Dec 16, 2013
By Jason Boies
Social Media Marketing, Strategy

More and more, social media ROI is becoming top-of-mind for marketers. But it can be difficult to pull all the pieces of your marketing efforts together to create a total sum ROI value. Whether you’re spending money on marketing software or not, you are still investing time and resources in your social media marketing efforts and you want to know your social ROI. Here are some paradigmatic and strategic ideas. Run through them and check off what you’ve done and what’s worked.

1. Include proactive campaigns in your social media mix
In the early days of social media, before Facebook was a viable marketing option, when Twitter dominated and people with all sorts of job titles entered the field, much of the focus was on customer service and sentiment analysis. Rarely, if ever, did you hear about a lean direct marketing campaign with measurable ROI. Now it’s clear that social media can serve many functions, including PR, customer service, market research, direct marketing and branding.

It’s time to look at how the PR and customer service fields have dominated social media and given it a predominantly “reactive” orientation. These are useful approaches, but may not fit into an actionable, goal-oriented marketing campaign. Many companies with success on Facebook are operating inside a more proactive social media paradigm. They control their conversation space by choosing to engage with a Facebook page, and they use their opportunity to post to those fans as a way to shape the conversation and persuade them to buy.

The following table illustrates the differences in the two approaches:

social roi

Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud is helpful with the reactive and proactive side of the equation.

2. Selling in social media
The biggest questions with sales in social media are where and how to do it. How much, if at all, do you push toward a sale on Twitter and Facebook? Do you offer discounts there? Or do you focus on engagement and leave the selling to your website and salespeople?

Consider what ratio of your social posts focus on engagement vs. sales. does four posts a day focused on engagement, and four promoting specific products. In 2012 they started this Facebook page, the only change they made from 2011 in their marketing. From that, their revenue increase 150%. Sometimes companies that haven’t read any of the best practices books break some of the supposed rules and create success.

Coming out of a Twitter-dominated social media world, a lot of people were concerned that too much selling would turn people off. Irrelevant sales pitches are never welcome. No one wants the conference vendor salesperson mingling with attendees after a session, speaking with them only about their products. You need to discuss the conference content and build a relationship. This is why content marketing and engagement are so important.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t sell where it’s appropriate. A good consultative salesperson in the real world might soft-pitch their offerings 10% of the time, while discussing your activities and goals 90% of the time. With, they’ve gathered fans that love a type of product, so it would be a disservice to them not to raise their awareness of cool products and great deals. That 50-50 ratio works for them. Test your own offerings, engagement and audience to find out what your ratio should be.

3. Use social channels that fit your campaign
The social networks you employ for each campaign should fit your target audience, your goals, and the strengths and weaknesses of each website. Social ROI will be improved by using the most effective channels.

There are many difficulties in comparing the popularity and usage of social channels, and but looking at pageviews and time on site, you get an approximation of how much reach and interaction you can expect from them.

The most dramatic comparison is popularity. For instance, Facebook has more active users (1.1 billion) than Twitter (500 million).

Alexa puts Facebook’s time on site at about 28 minutes per day versus 7 minutes a day on LinkedIn and 9 minutes a day on Twitter. However, a large portion of Twitter’s usage is not on the website, so this is difficult to quantify.

According to Alexa, Facebook is responsible for 8% of all pageviews on the Internet (other sources put it at 20%). LinkedIn and Twitter hover closer to 1% of all pageviews, and Pinterest around 0.5%. You can estimate that you’ll get eight times as much action on Facebook compared to LinkedIn and Twitter.

In practice, Facebook dominates B2C social marketing, and LinkedIn and Twitter rule B2B social marketing. For B2B social marketing, combine search engine advertising, LinkedIn advertising, creating a LinkedIn group, Facebook ads and Facebook page posts. Each of these channels have strengths and weaknesses, and at this point in their evolution, alone they are not sufficiently effective.

YouTube makes sense for any use of video in social campaigns, because it’s familiar and because they’re owned by Google, AdWords video ads can amplify your video’s exposure.

Pinterest makes sense for targeting a 25-54 female demographic.

There are dozens of smaller social sites, but because corporate resources might be limited, use the 80-20 rule to focus on getting the best results from the most effective channels and working your way down the priority list. Most campaigns won’t have enough resources to dip into these smaller social media players.

Select a mix of channels and strategies that fit your niche, audience and goals.

4. Content marketing to engage and persuade
Content marketing is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors. And as more and more companies begin to view themselves as publishers, pressure mounts on companies that don’t create content.

Content is the difference between pure social networking and social media. The “media” portion of social media refers to both social channels and social content. Facebook’s multimedia nature and popularity are driving B2C companies also use images, cartoons and videos to break through all the noise to reach their customers.

Create or review your content marketing strategy and increase your commitment to it.

5. Competitive intelligence applies to social marketing, too
What are the costs and consequences of not being aware of your competition? There’s no less competition in social marketing. You’re competing for part of the limited pies of people’s awareness, attention, interest, time, and money. And as your competitors invest more and become more sophisticated, you have to raise your game as well.

In social media, online companies can come out of nowhere to challenge traditional ones. Did Borders see Amazon as a competitor in the early days of ecommerce? Did you expect Zappos to become a billion dollar company? No matter what niche you’re in, competition for your customers’ time, attention and dollars can come from a variety of places. Competitive awareness may be the first warning sign of future profitability problems.

Are you benchmarking your levels of reach, awareness and engagement against your social competitors? Analyze what the most engaging companies are doing, do likewise, and then begin to innovate successfully yourself.

6. Keeping social employees on track
What should your social media team be focusing on? Having them on the most important channels and tactics is critical. Which are the 20% most effective and 80% least effective activities? The strategies and priorities recommended above are a good start. Then, using your KPI’s and seeing what works and what doesn’t will fill out the rest of the picture to ensure that your team is working on the things that perform the best for your company, with your offerings to your customers.

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