We talk a lot about ROI in this business, in any business really. Why do something if there’s no return? But if the return is hard to measure, what then?

Social efforts have gotten easier to measure in the nearly 10 years we’ve been doing this. We used to manually count likes on posts to show progress (oh yes we did) and now we’ve got full-blown reporting systems to let our clients know what we’ve done for them lately. But… what, exactly, does that mean?

This is when we have to keep our clients in check, when we have to manage expectations. Because what we can measure is what’s available to measure. As an outsourced vendor, we measure what happens on the social platforms, themselves. These measurements go deeper than how many new followers or likes a company received. We look at¬†engagements, shares, reactions, demographics, the types of posts that people react to more, the keywords we hit, the category of post (text, image, video, etc). The list goes on. We take it further and work together with the web/SEO team to see if our engagement on social has led to website traffic.

As an outsourced vendor, measuring beyond these areas can get tricky. The post that we shared with your coupon code? You, as the client, can see if that code was picked up and used in recent sales. But it gets a little fuzzy from there, and that’s what we want clients to understand. Marketing is marketing and sales is sales, and sometimes the two intercept, but sometimes, they don’t necessarily meet in the middle. I was just discussing a friend’s family business the other day where the marketing team feels like they have their finger on the pulse of the community, the demographic, the need of the marketplace, but the sales team feels they are out there in the community and the marketing team isn’t always hitting the mark. This happens more than you’d know.

Here’s the thing. And I say this as the owner of an online company: sales still take place between people. A handshake still goes a long way. Why do you think marketers flocked to social as a means to connect with customers? Because we can be people there. Our company prides itself on giving a human voice to brands behind the keyboard. But what we do online may be the first time someone has heard of our client – and who buys from someone the very first time they meet them?

The sales team is still a critical part of the process. What happens online and on that website has to be taken offline and into the real world for sales to happen. So… when a client says they aren’t seeing immediate sales results and are frustrated, I want them to remember that what the social team is doing is an adjunct to everything else – it’s meant to be an addition to the sales team as a support mechanism, it isn’t meant to be the number one way of driving sales. Those running sales ads on Facebook? Yes, those are meant to drive sales. That’s their purpose. The click and purchase is the goal completion. But the conversation happening on pages, even the conversation being boosted? That’s meant to create community, a feeling of goodwill and credibility to the brand. It helps to lead people through that sales funnel, but the funnel (the website, the sales process, etc.) is what needs to close the deal.

This is a conversation about managing expectations. When we’re hired to be the voice of a brand, that’s what we do. And, under no circumstances would the voice of our brand consistently say, “buy my stuff” over and over again. We’d never let that happen.

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