Social Media ROI and What’s Really Valuable
by Kathryn Brill, Social Media and Content Marketing Specialist
Is social media really valuable? How can you prove social media ROI? These questions are on the minds of many clients. Before they invest money in a social media program, companies want to know that it will deliver.
But measuring social value can seem like a slippery business. It’s not as easily tied to sales or revenue as many other marketing programs. Connecting the dots on social engagement and business benefits is complicated. And not everyone agrees on what makes for strong social media performance. Most of us have an instinct that social media is part of a great marketing strategy. But how can you prove it?
A common way to measure social media ROI is with metrics such as likes and follows. By this logic, the way to tell a social media account has delivered on your investment is simple: the more likes, shares, and followers your social content has, the better it’s doing. While likes and follows are an important metric to evaluate the health of your social media, they tell an incomplete story. Followers can be fake; likes can come from spambots. Social media algorithms can prevent your posts from being shown to your followers, driving down your engagement numbers. And just having lots of followers and likes doesn’t necessarily translate to having a lot of leads. It’s important to continue to grow your social media audience, but focusing exclusively on these kinds of metrics is ultimately not fruitful for measuring ROI or assessing performance.
Another way to tie social to ROI is by running a social media exclusive campaign. Making an offer to followers that requires them to use social to obtain the assets is a great way to connect the dots between social followers and lead generation. Whether it’s a contest, a giveaway, or a white paper, offering exclusive social content not only provides an incentive for joining your community, it also harnesses the power of social to deliver qualified leads. This can be a good demonstration of social media ROI.
However, the real value of social goes beyond conventional ROI. In fact, social media experts agree: the main purpose of social media is not to drive ROI. Instead, social is intended to shape customer perception, generate brand awareness, and influence thought leadership. Getting results in these areas may not show up on a balance sheet—but you would notice if they went missing from your company’s overall marketing strategy.
How do you create a valuable social media strategy which functions as an asset to your company? One crucial component of great social is posting great content—your own and others’. High-quality content starts a conversation around important topics in your industry and establishes your company as a thought leader. In addition, interacting with customers shapes their positive perceptions of your brand. Engaging with hashtags puts you at the center of hot-button industry topics. And having a varied posting strategy, with educational, informative, and promotional content, ensures that followers don’t just feel like they’re being sold to every day. A valuable social account puts the brand’s best face forward and helps customers see what’s unique about your company. After interacting with your social media, your followers should say, “I heard they were a great company, but now I have the proof.”
This may not generate social media ROI in the traditional sense. But it will bear fruit in the way your customers perceive your business. On social media, you’ll be able to spread your brand’s message in compelling, engaging and perception-shaping ways. And that’s something money can’t buy.