK for a while, at some point, if you really want to use your social media efforts to surface real leads, then you need these invisible buyers to take the next step.

You need them to give you a piece of personally identifiable information, such as an email address to subscribe to a blog, in exchange for helpful information. Once they do, they became a visible prospect. And that should be the goal of your social media efforts: to create and share content that turns invisible prospects into visible leads.

The Benefits of Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking isn’t just a better, more accurate way of reporting social media ROI. It’s a better way of developing a social media powered business development plan of attack. The single biggest challenge agency business development operatives have today is time — or more accurately — lack of time. If you’re just tracking clicks, you very well may be spending a lot of time producing and sharing content with window shoppers instead of developing relationships with true prospects. To ensure that you’re focusing your attention on those fishing holes that produce real leads, focus on tracking what happens after the click.

Originally published Aug 19, 2013 1:00:26 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Marketing Analytics