Social Media ROI: 5 Things You Must Remember

Mashable recently ran a piece devoted to the often controversial topic of social media ROI. In the piece, 5 Dead Simple Ways to Track Social ROI, the writer offered tips about ways that businesses can measure their investment in social media. He covers Facebook offers/coupons, call tracking phone numbers, Google analytics, conversion measurement and overall sales. But he ultimately comes to same conclusion that many have before: Social media isn’t only about the cash in the drawer. When it comes to social, those who care only about numbers are bound to be disappointed.

Social media is about branding, opening channels of communication with customers, building loyalty, being transparent and establishing good will. And business owners who cover all of those bases, and whose products and services are worthwhile, will see a return on their investment. When it comes to calculating social ROI, here are some things to remember:

1. Social media is B2C communication

You have to be where your customers are. And guess what? They’re on social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. They’re listening to satellite radio and recording shows on TV so they can avoid commercials. They’re definitely not thumbing through the yellow pages. In fact, customers are hardly even picking up the phone these days. Instead, they are using social media to find information, to ask questions of brands about their products, to ask friends about their favorite brands, and to access basic customer service. And once they’ve done all of these things, they’re telling everyone they know about their experiences — via social media.

2. Social media is part of an integrated communications and marketing strategy

Today’s customers want a two-way conversation. It is no longer enough for a brand to do only “outbound” marketing. In decades past, a company could blanket the airwaves, use direct mail to send out fliers and coupons, and fill newspapers with cleverly crafted messages about their brand. This is not nearly as effective as it used to be. It doesn’t mean that companies should ditch all other advertising and marketing efforts and invest only in social media. Instead, social media should be part of an overall strategy. The key is to make sure that there is a consistency across all the various options.

3.Social media can serve as advertising tool

Plenty of companies use social media as an advertising vehicle for their product or service, just as they did with “old” media. But it doesn’t work that way. People who are active on social media are there because it’s a way that they can engage with their friends, family, and favorite brands. As a marketer, you have to think about how you use Social Media personally, and then adapt your marketing strategy so that it fits in. When you go from looking at pics of your friends’ kids, to a responding to another friend’s event invitation, that post where a brand is screaming “SALE! SALE!” will stick out like a sore thumb. Instead, post things that are conversational, or things that are just fun or lighthearted. Remember, this is a platform to build your brand’s identity and personality. People should want to do business with your company because they respect your values, admire your culture, or appreciate the hard work you do to create your products and services.

4. Social media is a great way to educate your customers

Some of the most popular — and most likely to be shared — posts on various social media platforms offer tips and tricks. Basically, people love how-to posts. Whenever possible:

  • Show images of creative uses/applications of your product. These posts still feature your product, you just aren’t screaming, “LOOK AT ME!!!”
  • Ask questions about things relevant to your product or service. If you sell real estate, start a dialogue about your worst moving experience or simply ask: “What does your dream house look like?” Or ask your readers to share photos of their best DIY projects.
  • Post free advice. Position yourself as an expert. If you clean carpets, post about how to get red wine stains out of carpet or upholstery. This won’t prevent people from using your services because they’ll still come to you when they don’t want to, or can’t, do it themselves. If they view you as a go-to resource, they’re more likely to refer your business to friends who need whatever service you provide. The people who want tips and tricks will search for them online so they might as well find them on your site(s).

5. Social media actually can be measured (for those who must have some numbers)

If you simply must crunch some numbers, there are a few data points you can look at — Connections (fans and followers), Page views, video views, engagement rate, “Talking about this,” Reach, and so on — plus the places mentioned in the Mashable article — that will definitely tell you if your messages are getting to your customers. Then there are companies like Radian 6 and Eloqua that will analyze all sorts of social media data for your business. But the bottom line remains: don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Remember that social media is about branding, building loyalty and good will, and opening a channel of communication with your customers. The value of all that? Priceless.

Do you track social media ROI? What do you measure? Let me know in the comments!