At the TPM marketing bootcamp at HostingCon 2016, I talked about the importance of using social media to expand the reach of content, increase brand awareness, and build trust with your audience. Several attendees representing hosting and Cloud service providers asked about social media ROI metrics, and how they could measure the value of their social marketing and engagement efforts.
Like any budget-conscious business, MSPs and hosting providers would like confidence that their social media efforts are contributing to their goals. Or, if they’ve not yet tried social media marketing, they want clear evidence it’s worth investing in. Yet many MSPs — and over half of all businesses — struggle to tie social media to business outcomes because they lack the right resources, expertise, or analytics tools.
While no one formula will apply to every business, understanding social media ROI metrics and knowing how to use them can help you see how social channels impact your bottom line. Tracking social media ROI metrics also enables busy marketers to focus time and resources on the social channels and campaigns that offer the greatest returns. The result? As social strategy improves, ROI climbs.
The Immeasurable Value of Social Engagement
Before you start to define your social media ROI metrics, it’s important to understand that some benefits of social media are not easily quantifiable. The most commonly cited advantages of social media marketing are increases in visibility and website traffic. According to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 89% of marketers say social channels have helped raise exposure, 75% say they generated traffic, and 68% use it to boost loyalty.
Social media ROI may be measured in multiple, not-strictly-financial outcomes, such as:
- Brand exposure: When you’re not a household name, your social activity can help you reach new prospects and capture their attention.
- Customer and prospect engagement: Meet your customers where they are and connect with them in the channels they use and love.
- Brand trust: When you share useful content or thought leadership — or, even better, when your followers share your content — B2B buyers are more likely to trust you.
- Social proof: Just like a crowded restaurant, an engaged social following gives prospects the impression you’re in demand. Twitter testimonials and Facebook can subtly influence purchase decisions.
- Customer loyalty: Social channels make it possible to interact with customers more often and address their questions and concerns quickly and directly.
- Organic backlinks: As users discover your content or website through your social profiles, they may decide to link to it on their own blogs, which can impact your search ranking.
Promoting your brand and interacting with followers on social channels are part and parcel of the overall long-term content marketing strategy that MSPs must adopt to stay in front of customers. It takes time and consistent attention to develop social relationships that generate leads and sales, but over half of marketers who have been using social for two years or more say it helped them improve sales. And salespeople with strong social media skills are six times more likely to surpass their sales quota than those with rudimentary or no social media skills.
10 Social Media ROI Metrics Worth Measuring
Now let’s talk about what you can quantify. A surprising number of metrics are possible to track, but you want to focus on the handful that are relevant to your goals. Here’s an overview of which social media ROI metrics are most popular and how to use (or not use) them.
|Social Metric||What Does It Measure?||Use It For…|
|Follower Count||What marketers call a “vanity metric,” follower count is not as important as you might think. The size of your following doesn’t matter if they aren’t engaged and interacting. Focus on follower quality, not quantity; after all, one influential fan can be more valuable than 1000 unengaged followers.||Measuring follower- count growth rate in the early stages of building your social profiles. Initially, it can be an indicator of the health of your social strategy.|
|Impressions||The number of times a post appears in a social feed.||Learning how the channel and timing of posts affect the visibility of your content.|
|Reach||The number of people who see a post. One person may see a post multiple times, so reach is often less than impressions.||Gaining context by seeing the total possible audience for your social content.|
|Engagement||Likes, favorites, retweets, shares, mentions, and comments are signs of engagement. Like follower count, these can be “vanity metrics,” but tracking them over time can help you spot useful trends.||Understanding what kinds of posts and content capture attention.|
|Engagement Rate||The percentage of your followers — or of all people who see a post (your reach) — who interact with that post.
Number of interactions / Followers (or Total Reach)
|Assessing and comparing the success of social campaigns.|
|Traffic||The number of people who visit your website by clicking a link in a social post or profile. A similar but more refined metric is Clicks to Website by Source, which breaks down traffic by social media channel.||Learning whether your social strategy is generating web traffic and which channels and content are most effective.|
|Click-Through Rate (CTR)||The percentage of people that click a link you post in order to view your content.
Number of Clicks / Impressions, Reach, or Followers
|Another tool for assessing and comparing the success of social campaigns or individual posts.|
|Bounce Rate||The percentage of people who abandon your website, or content, after viewing one page. If followers continue to another page after your landing page, your bounce rate decreases.
Tip: Tracking CTR with bounce rate can reveal if a compelling tweet is leading to a weak landing page or vice versa.
|Compare the bounce rate of visitors who come from a social post with the bounce rate of those who visit from other sources. If your social media bounce rate is lower than Google, for example, it’s an indicator you’re engaging quality followers.|
|Multi-Touch Attribution||Measuring attribution from social media is tricky, but the multi-touch model is generally the most useful (though it may require an advanced analytics tool). Unlike last-click attribution, which gives all credit for a conversion to the customer’s last touchpoint, multi-touch attribution distributes credit across each interaction in the customer’s conversion journey.||Determining when, where, and how social media plays a role in driving conversions.|
|Traffic-to-Conversion Rate||Whether your conversion goal is email signups, content downloads, or sales, this is the percentage of visitors from social channels who complete the goal.||Identifying your highest- converting social tactics as well as weak links in your conversion funnel.|
3 Keys to Determining Social Media ROI
Every marketer wants to know which social tactics and corresponding social media ROI metrics are most effective. Unfortunately, you can’t truly know until you try, measure, and try again. However, there are three best practices you can follow to both achieve and demonstrate social ROI.
1. Set Clear Goals
Your unique social strategy and the metrics that support it should be based on two factors:
- Your business goals
- The actions you want your followers to take after exposure to your social content
When your metrics are closely aligned with your business goals, it will be easier to translate those metrics into verifiable ROI and it will be easier to gain support for your social strategy across your organization.
Strong social marketing goals, like all good goals, are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Yes, you want to increase traffic to your website, but by how much? By what date? And exactly how will you use this increased traffic to help your bottom line?
As you drill down into the specifics, the best social media ROI metrics to track should become apparent. For example, if your goal is to increase combined traffic to your website from Twitter and Facebook by 5% in order to drive more email list subscriptions, you may decide to measure your click-through, bounce, and traffic-to-conversion rates for each channel.
2. Make Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing Inseparable
When your social media efforts are integrated and aligned with your content marketing campaigns, it can be easier to measure and quantify their effectiveness. This is largely because each individual content marketing campaign typically has a clear and specific goal (or at least it should). Choosing metrics to support one campaign is also easier than choosing one-size-fits-all metrics for all of your social media marketing.
For example, many social media scheduling and analytics tools allow you to track the links you share on social channels and the visits to your website or content they yield. With that data, you can begin to determine what percentage of traffic and conversions can be attributed to social content.
Another strategy is to create a landing page for your content or campaign and link to it from social content, images, and/or banners. You can then track visits, bounce rates, and click-through rates from the landing page — as well as collect email addresses, demographics, and intent information through registration forms or gated downloads.
3. Determine Your Cost:Gain Ratio
Over time, if you keep track of what you’ve invested in social media marketing and what you’ve gained from it, you can determine your social ROI through some simple formulas. The simplest option is to weigh all costs (including staff time, training, tools and technology, paid ads, and so on) against all gains to which you may reasonably assign a monetary value (such as email signups, leads, and sales):
Costs / Gains = Social Media ROI
Another simple formula you can use with the same information is:
(Earnings – Costs) x 100 / Costs
A slightly more nuanced formula is suggested by Social Media Examiner:
(Social Media Gains – Social Media Costs) / Social Media Investment Percent = Social Media ROI
Build a Case for Social Marketing With Social Media ROI Metrics
Social channels are proving worthwhile for B2B marketers and are beginning to compete against other channels for time and budgets. This means that social has to prove its ROI. If you’re ready to start or mature your social marketing strategy, your ability to track social media ROI metrics is key. To learn more or find out how we can help you grow social marketing ROI, download your free copy of our eBook or contact us today.