Since the first YouTube video was posted, the first tweet was sent and Mark Zuckerberg became the first person with a Facebook account, social media has grown astronomically. And the crazy thing is, it’s still relatively early days.
The number of worldwide users is expected to reach around 2.95 billion by 2020 and the way such sites are accessed, along with the functions they offer, (not to mention all the cleverness behind the scenes), is only going to get more sophisticated.
So, it’s no surprise that businesses have sat up and taken notice.
Social media is now a core marketing and lead generation tactic used by B2B organizations the world over, with teams looking to capitalize on the unique opportunities these types of channels present.
From company Facebook pages, to Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and Pinterest boards, the options are many and varied. While some platforms are naturally better suited to certain types of businesses than others, with enough time and thought put in, social strategies can generate great results.
With lead generation, converting leads into customers and driving web traffic consistently highlighted as the top priorities of B2B marketers, it’s little wonder that the popularity of social media continues to grow.
Most businesses nowadays will be active on one or more channels – or at the very least, will have seriously considered it. According to an industry report by Social Media Examiner:
- 90% of marketers questioned say social media is important to their business
- 89% reveal social media has generated more exposure for their business
- 75% say it has led to increased traffic
The challenge of measurement
When it comes to spending time and budget on any type of marketing activity, there is always going to be one crucial question lurking in the background – what is the return on investment (ROI)?
It is a question that has plagued marketers for years and which continues to be cited as a key challenge by many.
Being able to prove a positive ROI is vital for marketers because it can have implications on many levels. Not least of which is that marketers who manage to calculate and prove ROI are found to be 1.6x as likely to receive higher budgets.
So, when it comes to social media, is there an easy and accurate way to measure ROI? And how can you go about improving on the ROI you’re generating?
Why are you using social media?
One of the most important things to realize about social media is that it isn’t for selling. If you’re thinking of using it as a way to directly ‘sell your wares’ to an audience, then think again.
There are some companies that may manage to do so, but it will really depend on the type of product you’re selling and a lot of luck. (If you’re a service business then it will be near impossible). People don’t go on social media to buy. They use these types of sites to connect, to converse, to catch up, to learn… to be social!
ROI measured in the form of direct sales being made is never going to work. What you should instead be aiming for is engagement. Getting in front of the right type of people, with high quality content that’s interesting and relevant to them, with the overall aim of starting conversations and building relationships.
What does positive ROI look like?
Another metric you may feel should carry some weight is the number of followers or page likes you have. But they can be very misleading numbers to focus on.
Measuring likes or shares against followers or retweets can give a good indication about your engagement levels, but it doesn’t always translate to lead generation or sales activity.
Engagement also happens differently on each social platform and when you’re dealing with isolated metrics, comparing them to one another can be completely counter-productive.
Before you start using social media
The secret to successfully measuring the ROI of your social media activity is to know what you’re trying to achieve before you get started.
Choose a single metric that you want to measure. For example, inquiries, content downloads, link clicks or new prospects. Then make sure you stick to that metric across all your social platforms.
You also need to have a predefined goal. According to Social Media Today (SMT), the top 5 goals of B2B marketers are:
- Brand Awareness (82%)
- Lead Generation (74%)
- Customer Acquisition (71%)
- Thought Leadership (68%)
- Engagement (64%)
Defining what your goal is will give you a sense of what your metrics need to be. This, in turn, will make calculating your ROI much easier.
Invest in clever tools that will support your efforts
Once you have your goal and have decided on your metrics, make sure you have the right tools in place to support your efforts. Most social media sites nowadays will offer some form of free analytics, but the usefulness of these inbuilt tools is somewhat debateable (although they are getting better).
Other tools are available that can help you manage and track your effectiveness. While some may be free at entry level, most will be paid for services.
Three of the best to take a look at are:
Hootsuite: Allows you to analyze social media traffic to track conversions and measure campaign results.
Sprout Social: Users can integrate multiple social media accounts, monitor them and get detailed analytics and in-depth reports.
Simply Measured: One of the most comprehensive monitoring tools on the market. It allows you to monitor and assess all social media activity in one place and can generate both summary and detailed performance reports, from top social networks to analyze owned, earned, and paid social media, as well as audience insights with cross-channel analysis.
One super easy way to calculate ROI is to use intelligent software like Lead Forensics, which will enable you to track an individual lead right through from when it was first generated, to when it was finally converted into a paying customer.
With the detailed insights the software provides, you’ll have actionable data you can use to not only accurately measure and report on your effectiveness, but also improve it.
For example, you’ll be able to see which social media channels are driving the most visits to your website, which campaigns are working best on which sites and what pages prospects view once they have clicked through, helping you strengthen the nurturing process too.
By tracking each lead conversion from its source, you’ll be able to see through the software who your hottest leads are and where they came from. Then by seeing when they convert, accurately attribute revenue to the correct channel.
The end result – no more guesswork and no more estimates for your social media ROI.
The problem of ROI solved
There you have it. With the right tools in place and a clear idea of what you’re aiming to achieve and why, the problem of proving social media ROI is solved. So you can get back to what you do best – creating great strategies for driving engagement, generating leads and nurturing them on towards a sale.