The best way to define the success of a marketing campaign is by measuring its return on investment (ROI). However, it is hard to calculate the ROI on your social media activity and equally tricky to justify the time and money spent on such a project. Clients also want to see proof that social activity is paying off, so here are some key tips and tools to help you measure the ROI of your social media efforts:

Step 1: Set your goals

The way you measure your ROI depends on your goals. You need to set out your objectives at the start by attaching measurable outcomes and timescales to your activity. You can't calculate ROI accurately without knowing where you currently stand. Set your goals before you do anything else.

Step 2: Get the right tools

Social media sites offer in-built analytics – Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and Google Analytics all help you understand your audience and develop your content accordingly. If you want to delve deeper into the psyche of your user, there are plenty of tools allowing you to do just that.

Step 3: Engagement

The most straight-forward way to measure your social ROI is to measure engagement. You do this by tracking your likes on Facebook, your followers on Twitter and the numbers associated with any other social media sites on which you have a presence. Recording the number of conversions (the number of new followers and likes etc) made as a result of a specific campaign is a sign of its success. In-built analytics tools let you measure engagement against a particular post or tweet and signal what kind of content your customers respond to.

Step 4: Understand awareness

Impressions, mentions and click-through rates (CTR) all give you an insight into users' awareness of your brand. CTR is the ratio of how often people who see your brand actually click on it. Impressions are the number of times a page or post is viewed by a user.

Step 5: Calculate influence

As well as how many people saw your posts, you also need to look at how their behaviour was affected by those posts. This introduces a new meaning to ROI, namely return on influence. Tracking and measuring influence is far from an exact science, but it is helpful to see how people interact with what you are sharing online.

Step 6: Measure sentiment

Another tricky metric is sentiment – the feeling and attitude towards your product or brand. There is no point knowing how many mentions you are getting unless you know if these are positive or negative. This is something to consider when looking at your ROI and social media strategy as a whole.

Step 7: Turn data into useful information

How do your goals correlate with your analytics data? For example, if your goals include increased customer retention or better sales, can you make connections with your data to identify the impact of your social media activity? When you can, your ROI will be plain to see and any time, money or effort spent will be well worth it.