How to prove your social media ROI – 2015 Update

This is part 2 of a 2-part series on measuring social media ROI (Return On Investment). Read part 1 for a guide to the essential social media metrics, where to find them and how to track them as well as your 2015 Social Media Metrics Tracking Template.

So you’re tracking your social media metrics monthly. Fantastic! But my boss asked me about our social media ROI, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. Tell her we got a bunch of retweets last month?

Tracking your social media metrics is only the first step to determining how social media is really helping your business. Step two is analyzing your data by asking yourself 6 key questions to prove your social media ROI.

Social Media ROI

1. Why are you on social media in the first place?

Just like 5th grade drug abuse education, “because everyone’s doing it” isn’t going to cut it. Chances are, you’re on social media for the same reasons you’re promoting your product or your service in any space – you’re looking for brand awareness, lead generation and, eventually, sales and conversions.

Your social media ROI is directly tied to how social media is helping you meet these bottom-line business goals. From there, it’s just a matter of tracking them effectively. The chart below shares social media metrics associated with common social media business goals. Refer to the Social Media Metrics post for more information regarding how to track each of these KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

Social Media KPI's

2. Are there any noticeable changes to the pattern?

Once you have a few months under your belt using Dog-Eared Social’s 2015 Social Media Metrics Tracking Guide, you’ll begin to understand how your data works. You’ll know about how much you can expect to grow each month, relatively how many engagements your networks will receive, and how much traffic your website’s getting from social media.

Understanding this pattern is crucial to proving your social media ROI, because you need to be able to recognize when your data varies from the expected. As soon as this happens, you need to immediately ask yourself, “why?” Then go into full-on investigation mode to figure it out.

See a spike in engagement? Did it happen on one network or all the networks? Was it a spike in all types of engagement or just one type (i.e. retweets spiked but everything else stayed the same)? Were there a couple highly engaged posts throwing off the average, or was it a spike across the board?

These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself, because the answers will have massive implications to your strategy, which you should be optimizing over time.

Below are some reasons why you might see spikes in traffic or engagement. Keep these in mind as you conduct your investigation.

  • New topic or initiative garners a lot of interest
  • One or more influencers have shared your content
  • Posting frequency or timing has changed
  • Content types have changed (i.e. photos, videos, links, or status updates)
  • Your company or your industry is a hot topic in the news right now, and people are talking about you/it on social media

3. Ok, I see some changes in my data patterns. Is there any correlation between metrics?

So you noticed a break in your pattern (hopefully it was a spike!). Now take a closer look at the rest of your numbers from the month. Were there any other dips, spikes or any sort of noticeable change? If the answer is yes, you have correlation. Now you need to determine if there’s causation.

Here’s an example. Say you saw a spike in retweets and a spike in web traffic referrals from social media. These are the questions you’d need to ask to find out if there’s a causation:

  • Did more web traffic come from Twitter vs. other social networks than usual? Or was the spike on another network? If it’s the latter, you can reasonably conclude that the spike in retweets did not affect your web traffic – rather, that spike was caused by another source.
  • Did all (or the majority) of your tweets receive more retweets than average, or are just a few high-performing tweets throwing off your average? And most importantly, did the tweets with higher-than-average retweets send higher-than-average traffic to your site?
  • Most importantly, was there any major shift in your strategy over this time period? Did you shift topics, posting frequency or timing on one or more networks? If so, why did it affect these metrics specifically?

4. What changes does my business or organization have coming down the pipeline?

And I really mean “change” in the broadest sense of the word. Are you introducing a new topic? Is something major happening in your industry (even if your business isn’t directly involved)? Do you have new initiatives or campaigns in the works?

Even if the change in question doesn’t directly involve social media, you still need to take it into consideration and be aware of it as you’re tracking your metrics month-to-month.

While social media metrics have come a long way over the past few years, you still can’t measure everything. When it comes down to it, social media is interacting with thousands of people on a daily basis, and their reactions aren’t driven by data – they’re driven by emotions.

Say you’re a restaurant and you see a major dip across all of your social networks one month. You haven’t done anything differently on social media, so what happened? If you’ve been paying attention to external factors, you’ll know that the restaurant across the street is running a major campaign – and stealing all your traffic. Or there was an outbreak of food poisoning in a restaurant nearby, causing your customer base to eat at home.

These examples would be obvious, but sometimes these factors are much more subtle. The point is, your job as a social media manager is holistic – you need to understand every internal and external facet of your business to do your job effectively, and respond to a crisis before it gets out of control.

5. How should I treat my campaigns?

Regardless of whether you tweet once over the course of a month, or you’re running a full-blown campaign, you need to keep your month-to-month 2015 Social Media Metrics Tracking Template up-to-date and consistent over time.

But, if you’re running a larger initiative or campaign, you’ll want to supplement your monthly numbers with campaign-specific metrics and reporting (this post will show you how to do it).

Make sure to mark down that you ran a campaign or initiative on your monthly tracking template. Campaigns will inevitably affect your metrics, and when you’re looking back at your data months or even years later, knowing what was going on at the time will save you hours of time trying to figure out the cause behind these shifts (I can’t even begin to tell you how many times this happened to me when analyzing data left by my predecessors in previous positions).

6. What can’t my numbers tell me?

In an ideal world, people will see your post on Facebook, click on the Google Analytics optimized link, then go to your website and take an action. You will track all of this and have a complete and immediate picture of your social media ROI.

Though it will happen like this some of the time, the reality is usually much messier than that. Social media is often the first touch point for potential customers and clients, and rarely the last.

Here’s an example. I came across General Assembly Atlanta on Twitter a few months back. I thought they were interesting, I may have clicked “follow” and checked out their website, but nothing more. Then, a few weeks later I came across their logo in the parking lot next to a coffee shop I frequent. I recognized them from Twitter and made a point to look into them further. Eventually, I ended up attending one of their events.

Now, General Assembly has no way to track my participation back to Twitter (unless, of course, they’re reading this blog post). But Twitter produced a social media ROI for them that they are unable to measure.

While some of it is an act of faith, here are two ways you can prove your social media ROI when your social media numbers aren’t speaking to you:

  • Look at your holistic numbers. Have your sales, leads or clients grown in conjunction with the launch or increased investment in social media? While you won’t be able to prove it, you can use these numbers along with information about the importance of social media to make a strong case for your social media ROI.
  • Though the numbers aren’t speaking, the people might be. When someone says something positive about your brand on social media, make sure to take a screenshot of it. This could be anything from “I love your company!” to people talking about how they recently made a purchase from you. Remember – these testimonials are going to carry a lot more weight coming from real clients and customers than they would coming from you.

The infamous marketing “Rule of 7” states that a consumer needs to see a message from your brand 7 times before they’ll take an action, like buy a product or service. Social media can be the first point of exposure, the last, or anywhere in-between.

How do you measure your social media ROI? Tell us in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “How to prove your social media ROI – 2015 Update

  1. Pingback: Download your free 2015 Social Media Metrics Tracking Template

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  3. Pingback: Top 5 social media myths it's time to stop believing in 2015

  4. Pingback: 10 stats that prove your work has a social media ROI

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