When planning a social media campaign, inevitably the question of measurement will arise. Now that we're realising that follow counts aren't the be all and end all, ROI in social media has become an increasingly fragmented and complex subject.
Depending on the nature of your campaign and the tools you're using to run it, you may feel that tracking leads, driven traffic, 'likes' or retweets are most important, or you may feel that none of these are helpful.
With so many options available to you, it's sometimes difficult to measure exactly how well you're doing.
Certainly social media should have a qualitative value, but it isn't necessarily to be found in ROI.
Instead, it may ultimately be more useful for campaign managers to focus on accountability.
There are several reasons why a shift in focus is needed:
1: Area of investment.
Marketers don't invest directly in objects. Instead, marketing is directed at people, at individuals with shifting priorities and allegiances. Market trends can be anticipated, and processes put in place to help manage them, but a successful marketing department shouldn't be following trends and sticking to set in stone processes.
Truly successful strategies are always flexible, and flexibility will always be stymied by an unrelenting need to meet ROI targets.
2: Tools don’t succeed, people do.
In general, marketers are supposed to show ROI in two major areas. Firstly, when investing in tools, and secondly when investing in advertising space, but do either of these provide true ROI?
Tools in particular provide the promise of quicker, easier management and measurement, and therefore increased output, but neither of these implicitly provides better marketing.
There will always be ads for software that will “run your Twitter on autopilot” or “massively increase conversion rates”, but frankly it will only do so if you're putting the right fuel in it to start with. Pushing a badly thought out campaign through maximisation tools will only spread negative sentiment more quickly.
Can anyone reading this honestly claim that the tools and software they're using has massively increased their conversion rates by itself? (And if by some miracle it has, would you admit to it?)
In other words the tool's effectiveness is entirely down to the marketer. Think about the last paid for tool you purchased, do you honestly have a way to tell if it's generating money for you?
Tools are enablers, they are not managers. True value lies with the team that utilise the tools and software correctly.
3: People change faster than ads.
So, how about advertising? Surely there's a straightforward way to measure ROI there?
Certainly. If you pay $15 for Facebook ads and get 60,000 leads then it's working, but again, is the advert the source of the value?
No. Instead the true value is generated by the team that decided how and when to deploy the campaign and the strategy, the content and the ideas they provided.
Although you can target and hone services like PPC or Facebook ads to within an inch of their lives to show ROI, it's still a constant juggling act. If your carefully constructed formula for success should change for some reason -and it will, remember we're dealing with real people in the real world here – then suddenly your campaign's a failure.
4: Too much data spoils the campaign.
By overly relying on statistics and data we're ultimately driving our campaigns towards mediocrity. Yes there's a risk of failure, but in order to truly excel it's important to occasionally put aside previous data and try new techniques.
Just because something worked before doesn't mean it will forever, and it certainly won't provide you with a new breakthrough strategy for new markets.
5: Different measurement for different departments.
Ultimately it's not unreasonable for managers to want some kind of ROI. Your finance department needs to know it isn't just throwing money away, but there may be a need for an organisational shift in perspective and a redefining of what we think of as real value.
Marketing departments are fundamentally different from finance for example, or R&D.
MD's and CEO's are charged with allocating budgets, providing extra input in specific areas in order to ultimately increase a company's total value. But when it comes to marketing there shouldn’t always be a solid, inflexible budget, or absolute numerical accountability.
Instead, marketers should rely on persuasive arguments and the ability to predict trends in order to justify budgets. If a business owner realises this and measures his marketer's performance accordingly then it opens up a world of flexible, workable experiments and new groundbreaking campaigns.
6: Track long term results.
Every strategic tactic doesn't need to provide instant ROI. Instead, marketing needs to be measured against ultimate business objectives.
All departments including marketing should provide profit, but if you want a successful marketing strategy, then the realisation that it may not always provide great ROI is an important one.
Instead of instant, qualitative ROI, think about how your marketing department provides your business with true, long term value and measure accordingly.