Using social media to reach your target audience is a no-brainer when it comes to marketing your product or service. Social platform like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are now considered as destination-locations for consumers and businesses – it means that as a business owner or marketer you need to establish a presence on social networks to reach your target audience. It's not a trend anymore and is considered a tool to cover your target market segments. However, most businesses and institutions would like to achieve return of investment once they allocated budget on their social media assets in an instant.

It's time to ask yourself then: are you simply using social media to increase sales?

Before you focus on getting returns from your social media investment, it's a must to measure the efficiency of your social media efforts. Measuring your social media campaigns is both a challenge and an opportunity. It's a challenge to determine which metrics work and which doesn’t, of course, it's also an opportunity to improve your strategies to achieve your targets.

Keep in mind that social media marketing is not the be all and end all of your entire marketing overall strategy. But it can be a vital cog especially in generating leads and increasing PR for your product and service. You have to establish a set of objectives before measuring anything. These objectives will guide you in determining your key performance indicators and assessing your campaigns.

For instance, if you're a nonprofit that wants to a cover a target demographic of artsy-fartsy female teens, you might as well jumpstart your campaign on Pinterest or Instagram. If you're a digital boutique agency, LinkedIn can help you connect with relevant businesses that need your services. It's about aligning your objectives with a custom-tailored strategy in order to attain measurable results!

Here are four ways to measure your social media efforts:

1.) Create a Social Media Content Plan

You can't measure anything if you don't share content to your followers. Content is what fuels online communities and gets the engagement rolling. What can be considered as content? Branded quotes, infographics, and even user-generated content are relevant content that can merit likes, shares, and comments.

Don't just share any content to your followers, create a content plan that's aligned with your brand story so your target audience can easily relate. Applying a content plan to your social assets is also a great way to determine which content is receiving more likes and shares. Always remember to make your content visually-enticing to merit positive sentiments as well.

2.) Monitor Social Engagement

Now that you've created a content plan and ready to feed content to your followers, it's time to make a social monitoring strategy. Keep in mind that every content you share on your social media page will earn comments, suggestions, and rants. It's a challenge to sort out positive sentiments from the negative ones, but it's an opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade by applying a personal approach when it comes to attending a negative feedback by a customer.

If you don't have budget to purchase a premium account from Hootsuite or Radian6, you can opt to use a regular Hootsuite account or Sprout Social to monitor your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You don't have to sit infront of your computer 24/7 to monitor your social pages, you can make a daily schedule and check them thrice within the day. Remember that real-time marketing generates leads so be sure to check every post's comments and reply to them accordingly.

3.) Increase Visual Engagement

A restaurant owner is rolling out a healthy menu for the holidays and he wants to have 500 customers to try the new menu over the weekend. If you're the restaurant owner, what would you do? You have to create a custom-tailored content plan that's visually-enticing since your product is food! Your choice of social platforms to use should Facebook and Instagram so you can share photos, infographics, and videos presenting the value of healthy eating. How do you measure your visual engagement efforts? You need to look at the numbers – likes are good, but when people share and comment on your post that's the time it increases online awareness for your business.

4.) Use a Call-To-Action on your Posts

Everyone can't be a social media guru but anyone can customized their approach to attain measurable results. Posting an update about your latest product and people liking the post isn't enough, you need to determine how to merit comments from your followers. One of the best practices is to use a call-to-action along with your content. Whether it's an infographic or video, an enticing copy to go along with the posting will make a difference. A call-to-action is also a starting point for any meaningful conversations you can have with current customers and potential prospects.