Companies remain somewhat skeptical about Social Media until a dotted line can be pointed directly from its usage to an increase in the bottom line – sales. But social media ROI transcends mere sales figures by strengthening relationship with prospects, partners, clients and yes, even competitors.
There is no denying the interest in Social Media ROI. If you search “ROI social media” in Google search, you are returned over 40 million results. There are webinars and conferences devoted to this very subject happening all across the world. But we need to think in terms of motivation of the prospects and their subsequent actions as they engage with your brand.
When calculating ROI, the first factor on every marketers mind is cost – cost of resources to maintain their social media presence, the cost of hosting a blog, the cost of the Facebook app or custom graphics for their Twitter background, and then want to calculate the return on sales, from that social media investment. But what about objectives such as brand engagement, customer behaviors and a value?
Social media gives us a place to receive immediate feedback and to increase visibility. But most important, it is the easiest means of two-way communication companies have at their disposal. Gone are the days of focus groups and market research phone calls. If you want to know what people think about a subject, or even about your brand, you now have unlimited access with social media.
So how do you measure the value of social media when it is not directly tied to sales?
- What topics are top of mind to your prospects?
- Are people engaging with your content? with you brand?
- What are the most popular topics that people engage with on your own content?
- What are your clients reading?
- How do you compare from an authority/reputation standpoint with your competition
Rather than measuring in dollars and cents, consider instead measuring in customer investments such as number of visits or time spent on a page. Or more quantifiable, consider the comments on a blog or the number of retweets and shares as measure of equity. Valuable information can be gleaned from Tweetups and Facebook polls and even discussions on LinkedIn groups.
In a sales environment, developing a relationship takes time and effort, and most importantly, listening. So how glaringly obvious is the merit of interactive conversations on social media and the value of creating and nurturing these same relationships? Social media should be seen as an invaluable tool in the quiver of a salesperson, and even an CEO.
Social media is consumer controlled, rather than traditional marketing which is controlled by the marketers and the brand. And rather than pushing information at your prospects, social media allows your prospects to control and consume information about your company in their time and at their convenience, connect and communicate in real time with your brand and others who have used your brand, and offer opinions about it, all in an effort to make the best decision on what is best for them to buy.
Social media can also lead to cost savings, when, for example, prospects support other prospects as a sort of “help line” asking questions in a forum of other users. Efforts in B2B social media can lead to measurements of how the customer investments from brand awareness, brand engagement and word of mouth affect the purchase funnel and the bottom line.
Let’s look at each of these three investments and see what metrics we can use to benchmark effectiveness in various social media outlets.
Used to enhance and strengthen association of the brand in customers minds through increased exposure. Examples of ROI metrics and usage of social media for Brand Awareness:
(metrics – unique visits, return visits, bookmarks and search ranking)
Blogs can be used to promote branded products, write branded reviews, discuss features of your services, and add value by providing information and education that would elicit someone to bookmark or even link back to your post, and keep coming back for more.
(metrics – tweets about the brand, followers, retweets)
Using Branded tweets, in the form of a Twitter cast, or just simply a #hashtag value in regular Tweets can be used in promotions, special discounts, alerts to upcoming webinars or show exhibitions, and if the offer is valuable enough, will be shared with a retweet.
A step after awareness, you are creating a pattern of repeat interactivity with you brand and beginning to develop a relationship with the prospect or customer. Examples of ROI metrics and usage of social media for Brand Engagement
(metrics – subscribers, comments, replies and page views)
Creating On Demand or thought-provoking videos provide education, awareness and engagement with you brand. A well-done video draws users back to extend their engagement with your brand, aiding in their perception of your company as a thought leader. Video need not only be how-tos or provide entertainment, but can be testimonials and case studies from actual peers of the visitor.
(metrics – members in a group, active users, comments, likes and share on posts)
LinkedIn offers B2B companies a unique channel to cultivate Brand Engagement, with the use of LinkedIn Answers and Groups. Participating and answering other people’s questions, as well as mediating a discussion group on specific topics allows customers and prospects alike to interact with peers in two-way discussions, and lends itself to your input and ultimately the perception as a thought leader.
Word of Mouth
Once prospects are aware and engage, they are in a position to advocate your brand to other prospects, or share negative experiences with their peers. An example of ROI metrics and usage of social media for Word of Mouth:
(metrics – backlinks, reblogs)
A good blog post not only enhances your brand, and gives the user a good experience, but makes them want to share the post with their peers. And while not a sale, the level of advocacy works positively toward new awareness and engagement, and ultimately, to sales.
The question should not be whether to blog or tweet, but what objectives need to be achieved and which tools and metrics can best achieve them.
Social media allows you to identify
- What you want to achieve
- What you want to measure
- Who your audience is
Although the measurement of social media ROI is important and necessary, it is more important that social media efforts are effective. To be effective we must control the framework for brand participation in social media (e.g., who posts to a blog), and to some extent, how prospects will engage with the brand in social media. We must also appreciate that social media is real time and evolving. Practices should not be fixed, and metrics carved in stone.
How a company designs, launches and manages their social media campaigns plays a role in whether and how prospects will participate and interact. And it would be foolish to just sit back after the campaign is launched. As much as prospects interact with a brand, companies must be willing to listen and respond in a timely and positive manner. Great social media campaigns effortlessly incite people to react, respond, and share. They take into consideration not just the bottom line but the people interacting with their brand.
How do you define your Social Media ROI?