According to Social Media Examiner, 89% of marketers want to know how to measure social media ROI, and yet calculating the social ROI still remains illusive to many companies. It’s true that it’s difficult to put a number on a “like” or “comment” or this thing we call engagement. And yet, engagement is the name of the game for social media. If you’re not engaging with the people following you, then really you should just delete your account now.

But as more and more of the buying cycle falls into the laps of marketers, we are increasingly being asked to prove the ROI of our efforts. So just how do we measure what we’re doing on social? Unfortunately the fact is that not everything related to social media is quantifiable. However, when you start to track what you’re doing on social, you’re able to get a much clearer picture of your ROI.

Here are a few tips to follow when developing a strategy to calculate the ROI of your social media efforts:

1. Align with the goals of your business. Are you a new start-up and trying to build brand awareness and/or establish yourselves as thought leaders? Do you need to field a lot of customer service questions and complaints? Are you trying to establish a community through a social network? Do you want to use social to capture new leads? Make sure that you’re aligning with specific business goals and choose to establish a presence on the channels that have the best chance of achieving those goals. Simply put, don’t create a Facebook page just to say you’re on Facebook, but go where your audience is.

2. Define relevant metrics. Once you’ve decided which business metrics matter most to your organization, you then need to figure out which metrics are viable and reportable to your CMO. For thought leadership, maybe it’s reach and impressions across the web. For customer service, maybe it’s response time and sentiment.

It’s also important to tie these metrics together so you’re telling the story of your campaign efforts. Individually these numbers may not give you the best picture, but when told together they have a stronger meaning. There are tons of different social media technologies available today that offer everything from listening and publishing to reporting and customer support. Make sure you invest in the tools that will provide you with the metrics you need.

3. Align again! Now that you have your goals and metrics, it’s time to align with the other teams in your marketing department to establish a publishing schedule based on your content calendar. Align with your demand generation team to see what campaigns are coming down the pipeline. Sync with your PR team to see what announcements are being made and what publications they are working with. Talk with your events teams so you know what webinars and conferences you have coming up that you can drive people to.

4. Social + Marketing Automation=ROI! Track all your URLs. Create unique links within your marketing automation platform to be able to see which social networks are bringing in traffic and downloads. Connecting these systems helps your tools work a whole lot smarter so that you aren’t necessarily working harder. Integrating social media insights into your automation system supports your ability to personalize and engage meaningfully.

5. Nurture and build. Once you’ve captured data on the people you’ve brought in from social in your marketing automation system, you can then put them into a nurture campaign and track what other interactions you’re having with them. From there you can score that lead and potentially pass it on to your sales team.

Social media is really about building relationships, and it’s important that among all the tools and processes you put in place, to always have a human touch.