How to Measure the ROI of your Social Media Efforts

Posted by Victoria Elizabeth 29 Jul 13

Here's the thing about ROI metrics for Social Media:

green apples in equationGenerally-speaking, most marketing managers and small business owners, as well as large corporations, all recognise the benefits of social networking and creating brand awareness through different online media like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. 

However, on the one hand you may have marketing and ecommerce managers who believe social media is important but don’t know how to quantify it, and on the other you may have C-level execs who don't always understand the benefits of social media, and therefore want numbers to legitimise spending time and resources.  

The problem with looking at the ROI of social media is that classical metrics don't apply to this fluid and complex area of customer engagement. Instead, marketers need to look at consumer motivations to use social media, and then measure the social media investments customers make as they engage with their brand. 

You should always begin by asking:

1) What are your marketing objectives for this social media campaign/in general?

2) Why will customers visit your social media page/follow you?

3) How do you want vs. expect them to behave?

So what you've really been looking for all along is how customers behave in response to your social media campaigns, and not how much revenue you got back from the time invested in the campaign. After all, customers invest their own time in engaging with your campaign on social media sites, so this should be your main priority when building campaigns. 

Think of your social media campaigns as long-term relationships, not one-night stands. You need consumers to trust, respect and value your brand while also enticing them to become long-term customers. 

Your main objectives for social media campaigns should be to measure:

- Awareness

- Engagement

- Word-of-mouth

Not only will these objectives allow you to monitor key performance metrics for social media ROI, they will also provide more insight into how your marketing techniques are actually influencing your conversion funnel. The three objectives above also correspond to levels of your conversion funnel, from initial awareness, to engagement/conversion and finally becoming a brand ambassador. 

How to track brand awareness

Before the advent of social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., brand awareness was determined through surveys and long studies. Now-a-days, you can measure awareness through every electronic touchpoint someone has with your company, which allows you to see your company's reach and relevance. Equally important are third-party applications that you can use to monitor activities on your company's social media pages, like Hootsuite, SDL and Sysomos, to name a few. You should research which tools will work best for you and your specific social media needs.

Here is a handy overview of 6 social media tools to start you up. 

And here are some of the key metrics that will tell you about brand awareness:

- SEO ranking on search engines

- Number of direct and branded search visits

- Number of fans/ followers (Twitter), and hashtag mentions

- Number of application installations, bookmarks


How to track brand engagement

Brand engagement is a great sign that your campaigns are working, so tracking these metrics is essential to knowing how visitors are behaving towards your brand/campaign. User-generated content can also boost how others see your company, and add value as well. The social proof factor of user engagement through content and comments will reinforce loyalty and future support for your company.

The metrics you should follow for brand engagement include: 

- One-time vs. repeated interactions like comments, replies, reviews

- Number of members/ RSS feed subscribers

- Amount of user-generated content  

- Number of responses to survey, discussion question, threads


How to track word-of-mouth

Word-of-mouth metrics seem impossible to track, but usefully this is where social media beats all other marketing metrics. Brand ambassadors spread their opinions through word-of-mouth and express their loyalty for a brand to others. They do this either identifiably through public spheres of social media or privately through personal messages, and of course in person, which you can’t measure. They are, however, your key customer, so knowing as much as possible about thier activities can demonstrate people's willingness to become long-term customers and highlight the benefits of your company or products to your real customers. 

Alternatively, dissatisfied customers can also affect metrics drastically. Bad PR going viral online is a company’s worst nightmare. A bad ad campaign can not only flop, but also go viral for upsetting people enough that they want to discuss and share their opinions.

Keeping these things in mind, here are the key metrics for tracking word-of-mouth:

- Number of references to brand/online content on other media, whether online or off

- Number of retweets

- Incoming links, citations of company content

- Number of shares, reposts, 'Likes'


Key take aways

Starting with consumer motivation, rather than classic ROI, allows you to get more insight into your customers by focusing on their behaviour, rather than just your bottom line. Even different types of social media applications can give you the same insights because the principal metrics are the same. All you need to do is track the metrics for brand awareness, engagement and word-of-mouth, and they will provide you with further insight into the success of campaigns and how to iterate further. So rather than focusing on investments of time and money, marketing and ecommerce managers should be customer objective-driven, and find the right tools to track the right metrics in order to win at their ecommerce social media campaigns. 

Happy socialising!  

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