There are still some marketers who are reluctant to embrace social media because they just don’t understand how to measure results or present what they do know in a way that can confidently drive decisions about future spend. While it is easy to track impressions, engagements and the general growth of your social platforms, what do these numbers truly mean in terms of dollars and cents for your business? How do we illustrate who is clicking on the links to content, and most importantly, how do we prove that an organic post or campaign is making an impact on the bottom line?
B2B marketers understand that social media strategy is an essential tool for building brand awareness and trust across a wide digitally active audience. In simple terms, social media ROI — or return on investment — is a measure of all social media actions that create value, divided by the investment you made to achieve those actions. After all the time, money and resources put into the social media arena, ROI defines the tangible return for your business.
Just like any other B2B marketing ROI, you need to be able to spell out why social media is worth putting significant dollars and cents on the line. Social media ROI, especially for B2B businesses, has often been a gray area for marketers that is difficult to quantify.
So, how do you put an actual number on increasing brand recognition or the value of an engaging post that creates positive sentiment toward your company or service, but hasn’t really created a lead or a sale? It’s a difficult reach, and yet, in order to secure buy-in from stakeholders or present solid data to clients, you need to talk in terms of real numbers and not the feelings of a potential lead who may (or may not) convert sometime down the road.
Measuring the exact value of your social media ROI can become a complex task that can lead even a more experienced marketer down a rabbit hole of maybes, what-ifs and analysis reports that are murky at best. In fact, a report by Social Media Examiner found that only 10% of respondents strongly agree that they can confidently measure ROI on social media and 56% are either uncertain their measurement tactics or feel that they don’t really work at all. So, for those elusive few who are quite positive of their metrics, exactly how do they do it?
Benchmarking has long been a staple of successful marketing campaigns, but only recently has the significance of adopting a measurement strategy before embarking on a B2B social media campaign come into play. Why? Because choosing the correct metrics that will correlate with tangible sales numbers is simply hard.
After all, the focus of social media marketing is often on brand awareness and engagement, and less often on direct sales. This is especially true in the world of B2B, where prospects are looking for information, gauging reputation and customer service, and simply searching for that ‘gut feeling’ that this may or may not be the right company for their needs.
So, to accurately assess social media ROI, marketers need to define the primary objective and establish relevant KPIs that align with that goal.
Once you understand what B2B social media ROI entails and why it needs to be consistently measured, the ‘how’ part comes into play. Although there are scads of metrics available to marketers, through the process of benchmarking and goal setting mentioned above, you have determined what is most useful to your business or client and are ready for the next phase.
Here are four steps to assessing and measuring social ROI.
With the right social media benchmarking tools, you can conduct a social media analysis, evaluate your efforts and compare different strategies. But wow, are there a lot of products out there! With some of the most popular being Sprout Social, Hootsuite, Dashthis and Semrush, there are still many others that may fit the bill (and your budget.) Don’t skimp on performing an analysis of these top social media management platforms.
It’s important to know what investment you’re putting into your social efforts to create any sort of meaningful evaluation of your return on investment. Be sure to add the cost of social media reporting tools, ad costs such as boosted posts or sponsored content, the hours spent by your social media account manager or agency fees.
Your competitors will most likely share the same buyer persona and a thorough social media competitive analysis helps you identify where you stand against the efforts of your competitors and outline any areas where you might be lagging behind.
Share of Voice (SOV) can be a very helpful metric, as it provides an overview of the social landscape within your industry. It allows you to dig into consumer insights in addition to the competitor intelligence and brand monitoring. By using an analytics tool like those mentioned above, you can easily create a search for any mention of your brand or product and the competition.
Social media reporting frequency can be anything from weekly to monthly to quarterly or from the beginning of a campaign to the end of the campaign. Frequency of measurement, along with KPI’s should be determine early on as part of the benchmarking process. Year-over-year reporting will give the most insight into social progress, but most B2B marketers measure quarter-over-quarter as well as month-over-month to paint an accurate picture of how and when consumers of B2B products and services are searching for information.
According to Awareness, Inc., 54% of marketers say that the biggest challenge in measuring a social media success story lies in the inability to tie social metrics to actual business results. It’s enough to give some of us a restless night’s sleep! But… an accurate and measurable assessment of social media ROI can be — and needs to be — a part of every social media marketer’s toolbox.
Measuring success of any social media initiative involves returning to the benchmarks set previously and then determining if you have outperformed those benchmarks to reach monthly, quarterly or yearly goals.
Even assuming you’ve set out with a clear objective and then found and benchmarked your data, measured and tracked over time and determined what your social ROI breaks down into numbers, what can you do to take your strategy to the next level? Since social media is constantly evolving, there will always room for improvement.
A/B testing is used often in other marketing efforts and can easily be applied to social media strategy as well. Experiment with different audience segments, hashtag strategies, and ad formats on each of your platforms. As you report your social ROI, make it clear what you are learning and how changes might provide value.
Staying abreast of changes that are rolled out for each individual platform, how they might help (or hurt) your social goals is critical to improving social ROI in the long term. For instance, LinkedIn has rolled out a carousel feature, and this would be quite worthwhile to A/B test to determine if these types of posts resonated with your audience. Don’t be afraid of small failures — they are often the best learning lesson and can efficiently lead to improvements in social ROI moving forward!
Despite the current challenges to measuring social return on investment, there is some great news on the horizon: research is beginning to show that companies are understanding the importance of social media marketing and backing up that understanding with budget increases. Get your ducks in a row, a solid measurement plan in place, and you will be well on your way to successfully determining and presenting your B2B social media ROI!