There's been a lot of ink spilled on the subject of social media ROI. Is it possible? How to go about it? What to measure?

At a #socialcloud event last night I outlined what I believe are the five pitfalls that everyone should try and avoid when approaching social media ROI.

1. Don't see ROI as an afterthought

It's amazing how many campaigns kick off without any clear idea of what success looks like. Retro-fitting ROI onto a pre-existing strategy is always going to be challenging.

Your measurement/ROI framework should clearly separate out your different objectives – business objectives, commercial objectives, communication objectives etc. - and the measures you are going to assign to each.

Having this framework in place from the beginning will ensure that, further down the line, you know exactly what you are doing.

Often this means looking beyond just sales or conversions - social media returns that have a financial impact can come from a lot of different places within a business, so don't lose sight of that.

Fundamentally, the way you build and structure your campaigns will have a direct impact on the ability to measure social ROI. For example, you're going to struggle to measure against an objective to sell more products if you don't have a conversion route or call to action as part of your campaign.

Finally, measurement itself needs investment. If you haven't got budget allocated to measurement then you need to build it in.

2. Don't measure everything

I've seen some pretty crazy measurement dashboards in my time that really do try to measure everything under the sun. You need to be selective and need to ensure metrics are aligned to your objectives and overall goals.

If, when confronted with a metric, you can't give a good answer to the question 'so what?' then stop using it.

Technology has a lot to answer for here. Just because you have the tools to measure something, doesn't mean you should.

3. Don't flatter the indicator

KPIs are great, but they aren't the be all and end all of social media ROI. By their very nature, indicators give you a suggestion of what is or isn't working/happening.

But far too often they are used as proof-points - easy ways to try and give an impression of success. They aren't tied to objectives and don't give a measure of actual bottom line impact.

It's easy to confuse the indicator as a proof-point rather than seeing it for what it really is.

4. Don't forget complexity

People are unique. Businesses are unique. Every single social interaction - online and offline - is unique.

Deciding what to measure and how to measure it is hard. It’s noisy out there and it's hard to cut through the crap and focus on what really matters. That's why working to keep your focus on overall objectives is fundamentally important.

We are moving to a place where social media media marketing stops being seen as a standalone entity. Social in its broadest form is a discipline that cuts across all aspects of business. The move towards social business is coming and forward looking brands are already doing a lot of thinking in this space.

The insights we gain from social interactions begin to define and shape the businesses we run.

Seen in this way (and helping us make sense of complexity), social starts to play a different role, with different objectives and different ROI potential.

5. Don't be afraid to fail

It's easy to forget that social media is a very young marketing discipline and no-one has all the answers.

Be hard on yourself. Always be asking the 'so what?' question. Balance your KPIs to ensure you are collecting metrics that help you see whether you are meeting your objectives.

By continuously experimenting and refining, you can ensure your measurement framework is really proving returns for your business.

The 5 don'ts of social media ROI from Danny Whatmough Picture credit

Published 4 June, 2013 by Danny Whatmough

Danny Whatmough is Head of Digital, EMEA Consumer at Weber Shandwick. He can be found on TwitterGoogle+  and blogs at

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Comments (2)

Katy Howell

Katy Howell, Director at immediate future

Hi Danny

I would add two more, the first, which by implication you touch on in your first and fourth point: The need to measure beyond social. Agreed you shouldn’t measure everything, but by looking at the metrics from your digital, offline, mobile, in store, sales volume you can collect data that can be correlated against social media. For brands that operate sales channels that are not online, the insight identifies the impact of social and can be correlated to ROI.

The second is not just measuring last click. Increasingly adopted by our colleagues in affiliate marketing, is the methodology that looks at what sites/pages/ activity instigated the sale or contributed to purchase decision. Weighting and analysing these purchase pathways means that not all the sale value is set as search. Better still full, multichannel attribution modelling can reveal value from social. A big effort yes, but not only aids determining ROI, but often supports optimising your mix.

Kate ;-)

about 5 years ago


Philip Sheldrake

Nice change to see 5 Don'ts rather than 5 Do's :-)

The question of social value is AMEC's number 1 long-term priority. AMEC's European Summit is progressing as I type, and a lot of progress has been made on a number of measurement standards, in conjunction with the wider so-called Conclave.

FYI, here's the stack summarising my perspective on determining the value of social, circulated in advance of the Summit for comment.

Cheers Danny.

about 5 years ago

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