Measuring the ROI of Social Media

We’ve established that social media is a key to search engine optimization success – with search engines tying a business’s social media presence to search rankings, the increased search-ability of social media platforms, and the movement of internet users to social media sites as their preferred form of interaction with companies they like.  Beyond the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits, we encourage most companies to establish an active social media presence as an inexpensive and effective means of marketing, brand awareness and customer service. But social media is a murky territory for measuring return on investment – or ROI.  New companies are always surfacing trying to quantify success in social media – using unique formulas to determine your overall worth in the social media community.  Yet, despite all of the numbers that we can pull from social media, we can’t pinpoint an effective way to determine the ROI of social media. Why not? Because the definition of social media success varies depends on your business’s overall goals. Mashable recently posted an interesting piece on measuring the ROI of social media, urging businesses to move away from attempting to calculate ROI of social media and instead think about ways to approach the return on investment of social media. The post asks marketing departments to consider 3 approaches to the ROI of social media: 1)      Approach social media as a marketing vehicle rather than the destination. 2)    Learn from real time social media metrics and apply what you have learned to every department within your organization. 3)      Tailor your expectations for social media to the departments directly associated with your social media presence – and create metrics the way you would create metrics for each individual department within your company. These approaches make sense – rather than focusing on the ROI of social media itself, social media should be considered a tool to drive the overall goals of your business. Let’s take a look at using social media as a vehicle for marketing and brand awareness rather than as the destination. Most marketing campaigns have a specific end goal attached to them – these goals could range from a specific goal of growing a company’s revenue by x percent each quarter to a more general goal of increasing brand awareness. When employing social media as part of your marketing strategy, it makes sense to gauge how your social media presence performs for your overall goal. If you’re goal is to increase brand awareness, then perhaps a large and growing Facebook fan base is a sign of the success of social media in your marketing goal.  On the other hand, a goal of increasing revenue might be best achieved by nurturing a smaller but highly involved social media community that follows your brand for product news, updates and specials. Just as each social media strategy should be tailored to a business’s specific needs, measuring the success of that strategy should also be specifically tailored to the business goal. No matter your marketing goals, social media is an important – and ever-growing – part of your business’s online presence. Read more about Mashable’s take on approaching the ROI of social media.
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