Notes from NSMC 2011: “Why social media ROI metrics isn’t so simple”

  • Marco

As the recently concluded NSMC 2011 would attest, social media and mobile are still two of the biggest and most talked about topics in town. Although marketers are starting to feel that social is passing its peak in terms of being the flavor of the times (with mobile steadily posing to eclipse it), we can safely assume that social media is here to stay along with previous hot-topics like SEO and SEM.

One of the things that seized my interest during the two-day conference was a subject that has constantly captivated and divided marketers ever since social media morphed to become a game-changing platform for business.

The topic: Social Media ROI Metrics

Just like the knights of Arthurian lore, marketers today are constantly in search of the Holy Grail.

For social media, ROI measurement assumes the role of the fabled and ever-elusive Fisher King’s treasure.

Keeping your eye on the ROI ball

There is an old adage in business which states that “One can’t manage what one can’t measure.” Well that certainly rings true especially in today’s results-driven technology-powered times. Not surprisingly, marketers put a high premium on ROI (and the metrics involved) and they consciously choose quantifiable marketing programs with defined objectives and benchmarks for success.

Of course that’s well and good. But when we shift the talk of ROI on to social media, that’s where things start to get a bit more challenging. Because the thing is, most businesses actually feel that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to measuring the ROI of social media initiatives. Traditional methods, even digital marketing counterparts at that (e.g. email marketing), at least have clear-cut metrics like delivery or click-through rates. Social media on the other hand deals more with the qualitative rather than the quantitative, and this leaves more than a few dangling questions over marketer’s heads. Say for example the question of what to measure exactly.

Speaking about metrics …

Many marketers agree that measuring social media ROI is indeed a daunting task, and fortunately there are some who believe that it is not impossible. But in order to do so, we must be prepared to “re-invent” the way we do things.

B2C companies have it easy because sales and e-commerce are direct indicators. Those in the field of B2B on the other hand consider lead generation or conversion as their primary basis. But regardless of whether they are in B2C or B2B, marketers must always keep in mind that it is critical to include metrics from the get-go and not as an afterthought.

There were different takes on the process of social media ROI measurement during the conference but one consensus was that marketers have to first establish their objectives for using social media’s various platforms. It’s important that we must figure out first what we want to achieve so that we can then set up a comprehensive strategy with built-in monitoring and analysis components.

Measuring what matters

During his talk, B2Bento’s very own Anol discussed social media analytics, where he tackled fascinating but not so typical metrics parameters and competitive buzz metrics benchmarking.

In his talk, he delved about the measurement of:

  • Reach – numbers game (how may Followers, etc.)
  • Buzz – same as Reach, still numbers game (# of mentions, etc.)
  • Influence – “Not all social media users are made equal.”
  • Sentiment – “The biggest loophole of all social media monitoring tools.”
  • Engagement – # of interactions, speed of response, # of issues resolved

All of these provide great value to marketers but the most important would probably be Sentiment and Engagement. These days, knowing the reach and frequency is not sufficient enough.

Sentiment, either positive or negative, allows marketers today to have a better snapshot of brand awareness and how their brand stands against its competitors. The challenge here is that there is really no foolproof way of measuring and analyzing sentiment. The current tools that we have today would still have a hard time putting context to complicated human emotion. The best way to go about this is to mix the advantages of technology and good-old human reasoning.

Engagement on the other hand refers to the number and quality of interactions. Although many are still debating whether engagement can actually be quantified, marketers should not let this challenge deter them from finding the value that they seek. In spite of uncertainty, marketers can still prove the value of social media by establishing baselines and tracking progress.

You can view Anol’s slide set here.


The power of social media

Social media touches every facet of marketing, from brand awareness to lead generation to customer service. It may still be tricky to attribute leads to specific social media platforms, but B2B marketers can always attribute some amount of success (e.g. improved website traffic) to their social media endeavors.

Although social media brings with it a plethora of ways to measure campaigns and engagements, it is very important to note that traditional metrics for ROI (e.g. conversion, cost per lead, etc.) are still very much relevant. At the end of the day, it’s about earning more than what you are spending. And if it requires marketers to be creative with the way they measure things, then by all means they will.

Do you feel the same way about measuring social media ROI? Please let us know what you think!


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