When it comes to marketing, measuring the return of the investment of our time and money is best practice #1. Chances are you might have thought (or know someone who is a firm believer) that when it comes to social media marketing, there is no real ROI. Here’s why that line of thinking is wrong.

Many in the beginning saw social media as another method for customer acquisition. What they failed to focus on was how it helps with customer retention and loyalty. Those metrics aren’t as easy to measure. But does that mean we can write off getting any return from a social media strategy?

Where Did the ROI Social Media Myth Begin?

Back around 2011, marketers really began to include social media into parts of their overall strategies. It was then that some marketers claimed there was no ROI. Copyblogger Media’s CFO, Sean Jackson even said, “social media marketing is never going to produce an ROI.”

He had a point, of sorts: what’s the purpose of building a marketing strategy if there isn’t a return on the investment?

Marketers can easily put a price on increased conversions or decreased costs. What is trickier is identifying the value of social media marketing beyond dollars. It’s difficult to measure the value of building relationships.

Yet, thinking that there is zero ROI in social media marketing is a dangerous idea to hold on to. As social media continues to grow and mature, measuring a return in that investment is no longer optional.

Beyond the Traditional ROI Metrics of Success

Social media has a ROI that’s different than other areas of marketing. Since an effective social media strategy doesn’t need a large budget, if a budget at all, to be effective, it can be hard to determine the investment to measure.

For many, the return of investing time and money is measured in dollars. The simple formula for measuring a ROI (expressed as a percentage) looks like this:

The formula for finding the return on your social media isn’t much different from measuring traditional media. Money generated through social media subtracted from the investment of time, ad budget, people, technology equals your return.

The Reality of Investing in Social Media

Wanting to measure the return of social media marketing makes sense. If your business is putting in all this time, effort, and attention into social media marketing, you want to see some sales or conversions as a result. The reality is that measuring your social media marketing ROI is important.

Getting a return on your investment is not solely focused on numbers and math, it’s about money; money earned, or money save. These are both ways you can get a return your social media strategy investment.

If you read the Social Media ROI Cookbook, you’ll find their survey that details what corporations think are the biggest benefits to measuring the return of their investment in social media strategies. Below a graph showing the biggest benefits to tracking social media ROI:

Methods to Measure the ROI in Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

There are four main areas of metrics to measure your ROI in your social media marketing strategy:

Exposure: Visit, views, followers, fans, subscribers, brand mentions, click-throughs. Exposure using social media can expose your message and content to current or potential customers.

Influence: Industry influence, networking, authority, brand mentions, referral traffic. This is all about the ability to influence or contribute a change in opinion or behavior based on your or others’ authority.

Engagement: Clicks, retweets, shares, replies, messages, comments, community growth. Interactions that occurs on social media in response to your audience engaging with you on a specific channel.

Conversions or Actions: Opt-ins, lead generation, email collection, pitches and proposals, returning visitors. Is your strategy resonating with your social media audiences?

How you will measure the return on your social media investment comes down to the goals your business is working towards. The first three, exposure, influence, and engagement are great to track brand awareness should that be your business goal. Looking for lead generation? Focus on following the conversion and action metrics.


Marketing and campaign goals are different from company to company, but the ROI from social media will give your business valuable insight to current and future business decisions. ROI on social media is complex to measure but look at what your company goals are and you will see, it can be done.

Read More: Measuring Social ROI