Social marketer’s No. 1 challenge is still ROI, according to a new study from Sprout Social. Return on investment is the top concern for 55% of social marketers. This makes sense for two reasons: They aren’t meeting the full needs of their social audience with both brand awareness and consideration content; and they’re defining social media ROI incorrectly to begin with.
Social marketers have been racking their brains and utilizing a lot of resources to tie social directly to sales–reflecting what they think or have been told social media ROI should be. However, after surveying more than 3,000 marketers and consumers, it’s clear that the “return” in ROI needs to be redefined.
How big of a challenge is social media ROI?
Before we can redefine ROI, we need to understand how big a challenge ROI is for social marketers today. The study found that more than half of social marketers (55%) say that measuring ROI is a top challenge for them.
From the study: Traditionally, social media ROI has been focused on direct attribution to sales – how is your Facebook campaign driving people to buy? However, that model doesn’t actually reflect where social marketers are focused. 80% of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social, and another 80% say their key strategy is increasing engagement across their social channels.
In fact, only 14% of marketers say they are able to quantify the revenue from social. Looking at social primarily through the sales lens breeds an overly microscopic perspective.
It’s not because social marketers aren’t sophisticated enough to focus on conversions. It’s because social’s true value isn’t in direct attribution—it’s in the awareness and consideration stages of the funnel. It’s in expanding the net of people who know about your brand and products, and then nudging them down the funnel with quality content and customer service.
True social media ROI is defined by what consumers want and what they take action on.
When asked what they want from brands on social, consumers say they prefer content that aids in awareness and consideration, not the end sale.
To build strong, long-term relationships on social that go beyond click-and-buy, you must expose people to your brand in a visually satisfying way, link them to more information and make authentic engagement a primary focus.
The study found that consumers want brand awareness and consideration stage content from brands on social media. This is the content that consumers, who use social primarily to interact with friends and family, are most interested in from brands.
Expanded awareness is ROI. Increased consideration is ROI.
Make sure that your performance metrics are “ROI-tuned.” Track progress towards increased awareness with social KPIs like impressions, reach, engagement, audience growth and video views.
3 in 5 social marketers are not having regular conversations about ROI with their boss.
For as much as marketers are thinking and worrying about ROI, they certainly aren’t having those conversations with their leadership: 60% of social marketers aren’t having frequent conversations about ROI with their bosses.
Yikes, that sounds like a lot of needless anxiety.
Here is where the rubber meets the road: These two intertwined scenarios are at the root of what’s causing a lot of the trepidation around social media ROI discussions.
- You’ve got bosses who often don’t recognize the value of social media or only consider the “sales” metric as evidence of success.
- You’ve got social marketers who get sheepish around ROI discussions because they know that sales are “what the boss wants” but are torn because there’s so much more to it. They have a hard time communicating the value of social media and the level of effort it takes to succeed.
The result? One side that doesn’t see or believe in the value and the other side can’t quite communicate the value.
I feel like this impasse has been present for 10 years and this is why we must redefine social media ROI.
Help for social marketers to get better at communicating the value and ROI
What’s the best way to get leadership to see the value? Redefine social media ROI for them. Educate them using other metrics and outcomes that illustrate achievement of business goals. Speaking their language gets their attention.
There’s something else that this approach might do for marketers: I’ve found that a boss’ reluctance to spend on social media is based on their lack of confidence in the medium to meet their business goals. If marketers can communicate results better and more frequently, the boss just might find a way to commit to a higher budget.
Help for bosses who consider sales as the only metric for social media ROI.
Social marketers must learn how to communicate every metric – especially the awareness and consideration metrics – because these are what consumers take action on.
As a boss, you always want to know if your business is spending money wisely and the only way to prove that – to establish ROI – is to keep a close eye on every metric, not just sales.
Redefining social media ROI includes a clear communication pathway between leadership and their social marketers.
Written social media strategy helps foster communication and creates a conduit for social media ROI.
A written social media strategy is the best solution because it allows leadership and social marketers to sit down together, make educated decisions, and prepare the strategies that will meet business goals.
Here’s an outline if you’d like to try it yourself:
- Determine the business goals.
- Outline strategies to achieve each goal.
- Measure and analyze results.
- Tie results back to each goal.
- Voila! Social media ROI.
We must be ready to redefine social media ROI in order to finally achieve it.
Successful social media involves the whole company, not just the marketing department. Establishing clearer communication channels, while focusing efforts on what customers want and take action on, will go a long to meeting business goals with social media.