Trending-KPIA frequently asked question is, “How do I track key performance indicators (KPIs) or my return on investment (ROI) for social media and content marketing?” You may already have a content marketing strategy that utilizes social media, or you might just be learning of the importance of Social Media Management to promote your product or services–either way, you should be defining and measuring success in some tangible way.

If you are like most marketers, you’ve probably realized that to expand your online presence and build awareness, it is important to post your content on multiple social media channels. While it may be true that the more channels you use, the more likely your target audience is to see your message, it may not be in your best interest to try to maintain a presence in every social network. As a best practice, you should select the accounts that you can manage well, effectively displaying high-quality content in an appropriate way and engaging the largest audience of your end users.

Building an audience takes time, and channels that aren’t maintained regularly can have a negative effect on your company image. Knowing where you do NOT want to be is just as important as knowing which social channels you DO want active. Decisions about which channels to use should be determined by multiple factors including, but not limited to, the types of content you are able to produce regularly and the number of people participating in your marketing efforts. Simply stated, if videos serve no purpose for your target audience, there is no reason for you to have a You Tube account sitting dormant.

To synchronize measuring the effectiveness of all these channels in a combined effort, your KPIs cannot be based on feelings of success. Hard numbers associated with the content creation, site maintenance and investment of each social media channel need to be recorded so that managers and C-suite executive staff can see actual ROI. (ROI is often considered the most important KPI to monitor as the definitive metric when assessing the success of any marketing effort.)

Every social media channel behaves differently, requiring different metrics to be tracked and measured. Dependent on your business goals, what you measure may be able to be consolidated or there may be specific targets you will set for certain types of content. For example, if you are producing videos, the expectations and goals of your YouTube account will not be the same as for Facebook, as well as any of the other channels you use. These differences may be driven by the fact that creating video content takes considerably more effort than writing status updates for Facebook or posting images to Flickr or PhotoBucket. In order to create reasonable and attainable goals, you must first understand the KPIs of each individual channel–then determine which are worth monitoring and which are not.

In the next few articles, I will be detailing the available KPIs for some of the leading social media sites on the web. This in-depth look will help you become aware of the different KPI metrics for each channel, and how these metrics enable you to track where your content marketing strategy is most effectively converting readers into viable leads and customers.

Measurable KPIs for Social Media series

*Originally published on June 3, 2013 in the Content Marketing Examiner, sponsored by Cadence9®.