In the everyday race for place and space in the online social marketing world, many business owners are getting caught up in the quicksand of believing that pure numbers equal ROI (return on investment). In truth, watching the numbers add up can be a natural high that screams from the Academy Awards podium Sally Fields style, “You like Me, You Really like Me.” Dazzling lights and little golden statues aside, let’s really evaluate those numbers and how they convert into actual marketing numbers for your business.

Many business owners suffer the frustrating feeling of exhausting even more of their time trying to tip toeing through the learning curve and sift through the techno-geek language barrier constructed around each social media forum. For example, how long does it take for you to learn to “RT your @tweeps about #quote” or “hit your tweeples with a shout out to your new twit @MagicUSA on #followfriday”? Insane yet? Multiply that by the number of social media networks in the known universe and becoming a hermit with a dog in Florida on the beach will seem like a good idea!

What is worse than the multitude of social media that the average business owner tries to participate in during a given week is the amount of time invested without measuring the results. Now, if you are shaking your head and pointing at that little number spinning like the meter on a gas pump, then bad news is about to enter your world: You are contaminating your marketing pool! For years, everyone has been taught that electronic marketing is about gaining the largest group of people to send a massive email to on a regular basis in hopes that 1% of those people will buy your product, ask for your services, or move on to whatever the next step is in the marketing plan.

NOTE: YOU MUST HAVE A MARKETING PLAN…on paper…with marketing options for “what ifs.” This is a truth of every business no matter what industry. If you don’t have a marketing plan, stop reading now and get one! I will wait. Now, back to the discussion at hand-Old drip marketing theory stated that having thousands of people in your marketing pool to blast out electronic materials was the key to success. The marketing measure of ROI lists around 1% with 3-5 touches. Without a calculator and nothing up my marketing sleeves, it is easy to see that the numbers run at about 10 conversions for every 1000 and 50 for every 5000 opt-ins. The reality would “seem” to be that more equals better sales right? Wrong. This rule only holds true with a properly niche market that understands and desires the product.

In social media marketing, this widely missed marketing point equates to the big uh-oh for ROI. When the rule of niche marketing is applied to 10,000 opt-ins, the results would seem to be 100 actives as a ROI; however, the reality is that because the niche marketing pool of interested and invested potentials is diluted significantly the 1% conversion rate drop dramatically almost off of the measurable ROI chart. There is a bonus round for contaminating your marketing pool called the Law of Diminishing Returns. The realistic problem that most business owners encounter in social media marketing using forums like Twitter, Facebook, and Squidoo is learning to use the social media in such a way that they are accepted by the group.

This takes lots of time. Every business owner has just made the ultimate conversion without the need for a ROI calculator. Yes…time is money! So, when you spend two hours twittering and gain a ton of followers without any sign ups for a FREE offer or your newsletter, consider how you are truly investing your hard earned time. Here are four fast ways to pump up the volume on your target niche marketing pool without contamination:

Set Your Goals. Know what you want to achieve by having a presence on any social network. Are you looking for recognition? Opt-ins? Visits to your website? Whatever your goal might be, if you do not establish it now, then you will not be able to accurately measure your ROI. Worse, when you are spending time building networks that add followers in the thousands, then you will have a false sense of accomplishment and a warm, fuzzy feeling that your marketing plan is working.