Unless you have been frozen in suspended animation for the last few years, it is likely that you have noticed that social media networks afford businesses a ginormous advantage in reaching customers and potential customers. With millions upon millions of users viewing and updating their social media accounts multiple times throughout any given day, the opportunities to engage these consumers are endless.

Keeping your brand in front of consumers day in and day out via social networking is a very powerful tool, but it must be wielded with strategy and creativity.

Gauging the return on investing in social media marketing can be tricky. The analytics used to measure engagement will tell many stories, but none show a clear, dollar for dollar, return quantification. This current fact makes many business owners uneasy when it comes to sinking substantial portions of marketing budgets into social campaigns.

The truth is that there are ways to gauge returns, though much like social media itself, they are unconventional. If you were to launch a direct mail campaign, it is quite easy to include a campaign specific offer like a coupon code that allows tracking of the conversions achieved through the campaign. Take that data and with some basic mathematics the ROI is easily calculated.

Social media marketing campaigns require a bit more effort to quantify ROI. The first step in creating an effective campaign with some sort of quantifiable success is to outline the goals. These goals may be as simple as accumulated Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers, or delve a bit deeper and measure the traffic referred to the company website from each social media outlet. Focusing on the latter affords increasing analytics that can realistically be used to quantify conversions. The specifics vary based on the products and services offered by the business, and how the final sale is processed. A lead generation site would measure conversions differently than ecommerce for example.

After the goals of the campaign have been established, the creative and strategic plans must be developed and implemented.

Creativity and strategy go hand in hand. This can be as simple as developing a unique Facebook contest and hosting Twitter parties with the promise of giveaways, or using creative social media advertising campaigns to drive traffic through social media to conversion-friendly pages within the company website.

Whatever the strategy, building and maintaining a social media presence is essential for all industries. By 2014, mobile internet use is expected to eclipse fixed internet use, and more than 90% of mobile use is social…do the math.