A somewhat legendary topic already in the ‘early’ stages of Social Media, but one that needs conquering. As a new media marketer myself, trying to explain the true ROI of Social Media is not as conventional and/or trackable as other outlets. Where you can typically put a cost-per-call, cost-per-click or even cost-per-thousand impressions on other media channels, social media defies this logic. Partly as we are investing in a consumer facing platform that can come not only under the umbrella of lead generation, but also that of customer service.
This is a true tale of two sides, as marketers we now typically use social media to support other activity on the web. But social media is also a point of contact for enquiry that may not necessarily result in a direct or hot lead. What is clear is that trying to understand what capital gains surround social media and its importance to the business is often tough to answer. There is yet to be a clear strategy in place to determine true ROI on social media– but on the flip side – social media is almost instrumental to any brand with a presence online as it can leverage numerous other campaigns.
To be clear – measuring the ROI of all of your Facebook efforts is dangerous. As marketers we are performing more than just a sales role—one of customer service as well.
The following is a list of common denominators used in measuring social media, but how we put a monetary value against each is proving to be an uphill battle – phrases that are often touted include;
- Lead Generation
Indeed we can account for a combination of the above – yes they are great starting blocks, but each platform holds a different value.
For example Facebook has arguably the most advanced platform for paid and sponsored ads, Google+ can offer something in the way of search rankings and Pinterest can offer inspiration. Each lands at different cycles in the buying process. The resounding difference is how do we as a business make sense of all of the numbers, facts and figures that are in the social media mix?
Monitoring everything that is said on social networks sounds like a daunting job; so much so that many marketers believe it is not worth attempting. The available mass of unstructured data, which is generated by everyday online actions and conversations without any predefined ways of recording them, can seem so nebulous as to be impossible to harness. However, some marketers are realising that, with a solid grasp of technology and achievable objectives, there are millions of insight sources and chances to reach consumers through social media that previously did not exist. Believe it or not, as we progress, consumer’s online behaviour is not as unpredictable as we first thought. There are trends within topics and volumes split by timestamp. Large chunks of supposedly unstructured data therefore coalesce around easily recognisable themes and trends. For example, the volume of tweets during a TV programme.
One of the most common approaches that brands are taking are to monitor social media is observing the comments that are either addressed directly to them or made in response to content they have posted themselves. The information can be used to either prompt further direct communication or simply for marketers to learn more about customers’ attitudes.
Obviously, the big question remains whether the value of social listening generates a return on the investment that goes into it. Here are a few ways to ease that annoyance. Though measuring social media ROI may not be perfect, it’s not impossible either. These five methods can help gauge what your small business is getting out of its social media commitment.
1. One way companies quantify it is by demonstrating that it costs less to resolve a problem on social media than via a call centre.
If it does, then a return has been realised every time a customer decides they no longer need to make a call. Other use unique phone numbers so calls can be tracked via campaign on social media, has your customer been prompted by the use of social media?
There’s no longer any doubt for small businesses whether they should be active across social media networks. If nothing else, the visibility and connectivity offered by social media has convinced most business owners that it’s worth their while.
But just how much time and effort should it consume? While it may be easy for the average small business to say it’s worthwhile to be on Facebook , most would agree monitoring it and posting 24/7 would be a waste of resources. The only way to know how much social media is enough is to have some sort of gauge on your return on investment.
2. Similar to any marketing activity, we must first decide what we are trying to achieve from Social Media.
What is the purpose of our social strategy? To increase brand awareness, drive more leads or is there an alternative motive? Either way we must consider all of our activity, ensuring it is fit for purpose and considering its monetary value. Are your social media campaigns driving traffic to your website or are they helping to aid customer service and consumer interaction which would otherwise result in a phone call coming into the business. It is important to understand what the primary purpose is. This will not only help a more tailored campaign but also help to quantify end results.
3. Never forget to track your campaigns!
By using available tools (many of which are free) such as Google Analytics, custom source codes, referrals and other available tools, we can begin to see trends, consumer habits and track the effects of our social efforts. Can you see that your social activity has driven a certain amount of calls? Then that can be quantified against spend and produce a cost per call or cost per enquiry. You can also see how many responses have helped to solve a customer enquiry without the need to take the enquiry further. It again comes down to what your primary objective is.
Not forgetting to mention that the newly released Google Adwords ‘Enhanced campaigns’ (which helps target mobile devices) is sure to prove fruitful for social marketers in terms of awareness and the ways in which people access information. Are social networks an alternative to Google when looking for a product or service? Especially if it has been socially recommended by a peer!
4. Competitor analysis and proposition
Are you a start-up or long standing company? Social Media is a huge platform that allows you to see how others are using social channels. It is fantastic for competitor analysis and to gauge your efforts vs others. It will give you a fantastic insight into market trends, what your competitors commercial focus are and many more insights that are open to the public. A lot can be learnt from previous campaigns.
5. Analyse, optimise and re-invent
We often overlook the split between organic vs paid traffic. Social media platforms that are often free can be great drivers of traffic but they can also be detrimental to a company. If pages and accounts are set up, yet not monitored and managed correctly it can have negative impact on any brand. Try to look at individual platforms and see if there is an obvious metric that can be put in place such as cost per impression, cost per like, assisted conversions and referrals etc.
Facebook doesn’t limit page administrators to the data on their own admin panel. One example is Conversion Measurement, a Facebook tool that allows those who advertise on the platform to record the behaviour of those who click on ads.
Analysing these numbers by how many likes were received, multiplied by how many friends of those likes witnessed the action give a more accurate — not to mention sunnier — idea of how far your message reached.
Your website’s analytics can tell you how often people find your page via Facebook or Twitter, but it’s not always easy to tell what actions on these social media sites have driven that traffic, or how much that traffic truly cost. By analysing your website analytics against pay per click, or PPC campaigns however, it becomes much clearer.
Though no social media ROI measurement is perfect or comprehensive, neither are many measurements of ROIs in other PR and marketing efforts. Using these methods, and using them over time, will be revealing of current ROI, as well as creating benchmarks against which to measure future social media efforts and strategies.
Social media empowers the brand to listen, engage and influence, tools that may have long been forgotten since its huge intervention of the online space. The consumer has often been the advocate for brands but social media is handing the power back to the core business.
Something else that is worth remembering is that this is only a blog on 5 tips that I think should be considered to quantify your efforts, measurement however, should not stop here. The possibilities are endless and goal posts are always changed as platforms evolve, but much like social media itself, there are few boundaries – how you quantify your own efforts will be very different to someone else’s. Establish what you are achieving, how much it is costing you and the return it provides!