Social Media Does Not Drive ROI [Research]

7 Experts Tell You How Make Social Media Drive ROI

Drive Social Media ROI - Toy Car On social media, engagement by itself isn’t sufficient to drive business ROI. While research shows that engagement is a major social media objective for the majority of businesses, it’s not an end in itself nor does it necessarily translate to sales and/or profits.

Social media strategy objectives

Engagement topped both B2B and B2C lists in terms of the primary purpose of social media efforts, according to Research of Global Marketers by Ascend2, in February 2013. A third of marketers sought to increase sales; B2C marketers ranked higher at 39%. (BTW—Here’s how to ensure that your social media ROI is zero.) By contrast, saving marketing or customer service costs barely registered with these respondents garnering less than 10% response.   Most Important Social Media Objectives -eMarketer

In light of these findings, it’s interesting to note that research from Coca Cola, presented at the Advertising Research Foundation, revealed that there was no statistically significant relationship between buzz and short-term sales. That’s pretty amazing for a brand with over 61.5 million Facebook fans and should make other brands and businesses rethink their social media strategy and investment decisions.

Actionable Social Media Tip: Select social media objectives that are aligned with your business goals. Further, make them specific and measurable by determining your metrics before you start to ensure that you can track results.

Social media tactics used

Content marketing fuels social media. Marketers’ top picks for social media tactics prove it. Top of the list for both B2B and B2C marketers are articles and blog posts. (These Ascend2 findings are consistent with Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ research related to content marketing tactics.) They both also use video content. Almost 30% of B2B marketers use white papers that can take a variety of formats and are useful for generating leads. About a fifth of B2C marketers use social media advertising. To expand the reach of their content, both B2B and B2C marketers use social sharing buttons.  Most Effective Social Media Tactic  - eMarketer

While critical to social media, effective content marketing requires resources both human and financial. Top on marketers’ list in terms of difficulty are video/audio, white papers and articles/blog posts. This makes sense because strong content requires specialized skills in terms of writing, creative, editing and technology. But to put these costs in perspective, they’re still less than an offline advertisement. The problem is that marketers and business executives assume that social media and content marketing should be free.  Difficult Social Media Tactics-eMarketer

Actionable Social Media Tips: Ensure that your content targeted at social media venues supports your business goals, notably driving sales. Here are some tips:

  1. Show prospects what your product looks like. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” still holds true. Even more important is that photos, especially those with people in them, attract attention. (Here’s how to make your images more social media friendly.)
  2. Answer customer questions. Marcus Sheridan (aka: The Sales Lion) calls this the secret sauce of blogging. It’s got the added benefit of being easy content to create since you know the questions and have answers available.
  3. Demonstrate how to use your products. Take a page from William Sonoma where there’s always someone explaining a new product.
  4. Show customers how to style your products. Think clothes, makeup and interior design.
  5. Provide customers with instructions using your products. Entice prospects with alluring images of your product as part of something they make. It can be recipes and patterns.
  6. Make your product entertaining. Get potential customers engaged with fun videos. Will It Blend and Orabrush both did this with tiny budgets.
  7. Include links to your product pages where appropriate. Make it easy for prospects to purchase.

7 Experts on how to make social media yield measurable results

To help you determine how to track your social media strategy’s effectiveness, here’s what seven experts say is the most important thing an organization can do to make their social media investment yield measurable results.

  1. Jay Baer, Convince & Convert and co-author of The NOW Revolution. Twitter: @JayBaer: Measure business metrics, not social media metrics.
  2. Heidi Cohen, HeidiCohen.com. Twitter: @HeidiCohen: Set specific goals that are aligned with your business objectives. The more specific the goals are, the better. Combine these objectives with an understanding of what your target audience does on social media (use a social media marketing persona) to get your marketing on track. Then select appropriate metrics that measure your progress against your business objectives. These metrics should work towards achieving your goals.
  3. Ric Dragon, Dragon Search Marketing and author of Social Marketology. Twitter: @RicDragon: There are two parts to this: the first is to understand that the aspects of business that are impacted by social are many – not just the sales of the quarter.  There are things like Total Lifetime Value, cost per acquisition, impact on SEO, and so on. Which brings me to the second part – identify the outcomes that mean something to your business, and map out the metrics that would be associated with success.
  4. Derek HalperinSocial Triggers. Twitter: @DerekHalperin: That’s easy. Two things: 1) interact with your customers from a support perspective, and 2) use social media as a source for pulling people back to your website (and email list).
  5. Dave Kerpen, Likeable Local and Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business. Twitter: @DaveKerpen: The most important thing a company can do to yield measurable results is to have company buy-in and alignment from the C-suite on down.
  6. Joe PulizziContent Marketing Institute and author of Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers Twitter: @JuntaJoe: Before you choose any social media channels, you first develop a content strategy.  So many marketers jump straight to the social channels without a clear, consistent plan for what they are going to say, what behaviors they want to see, and how it’s going to drive the business.
  7. Michael StelznerSocial Media Examiner and author of Launch and Writing White Papers. Twitter: @Mike_Stelzner: Invest in content. Become a publisher of great blog posts and awesome podcasts.

Despite the fact that research shows that marketers use social media to encourage customer engagement over driving sales, it’s possible to get your social media strategy to yield measurable revenue and profit objectives. To this end, it’s helpful to integrate content marketing into your social media plans.

Do you think that social media drives ROI? If so, why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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  • martin bredl

    I think social media only drives business when you connect social media with content on your website. Social media is very helpfull to widen your sales funnel. But you have to offer some content for porspect coming from social media to your website.
    Fan Numbers alone will note impress any more.
    Leads will!

  • Amy Birch

    I agree with Martin (the comment below!). Social media cannot drive sales on it’s own. It’s imperative that it’s part of the bigger picture, and should be thought of as though it’s another string to your marketing bow, rather than a revenue source itself.
    Great post – tonnes of great information – thank Heidi!
    Amy

  • Prince Jacon

    In this contemporary dispensation, I don’t suppose any government can muzzle the media. At the University of Nigeria http://unn.edu.ng the teaching is there that the media has left the traditional means of broadcasting to even more sophisticated ones boosted by the internet and social networks.