Measuring Social Media ROI

Phew! Here we go another year. Another year of measuring social media ROI. I’ve kicked off a couple with some easy to use, downloadable templates for strategy and KPI. But I really should have done this post before those two. Because first, we should dispel some myths about measuring social media ROI. Sometimes the truth really is inconvenient. I’m an advocate for social media ROI, but before we can measure social media ROI, we have to kick these myths to the curb. Then we can get down to business.

Myth #1: Invest nothing. Reap returns.

Now hear this: social media is not free. Social media requires the planning and respect of your entire company, just as any other marketing and communication initiative. If you hope to measure ROI, you must first have an investment. This may go under the category of “news of the obvious” but you’d be surprised how often this simple math is overlooked:  zero subtracted from zero, divided by zero Returns require investment.

The Truth: Social Media Requires Investment

Social media marketing requires time and commitment. Since your spending time, you’ll want to give some thought to your strategy. And while we’re at it, you’ll probably want to measure those efforts. All of those things will cost you either in terms of money or time. In fact, very often in social media, you’ll make choices between time and money, depending on which you have more to spare. Either way – there are hard costs IF you commit. There will only be wasted efforts if you don’t commit.

Myth #2: Just Tell Me: What Should I Measure?

This is sort of the sister to Myth #1. If you haven’t given any consideration to your social media goals and objectives, how will you measure them? There is no single way to measure social media ROI. Review your company’s objectives and determine which of those objectives social media can support. Social media can support customer service, marketing, sales and PR initiatives. Which will you start with?

 The Truth: What You Really Need To Measure

You’re not going to like this. Not one bit. There is no magic bullet. I’ve often said that its not enough to say “we want social media to drive more sales.” First you need to answer the question of WHAT your impediment is to sales. That’s where you’re marketing comes in.  But it also might be where your customer service comes in. Or maybe, you need product enhancements…

Myth #3: We’ve Got a Social Media Policy; Our Employees Are Ready.

Here’s a bet: your social media policy does nothing to support your internal advocates – those people who love working for your company and want to share your news with their networks. Maybe you should find out who your internal fans are?  Time to start thinking about those people, who are they? Can they support the company’s social mission?  Simultaneously, consider how you will incorporate the customer feedback you receive through social media. How and who will respond? What internal systems need to be in place to maximize your social media ROI?  Will anybody require training?

 The Truth: They Aren’t Ready and Neither Are You.

Guess what? Bet your employees haven’t even read that lawyer-esque social media policy you created. But that’s not your real issue. You’re real issue is that your really going to start appreciating those employees who have large social media communities..and you don’t even know who they are. And while you might find a couple of active social media people on your staff, the rest of them will need some training on social media. Forcing them isn’t going to work – they will need to WANT  to do social media. While your getting your employees up to speed, start thinking about who will have what roles in social media and if there are any new positions required.

Myth #4: Being a “Social” Company Means Having a Twitter Account.

Believe it or not, “being social” is different than “doing social.” One of my favorite quotes is from author of Get Bold, Sandy Carter VP IBM who says “Culture Trumps Strategy”. She’s so damn right about that.

 The Truth: Nope. Think Culture Shift.

You’ll get more out of social media if you integrate social media culture of feedback, transparency and inclusion throughout the entire company. This may come in phases, but if you want to maximize Social Media ROI, its time to start thinking about the impact it will have on your entire company, no matter the size. If you’re going to do something really magical  worth doing, then you’ll need to take a look at your culture. The bigger your company, the longer this will take. You can do several steps simultaneously, but you’ll need to do it.

Myth #5: Set and Forget It.

Social media does require a commitment; anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you what my grandmother used to call a “pig in a poke“(you’re welcome for that link, BTW).  Social media is nothing like advertising mediums where you create an ad, turn it on and hope the phone rings. Its both more accessible and yet more nuanced.  If you’re looking to get a return on your social media investment, you’ll need to commit to building a community and then conversing with your community.  And, chances are you’ll have to review some of your digital assets. How’s that website looking? Who is going to create and curate content? Do you convert online traffic already? Who are the customers visiting your website? What will you do with feedback you receive in social media?  There are lots of questions that must first be answered before social media delivers ROI.

 The Truth: Think Agile.

Social media is two-way, fast paced and responsive. If you just blast a bunch of links out – you’re doing it wrong. If you buy a bunch of followers, you’re doing it wrong. If you work through the process WITH your community and stay flexible on tactics within your strategic’re headed in the right direction.

What other social media ROI myths should we nix before getting started? 

Photo credit: Danny Guy via Creative Commons