Having grown up in the subscription and later the catalog marketing worlds, one basic concept permeated everything we did. Every effort, every offer, every list and every test is assigned a key code, an alpha-numeric code that enable results to be tracked, measured, and attributed to the source from which the customer acquisition or sale came.

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This practice of using key codes can and should be used to measure social media marketing efforts. If it sounds too complicated, its really not. Its more about discipline than it is sophistication, and measuring ROI is all about discipline.

How do you create key codes?

Depending on how expansive your marketing programs are, youll probably want to think about a 5 to 6-digit coding system. Consider this as a possible structure:

Digit 1: Alpha or numeric character to identify source of conversion. A simple example would be T=Twitter, F=Facebook, E=Email.

Digit 2: Year of campaign/effort.

Digit 3: Month or season of campaign/effort.

Digit 4: Type of effort. Examples: coupon, contest, special promo.

Digit 5-6: Specific identifiers for the effort.

How do you capture key codes?

1. Create a code to attach to your special coupon or offer.

2. Publish the codes from Twitter, Facebook or whatever social network where a majority of your customers reside.

3. Create a field on the input screen that the customer will use to redeem the coupon or offer.

4. Refine a system for ensuring the codes are added to your customer database.

If you follow these instructions, you will create for yourself a vehicle for measuring results and the opportunity to approach your social media marketing as the fascinating science it can be. Whats stopping you?