A beginners guide to better measuring social ROI

In the age of digital marketing and social media, we’ve reached brave new heights in terms of our ability to measure campaign effectiveness.

In the age of digital marketing and social media, we’ve reached brave new heights in terms of our ability to measure campaign effectiveness.

Today you can literally determine the ROI (return on investment) of any digital campaign you’re running, whether through Google AdWords or a Facebook boosted post promoting your blog.

That’s a far cry from where marketers were even at the turn of the century – when sometimes the best customer insights were derived from clunky market research tactics or even (gasps in shock) by holding the dreaded focus group.

Everybody – businesses, brands, and consumers alike – should rejoice in the fact that we have greater ability to serve up ads that are more relevant to audiences, and ultimately have a better conversion rate.

But with so much data pointing to this post’s social engagement rate or that posts ability to drive sign-ups, it can be difficult to know which metrics you should be keeping track of.

If you’re a marketer who feels like they’re treading water just to keep up with which KPIs (key performance indicators) matter most to your sales funnel, you’re not alone. Given that the breadth of articles on social ROI almost rivals the number of ways you can track it, I thought I’d take a different approach here by offering five simplified steps that will get you on the right track towards a better social ROI.

1. Choose goals that fit your present state

Everyone sets goals, and goals are great motivation. What’s not great is creating unrealistic goals. Whether you’re the lone content manager for a brand new start-up, are taking over the social media management position for a company that’s been lacking in social growth, or are firmly on top of your game and driving leads like a boss – your goals should always reflect your present state of being.

What should your goals look like if you’re just getting started?

If you’re a marketing team of one for an overachieving start-up, your goals should be simple. While generating new leads on a consistent basis might be too much to hope for in the early phases, creating awareness for your brand or business isn’t.

The primary focus should be on social engagement, which is measured based on the amount of interactions posts and how much traffic your social platforms drive to your website.

These metrics are qualified as:

  • Retweets
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Shares

By generating high quality content and sharing said content via channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and so on, you can begin to figure out what your audience responds to and what makes you click worthy.

To worry about leads and ROI while still in the building awareness phase is just putting the cart before the horse. It is more important to focus on building a targeted audience and offering those people value on a weekly basis.


In the beginning, it will be almost impossible to know what number of website hits you need to get on a monthly basis before you can legitimately start thinking about conversion tactics – but don’t get discouraged.

As you’re building awareness, focus on acquiring likes, clicks to website, better engagement rates, and a wider post reach, as these metrics will act as your primary barometer in leading you towards user conversion.

2. Track your goals

Whether your goal is to drive a certain amount of people to your blog every month or to gain a particular number of new fans every week, you need to actively track your progression towards any goals. It doesn’t matter if you work on the B2C side of marketing selling skateboards or you are a B2B marketer selling software to mid-sized companies, the end objective should be to boost traffic to your website.


If you’re just getting started in your efforts to track social ROI, let’s assume that you’re primarily focusing on three different social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and either Instagram or LinkedIn (Instagram for the marketer promoting skateboards, LinkedIn for the software company).

When you’re posting or promoting on all three of these platforms, it’s important to know what kinds of posts:

  • Are best for driving traffic to your site
  • Are the most share worthy
  • Can generate the most comments, likes, or favorites

Maintaining a solid engagement rate as well as clicks to your site are the two most important KPIs that you want to measure when you’re still in the building awareness stage of your social marketing efforts.

You may optimize a blog post for a boosted post campaign and notice that your engagement and overall reach increase, but that your clicks to website go down. Likewise, you might use that same blog post for clicks to website campaign and find that your traffic increases, but that your overall engagement and reach fall. By tracking how often you’re meeting your set goals, you’ll be able to hone in on a formula that allows your awareness to grow at a consistent rate.

3. Calculate your monthly spend and optimize accordingly

Even if you’ve only spent just a few weeks or a few months on creating quality social posts for your business or brand, you should be able to justify a monthly marketing spend on promoting those posts via your chosen channels.

This is where some of the data collected from tracking the gradual progression to achieving your goals will come into play for each of the perspective platforms that you’re monitoring. Assessing this information will help you determine how to best allocate funds between each platform based on the levels of promotion you think they might require.


If you notice that your organic (non-paid) posts provide you with more Facebook likes than they do Twitter followers, it may make more sense to allocate more of your spend on Facebook likes than on attempting to gain Twitter followers. However, if you’ve created an e-book entitled Five Proven Ways That Content Marketing Will Increase Your Overall Revenue and want to use it to grab emails from readers, you can post this e-book to both Twitter and Facebook, but a better channel to spend your ad dollars on might be LinkedIn, which is geared towards a more professional audience.

It’s not about how promotion costs for each platform, rather it’s more important that you optimize your spend based on the platform that displays the most success and engagement from your audience. If you’re seeing 20 percent better engagement on Twitter than you are on Facebook, it makes sense to allocate 20 percent more of your monthly budget to advertising your business on Twitter.

4. Set up events in Google Analytics

All of the above mentioned steps are key to eventually being able to track how much a page visit or action is worth to your business, and one of the best ways for capturing the KPIs that will best inform you in terms of social ROI is by setting up events in Google Analytics.

What is an event?

Essentially this is any user action that you deem to be important to your ROI. You can choose to track how many blog visitors spend two minutes or more on your posts. Understanding this will allow you to see what percentage of these readers come from which social source. You can also set-up an event that captures user sign-ups for newsletters – and the list goes on.

When considered in a vacuum, events won’t do much to help increase your insight. Instead, you should use them as a method for analyzing patterns in your audience’s interaction habits with your site. For example, you might find that when someone visits five or more pages on your site, their likelihood to convert increases. You can track these findings back to how these specific users are entering your site to begin with so that you’re optimizing your ad spend accordingly.

While setting up events in Google Analytics is a fairly technical process, it’s absolutely necessary to being able to drill down into how your social ads are actually performing. Events that you set up can vary from contact form completions, to the number of pages that users visit once hitting your site when you’re still building awareness. If you set up your events correctly, you should be able to gain a clearer picture of how truly engaged social users are once they hit your site.

5. Attach a monetary value to every social KPI

Calculating social ROI is rarely ever as simple as a putting one and one together and getting two – especially if you’re at the beginning of your endeavors to build your brand’s presence.


On the one hand, it’s easy to see how much your average boosted post costs per engagement, but on the other hand, tacking the dollar and cents value of a website click is difficult to determine, especially if you don’t have a strong organic stream to compare your paid traffic to.

To really understand the ebb and flow of social ROI you have to be aware of the cause and effect of the campaigns you’re running. You could find that spending X amount of dollars on getting page likes actually decreases the amount of traffic that you’re able to funnel to your site. Likewise, you could discover that gaining new likes is essential to generating continued interest in your brand.

Even though it will be an uphill battle in the beginning, endeavor as much as you can to attach monetary value to every social action you’re investing money into. Doing so will get you to start thinking more analytically in terms of the dollar amount your spending, and what you can reasonably expect in return.

Key takeaways

While the path to generating a steady ROI can be rocky in the beginning, there are three key takeaways you should be cognizant of in order to get a clearer picture of whether your social marketing efforts are working:

1. Build your goals slowly, but keep your eye on the ball

Every marketer’s goal is to gain a higher ROI, but when you’re just starting to build your social marketing program it’s important that you not get sucked in to irrelevant metrics. The best way to build towards high social ROI is to develop your marketing goals slowly by analyzing how your campaigns are performing and then optimizing accordingly.

2. Keep your spend low to start

One of the great things about social marketing is that the costs are lower than traditional marketing. That being said, you should still keep your spend low to start.

When you’re in the very beginning of building a social ROI you won’t yet have a clear idea of what kind of content resonates with your target audience. So, build your spend slowly so you don’t end up spending more money than you need to.

3. Always offer value

When you market on social media, the idea is to incorporate your brand or business in the conversations that are already taking place within your target audience. Attempts to convert customers without offering any value will inevitably offend your target audience. While you shouldn’t be afraid to sell, make sure that you’ve developed a relationship with the people you want to sell to before pulling the trigger.

At the end of the day, forging a path to social ROI is part science and part art. You definitely need to be building KPIs into your marketing plan as you go. But remember that the message you want to put out there is of equal priority to developing KPIs. And that takes as much intuitive talent as it does anything else.

Homepage and article images via Flickr. 

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