When I was a kid, I loved Albert Einstein. Tiny five-year-old me didn’t dream of being a social media strategist when he grew up, but, instead, of growing into a crazy-haired physicist that was prone to sticking his tongue out. So, imagine my horror when I saw the above image relating to social media ROI. How could my hero, the dude who came up with a scientific equation for something we couldn’t even measure, suggest such a thing?
Thankfully, it turns out Einstein didn’t actually say this (that honor actually goes to sociologist William Bruce Cameron). Phew! Geek BSOD averted.
Don’t get me wrong, the quote is still a good one, because we’re probably not measuring the right things yet when it comes to social media return-on-investment, and many of the things we do measure, like Klout, assign a value to something which is worthless. But the quote also opens the door for all of those self-proclaimed social media gurus to suggest that attempting to measure social media success is like kicking dead whales down the beach – something messy, time-consuming and, ultimately, pointless.
There was a time, maybe about five years ago, when us social media folks could get away with waving our magic social media wand and enchanting people to people that the intangible social media fairies were going to come and grant everyone’s wishes. That time, while entertaining, is thankfully gone. I’m still a big believer in the value of social media for social media’s sake (in the same way that I think customer service for customer service’s sake is valuable), but today we need to prove success. We need to face the question, “how do you track the ROI of social media?” with more than just a deer-in-the-headlights stare. If you’re in charge of your school’s social media program, you had better be prepared to answer this question. As schools dedicate more and more resources to social media channels, it’s increasingly important to have clear ways to track and measure success in this area. Yet many enrollment marketers have trouble providing a clear explanation for why their social media efforts are working .
There are certainly schools out there which, essentially, believe that social media engagements with customers are intrinsically valuable and so they don’t try to track them back to a revenue generation, but instead look purely at engagement metrics (things like number comments, customer service questions answered, things like that). If you’re in one of those schools, you’re in a good spot, and measurement is a relatively straightforward thing to do.
If you’re like most school marketers, and you’re not in an environment like that, you have a bigger challenge ahead. Selling the idea that social media is implicitly important is a hard thing to do, but not impossible. In this post, I’ll walk you through a couple of solutions.
Method 1: Measuring social media engagement against key business metrics
The first method involves thinking about the overall goals of the specific social media campaign and what type of business metrics you might see that affect. Then, measuring both social media engagement metrics and the business metrics, you can look for correlations over campaign length when compared to time periods where the social media campaign was inactive. This isn’t a perfect solution because there could be other things that affect the business metrics besides the social media campaign. Even though it isn’t exact, it is one way to demonstrate value.
Method 2: Tracking metrics around social media presence
Alternatively, depending on exactly what the objective of the campaign is, there’s quite a few ways that we can track metrics regarding a business’s social media presence. Things like reach, content reseeding and engagement are pretty simple. We also have the ability to actually integrate social monitoring and publishing solutions with some types of website analytics software, so we can see, say, how a post generates conversions on a website, or which topics and conversation styles work are effective on individual social media venue.
Of course, being a big believer in social media’s influence on perception, I would say that the failure of this type of model is that it doesn’t account for some of the brand loyalty and perception benefits of social media.
A great example of what this would miss out on are the really positive social media experiences I had with Radio Shack and Nike Fuel recently. I complained about Radio Shack on Twitter and they responded not only asking about my complaint, but also took the time to see that I’d built a lamp that changes color every minute depending on the prevailing mood across all of Twitter. They complemented me on the lamp and we discussed how I built it (which, as it turns out, was mostly with parts provided by them).
Did this mean they ended up with my business regarding the complaint? No. Did they give me a solution that fixed my issue? No. But you better believe that not only do I have a very favorable view of the company (Just because they didn’t solve that one specific issue I had doesn’t remove the warm fuzzy feeling that I got when they actually displayed interest in me), but, when I talk to clients about effective Twitter engagements, I show screen captures of that exchange. And, lo and behold, I actually just snuck it into a post on our company blog.
Method 3: The hybrid approach
Depending upon exactly what you’re attempting to accomplish, I usually recommend a hybrid approach to this. Measure all of the metrics that you can that make sense (Reach, content reseeding, engagement both in terms of click-through and response, etc.) and, if possible, attempt to correlate trends in social media metrics with business metrics. At the same time, if possible, conduct brand perception surveys both before and after a campaign to see if there is a correlation, and conduct surveys of people that have actually engaged with you over social media.
Some of the more compelling case studies that I’ve seen involve presenting results like, “One in four of the entire student body found the social media presence helpful in making a business decision. 87 percent of students who used it said it enabled them to connect with staff members better. And students that engaged with the social media presence were six times as likely to enroll as students that didn’t.” Basically, “Overall perception. Perception of users. Measure result metrics.”
Ideally, whatever method you use is specifically tailored to the goals of each individual social media campaign. The unfortunate part of this is that it requires a comprehensive knowledge of what’s trackable in social media, how you track it, what types of engagements correlate to business metrics, how you correlate them, and, ultimately, how you tailor it for specific business goals. At the same time, that’s the reason that people like me exist. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
About the Author
Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS) is an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients win in their business ventures and realize their marketing goals. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.
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