Now that we’ve established the business case for developing and maintaining a strong social media program, let’s answer, head on, one of the myths you’ll hear often, maybe even from your boss. The biggest complaint made about social media marketing is that its impact, the return on investment (ROI), is unquantifiable. In a study by Econsultancy and Adobe, 2 a mere 12% of companies reported that they could track the impact of social media on revenues or the bottom line.
Track everything that’s tractable. As a digital medium, social is more easily quantified than you may think. Your website analytics, and the metrics provided by social networks, can measure impressions, interactions, visits, app downloads, event RSVPs, e-mail signups and other leads, coupon downloads, refer-a-friends, fundraising or sales—whether produced organically or through social media advertising.
PR managers have long calculated the value of “earned media” impressions, or the impressions if a free media mention had been bought as a paid ad. While it’s a fuzzier and usually much bigger number than audience response, this ad value of impressions is a decent, established precedent for social media managers to use as well. Your impressions in social media include your own posts, consumer “likes” and comments, reviews and ratings, YouTube video views, and more.
Attitude & usage
If you can afford to commission them, “attitude & usage” (or A&U) consumer research surveys are a great way to track the evolving visibility and reputation of your brand and how it’s being affected by all your efforts, including social media. You can also track social brand mentions, customer-generated product ratings and reviews, and other signals of brand equity.
Some organizations have shifted substantial costs for telephone call-centers onto cheaper social channels. Consumer insights teams can gain free and instant feedback from online communities rather than paying for a focus group. Marketers can forgo some traditional advertising and promotional expense, and business-to-business (B2B) teams may be able to skip some business travel or conference-going by hosting webinars or Google+ hangouts, or by doing wiki-style online collaboration.