Measuring Social Media ROI: Let’s Stop Ducking the Issue & Start Building Revenue

written by: Mike Granetz

January 19, 2011

We’re in the midst of a heated debate.

On one side, we have fellow marketing pros, many of whom maintain that measuring social media ROI is at best speculative, if not simply impossible. Why, goes the collective logic, is there this obsession with ROI in the first place? Does every marketing effort have to be extrapolated to the balance sheet? There are countless components in any business that don’t carry the same demand. Who, for example, contemplates the un-opened box of paperclips and wonders whether or not it will be good for the bottom line?

On the other side, we have profit-minded clients who, understandably, want to know how much marketing muscle they’re getting for their investment. Whether it’s traditional advertising or web-presence awareness, most business owners feel justified in asking for some way to measure impressions, and in turn determine if those impressions translate to income.

So who’s right? Personally, we refuse to take sides. Not because we can’t commit, but rather, because we think both perspectives have merit. For marketing pros, determining just how effective influence efforts can be is a definitive challenge. You can spend millions on a campaign that flops like an Eddie Murphy movie. And then you can take thirty seconds to send out a cute tweet that catches fire and brings you more site traffic than adding the words “barely legal” to your service description.

If pressed, we have to admit that, of course, marketing efforts need to demonstrate effectiveness. The hard-boiled business reality? Dollars are the unit of measurement in the marketplace. That said, we embrace, rather than retreat, from the idea of social media ROI. But how do you make the connection?

We’re testing a slew of strategies. One of the most successful thus far is a combination of measuring increased engagment (site visits, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc.) and using set benchmarks to adjust efforts. When a client hits a certain threshold (say, a few hundred followers on Twitter) then it’s time to supplement informative tweets with special offers and service incentives. Let’s just see if this growing audience is ready to pony up, so to speak.

We’re still studying the results of several efforts, but the effectiveness is promising. The idea of good content driving any social media effort isn’t going anywhere. But we want to match it to smart, business-focused outreach that provides a faster route to our clients being engaged beyond their expertise. We want to see a boost in requests for services — the most direct route to fresh revenue.

That, for us, is the start of honest social media ROI measurement.

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