This article originally appeared in the February 2013 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter. This article was contributed by guest author Lisa Santora.
Hundreds of articles have been written about how to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of social-media campaigns, reflecting the importance of tracking valuable marketing dollars. Some larger brands have set up “command centers” that route social conversations and mentions to appropriate departments. Other companies have purchased software monitoring solutions that promise to make ROI determination easier.
The product advertising and case studies make the process appear efficient, even easy: merely select the right application for tracking and monitoring, and assign various staff to respond to customer questions. Yet not everyone—especially a small business or organization—will want to use the latest and greatest all-in-one platform, particularly if it doesn’t come with customized consulting. Such support ensures that the full benefit of the tool is realized. Some users worry that sophisticated tools might be unwieldy and will gather so much data that it could become difficult to dig through it all in search of insights. It’s no wonder, then, that so many people posit their social-media ROI theories; there really is no single solution that works in every situation.
While we can learn from other people’s experiences, we can’t allow the deluge of ROI talk to stop us from creating our own definitions of social value. Generalized social-media ROI definitions are constraining, due to their ambiguity. An all-encompassing social-media marketing ROI calculation cannot be configured to fit every case. A marketer who defines social value on the basis of specific, measurable goals will win the day. Building and deploying such a system will, by its very nature, ideally serve one’s own definition of value, one’s own audience and most importantly, the specific goals one wishes to achieve.
Goal-setting always comes first, then measurement. For example, I worked recently with a customer who wanted to know how many of his visitors referred to his website from Facebook purchased magazine subscriptions on the site. His desire to know this fact was the goal around which I created a social-media measurement system. Finding the answer for him was relatively easy, using Google Analytics. I entered the goal into Google Analytics, with a conversion path of several pages visitors would follow on their way to a purchase. The purchase would then generate a “Thank you for subscribing” page as the destination URL. I then did some segmenting in Google Analytics to show how many of the goal completions were attributable to Facebook and mobile Facebook users. The data were easy to see in a monthly Google Analytics report:
I worked with another customer on her Pinterest marketing. I found that in a recent month, Pinterest visitors completed 15 conversions on the customer’s site. Again, as with our Facebook example, I decided to create my own social-value measurement system. In this instance, the goal was to discover the path visitors from Pinterest took to complete conversion actions on the website. In Google Analytics I selected a date range, and went to the left navigation under Traffic Sources/Social/Conversion. I used the listing for Pinterest to bring up the number of conversions attributable to Pinterest. Next, I set a secondary dimension to find the landing-page URL path that people took on their way to completing their conversion actions. Here is a typical path report:
Google Analytics offers many ways of tracking social referral traffic and conversions attributable to social media. Marketers can employ many other methods to track social-media marketing value. One of the easiest ways to measure social-media impact is through email-marketing campaigns. Many email-marketing services offer the ability to track message sharing across social networks. The email-marketing tools’ reporting allows marketers to see which networks people use to share content.
Email marketing has been declared “dead” more than once over the last several years. In truth, it actually offers a better ROI than social-media marketing alone. Combined with social media, email marketing becomes even more powerful and is an asset every marketer should use to help promote sharing of messages to the email recipients’ friends.
A good way to help increase your email messages’ chances of being shared on social networks is to follow these four steps:
Create a bold subject line that provides an irresistible offer. It’s surprising how many companies write uninspiring email subject lines. Some are too long and get cut off in the recipients’ inbox. Some look like spam, causing the message to be routed to a spam folder. Worse, still others contain no subject line at all – which almost ensures that the email will not be opened.
Include a compelling article or offer that speaks to your audience’s interests. In short, provide them with content that’s worth consuming and sharing.
Make sharing easy. Place popular social icons in plain sight, so people can easily share the message with their social networks.
Ask them to share the content. It’s surprising how effective this simple request can be. Create a call-to-action such as: “Like this article? Share it with your friends now” and place it near the appropriate link(s).
In a Social Media Examiner article titled “9 Ways to Integrate Email and Social Media Marketing,” DJ Waldow offers several more ideas on how to integrate email and social-media marketing. Waldow proves the point that email is not only alive and well, it makes the perfect complement to any social-media campaign.
Measuring social-media ROI is a practice that will never be the same for every company. Claiming there must be a dollar value for each re-tweet, Like or Share misses the point, because any measure of value must be tied to a previously defined goal. Every company should embrace the opportunity to create a custom social-value measurement system for each campaign. While each company’s systems will be different, they all should begin with a clear definition of what should be measured.