Facing Social Media ROI
Are you struggling to find ways to justify social media marketing? Do you dread having to find a way to respond to business leadership as they demand to see a direct correlation between all this Twitter/Facebook hocus pocus and an actual return on investment? Do you wish that they could just see the inherent value that you know is there–the power of building human relationships with your prospects, the strength in cultivating an audience around your brand, the ability to demonstrate your company’s thought leadership to the world? Why don’t the bean counters appreciate the wonder and opportunity that social media represents for what it is, and leave it at that? The allure alone shows enough potential in social media to justify entire rooms full of practitioners forging ahead on the frontline of the socialsphere, right?
Wrong. In fact, those bean counting business leaders have it absolutely right. That they are concentrating on the bottom line is not an indication that they don’t “get” social media. On the contrary, many absolutely see the potential and the need to advance into the space. But they are also rightly looking to hold social media accountable as a sound business practice. You shouldn’t need much convincing that if you want to successfully implement social media for a company, you had better get yourself firmly on the side of those business leaders who pay the bills.
Even if you do manage to razzle-dazzle them with what they perceive as smoke and mirrors enough to let you get started, you are only digging a hole for yourself when the unavoidable happens. No matter if it’s a big or small company, eventually the entire social media effort is going to have to be equated as a line item on someone’s P&L (Profit and Loss) sheet. You had better take steps to make sure social media is seen as a legitimate cost center. Your ability to see social media through the eyes of your boss will actually help you tremendously.
It becomes your challenge to walk the line between the difficult to measure human components of social media and the financial realities of business. On one side you have the intangible wins that slowly grow over time as you cultivate your web presence. These are the true core building blocks of social media which come from “doing it right.” On the other side you have the reality that you are actually doing this entire thing for gains that help your company grow. And in business, growth is going to end up as a trend line on a spreadsheet. Get comfortable with that. It’s okay.
So now the question is “How?” How can we force the square peg of social media into the very round hole of business ROI? There are countless paths to doing this, but let’s look at one that is staring us in the face. Let’s appreciate social media for something it undeniably is–a critical Search Engine Optimization element.
With universal search now an implicit component in all the major engines, their ability to serve up a broad result set of authoritative content is greatly enhanced. Now the strides you take into the multimedia dimension of content creation (most all of which is social media driven) can increase traffic to your web presence all the more.
You probably already track the traffic coming to your site and evaluate the results of that traffic whether by cost per lead or some other conversion metric. This gives you an immediate benchmark over which social media can be layered. At the very least, without having to fashion some entirely new measurement dashboard, you can start tracking social media’s impact on generating quality traffic to your site. A strong twitter account could easily increase targeted deep-linked traffic into a site by a significant percentage. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other content types and platforms can also influence the volume of traffic you already measure. And where traffic is being tied to ROI (how can it not be?), it gives you a legitimate starting point for evaluating social media’s impact on your cost of conversion.
A twelve month goal to see if social media can increase web traffic while potentially driving down the cost per conversion is a legitimate reality. In your business leader’s eyes, this probably fits into a known metric and takes a bit of the mystery out of social media too.
There are numerous ways to tie social media into the established measuring sticks at play in any company. SEO is just one of them. The fact is this: there is every reason to see social media marketing from a business perspective. It doesn’t change the fact that doing “good” social media marketing still requires authenticity, human dialogue, and genuine interaction. Doing those well represents a whole slew of challenges in and of themselves. The bigger challenge is in knowing how to serve both sides of the measuring stick while never letting the ball drop on either side.