Determining the ROI of social media marketing activity is a convoluted and complicated challenge that many – if not most – businesses and brands struggle with.
In an effort to better measure the value of social media marketing, a recent Business Insider article reports that, ‘many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media’.
This indicates that even many of those businesses and brands that thought they had a formula for placing a monetary value on their social media marketing activity have since reevaluated their methods and abandoned them as a result. This is likely due to a realization that their own valuation criteria were fraught with issues.
The article continued, ‘They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return. Instead, the new metrics evaluate social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations’.
For most businesses, correlating social media activity directly to sales is a difficult task due to the non-linearity and complexity of many consumers’ purchase paths.
What I find most interesting about this is why an organization would attempt to make this direct correlation in the first place. After all, there are many factors that contribute to making a sale, some of which include brand awareness, brand affinity, price, distribution, shelf placement, availability, seasonality, economic conditions, customer support, loyalty, prior brand experience, brand trust, perceived referral value, and many, many more.
There are a huge number of factors that contribute to consumers making a purchase decision.
Measuring sales as a return on social media activity is equivalent to measuring the sum of all influencing factors for those sales, many of which can be directly impacted by social media.
So, to accurately measure the activity required to influence a purchase – in this case social media activity – you actually need to measure the various influences to that purchase – brand awareness, affinity, loyalty, and on.
Perhaps the problem many of us have with determining the ROI of social media isn’t with how to measure ROI, but is instead with how we define ‘return’.
If we stop thinking about the ‘return’ of ROI as end sales, and start thinking about ‘return’ as a sum of the value of all of the relevant aforementioned factors – which ultimately lead to sales – then calculating an ROI of social media can be much more achievable; not simple, but achievable.
In the cases of the businesses represented by the Business Insider article, I actually don’t see them abandoning their ROI calculations so much as I see them taking the beginning steps in redefining how they see a ‘return’, which is a step in the right direction.
How do you measure the business success of your social media marketing activity?
What ‘returns’ do you look for from your social media marketing efforts?
It would be great to chat with you about this further in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Google defines best practices as being, ‘commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective’.
In the world of social media and content marketing, we spend a fair deal of time talking about best practices. We write blog posts about best practices to help others, and we updated our social streams with endless amounts of content to do with best practices.
This is great. It’s awesome to have such an amazing collection of content on social media best practices. If you’re unsure about how to tackle a certain challenge, conducting a quick search for best practices in that area can be a lifesaver. If you want to validate your thinking, benchmarking against best practices can provide a great deal of relief and help you proceed with confidence.
Best practices can be supremely helpful to study, understand and follow.
But best practices should come with a major caveat.
By their nature, best practices tend to be generalizations. Typically, they don’t specifically address your unique situation, opportunities and challenges. And getting too caught up in following best practices can affect your comfort and willingness to take a chance and do something amazing that may be contrary to conventions.
Best practices should be a starting point.
If you’re learning about a specific social media platform, strategic approach, technique or tactic, study best practices to get a handle on what works for most people. Then, think about these best practices in the context of your business, brand, consumers, competition, opportunities and challenges. This context should be applied to what you actually execute, and what you execute will be more effective as a result.
Create your own best practices.
After you’ve studied best practices, start thinking about a methodology to follow to create your own best practices. Figure out how you are going to monitor and measure your social media and content marketing efforts so that you can benchmark certain actions against others and see what works best for you and your audience.
AB testing is a great way to do this, and over time can help you to fine tune your social media and content marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness. In time, you’ll have your own best practices, and you’ll have developed a resilience to falling into a trap of feeling too comfortable about what you’re doing, which can be hugely detrimental to doing anything really special, which leads nicely into my next point…
Learn to fear comfort.
Best practices and ‘proven’ strategies and tactics can be your worst enemy. The validation that you’re following best practices can be comforting. You’re following what works. You’re doing things correctly. You’re doing what the experts do.
But what you’re not doing is anything different. If you’re not doing anything differently, then you’re doing things exactly the same as everyone else, including your competition. If you’re not doing anything different than your competition, then what effect do you really think you’ll be able to have on your audience? Do you think you’ll be able to more effectively convert them to consumers? Do you think you’ll be able to build a stronger more loyal audience? Do you think your activity will convert audience members to becoming evangelists?
Not a chance!
If everyone did everything the same, the world would be a pretty dull place, and the same holds true on social media.
Defy best practices.
I’m not suggesting you just disregard best practices, and the strategies and tactics that have proven to yield success for you and your business, but find opportunities to take a chance. Try something different. Try something new that you’ve never seen anyone do before. Try something similar to what others might have even failed at, but build on the idea and make a few changes for the better. Defy best practices and do something a little less comfortable every now and again.
Then, monitor and measure what you’ve done. It’s not going to be a success every single time, but when it is successful, you’ll have hit on something that is fresh and new, and that none of your competitors have done. You’ll be a leader, and your audience will take notice.
And for all of your failed efforts, nobody’s going to chastise you for trying something new and having it fail. After all, you’ll probably be able to recognize that the new thing you’ve attempted is a failure well before anyone else even takes notice.
So, there you go. Best practices can be incredibly valuable to study and execute against, but don’t get so comfortable that you never try anything new. Getting too comfortable can be your worst enemy, not just on social media, but more broadly in business as well.
Keep pushing yourself to be better, and to think about things differently. If you’re not willing to do this, your competition, or someone you don’t even know exists yet, surely will. And by then, it’ll be too late.
What’s the last thing you did on social media that was a risk?
How do you keep your business on its toes, trying new things, innovating?
It would be awesome to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
It’s a great feeling hitting ‘publish’ on a new blog post, but there is work to do yet.
Whether you’ve spent a couple of hours, or a couple of days working on your latest post, you’ll want to ensure you get as much as you can out of it.
Following is a post-publication action plan that you may want to consider the next time you publish a new blog post:
Share on social media
I know you know to do this, but give some thought to how you share your latest post on social media. Taking the easy route and typing the title of your post with a link is really underwhelming.
There is opportunity to optimize your messaging for each social media platform you share on. Consider things like the length of your message, use of hashtags, questions to spark engagement, accompanying images, and any other nuances that can optimize your social media content.
Moderate and reply to comments
When you’ve published a blog post, you owe it to yourself and your audience to support your content. If someone posts a comment on your piece, take time to think through a meaningful response.
If a spammer manages to sneak a ridiculous comment about the latest male enhancement miracle through your spam filter, delete it so your comments remain clean and on topic.
Maximize relevant impressions
Think about how you can position your content in front of as many relevant people as possible. If those views are on your blog, awesome. If you achieve this by publishing your content on a curation site or guest posting, fantastic. If it means paying a few dollars (if you have a few to spare) for some targeted ads to drive traffic, amazing.
Impressions aren’t everything, but for many businesses, targeted impressions can be important. So, if increasing impressions is a meaningful part of your objectives, then find ways to get them. And don’t forget that just because you may have created amazing content for your blog, doesn’t necessarily mean your audience is going to find it. It takes serious effort and a well thought-through plan to maximize relevant impressions on your content.
Monitor and propagate conversations on social media
If your audience is sharing your content on social media, chances are pretty good that there will also be chatter about it. Keep your ear to the ground and monitor these conversations so that when meaningful conversations emerge about your piece – interesting questions, thoughtful builds on your ideas, fresh perspective, etc. – then you can chime in and play a role in these conversations (if appropriate).
If you are able to have meaningful interactions, you might even be able to convert those who you interact with to being a loyal reader of your blog, subscribers to your social media networks, or better yet, consumers.
Creating and publishing valuable content on a regular and ongoing basis alone won’t yield the meaningful results you are hoping to achieve with your blog. You need to ensure you’re getting relevant eyeballs on your content for it to have any real influence. Also, supporting your content and having a meaningful dialogue with your audience is a great way to win you a targeted following, build loyalty, and increase the chance of converting readership to consumers.
What is your post-publication plan to get the most out of your blog posts?
It’d be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
A well-executed live event can be an amazing way to place your brand in front of a targeted audience.
Interacting and engaging with your current and prospective consumers at events gives you opportunity to further prove your brand’s promise, build affinity and awareness, showcase your value proposition, humanize your brand, and much more.
Additionally, the proper utilization of social media can serve as an amazing support and amplification tool to optimize your results and ROI when running events.
Social media channels can be fantastic channels through which to pre-promote your brand’s participation in, or organization of, a live event. Let your audience know the basics such as when and where it is being held.
Also, let them know why they should be excited to get involved in the live event. Whether it’s an entertaining brand experience, free product or swag – or whatever – let them know why they need to be there.
Updating your social media properties live from your event with pictures, interviews, anecdotes, videos, or any other type of content, can be a great catalyst to get live participants involved in your social chatter and to serve as social validation that your event is a hit to your broader community.
Remember that people are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to interact and engage on social media, so don’t forget to encourage attendees to carry on the conversation about your event on social media, even when you are meeting them face-to-face.
It goes without saying that live events can be an incredibly rich opportunity for capturing content. Make sure you capture as many awesome photos and videos as possible.
To ensure no opportunity is missed, I recommend brainstorming in advance of your event to think of every opportunity for content capture that would be valuable. There’s nothing worse than your event wrapping and just at that moment realizing that you’d forgotten to capture something that would have been absolutely killer.
When your event ends, there is still more social media goodness to be had. Share content from your event with your social media community to give them the inside scoop as to how it all went down. They’ll appreciate being able to see how your brand behaves in the real world, and if your event was successful and can show it off online in a compelling fashion, it can help to further solidify their affinity for your brand.
Pre-promotion of next year’s event
Many organizations participate in and run iterations of the same event year after year for a number of reasons. If your organization does the same, content captured from one year’s event can be used as part of next year’s pre-sell campaign. By showing the success of last year’s event you can successfully build excitement and anticipation for this year’s event.
How do you promote events on social media?
How do you keep your social media audience engaged during events?
Do you have any tips for content capture during events?
Can you think of any businesses or brands who do a particularly good job of this that you’d like to share?
It would be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial