Social ROI: Measuring beyond ‘engagement’

For years now, when people have spoken about ‘social ROI’ it has usually involved measures of engagement, sentiment or share of voice. The problem with these is that they don’t actually demonstrate true ROI. While engagement is certainly an important metric for content and community management, marketers and businesses should be looking to measure and monitor harder business metrics that can prove the true value of social.

The key to measuring social media’s hard metrics and getting true social ROI is integrating social content with web analytics. In many organisations social media sits away from analytics functions. It’s usually owned by the communications team, where the best content is developed. This may be where a large part of the misconception about measuring social stems from – where people developed the expectation that social isn’t tangible and similar to other communications functions like public relations.

Today we can put that misconception to rest. Social can be tangible. It can be measured, and communications and analytics teams need to work closely to make it happen.

Integrating web analytics with your social media content lets you move beyond the standard metrics offered by social platforms – such as likes, shares, followers or retweets. It lets you move deeper into the valuable post click data that web analytics has been using for decades. Using tagged links and tracking, you can build post click data reports on the customer experience that start with social media as it progresses through different channels or touch-points, and ultimately ends with conversion.

You’ll notice that I haven’t yet mentioned a specific conversion metric for measuring true social ROI. That’s because there are many you can use, and the ones you should be looking at are the ones that best suit your business goals and objectives. While there are many different metrics, here are three of the main ones:

  • Sales – Arguably the most important and sought after online metric; integrating web analytics with your social profiles will let you see social ROI via the exact percentage and/or $ figure that can directly be attributed to your social media. This is important to measure short and long term as not all sales via social are instant.

  • Subscriptions – Whether you’re looking to drive trial subscriptions of a product, or to develop out your database of e-newsletter subscribers, tracking the number that come from your social media posts and profiles can show ROI through the impact your social media is having on your subscriber base.

  • Traffic – Not all organisations look to drive dollars in the door, and for those organisations ROI can mean something completely different. In these cases, simply getting traffic to a destination or eyeballs on content can secure the desired return – especially if awareness or education are the goals.

As more companies look to either develop new social strategies or build out existing ones, marketers need to start thinking beyond measures of engagement to prove the true value of social media. Most major social platforms provide some level of data, but to demonstrate and understand the value of social, people need to go deeper using web analytics.

How deep does your social measurement go? What do you measure, and what would you like to measure? Tell us in the comments below!

Paul Robson
BY Paul Robson ON 6 November 2013
Managing director, Adobe Australia & New Zealand (view profile on LinkedIn)