Guest Post: Building a case for social ROI

Written by on March 11, 2014 in Featured on App, Loyalty & CRM, Social media with 0 Comments

Social media, ROI, Guardian, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Analytics, Gareth Cartman, Clever Little Design

My, my, aren’t we getting noisy?

There are very few brands out there who don’t have all social channels covered. We’re chatting, responding, pushing out content, sharing stuff, and some of us are even shouting into the void that is Google Plus.

It’s clearly getting on peoples’ nerves, as this Guardian journalist points out after she received an “anniversary” card from Ocado celebrating the anniversary of her first order from the online supermarket.

The Guardian journalist neglects to mention the voucher for the free bottle of wine that she’ll have received along with the anniversary card – but the story is a familiar one. Brands are constantly pushing out messages through their multiple channels, to the point that we’re either immune to them, or we start to react negatively.

I believe we’re reaching a period in our usage of social media where

A sort of ‘teenage’ period. It goes like this:

  1. A few businesses get involved, others are a bit wary
  2. Everyone runs around shouting “Get us on the Twitter!”
  3. Everyone accepts they have to do social marketing as part of the general marketing mix (we’re here, by the way)
  4. Everyone understands the ROI of social marketing and where it fits in, hence a refinement of what we do

We’ve been through the craziness, but many brands are noisy for the sake of being noisy. Many brands are still struggling to get from 3) to 4).

How do you get there, build a business case and prove the ROI of social?

Top of the funnel

Google Analytics recently upgraded its conversion data to include multi-touch conversions – i.e. those enquiries or purchases that had multiple touchpoints before the enquiry or purchase was made. For instance, you may always have insisted that your investment in paid search is paying off, and that you should reduce your investment in organic – simply because paid search is doing so well.

So you reduce your investment in organic, and conversion rates in paid also drop.

Why? Because people were using organic to find you, but coming back through paid search to make the final enquiry / purchase.

Organic was the first touchpoint, but wasn’t getting any credit in Google Analytics, and paid search was getting all the glory. The multi-touchpoint feature allows you to see exactly which channels were providing the ‘assists’ to the final conversion.

That’s free. More extensive, paid options are available which track IP addresses and match them against businesses and their web activity – including which channels they came through. Social is very often at the top of the funnel, and has therefore always been hard to justify in terms of ROI.

Now you can, and it’s time to reward those multiple touchpoints that lead up to a conversion.

Retention & the art of listening

Too many brands talk too much. But it’s no use talking if you can’t listen. After all, how would you know what to say next if you haven’t been listening?

The CRM industry has been jockeying for position, fully aware that social listening is just as important as social activity. Acquisitions are more than likely not yet done with – which shows that there’s huge demand for tools that help brands understand sentiment and chatter.

Staying on top of tweets and Facebook activity is the most basic thing you can do. And for many, it will probably be enough.

However, once the volume starts to grow, having someone on-hand just to respond isn’t enough. How do you sift through the chatter to pick out trends, define client requirements, and act upon them? Taking social listening from reactive to proactive is the ultimate step from teenage social to mature social.

The separation of paid from owned & earned

The greatest trick the ‘Social Media Guru’ ever played was convincing his client that social was free (except for that nice monthly retainer).

Those likes? Paid for. Those shares? Paid for.

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of paid, owned and earned social, and how they fit together – and indeed, how they separate out as different channels.

Today, when we talk about paid social media, we can measure our LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook advertising spend, and directly attribute sales through Analytics platforms.

The trick to maximising ROI from paid social media is to get into the mindset of your prospects wherever they are. It’s a different mindset on LinkedIn to that of Facebook or Twitter – so it requires different content, different approaches. The old Google Adwords mentality takes over, where we have directly attributable results for social channels, but we have an added layer of creativity to which we can attribute tangible ROI.

It becomes more opaque when we start buying likes or shares… or does it?

The value of your metrics

The Facebook clickfarm episode demonstrates precisely the value of “likes”. A website builds up a massive amount of likes by shoving out a picture of a cancer sufferer holding up a card asking for likes, or a bowl of sweets saying “like if you like fruit” – or something equally inane. The clickfarm has a value – enough value that the ‘fan page’ gets sold – you (the liker) are an item of data for sale.

This rather distasteful strategy perfectly illustrates the ROI of social. You have x number of likes, you are worth y amount of pounds.

In a multi-channel (real) world, the value of our follower counts only really equates to the amount of engagement we derive from them.

Measuring our ROI from social is complex, but if we can get an idea of the contribution to the top of the funnel, the value of direct social conversions (whether paid or earned), and the impact of social activity on customer retention, then we’ve started to move out of the teenage years, and into a more mature model.

 

[Image: G-Doc1204 - Flickr]

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About the Author

About the Author: Gareth is Director of Digital Marketing for Clever Little Design. He has worked across a number of marketing, tech, HR & publishing roles, and while not blogging on any of the above, he'll be found watching Everton or the Boston Red Sox. .

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