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What is the Return On Investment (ROI) of social media? And can social media ROI really be measured?
These are questions that I have received while speaking for more than a decade, questions that I hoped to have answered back in 2013 when I published Maximize Your Social.
For many businesses, though, calculating social media ROI still remains an elusive task.
Before we jump into discussing social media ROI, please note that If you are advertising on Facebook or other social platforms as one of your main social media marketing strategies, you can easily measure the ROI of your advertising within each ad platform. What I am going to discuss here is calculating the ROI of your organic social media action in various social channels.
Another important point: You might be looking for some sort of social media ROI calculator in this post, but this is not general advice.
Using the instructions and tools that I illustrate below, you will be able to automatically calculate the social media ROI for your specific business, website, social media activity, and products across all of the shares on all of your social media platforms and any social media management platform you may use.
So am I!
Let’s dig deeper!
What is social media ROI?
The ROI of a social media marketing campaign stands for return on investment, or the amount of money you can expect to come in after the initial investment amount required to begin or implement your social media marketing efforts.
From creating photos and video posts to developing outright marketing campaigns on sites like Instagram, a social media budget can yield a higher ROI than other paid marketing efforts, such as billboards, television and radio commercials, and print media. This is because social marketing efforts can require little more than time, creative energy, and free products for influencers or giveaways in some cases, while receiving a virtually limitless number of customers viewing and possibly purchasing products.
Social media marketing efforts have the potential to have a high ROI because they require a small up-front investment, but may provide a significant amount of money or customers in return.
Does social media marketing actually generate ROI?
Although social media continues to not get quite as much recognition and consideration it deserves, social media costs are substantially less than the cost of standard sales campaigns, and social media managers often turn to social posts in their business goals to limit the amount of money being siphoned from a sales budget.
Let’s face it: Most people utilize some type of social media, and engage with brands, influencers, or even family members who talk about products and companies they like and use. Social ROI can be considerable because it takes advertising to a medium that is already highly trafficked and seems more “authentic” or “trustworthy” at a fraction of the cost of television spots.
Not every company has been successful with their social media marketing, but considering that digitally people are spending the most time online in social media, the potential is huge for companies that get it right.
Why is understanding social media ROI so important?
Understanding the return on investment of digital marketing campaigns means understanding how valuable it is to include social media goals in your overall marketing strategy.
A single social share can reach people across a huge number of platforms and across different ages and demographics.
A single social strategy can reach people from numerous demographic niches and having a social media presence is a pivotal part of creating successful, organic campaigns to promote yourself, your products, and your mission.
Understanding social media ROI also will help you appropriate the right amount of budget to your social media efforts.
The reality of how social media ROI is often measured today
The sad fact is that, without easy-to-use tools, social media ROI, while calculable, has often been put aside for easier to measure objectives such as “engagement” and “impressions.” This stat shows what I am talking about:
While generating brand awareness in social media is extremely important, as is efficiency and inbound, for many social media marketers and their agency partners, being able to show a conversion rate is of utmost importance because their perceived performance relies on conversions as a whole.
So how do you easily calculate social media ROI?
Let’s go step-by-step to see what is required to easily calculate social ROI. I say easily because today one of my favorite social media tools, Agorapulse, just officially announced this killer functionality in social media metrics that I can say with certainty provides you the easiest way of measuring the impact of social media on your business in zero time — whether you are an ecommerce shop or use social media to generate B2B leads.
Use technology on the publishing end
I have been watching the social media tools market for more than a decade, and unfortunately I have not seen a lot of progress in technology. Sure, social media dashboards add support for new social networks as they arise, but there has been a lack of general innovation over the last several years.
Social media dashboards have been allowing you to integrate with a URL shortener like a bit.ly or provide their own URL shortening service, and these have been good at showing you data surrounding how many clicks your social media posts were getting surrounding your posts that were published through that social media tool.
Clicks, unfortunately, are only part of the picture. We need technology on the publishing end that provides this and are also integrated with technology on the analytics end (which I will talk about shortly) to more effectively let business owners know that they are reaching their business goals.
This is where Agorapulse’s new killer functionality comes in.
Agorapulse has added a “tracking” setting to their platform. Each time you post, you have an ability to add an option to compile data to evaluate your ROI. Here is how it works:
- Select the tracking option when publishing.
- You will see the Source (social network) and Medium (social) automatically updated – you only need to add a campaign name.
- If you plan on just using one campaign for all of your scheduled posts, you can set the social campaign’s name as default for all links if you’d like
It’s as easy as that! In order to ensure end-to-end tracking, Agorapulse will cloak the link with its own URL shortener pulse.ly, but you can also integrate with bit.ly if you use them.
Visually, this is what it looks like:
The cool thing about what is possible with Agorapulse is that you can also use the tracking functionality when responding to comments in Facebook, for example. I assume that this would also work for Direct Messages sent within the Agorapulse platform, but this has yet to be confirmed (stay tuned!).
Further Reading: The 19 Most Powerful Social Media Dashboards You Should Know
Use technology on the analytics end
The default technology to analyze social media ROI is undoubtedly Google Analytics.
Assuming you have this not only integrated with your website but also shopping cart (for ecommerce) and/or goals (for lead generation), Google Analytics will provide you with a treasure trove of data that can be used to splice, dice, and measure your social media campaign and ultimately the positive ROI of your social media strategies, including tracking customer service efforts and general service efforts.
Google Analytics, however, is only as good as you program it to be. Without using UTM parameters in your social media posting, all of your social media efforts will be lumped together in a confusing way, and while you might be able to see the ROI by source / medium, you don’t know necessarily know if it was organic or paid in origin, as well as precisely which of your social efforts are yielding the best results.
Now, many a savvy marketer is likely to be already taking the time to manually insert UTM parameters and then see how they perform in Google Analytics using their Campaign URL Builder.
What if I were to tell you that there was a way to both save time in analyzing your results as well as a user interface that shows your social media ROI in a much easier way to understand than the complex UI that is Google Analytics spread out over all of your social media channels?
This is where Agorapulse’s powerful integration with Google Analytics comes into play.
I already described above how you can automatically add UTM parameters to any post. Assuming you are publishing through Agorapulse, you can now see all of the Google Analytics data in an easy-to-use user social media analytics tool interface inside Agorapulse–without ever having to leave it!
This is truly a game changer and provides you the easiest way to calculate your social ROI according to your social media traffic and digital marketing campaigns.
The analytics provides you two tabs: Global Data and Social ROI.
The Global Data user interface allows you to see all of your Google Analytics as follows:
- Marketing Funnel by Campaign OR Landing Page OR Source
- In the case of E Commerce you can see Visitors, Transactions, and Generated Revenues
- In the case of Goals, you can see Visitors, Goal Completion, and Goal Value
Here is an example of what a Funnel by Campaign looks like utilizing the goals and goal values that you setup in Google Analytics:
The Social ROI tab only shows data from Agorapulse and only the content published through their social media tool using pulse.ly with tracking.
In the Social ROI tab you can see:
- Funnel by Profile (Social Media Profile)
- Funnel by Content Type (Posts vs. DM vs. Comments)
- Top 10 performing posts
- Funnel by team (if you have multiple team members publishing content)
Just a look at Funnel by Profile below gives you an instant look at the specific social media ROI for each one of your social media platforms:
Tracking these parameters can help you determine the true ROI of your social media investments and can help you determine how effective your social media presence is, where it may need to improve, and whether you need to try another approach altogether.
Use a naming convention for tracking
Using a naming convention for tracking is another way to track your business objectives and determine whether there is a positive ROI in place. Naming conventions that track the campaign itself, when it was implemented, and more can help you more thoroughly evaluate your ROI for your social media traffic and determine which of your content marketing strategies are working for you, which require additional tweaking, and perhaps most importantly, how your social media efforts are doing overall to meet your conversion goals, broaden the reach of your business, and continually improve your ROI. If you have a designated name for all of your blog posts for instance, you can consistently evaluate those things across all platforms with the tag “blog-posts”.
Track every link posted in every content type in social media
The ROI of social media shouldn’t be limited to just the link posts that you schedule in advance to post. What about Direct Messages with your customer on Instagram and responses to comments on Facebook? Aren’t you also publishing links there? These links should also be tracked, and unless you are using a comprehensive social media dashboard that also allows you to engage with social media users using these functionalities, you won’t be able to calculate the social media ROI of these critical activities.
Fortunately, since Agorapulse helps you manage these activities, it provides you the ability to add tracking links when you engage as well in each of these scenarios.
Analyze the results of your social media efforts to improve your social media ROI in PDCA (kaizen) style
Use social media ROI to Plan, Do, Check, and Act on what is and is not functional in your social campaigns. When you evaluate the different types of content you are producing on your social channels according to ROI, you can develop a plan to create more social campaigns that follow the structure, schedule, or location of your positive-ROI social marketing, implement in, check in, and re-implement or restructure again. Using this cycle by evaluating your ROI on your organic social, social ads, or marketing in general can ensure that your social media ROI is consistently high and social media is regularly working for you.
Further Reading: 12 Social Media Strategy Examples to Empower Your Marketing
Marketing campaigns’ conversion rates, engagement rates, and even social media accounts’ follower counts are all important metrics to consider when evaluating how successful digital marketing as a whole is, as well as how individual campaigns are performing. That being said, the ultimate metric to track should be the ROI on social media marketing. Knowing exactly how much your initial investment is bringing in can help you determine the direction of your social media campaigns, and help you develop social strategies that are consistently working for you together with the necessary budget numbers for optimal execution.
Although determining your ROI has been a difficult, lengthy process in the past, Agorapulse’s new tracking and ROI evaluating tools extremely simplify the process.
By using effective naming conventions together with publishing through Agorapulse, you can regularly evaluate the amount of money you are bringing in (versus what you are putting out) with regard to social media, including different content types and social platforms. If you are using digital marketing on a regular basis, you cannot afford to ignore the ins and outs of social media ROI, and develop more effective campaigns moving forward.
If you want to learn more about Agorapulse’s new solution, click here for more information.
Hero photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash
This is a post contributed from one of my marketing partners.