So often when I meet with clients and potential clients they want to know, “What will be the ROI of engaging in a social media campaign?” It’s a good question to ask, of course. If a company is going to involve resources – financial or staffing or otherwise – they need to know, in essence, what are they getting back?

From Adweek.com

From Adweek.com

It’s never been an easy answer, and I’ve muddled through as best I can by explaining there isn’t always a direct connection. There’s a saying that you never ask for the ROI of having an assistant, but yet, you know that person is necessary to make the company run. Sure, that’s a point, but as someone representing my business and my industry, I always knew it had to go deeper than that.

I’ve ¬†explained that, sure, we could put a specific pin up on Pinterest at the right time and then watch the traffic go from that pin to the website, and follow it all the way through to the shopping cart. Sure… that is one way to do it. BUT not every pin, tweet or post is going to lead back to the website. And if you’re a service business or a company without an online shopping cart, then how could that be tracked? We can always look at conversions, which we do.. of course. And there are specific items we can measure as noted in this Adweek article. Did a person stay on the site a good amount of time? Did the person fill out an information form? And did that person come to the website via a social platform?

Today I had the opportunity to hear Jason Falls speak at an IABC Louisville event. Jason always tells it like it is. And he made a great point about ROI of social – I hope my paraphrase does it justice. What I took away from his words were that by looking at reports of likes, engagement, impressions, etcetera and then reviewing them, we are assuming the work is complete. I understood him to say that if you read the January numbers on February 1 and consider that book closed, then no, you are not getting an ROI. Using the metrics looking backwards is really doing no good.

Rather, he said, use those numbers to look forward. What trends did you see? What days and times give the best engagement by your community? What types of posts are ¬†attractive to the people you’re trying to reach? USE that information to move forward – not only on the types of social messaging you’re putting out there, but your entire marketing campaign. These insights can even affect your product or service, itself. Use social as an online focus group and not only will your marketing be better, your company can be better.

Look, social media isn’t magic. It never was. It’s a tactic that supports the entire strategy of getting the word out. But it has to be a part of a bigger mix. Creating content, blogging, videos, radio ads, print editorials, all of it. It all has to go into the planning to get results.

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