At this point, most people know they should probably be on social media in some capacity, even if they aren’t quite sure where to be. Still, there’s one big question many ask themselves: Are we making any money from all that social activity? While it’s a tempting (and often sleep-killing) question, it might not be the right question.

According to Adobe, 88% of social marketers have no idea how to accurately measure the effectiveness of social activity. Rather than looking at social as its own marketing channel, it may be time to rethink our approach to social and how we judge its impact.


Forgetting Traditional Measurements

PR professionals measure much of their success with one of the most elusive and frustrating metrics imaginable: goodwill, that informal, tenuous connection with your audience and stakeholders that signified that someone thinks your company is doing a good job.

These same problems plague social, with one distinct advantage: Once you figure out where social should fit into your marketing plan, you can track social engagement and conversion — if you know where to look. In addition to using campaign URL tags to mark traffic from specific social campaigns, Google Assisted Conversions show the direct channel through which converting users came to your site and converted. It won’t always help you determine which social campaign had the greatest effect, but it can be useful as a bare-bones look at how social is performing. Since social is such a first-touch activity, Assisted Conversions can help show how social users move through your conversion funnel.

The great thing about social media and digital marketing is that we don’t have to rely on intangible measurements; we can offer hard data and feedback. Yesterday, we talked about ways to prove the ROI of your content, and those lessons carry on to social because it should just be one dimension of your content strategy.

Set Social Objectives

The biggest pitfall for many when it comes to social media is that we rarely develop a real social strategy beyond “Well, I know I need to do it.”

For capturing ants and unwary marketers.
For capturing ants and unwary marketers.

Finding true ROI in social media starts with setting clear objectives and goals, supported by ways to measure the success of each social channel. If you plan on using social primarily as a top-of-the-funnel, brand-building tool, then your strategy will be much different than if you have a large audience that relies on you for new product updates or customer support.

Social success isn’t measured in the number of Likes, Retweets or Pins – like website “Visits,” those stats tell you very little of value. Measuring results that meet your objectives – like whitepaper downloads or completed contact forms on a social landing page – is what delivers actual ROI.

Social Shouldn’t Be Silo’d

The sooner you realize that your discussion on social – and across all content platforms, for that matter – are about your customers, and not you, the better off you’ll be. The most impressive branded social media events have been contextual, audience-focused messages. Obviously, Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” tweet gets thrown around as a brilliant piece of social marketing, but you might be surprised to hear that Oreo’s VP of global media thinks that tweet was a huge failure. Not a failure of message, which it obviously wasn’t, but a failure to connect outside of the social sphere.

“Can you imagine if we would have been so clever to connect that tweet and Facebook update with the complete broader media ecosystem? That the moment the dark happened we would have been ready to capitalize that across the complete online universe, the new digital out of home, and on television? Fencing it on twitter and Facebook was a huge failure.”

Now, compare that to Newcastle’s Super Bowl non-ad. While it had the advantage of being a planned campaign, they were able to leverage their ad across a variety of media, including traditional news. But like the Oreo campaign, the series of videos for the “ad” were more of a meta-commentary on the excess and absurdity of Super Bowl ads.

And its effect was tremendous. You can see a full breakdown of the campaign’s success, but here are some highlights from Facebook alone according to the campaign agency Droga5:

• More than 56.6 million impressions
• More than 1.3 million engagements
• 1.16 million video views

All that for a fraction of the $4 million price tag of airing an actual ad. Best of all, post-game surveys showed that purchase consideration rose nearly 20% among their target demographic.

So while the campaign began on social, it wasn’t just a social exercise. It was part of an ongoing, comprehensive digital marketing campaign. The Facebook metrics give a pretty stark view of the price of each social impression, but the campaign succeeded because social was just one branch of a strong content strategy, rather than an isolated tactic.

Creating a unified content plan makes it much easier to track overall ROI, rather than trying to break out the value of every Follower or Like your company gets.

Don’t Assume Social Users are the Same as Other Users

When I visited New Media Expo 2013, I was really struck by Ted Rubin’s (of Collective Bias) notion of return on relationship. While relationship may seem just as intangible as goodwill, Rubin linked some of those intangible notions to bottom-line metrics. Awareness drives revenue and authenticity builds advocates, which you can measure and build upon.

The key to creating and maintaining actual relationships with your audience comes down to authenticity. It’s something many companies strive for and most fall short of. Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways to miss the authenticity mark is to assume that your social customer is the same as your retail customer or your website customer.

We create buyer personas for visitors to the website, and we survey customers who walk through our doors, but chances are good that your social audience lies outside the bounds of those two groups.

Newcastle saw such a large increase in purchase consideration because they looked beyond their current audience and understood what makes for good social content. Social should support the goals of your overall content strategy, but if you don’t take the time to understand the needs of your social audience, then there’s no way your maximizing ROI on social media.

Image credit: mkhmarketing


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