The elusive social ROI. Executives demand it, marketers search for it.

But it’s actually not so elusive, especially for those marketers who’ve embraced the latest social technologies. In fact, there is a treasure trove of data available.

Perhaps, however, marketers should not be thinking old-school marketing metrics for today’s social web. For social, it’s more about the ROE (return on engagement) than the ROI.

Measurement is the number one priority

There’s no denying the importance of social for marketers, as Facebook closes in on 1bn consumers and Twitter tops 200m, not to mention emerging platforms like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest

And as smartphone proliferation continues to rise, literally hundreds of millions of mobile consumers will make social networks their on-the-go portal. Mobile social will be the future and provide us an even more personal and detailed look at a consumer, virtually 24/7. That’s a lot of data.

By now, every major brand has a social presence. But proving exactly what that social presence is doing for your brand, and how it helps you reach our goals, should be priority number one for marketers.  

Return on engagment (ROE) 

Executives are asking for analytics to prove social ROI, but social is a completely different medium that requires a different way of looking. Executives might be looking for the old-school “ROI” but “ROE” can offer much more including brand awareness and loyalty that lay the foundations for invaluable consumer-to-brand relationships.

An engaged consumer can be much more powerful than a few sales, they can be a walking brand ambassador.

We’ve assembled and integrated over 120 social media metrics into our Social Relationship Management (SRM) platform. That number grows daily. The data is available, and the technologies exist to harness and make sense of that data. But each brand is uniquely different and must learn what they want to know and why.

For most of the people in the executive suite, however, there’s not a great desire to swim through an ocean of data looking for the one little pearl that they need. CEOs want to know that social connection “a” led to consumer pounds spent “b”.  

That was never a demand for traditional branding media like billboards, but times have changed and companies are used to the idea of digital affording them more and better numbers. 

The fact is, the ability to track consumer behavior on social is already quite impressive. Those abilities are evolving and changing every day, and even if the ROI pearl is not yet here for CEOs, social marketers have great cause to embrace and celebrate the analytics that are available to them, because they greatly inform both content and strategy.

The first course of action is to determine which statistics are relevant to your efforts and what you’re trying to accomplish. With too much of a good thing available, parsing out the key performance indicators (KPI) you want to use to drive your decision-making clears up the picture considerably. 

A third party management tool that allows for a customisable analytics dashboard streamlines that process. If it’s one that also allows for different reports for different internal stakeholders, then so much the better, but brands must establish what “success” looks like before they can attempt to measure it.

Facebook facts

Here are some of the many Facebook facts that should be available to you, all by customisable date ranges:

  • Fan total.
  • Fan growth and loss.
  • Fan demographics.
  • External referrers with traffic counts and percentages.
  • Unique reach count, paid reach, organic reach, viral reach.
  • Total impressions, paid impressions, organic impressions, viral impressions, and impressions by story type.
  • Post totals, post types, top posts, best post times and days.
  • Sources that drive fan acquisition.
  • Top countries, cities and languages.
  • Day to day totals for Page stories, people talking about this, engaged users and Page consumption.
  • Sentiment.
  • Top engaged users.

With these metrics, social marketers should be able to not only paint a clear picture of who their audience is and how they’re behaving on social, but also have the ability to quickly determine how content or a specific campaign is resonating with them. 

Marketing is a two-step proposition:

  • Step one is to attract and capture the attention of your target. 
  • Step two is to effectively communicate your value proposition to them. 

Step two revolves around your marketing operations’ ability to craft effective content for that collected community that in turn leads to desired branding and yes, sales. Analytics can show you if and how you captured attention… and at what level consumers engaged with that content. There’s much that can be gleaned from that data, and in a real-time response.

Marketers have largely led their businesses into social. Increasingly, however, other organisations within the enterprise are utilising social media to build relationships with today’s socially-connected consumer. 

Enterprise brands are looking for a more comprehensive approach that connects across departments for a seamless brand experience with their consumers, across all touch points. Social analytics will play a huge role in providing that full picture.

The future of social analytics

We await new and more comprehensive analytics that get brands closer to where they want to be. 

This could include:

  • A more automated way to monitor organic comments and tie them to specific posts, campaigns, or check-ins. 
  • Tying social activity to existing CRM profiles across the enterprise to monitor the consumer throughout and across all touch points. 
  • Attributing a social touch point directly to an individual sale (sCommerce, coupon redemption and location-based deals are already doing some of this). 
  • Integrating social analytics completely with www analytics.

Until then, there are more than enough metrics to tell a strongly convincing ROE story.

As social continues to grow and mature, look for brands to deploy a more comprehensive, seamless approach that ties together enterprise for a consumer’s entire digital footprint. That future is much closer that you might think.