Last week I posted some

tips for brands

wishing to engage with their customers via social media. It would appear to have been well received and I hope it helped provoke some thought around this subject.

One tip which received a lot of attention was “Forget ROI” and because this appeared to be a hot topic of interest, I thought I’d offer a little more detail and context around this and provide some further thought of how a return (in some shape or size) could be measured and then used to build a business case. I hope it helps.

Social media and ROI is not a match made in Heaven.

Investment in this area is straight forward to measure and can take the form of time, resource and money. Standard stuff.  But what type of return can be expected? What is return? Typically, “return” is a monetary number in a spreadsheet, which everyone understands hence it receives a lot of focus. It’s the payback from all the investment made.

However, social media is not about achieving sales. I can hear the finance and sales people shouting “What! That’s madness!” Social media, for brands, should be about providing meaningful and valuable information to their target audience; coupled with providing the ability for anyone to interact directly with the brand.

Be social; have a chat; be helpful…no ulterior motive. In the brand engagement journey, brands can use social media platforms to create awareness and interest; brand advocates can also provide the real and more meaningful endorsements within social media and those people interested can then make up their own minds.

So the return from social media on its own is increased activity, conversation and buzz, hopefully in a positive manner. No £££s or $$$ or €€€ in sight. Oh dear. This activity can be measured with such tools as Radian6, Brandwatch, free buzz monitoring tools, and I’d thoroughly recommend

However, there is of course, a bigger picture to consider.

  • How does the increase in “buzz” online impact the Natural Search rankings and click throughs?
  • How many new Natural Search results relating to the activity appear?
  • Does my Paid Search see an uplift?
  • How about the site referrals to my website?
  • Are these coming from social media land?
  • How many more back links to my site have appeared?
  • Has brand search term volume increased?
  • Is there a match in keyword buzz activity and keyword searches?
  • How viral has my social media become? (Who else is referring to it?)
  • What is the authority, reach and sentiment of this viral activity?
  • How many “fans” “followers” “friends” “views” etc. do I have?
  • Is there an increase in unique visitors to my site directly?
  • Have conversions increased?
  • What is the timing associated with all this?

Ok…there is more time and expertise (more investment) needed to collate and analyse the data, and from several sources. However, the effort to do this will help justify (even to the laggards) the reasons for the investment, and if done well it could justify further investment.

Synchronising measurement is essential. Looking at the increase in buzz , the keywords and phrases being used; where it is happening and when it happens will allow you to correlate this information with the on site web analytics data. If the search terms leading to increase unique visitor activity (Natural & Paid) are the same as the terms used in the buzz and activity happening off site; and these occur at the same time…there’s a strong case for the social media cause. Should this then lead to increased conversions, then the return could potentially make it onto that spreadsheet. Did we see a raised eyebrow from an accountant there?

I always like to look at the return of not getting involved. It could be seen as a zero return, which is pretty poor. I’d argue it was worse than that. In fact, it could very well be a negative return as you can guarantee your competitors will be “having a go”.

 Karl Havard is Managing Director of Propellernet