Chasing the mythical social media ROI: How to define it and increase it

Social media ROI -- deer in headlightsYou could probably get a whole room of businesspeople to agree that social media is important for their brand. But why? If you started asking that same room-full about social media’s return on investment, only 44 percent of your crowd would tell you that they have successfully connected their social media endeavors to business outcomes. That same portion of businesspeople would also tell you that social media ROI is not “one size fits all.”

Raven tells us to forget what all those other businesses are doing to measure their ROI, and instead develop a business goal specific to your brand. Then, set out to accomplish that goal using your social media accounts. Achieve it, and — boom — social media ROI success. Raven offers some examples of possible goals:

  • If you want more exposure for your brand, watch for direct mentions or keywords for your business. This could open up opportunities to answer questions or complaints or even just make someone’s day with a reply or retweet. Any of these outcomes make for a better customer experience, which builds your brand’s social reputation.
  • If you want clicks from social media to your website, keep an eye on analytics to measure how well you’re doing at bringing users in from social. Identify what works and what doesn’t, and modify your social strategy as needed.
  • If you want more sales, concentrate on how many conversions social media is bringing you.
  • If you want to better connect with your audience, try giving. Let your customers tell you what charitable causes matter to them and then use a social media giving tool like to make those donations happen. It opens the door for meaningful engagement with your followers, and you’re supporting a good cause. Win-win.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of overall ROI of social media. Creating specific goals is a good starting point, but what do you say to your boss who wants to know why she’s paying you to “play” on social media on your brand’s behalf? Deloitte explains it with the flow concept.

“Just as money flows through the economy, so too does information. For example, the stream of customer opinions expressed on popular social media sites about a product or service represents a flow of knowledge that can be extremely influential.”

That means that even though every brand mention or interaction on social media doesn’t directly correlate to revenue, that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. It’s part of the “flow of non-monetary economic value” across social media. When you take your focus for your social media approach off dollar signs, you can concentrate on building meaningful relationships — or as Deloitte describes the relationship goals, “R.E.A.L.”: Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-lasting. If you connect with your audience with these guidelines in mind, the revenue will follow.

This is still all very general and open to interpretation, right? Well, yes. The whole idea is you can’t grab someone else’s formula and just plug your business in. You have to figure out what works for your audience (but to do that, you have to connect with them!). You also have to experiment; Mashable says nothing risked is nothing gained on social media. (They have a nifty little list of ROI tips here.)

How do you build relationships with your brand’s audience?

Do you have any specific goals to increase your social media ROI? How does your company define social ROI?


9 thoughts on “Chasing the mythical social media ROI: How to define it and increase it”

  1. I think the best way to build a brand or relationship with your audience is to communicate with them, engage with them, and give them what they want to see! In my opinion, communication is key. You need to address positive and negative comments, and make your page one that your followers can come and engage with you. That is what social media is for anyway!

    1. Great answers! My respect for brands definitely increases when they answer my questions or complaints and when they demonstrate that they’ve been listening to their audience’s feedback.

  2. Hi Julie,
    Interesting question, I am my own brand and company, so at this time I am working on growing my influence by reaching out to people and trying to get more engagement. I try to listen to my followers and see what I can do differently in order to increase followers and engagement. I define ROI by having people engage with me and interact with me or get more followers. At this time I am trying to just focus on that, and any like or retweet or favorite that I get is a return on investment in my opinion. Right now any small part of engagement is a win! Great post!

    1. Sounds like you’re on the right track! This reminds me of our readings/discussions/etc. from viral content week. It’s not necessarily about the numbers; it’s about reaching people you haven’t reached before. That’s always valuable, no matter what that number is.

  3. We build relationships for our brand by our interaction, content and follow-up/through. I should probably put that last one first, because that is most likely the most important one to me/us overall. Making sure that we are taking care of our customers overall is the most important aspect to what we do in all facets of the job, including social. Right now, I use our actual likes, shares and comments to (sort of) define our ROI. I should really put a better plan in place– we can measure it better when we work sales (and I have software that helps) but I prefer to use what comes from our fans.

  4. Hi Julie –

    While I don’t have a specific company that I work for in terms of social media; in general, I think that the best way to build relationships with your customers and followers is to communicate openly with them. What better way than to take to a social media platform to do just that! I think that companies should define ROI by more than just the bottom line – they should really be taking into consideration the influence of those relationships created via social media.

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