As my college lacrosse coach used to say, “Hard is not the same as impossible.” On the other hand, my young niece once memorably said, “Frustrating means when you can’t reach something.” The coach was talking about talented competition and my niece was talking about the candy jar, but regardless, their two comments represent the struggle that marketers feel when trying to measure social ROI. We want to get there; we are working really hard, and we feel really frustrated by our lack of success.
While fully recognizing the challenges and “mushy” metrics of social marketing, that doesn’t mean social teams get a pass on measurement and metrics. Everyone in the marketing ecosystem has to demonstrate value to the business, and social marketing is no exception. There are some simple standards you can start to explore.
Some social teams start out with a low level measurement that is more like directional guidance. Instead of exact numbers, they focus on how social traffic and influencers drove some level of sales or sales influence. Another great way to measure ROI is to highlight what did not work and where investment should be stopped or limited.
However, I think one of the least explored ways to prove the value of social marketing is through studying the impact that behavioral, persona and stratification data have on marketing automation and CRM campaigns. These are the campaigns that are highly trackable and usually provide a large portion of overall revenue. The CRM and social teams may be unlikely allies. The director of direct marketing/loyalty for a major hotelier told me recently that he ribs his social marketing counterpart by noting that the entire amount of revenue tracked back to social marketing in five months is earned by the loyalty group in about five hours. Collegial water cooler posturing aside, I said that the social team ought to be congratulated for at least having a number that they publish and stand by!
More importantly, the direct/loyalty/crm teams use the data that socially active customers generate to better target and personalize their campaigns. The notion of a “persona” is a very dynamic and fluid concept today, mostly because digital and social data provide insights about individual customers and prospects, such as how they change over time and whether or not those changes are in response to stimuli and events outside the brand’s control. The increased success of direct campaigns (email, mail, mobile apps, SMS), which are informed by social data is a measure of ROI of social activity and engagement just as much as direct sales from a link in a tweet, post or pin.
Since measuring ROI is the biggest social media challenge marketers face, according to a recent report from Simply Measured and TrustRadius, it seems prudent for social teams to break out of their silo and partner with other teams that benefit from social efforts.
This could be true for any size organization. The TrustRadius study found that, no matter the size of the company, the top challenges around measurement of social marketing were consistent. Developing a social media strategy is a more common challenge for small businesses than for enterprises, and securing enough internal resources is a more common problem for larger companies. The report was based on data from a survey of nearly 600 social media practitioners that was conducted in February and March 2015.
Marketers are trapped between readily available “vanity metrics,” such as likes and followers, and difficult-to-measure objectives, such as brand awareness. A much more clear and aligned method of measurement is to track the influence of social engagement on the success of other channels.
To do so, social media goals must be integrated and aligned with overall business goals. This seems elusive for many marketers. The TrustRadius study found that while marketers largely feel they effectively leverage social media data and analytics to optimize their marketing strategies, they don’t feel social media data impacts their company’s overall business strategy.
I think that is huge missed opportunity. If you are the CRM marketer, ask yourself if you use social data to improve your campaign performance. Partner with the analytics department and your social teams to quantify that and then give the social experts the challenge to improve it. If you are the social marketer, take a walk down the hall, suffer through some ribbing on revenue contributions, and then start talking about the gold of all marketing success: Data. You’ve certainly got that in abundance. Plus, your CRM teams are used to working with marketing technology. Get some support (and budget!) to ensure you have the tools and integrations you need to prove the value of your social marketing not just in social channels, but also across the business.
Like many marketing efforts, ROI on social marketing is difficult because the initial work is not done to establish objectives and align tactics to the overall brand story and strategy. Taking a purposeful approach to social marketing will help you use social marketing effectively, and perhaps improve your campaign management as well. What do you think? Is there an opportunity for you here? Comment below with your thoughts.
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