Social ROI: If Only We Had a Nickel

Over the course of my career at one of Canada’s top digital media companies, I’ve learned a massive amount. You see, I started out as a retail wench, waited tables, and even (unsuccessfully) got into acting. Now, working with a large portfolio of brands, and continuously engaging their consumer bases with exciting PR and marketing efforts is what gets me jumping out of bed excited each day.

The past decade has brought us so many advances and opportunities to achieve real return on our PR, marketing and advertising investments. Today, I want to shed a little light on the importance of social.

“What’s the ROI?”

A question a lot of industry professionals throw around when social is brought up. First off, for those who aren’t familiar, ROI is one of the copious amounts of corporate abbreviations meaning “Return On Investment”. There’s three ways (in my opinion) to look at the ROI of social, so lets break them down here:

1. Brand. Social has the ability to turn a brand into a friend. The benefit of using social as a way to communicate and develop relationships with advocates and fans alike is something that should be determined priceless. Never before have we had a more honest way to connect with our consumers, and really effectively listen to what they want/need/desire.

2. Impressions. I’m going to stick to Facebook and Twitter for now: Pinterest, Google+ and others to be elaborated on in upcoming posts.

In the twitter world, each tweet has an impression value. These values are calculated in a variety of different ways depending on the company, and what metrics matter to them. At the moment, there is not one standardized way of measuring the value of a tweet. Best practice with clients is to make sure you get a good understanding of their expectations, and use social measurement tools that will deliver them with the data they find valuable. I would recommend checking out http://hashtracking.org, and http://tweetreach.com as a couple free services.

Facebook is a somewhat simpler beast. Their analytics tools are fantastic, and you’re able to really dive into the data. Just make sure again that you find out what matters most to clients, and deliver that information. Also, keep in mind that vanity metrics like ‘virality’ are not what makes a campaign successful. In the interest of being transparent, very few campaigns go ‘viral’- and that should never be the MAIN goal. It’s important to communicate your content, and engage with the consumers and influencers that really matter to your client.

3. Dollars. This metric proves to be the most difficult, and (of course) the most desirable method of social tracking. Many companies are fixated on making money with social, yet no one has come up with a seamless way to make this possible. Sure, you can share trackable links on your networks – and hope that people convert into online purchasers: but is that an effective way to keep social networking social? This can sometimes be a challenging concept to convey to clients, and there’s nothing wrong with proving its validity through testing. Social definitely has potential to increase sales, but it’s arguable that social is effective in sales growth in the same way word of mouth is, and always has been. And let’s be honest: have we really ever been able to track the oldest and most effective form of marketing? Well, that’s another debate.

In the PR world, we constantly have to be on top of the trends and ahead of the game. The face of ROI in social will be ever changing: much like the networks themselves. Using these 3 areas as a barometer will help you identify just how much you’ve been able to deliver to your clients, and where you can help them grow.

Until next time,

@coryjstewart


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