No “R” in Social Media

Even without use of spell checker, I know there isn’t an “R” in social media. But, Marketing Communications professionals need to understand the return, and how they will evaluate the return, on investments in social media.

Measuring ROI for social media is part of the job. Social media is about more than just engagement and awareness. While social media is at the top of the sales funnel, there are still many ways to track and evaluate the return on investment. The process should begin with an agreement on how the organization will define the “R” in ROI – is it awareness, leads, conversions, sales? Evaluation of social media is less about what can be done than what should be done. Identify the evaluation criteria, and then secure agreement with sales enablement and business executives on how social media will be evaluated. At this point in our understanding of social media, the criteria will be different from other activities such as advertising, trade shows, or speaking engagements. But, establish some criteria and process for assessing the payoff on investments in social media.

Many organizations use applications such as Google Analytics or SAS® Customer Intelligence to monitor web traffic and gain valuable business insights. For organizations without such capabilities, there are still many ways to track and measure the business value of social media. Regardless of the channel, a strong call to action can drive traffic back to where engagement can be turned into leads and sales. In some cases it might be a unique 800 number, hotlink, promotional code, or email address that delivers prospects to where tracking and conversions can be done – a call center or company website. These simple techniques, some would call them old school, have long proven effective. Regardless of whether the engagement begins on a syndicated blog, Facebook, or Twitter, prospects can be engaged in a way that can provide meaningful information.

Things can get murky when it comes to “soft metrics,” such as measuring views on YouTube, comments on blogs, brand mentions, or tweets. Activity that happens beyond an organization’s website is more difficult to quantify. An agreement on how these will be evaluated is important. Construct strategies that help drive traffic into an environment where you have more sophisticated capabilities to engage and convert online actions into sales. For example, a video posted to YouTube can include a unique URL providing content that supplements the video. Hits to the web page can the tracked and offers for items such as white papers can be converted to sales leads.

One company engaging prospects in a new way is Best Buy, the world’s largest electronic retailer. A team of 500 employees, working at local stores and at the company headquarters, will soon (July 19) begin searching Twitter posts to find people seeking information about the products they sell. The “Twelpforce” will be part of the customer-service team according to Chief Marketing Officer, Barry Judge. “The old paradigm is you open your doors and hope someone comes in. In the new world, you can go out and find people that are talking about technology and what they are interested in buying, and be generous with your knowledge. And hopefully if you’re generous and knowledgeable, people will come in and buy.” In a tough environment for electronic retailers, Best Buy is fighting for every customer.

Measurement of traditional and new media strategies does not have to be so very different. The critical issue is coming to agreement on how social media will be evaluated. It’s not about measuring everything that you can, what’s more important is measuring what you should.


1 comment so far

  1. Doug Sprei on

    I think your point about coming to agreement within the organization on how to define SN ROI is critical, Tom. Sales and development officers look toward metrics with a hard edge, but as a communicator I believe that awareness has tremendous worth too and should never get short shrift. Social networking builds awareness in dynamic ways, leading to all kinds of payoffs. The sooner we can come to measure its successful impact in ways that satisfy all parties, the better off everyone in the business will be.

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