We all know we are supposed to be on social media, but trying to measure your ROI on social media can be confusing. 71% percent of people say they are more likely to recommend a brand if they have a positive experience with them online, but what does that mean? There isn’t a lot of direction on how to make the most of that content or even what the expected ROI should be for the time and money spent on social media. Luckily, if you’ve read this far, you’re ahead of the majority of businesses that rely on a hot chick in a stock photo to do the work for them.
This post explores different methods of measuring ROI on social media and sets some guidelines to guide your content marketing strategy.
Methods of Measuring Your Social Success
1. Number of Followers
This is probably the first thing people consider when they’re setting their social media goals. It feels great that people notice your brand and can add credibility (there is definitely a domino effect; people are more likely to follow a brand that already has a large following). Instagram reserves the ability to add a link to stories (the “swipe up” feature) for individuals or companies with over 10k followers. However, there are other factors to consider such as the quality of your followers (if you’re a wine brand in California you probably don’t want a bunch of Korean teenagers on your account) and the level of engagement.
Social media is best at conversations that create brand loyalty and building brand awareness. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute t states that 82% of B2B marketers listed brand awareness as their primary social media objective. Given that in some cases you can even buy followers, I would say that this is worth considering, but not where you should hang your hat.
2. Level of Engagement
Social media is meant to be, well, social. It doesn’t matter if you have 213k followers if no one sees your content. This is where a lot of companies miss the mark. They hire a professional photographer to make beautiful images but aren’t taking time to reach out to the people who could become customers. There was a time where companies could pay to use a botting service to “boost engagement,” but Instagram has caught onto this and flags accounts that seem to like or follow/unfollow at super-speed.
The % at which people respond to your content is a strong indication of how your account is doing. This shows that people see what you’re doing and feel connected enough with your message to take the time to like, comment, or even share. You can measure your percentage of engagement by taking a look at your insights (which are available on all business accounts) and dividing the number of impressions (how many people who saw your page) by the number of likes (or comments, shares, etc). For example, if I have a post with 235 likes and 2707 impressions, my engagement was at 11.5%- pretty good!
You can increase your engagement with a good #hashtag strategy, reviewing your metrics to see what time of day and day of the week gets you the best level of engagement, good content, and of course, reaching out to people. Comment back, respond to comments, and browse for people in your target audience.
3. Brand Reputation
One of the most powerful benefits of engaging on social media is your ability to reach many people and share your message. If someone likes your brand, they can share, Tweet, and post about it to their followers. For better or worse, this works in both directions. If you pissed someone off, they might just go ahead and announce it on Yelp, Facebook, or another social sharing platform.
Social media is the best way to control your brand image and message online; it’s natural that you would want to measure the amount of positive or negative remarks about your brand. This technique is called social listening. This can improve over time, which would indicate your content team is doing a good job of creating a message that resonates with your audience.
(If you want more tools for social listening, read on to the next section).
Ultimately, if you are investing in creating and delivering content online, you probably want this to convert to sales. This can also be a hang-up for a lot of companies. Don’t expect someone to buy something after seeing a post for the first time. Consider the stage of the customer journey using the AIDA model- Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. From there, you can measure the ROI for each post based on its intent. Instead of expecting every post to make a sale, consider the micro-conversions that push the customer down the AIDA model.
You may measure these conversions differently depending on your company’s goals, but these are a few examples of how you could measure the conversions along each step of the journey.
Awareness- Number of Impressions, New followers, Likes
Interest- Shares, (Positive) Comments, Website clicks, Mailing list subscriptions
Desire- Amount of time spent on the website, Product added to cart
Action- Makes a Purchase
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Tools to Measure Your Social Success
Hootsuite is a classic and cost-effective tool to both schedule your posts and keep track of the engagement. You can see all of the comments from the various channels in one place to make sure you are responding quickly. I also find that scheduling your posts to be automatically posted saves a LOT of time and prevents errors. This also allows you to post at a time that that gets the most engagement for your brand. It can be a little glitchy (especially with larger files like videos), so you should still double-check that your post made it live.
Starts at $25/month for up to 10 channels.
Mention is a social listening tool that tracks the conversations about your brand online. The competitor analysis tools also allows you to compare and rank your brand’s reputation against your competitors. It tells you who is talking about you and the overall level of positive, negative, or neutral comments about your brand over many channels. Its influencer tool can also help to track your name with influential people online and sources relevant influencers for your campaign.
The basic subscription is free for up to 3 social channels.
SproutSocial combines social listening features with social scheduling. It offers more complete data than Hootsuite, but comes at a premium. It features conversion reporting, comment tracking and even suggests optimized times to post.
Starts at $99/month.
Falcon offers similar features to SproutSocial: social scheduling for many channels, engagement tracking, social listening, and KPI tracking. I find that their dashboards and reporting are a bit easier to follow, but it’s worth doing a demo with both to see which you prefer.
Starts at $129/month.
Social Searcher allows you to search across the web for conversations about your brand, industry, or a given topic. The tool gives you an overview of your brand conversation and reputation, as well as audience insights, popular hashtags, and key influencers. This can also be useful to know what content is relevant to your audience right now.
Free for up to 100 searches or starts at €3.49 for premium
6. Google Analytics
Yep, the good old fashioned analytics platform that tracks leads from the world’s most popular search engine. This can tell you where your leads came from and how long they spent on your page. Its audience insights are helpful for seeing which demographics are responding to your social channels.
Be aware of Attribution, however. Note if you are tracking first or last click attribution (or something else)…a customer may have found your company on Instagram and followed the link to your website, but then revised the website several days later by entering the site url directly in the browser to finally make their purchase. Although they found your site with your social media efforts, with a last-click attribution model, Google (or another analytics platform) will assign the credit to a Direct Visit.
This is free
Setting Up Your Content Strategy
1. What is Your Brand Position
Using the social listening tools above, take a pulse on where your company stands in the public opinion. Does the message resonate with your efforts? This can be a good first step to determine how you want to direct your level of engagement and how to focus your message. People only want content that helps them in some way through information or entertainment, so blasting your channels with sales flyers probably won’t lead to a lot of brand loyalty. Think of your unique value proposition (UVP) and how you offer a piece of this value in the conversation online. This is sure to increase trust, loyalty, and followers. Check in monthly and measure the performance of your brand position.
2. Who is Your Target Audience
We can hypothesize about who we target, but this is usually determined through extensive market research. Luckily, by testing different audience segments with a social media campaign, you can quickly gain valuable insight. This may be the goal of your whole campaign! If you already know who your audience is, consider each channel’s relevance to that demographic (for example, LinkedIn may be related to B2B, Facebook tends to be older than Instagram, etc). You can check your insights to see how well your efforts are reaching your potential customers. If you’re missing the mark, you may need to pivot your strategy and keep testing.
3. Where Are They on the Customer Journey
As I mentioned earlier in the conversions section, it’s important to set a goal for each piece of content in terms of how it relates to the AIDA model. This will really determine how you measure ROI on your efforts – you’ll be very disappointed if you’re expecting sales from every post! A post on your Instagram feed may assist with brand awareness, whereas a blog post from an influencer may lead customers further down the sales funnel towards Desire.
4. How Can You Guide Your Followers
Simply running an organic Instagram or Facebook campaign is NOT likely to increase sales, although it may help with your brand image and customer loyalty. Your content strategy should include many channels and types of content that all lead customers through their journey towards sales (if that is your goal).
Here you can use “content slicing” to take one concept and deliver it through many channels. When you create your content calendar, consider how you can divide a topic for each channel (blog post, tweet, Pinterest, IGTV, etc) and then set a goal for each topic. Each should provide the amount of information that is relative to the customer’s journey. Also consider that if you expect to increase traffic or conversions relatively quickly, you’ll need to spend some money on advertising (and test your message often).
5. When is a Conversion Measured
This relates back to the last two points. Each piece of content is measured based on its relevance to the customer journey. So, there are two times to measure your ROI on social media.
Although much of your content will be evergreen (will continue to draw traffic over time), you can gain insight into a post’s success as early as 24 hours of your post. Personally, I like to reflect about a week after. If your content did not bring you the results you wanted, look at the insights and see where you may have room for growth. It could be a matter of posting time, audience, hashtags- or the quality of your content.
Your social media team should run reports once a month and once a quarter to view stats regarding the following:
- Brand positioning
- Increase in following
- Website visits
- Sales attributed to social media
- Influencer Mentions
- Level of Engagement & Shares
- Highest-performing content
- Lowest-performing content
- Best time of day & day of the week to post for each channel
It takes time to build a social media channel unless you’re investing in ads. If you’re using organic (non-paid) reach, expect much slower results. Every post is an opportunity to learn about what resonates with your audience. Any content strategy should include a level of engagement, reflection, and adjustment based on your data. Learning how to speak to your customers may be the most valuable return on your social media investment.
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Glossary of Terms
ROI- Return on Investment
Impressions- The number of time your content was seen
Social Listening- Monitoring the conversation about a brand online
AIDA- An acronym for the sales cycle – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action
KPI- Key Performance Indicator
Attribution- The piece of marketing that receives credit for making a conversion
Conversion- When the customer makes an action. Often related to making a sale, but can also be measured by likes, comments, or webpage visits.
UVP- Unique Value Proposition/What makes your company special
Content- A piece of media produced for your brand
B2B – Business to Business
B2C- Business to Customer
Boost- The paid promotion of a piece of content to your followers
Ads- The paid promotion of a piece of content to a defined audience