Why we need to rethink ROI on social media

The ROI on a brand’s social media activity is one of the most debated, most interesting, and often the biggest conversations we have with our clients.

Let us explain what we mean…

We know consumers use social media platforms for learning more about products and retailers and reading product reviews. For brands and retailers, it provides an instant way to connect directly with their target audience and create brand awareness. So surely this should mean ROI is a straight forward discussion, right?

Not necessarily! Social media marketing is never going to produce an ROI in the traditional sense that marketeers look for; that is, marketing, measured against the cost of operating the business and profit generated. Many businesses expect social media to deliver results the same as other marketing programmes (or as a slot machine would – put a certain amount of money in and expect more to come out).

But while we can look at statistics like conversion rates and agree on a cost model against these (ONLY at the appropriate time of the sales funnel), what is incredibly hard to measure, is the VALUE of relationships brands build with their customers and consumers.

Social media marketing is more about advocacy, interaction and inclusion, and less about ROI (in the traditional sense). For example, Apple, Marmite or Channel 4 recognise social media marketing as an integral part of how they spend their marketing budget, time and resources as part of a bigger picture.

So, what should brands and businesses do? It’s important to create a culture of understanding that the results of social media marketing are not based on traditional ROI measurements alone.

Measurements that matter, dependent on the agreed overall social media objective, include:

  • Frequency and reach
  • Views, followers, brand mentions, subscribers, click-throughs
  • Influence and relevancy
  • Clicks, shares, replies, comments, retweets, messages, and community growth
  • Conversions
  • Opt-ins, email collection, proposals, pitches, lead generation, and returning visitors.

Social media platforms should be optimised to maximise reach, show people that the brand or business is approachable and worth engaging with so consumers might eventually turn into customers. And once there is a potential customer who’s ready to know more about the product or service, they need to be directed to a specific, thought through asset, like a website homepage or a specific landing page, to close the transaction.

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