On a clear day: Measuring ROI in Social Media

Measuring ROI in social media is a big concern for marketers as they consider moving budget away from traditional media channels and into social media activity.  But before they can invest in social media, marketers need to get an idea of what it can contribute to their brand.  This has driven a debate about measurement in social media but unfortunately much of the discussion is focused on measuring social media for social media’s sake. What we should be asking is how do we measure the delivery of marketing objectives when we run activity across the social media platform. When we look at it this way we focus on measuring marketing outcomes versus marketing objectives and the answers become much clearer.

As a start point, everyone needs to recognise that social media is a media channel. It is not a marketing discipline. It is not a marketing objective. It is not a marketing strategy. So we might use the social media channel to raise brand awareness (objective) by targeting affluent new car buyers in social media (strategy), we might use social media to increase consideration (objective) by informing new car buyers about the unique benefits of the car we are selling (strategy) or we may use it to increase sales (objective) by communicating a last minute ‘walk-in’ trade-in deal (strategy). The metrics we use to measure social media should therefore relate directly to the objectives and strategies that we managing through the social media channel.

So, before we can measure social media we need to understand what we want social media to deliver from a marketing perspective. Only then can we select the right types of measurement and metrics to get the job done properly. Here are three examples of how we might measure social media activity against the delivery of three different marketing objectives:

  1. Objective: Raise Awareness: There are a number of good tools for measuring online brand awareness, ad awareness, product awareness and salience. Ad Index from Dynamic Logic allows you to play ‘spot the attitude difference’ between web users who have been exposed to your messaging and those who have not. You can ask exposed and non-exposed groups bespoke questions about your brand and campaign activity which allows you to contrast and compare the differences between the two groups. Brand sentiment can be measured using sentiment trackers like Sentiment Metrics; through without bespoke surveys these may include a range of external references to your brand, not just your own social media activity.
  2. Objective: New Customer Acquisition: If we want to use social media as a new customer acquisition tool then we should be using customer acquisition metrics. Microsoft’s Atlas can be used to track the online behaviour of your social media users across all touch points in the sales funnel. Bespoke tracking URLs in your social media pages can be used to identify visitors to your site originating in your social media pages. This type of tracking means you can ultimately relate customer value back to your social media activity.
  3. Objective: Increase Retention / Loyalty: Here we can combine online tracking, data collection and customer data analysis to understand the contribution of social media. We can collect prospect and customer data in social media pages or in pages that link directly to social media. Fusing data collection with online tracking means we can find the data source of known named customers and measure their progress and value in the sales funnel and through cross sell and up-sell. The results from this type of activity may not be instant; customer value from market source can take a year or more to establish, but once it’s in place you will be able to see how social media is building sales revenue for your business.

The message is that we can’t measure social media for social media’s sake. We should always be measuring how social media performs against a given marketing objective. If we are clear about this, the techniques and metrics for measuring and evaluating social media ROI become much easier to identify, select and implement.