Measuring Return on Social Media Presence
This has been the fear/worry/challenge/competitive edge of almost every company that has any form of social media presence. From a simple company Facebook page to a fully integrated Social Media strategy. Speak to a number of agencies or many online marketers and they will tell you it can’t be measured beyond the simple metrics such as number of fans or followers. Perhaps at the incubation stage and to a degree the baby stage that was correct. However now social media has grown up a little, into a healthy little toddler things have changed.
In theory you can’t directly measure the impact of a brand TV commercial, but companies do. It is the same for social media.
Remember the strategy
A lot of talk is around the utopian idea of getting an ROI from your social media spend or presence. However for some brands this isn’t just a case of pounds in the till Vs pounds handed out to agencies or media owners such as MySpace. As with any channel development or Marketing activity, you need to understand what you want to get out of your social media presence. Your strategy may be a simple one that only looks at your impact within the channel, therefore a basic upwards trending number of fans may suffice. Your strategy maybe to increase UVs to your core website, as such you need to measure the referrals from your social media presence. Like a TV ad you maye be trying to influence brand perception so you would look at traditional brand metrics such as awareness and consideration. Some strategies require an emphasis on loyalty or ROI, these can be much more difficult to prove, however not impossible.
Just consider before developing any tactics or implementation, what your objectives and goals are. Then measure.
Understanding the basics
When measuring against any goals you need to understand what is your norm or otherwise known as the baseline. You need to look at any pre-strategy figures and work out your norm, or the contribution you can expect without implementing your strategy. This baseline should be measured over a long period of time to take into account one-off fluctuations, seasonality and peaks – you should then use a trend line and determine your norm.
Once you have claculated your norm, it is easier to determine what the goals from your objectives should be. If for instance your site has 10,000 UVs a week then to expect a 100% uplift from a strong social media strategy may not be impossible. However if your site gets 100,000 UVs a week, it may be more difficult to gain a 100% uplift, although not impossible. This seems really basic stuff but it is often forgotten. I have spoken to Managing Directors and Marketing Directors that think because there are millions of people on social network they should be talking telephone numbers in terms of traffic uplift, sadly it doesn’t work like that. It may be easier to get a massive groundswell if your activity is in the channel the people use, you could get a massive following on Twitter as the people are already there and its their environment, rather than expecting them to come to you.
Anyway, once you know the norm of whatever metric you want to track you can more easily identify any uplift from your activity. However it may not be all down to the new strategy, other factors might be in play, that is why it is advisable to implement a good web analytics tool. Omniture is widely regarded as one of the better packages along with Coremetrics, however if you have your own site or limited budget then Google Analytics may suffice.
OK, but now what?
So you know what you want to get out of your strategy and you have worked out the basics, but now what? Sit back and watch everything work away and drive you towards your goals or personal bonus. Not eaxactly. Sometimes people expect immediate results. Stick it on Facebook and they will come. If they don’t see an uplift straight away, the strategy has failed. Wrong. Well potentially wrong. Remember when working in social channels you are entering the end users territory. You have to earn the right to be there. Give them something to talk about, make yourself interesting, but don’t make things up.
So what do I do?
Don’t look at things with immediacy in mind. When you create a coupon for your affiliate network or raise your bid caps in Google you can often see an immediate (or quick) effect. However you need a longer view with Social and you need to look at things outside of your specific influence. A great area to explore is Social Media Influence or Buzz Metrics. There are various tools and service with varying levels of robustness and credibility. In the UK there are market leaders such as Market Sentinel and Nielsen Buzz Metrics. There are also some freebie or cheaper tools such as Viral Heat and PostRank Analytics. These cheaper tools are sometimes less robust or feature on a specific platform such as Twendz. What all of these tools have in common is that to varying degrees they track what is being said about your brand or site on other platforms rather than just looking at core measures such as visits or upstream and downstream traffic.
The majority measure trends and SoV, some measure snetiment and others rank influence on brands and/or topics. All of these are important as although your activity may not imemdiately increse traffic, it may improve the sentiment towards your brand, increasing peoples’ perception of your brand and in turn increase their potential to engage or buy. These tools can also aid your search activity. As product or brand experts you might think you know what people type in about your brand, however more comprehensive tools help you identify what people are typing or saying about your product. Giving you more insight into which words you you optimise or focus on in paid search.
But can I make money from it?
Well as I wrote at the beginning of the piece remember what your objectives are. The short answer is yes, you can make money from social media and yes social media can increase users propensity to buy, however your activity may not lend itself to that. But various surveys have taken place that demonstrate you can specifically get an ROI from your social media presence. According to a recent survey by eMarketer, c. 51% of US internet users are likely buy from at least one brand since becoming a fan on Facebook. When it comes to would they recommend to a friend the number increases to 60%. That is one indication of an increased propensity to buy.
Before you all clamber out and create or refresh your Facebook page, Forrester outlined a stark statistic. More than one third of online users visit at least one brands social media presence, yet less than half rated the experience rated their experience as having a positive influence. One method that the likes of Starbucks and Dell use within their social media presence is exclusive offers and promotions. It is this sense of providing something special for fans that makes the experience positive and influence future buying behaviour.