It’s all about being being real. Social media is just an extension of real life.

Most major companies seem to understand that they should have a presence on social media. But do they really know what they’re doing there? Or are they just doing it because everyone else is?

Before we talk about measuring return on investment in social media, let’s go to the very core of what social media is: Another way for humans to connect with each other. Zeynep Tufekci argues strongly in The Atlantic that social media is not making us lonely, citing many other things that do just that: “Look at TV! Look at commutes! Look at suburbs! Look at long work hours!”

Knowing this, brands should strive to have “R.E.A.L.” relationships with customers — Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-lasting, Chris Heuer of Deloitte Digital writes for the Wall Street Journal. The actual economic value comes from the flow of conversation these customers create about your brand, as demonstrated in the engagement curve below:

Measuring value of social media

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP via The Wall Street Journal

Here are a few great tips to keep it real with social media and get a feel for your ROI:

Be ready to shift gears on a dime. Aaron Perlut writes for Forbes that occasions such as Social Media Giving Day are a great opportunity for businesses. By participating, brands can generate buzz about their brand by doing good and thereby really connect with their fans. Social Media Giving Day has come and gone this year, but there will be other opportunities to join the conversation in the marketplace and figure out how your business can be part of it.

Get input from your brand’s evangelists. No one knows your brand like your biggest fans do, Sid Shuman of Sony Playstation tells Mashable. So why not get their input in content creation? You could even curate content from them and give them a shoutout or some sweet swag for a job well done. The more you engage those who are loyal to your brand, the more that will spread throughout the larger social media conversation.

Communicate with your fans what you’re trying to do. Whether you’re trying to raise money for a good cause or share some pertinent information, you need to tell your social followers what you would like them to do. Jason Boies of Salesforce says to “use active language (Click, Share, Donate Now) to get people to take action right away.”

Know exactly what you want to measure. Do you want to know if your website is getting more clicks? How often your brand is being mentioned on social? How many sales you are making and exactly what channels they are coming from? Courtney Seiter of Raven says it is important to know exactly what you want to measure before you start measuring it.

Do you think social media return on investment is really truly measurable?

Do you think a company should have a specific goal in mind when it comes to its social media strategy?