What’s the Point of Social? A Primer on Business Value

Social media, like many other technologies, has been credited with just about every benefit you can think of. It’s been heralded as the biggest thing to ever happen to business and been championed by so-called ‘gurus’ as the savior of humanity. Well, not quite, but the hype behind the potential of social media has fostered skepticism in those yet to see the benefits.

And quite right. For those familiar with Gartner’s hype cycle, it’s easy to plot the rise of social against its axis and carefully follow the steep line over the past few years.


Now, depending on who you ask, the development of social media could be at any point in this graph. For those convinced we’re in the trough of disillusionment, or for those trying to persuade those stuck in the same trough that we’re on our way up the slope of enlightenment, social needs to be taken more seriously. But proving the value of social can be difficult.

Here’s an overview of some of the methods we’ve seen social prove its worth in ways that extend beyond simply counting likes or followers.

The many business benefits of social

There are many real, tangible business benefits to social.

“First and foremost it’s about listening, because when customers are on social media sites they are sharing feedback, and it’s important to engage in a dialogue on sites (rather than engage in one-way communication)” Frank Eliason, SVP Social Media, CitiBank

Of course, just relaying that isn’t going to help the cause. You’ll need to get specific. You’ll need examples. Specific use cases to prove the value of investing in a social listening platform include:

Lead generation: 78.6% of sales people using social media to sell outperform those who aren’t using social media.

Millions of conversations on social media concern products, services, reviews or complaints. With a few simple searches that pertain to your target industry and the right intent to purchase keywords, they will have access to an almost unlimited source of potential leads.

Of 200 B2B brands analyzed in a 2015 B2B Report, 72,756 online mentions relating to them were intent to purchase mentions. 99% were left unanswered – a potential $36bn in missed revenue.

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Finding and nurturing brand advocates: Whether businesses are looking for industry experts, brand advocates or notorious individuals with only a passing interest in the market, a simple Google search just won’t cut it.

Tag any influencer by name and source, assign follow-up tasks and enable sales, marketing or support teams to ascertain total booked revenue that came from particular social activities.

A Nielsen report that shows 84% of worldwide consumers will take action based on the reviews and recommendations of trusted sources above all other forms of advertising.

Taking customer service onto social: International businesses, including BestBuy, Ford, IBM, Dell and British Telecom (BT), credit their communications and social media activity for contributing to a reduction in costs and an increase in customer satisfaction.

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Measuring social ROI: By setting up goals and using various available metrics, you can determine the views, new subscribers, interactions and conversions on key channels and owned communities and blogs – and also how those numbers relate to your bottom line and enable you to place an actual value on your social initiatives.

Reputation management: The fact that complaints on social media are publicly visible gives customers an edge over brands.

Cultivating a positive presence online, and communicating effectively with customers and prospects can dramatically change the perception of a brand online.

A Convergys Corp. Study found that one single negative online review can cost a business an average loss of 30 customers.

The value of all of these activities is undeniable. So how can you actually drill down and measure your social efforts insightfully?

Proving the value of social campaigns

Effective social media activities, like those above, can drive sales, retain customers, enhance your organization’s reputation and position your brand and key staff within it as thought leaders in your area.

And social campaigns themselves can be difficult to measure in terms beyond just likes and impression counts:

  • You’ve got to define your goals – by establishing a baseline of key metrics before you kick off a social campaign, you will be able to clearly define the goals you wish to achieve and see how you’re doing against them.
  • You’ve got to have the right tracking in place
  • You’ve got to have the right resources
  • You’ve got to be prepared to not just review at end, but manage throughout and make course corrections.

We’ll be exploring more about the value of social over the coming weeks, diving deeper into the means of identifying and sharing value derived from social data.