Social media has become an integral part of the marketing strategy of almost every business, however, especially for B2B marketers, measuring the ROI of social is often elusive. CMOs are well aware that their C-suite peers want to know the impact of social on the business and how it contributes to the wider business goals of the organization overall. B2B marketers are expected be able to demonstrate the value of social to the business, more often than not against fierce competition from other marketing channels.
That’s why it’s imperative for marketers to be able to accurately to measure the success of their social campaigns, back their claims up with hard data, and secure their share of the marketing budget on a long term basis. The question is: how do you measure and collect data on seemingly intangible concepts and how do you find tools that really matter most for your business? To help to guide you along the way let’s look at some of the most important social metrics that the B2B marketer should be concentrating on.
Measuring Social Media ROI
Let’s start with an overview of why being able to measure the ROI of social is a key element of any campaign, despite the apparent difficulties that can present. While I’ll admit to slight bias because he’s one of my colleagues, there’s no better source on this topic than Olivier Blanchard, author of the best-selling book, Social Media ROI, who explains that being able to put a dollar value on outcomes is significant to a business.
“The investment, the gain, and the return must be measured in the same currency (the unit of measure of the investment, the gain, and the return must be the same in order for the ROI equation to function), only a financial outcome can qualify as a proper gain or return. In other words, financial outcomes are the culmination of any investment. This is where return is always measured.”
While costs are more easily calculated, gains and returns from social media marketing are less easily quantified. That’s where understanding data points like page views, downloads, and email sign ups—all things that are non-financial outcomes but which help “tell the story by capturing changes in human behavior” according to Blanchard—help define social media ROI by influencing conversions.
All of these non-financial outcomes can, and should, be measured against goals that support the broader aims of the business to give context to social ROI.
Mastering Social Metrics
Conversions. Conversions are tremendously important as they relate directly to leads and the opportunities your content and social efforts are delivering. You need to look for how many opportunities are created per channel, the number of targeted MQLs (marketing-qualified leads), and the number of targeted SQLs (sales-qualified leads) these channels deliver, as well as the number of closed deals as a result of these opportunities.
Assisted Conversions. No less important is to take into account the multi-touch conversions, also defined as “assisted conversions,” in your CRM. A prospect may come in through a Facebook lead or come to directly to your website, but might not actually convert until several weeks later. If you’re not tracking those multi-touches, you won’t know the true value that social is delivering and the role it is playing in your lead generation initiatives.
Leads. In terms of leads, it’s quite possible you are distributing perhaps hundreds of new links across your social channels every day. It’s critical that you be strategic about what content you’re sharing, where and how you’re sharing it, and measuring the impact of that distribution by way of your website analytics. The data you gather and chart tells you valuable information about what channels work and when they work. That’s where Urchin Tracking Modules (better known as UTMs) come in. Adding UTM codes to your links can provide your analytics tools with more information that will enhance your social media monitoring efforts, and save you a lot of time in the process. The folks at Buffer did a great job of laying out how UTMs work, so make sure you pop over there and learn more about this.
Shares. In my opinion, shares are even more important than engagement (and that’s why it appears above engagement in this ). People don’t always engage with content, and that’s okay. But when they share it’s a sign of the relevance of that content and a very important metric for you in terms of overall content strategy.
Engagement. Call it engagement, interaction, feedback, or comments. Two-way communication is confirmation that you are giving your community content that stimulates a reaction. If you have no engagement, you’re either not building the right kind of community/followers, or you’re not giving them the content that interests them. Either way you will never know what works if you don’t have an idea of the level of engagement your social activity engenders.
Follower Growth. Follower growth is clearly an important metric, and one that’s easy to measure. But why have I put it last? Because it’s just not all that significant. For instance, some very large branded accounts have many followers but no engagement. And little or no engagement is not a great result from all your social efforts. Also, when it comes to follower growth, you’ll want to check the relevance of the followers—and of course this is something you should do regularly. Give me a small follower base of highly targeted, very interested customers and prospects any day over a gigantic mass of untargeted, disconnected, disinterested followers. That’s where the value, and the relationships, and the opportunities are.
Earned vs Paid vs Owned
Social media costs come in many forms: paid, earned, and owned. (If you aren’t sure of the differences then read this article from my partner, Eric Vidal at The Marketing Scope.
It’s vital that whatever metrics you measure they are split into organic versus paid and assessed separately. Only that way can you properly decide what works and what doesn’t and replicate successful strategies.
Where to Mine the Data
Most of the main social media networks come with their own in built metrics for business. The always fantastic Kristi Hines has written a terrific overview on the Sprout Social blog of the major social platforms and how to navigate your way through the metrics offered by each. If you’re looking for a broader range of tools, then take a look at this recent compilation from Brandwatch.
Meanwhile don’t disregard Google Analytics, still the most widely used tool around. In fact, Google has only recently released what they describe as “a new stream of automated insights” for their mobile app versions (a web version will apparently follow). This new function will, according to Google, use machine intelligence to comb through your data to provide critical insights. As with any AI, the promise is that the tool will “get smarter over time by reacting to your feedback and how you use it.” I love all things related to AI and it’ll be fascinating to see how this develops. It certainly looks like one worth adding to your list of social monitoring tools.
Whether your business is small or large, it’s clear that Social media measurement is still something of a mystery to many B2B businesses, but it needn’t be. By monitoring activity, tying it to leads and conversions, and in the process proving the worth of campaigns, B2B marketers can persuade their senior executive peers that social media marketing is undoubtedly an essential part of the overall business strategy.
I’m a great advocate for using data to monitor and justify performance—after all, if you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing. What has your experience been? Are you able to monitor the most important metrics or do you stumble around in the social media darkness on a trial and error basis? I would love to hear your feedback.