• Marketing

The Marketer’s Holy Grail: How to Measure Social Media ROI

by Khoros staff | May 23, 2019

Marketers know investing in social media yields results, but when it comes to proving social media ROI, well, the struggle is real. According to Social Media Examiner, only 10% of marketers strongly agree that they can measure social media ROI.

Executives often don’t understand the value of social media and when teams can’t prove it, it’s almost impossible to secure real investment in the channel. C-suites aren’t buying that “engagement” translates to business success, instead they expect marketers to translate metrics into precise revenue. Some marketers use industry benchmarks or hire expensive third-party research companies to run studies. Brands with substantial budgets have also worked directly with Facebook and Twitter to prove out their success. (Facebook’s in-store advertising and location options are an example of their efforts.)

But marketers shouldn’t be too hard on themselves, as traditional media have had decades to prove their return on investment. Businesses are accustomed to traditional metrics from television, radio, and print media. Even if some of those metrics aren’t entirely validated (just because a commercial airs on a TV doesn’t mean someone's watching it), executives have used them for decades to show marketing value. And whether digital marketers like it or not, social is now being held to a similar standard.

At the end of the day, social media ROI is more than likes and comments. At a basic level, your social media efforts should produce impressions (people viewing your ad or content) and engagement (people liking, commenting, and sharing your ad or content) so that you can reach prospects cost effectively. However, impressions and engagement alone are not enough to determine success. A more holistic understanding of return on investment for social media also involves return on influence and return on engagement. These elements play out differently in the four key areas where we see social media having the largest impact for a business:

  • Brand awareness
  • Innovation & experimentation
  • Social care
  • Risk management

Now, instead of looking solely at ROI for each of these areas, consider your challenges and ask how social media can help solve them. What are your goals, and what are the right social tactics to achieve those goals? Keep in mind that there are different levels of measurements that you can implement to gauge your success: basic, better and best. The following guide can help you navigate how you measure each area.

1. Brand Awareness

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has one of the most popular Instagram feeds on the platform because they took what could have been a mundane process (airport security) and injected humor.

However, because they aren’t driving toward in-store purchases or revenue, it can be tough to show Instagram’s impact on the agency’s mission. When you can’t tie to direct revenue, here’s how you can prove impact:

Basic measurements:

  • Audience growth
  • Share of conversation

Better measurements:

  • Moving the needle with your audience
  • Followers sharing your content with their followers
  • Followers talking about you to their followers
  • How many non-followers you reach

Best Measurements:

  • Measure growth in search volume
  • Measure growth in direct web traffic

2. Innovation & Experimentation

When the National Football League (NFL) chose to broadcast their games on Twitter, people wondered why as network television tends to draw a larger audience. The reason? Twitter offered the NFL a chance to increase their reach and interact with new audiences. Innovation is critical for learning and growing, but keep in mind it’s the toughest to measure.

Basic approach: Break new ground fast and loose: there aren’t rules here

Better approach: Trust your gut

Best approach: Throw ideas against the wall — the very nature of experimentation is to try new ideas and then measure the results

3. Social Care

Dozens of articles tout the value of social care — from cost efficiencies to answering customers in their preferred channel. There is always potential for these interactions to be shared, broadcasting your brand’s personality and values. Examples abound from Wendy’s to Best Buy on just how this happens. It’s critical to set your team up for success and then measure away.

Basic measurements:

  • Response time
  • Engagement and visibility driven by outbound messages

Better measurements:

  • Cultivation of audience-driven passion
  • Brand love loyalty content being created over time

Best measurement: Bring in net promoter score (NPS) to demonstrate activation of high-value customers

4. Risk Management

Influencers, celebrities, politicians, and viral movements like #MeToo have changed the nature of risk management for businesses on social media. Brand boycotts often form and gain momentum on social media. In addition, recent years have seen a handful of high profile people fired for sexual misconduct due to backlash spread through social media.

These examples show that social movements make their voice known quickly — and happen in addition to the typical range of challenges that social marketers and public relations teams handle daily.

Basic approach:

  • Establish volume and sentiment benchmarks
  • Create triggers alerts when conversation about topics your brand cares about move above the norm

Better approach:

  • Monitor known influencers who are aligned against your brand mission — in a crisis they will likely be driving and amplifying the message
  • Monitor brand advocates to see if they are supportive of your position and sharing your messaging

Best approach:

  • Set up triggers for your potential brand enemies and your brand
  • Set up triggers around trending issues (like #MeToo) and your brand

Want to learn how our technology can help you measure social media ROI? Visit the Khoros Marketing overview.

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