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Tip the Scale of Social ROI in Your Favor

According to chief marketing officers (CMOs), spending on social media increased more in the past year than in any prior year, up from 9.8% to 13.8%. Social spending has been trending upward since 2009 and is expected to rise to 16.3% in the coming year as a percentage of marketing budgets. However, marketers are still struggling to track the return on investment (ROI) from social media. To dial in on your ROI-focused social marketing strategy, it’s important to know (1) how to effectively market to your audience, (2) how these marketing efforts are supporting your business objectives, and (3) how to measure your ROI and make improvements.

Effectively market to your audience on social media.

First off, define your audience, because it’s crucial to know who you’re talking to. Defining your target personas ensures that your content will truly resonate with those who are more likely to convert. At GLG, we consider a brand’s audience before anything else. To do this, we use social listening tools to conduct lots of brand, industry, and competitor research. Each piece of content you produce should entirely stem from the specific needs of your audience.

Next, reach your audience by offering valuable content that is either useful or interesting—or both. Many brands make the mistake of trying to be too exciting all the time. Social media users are getting smarter and savvier every day. We wouldn’t watch a TV channel solely full of commercials or listen to a radio station of just advertisements. So why would anyone want to scroll through a social media feed of only sponsored posts? Where overly advertised content may have caught people’s attention in the past, nowadays, our smart audience sees forced enthusiasm as inauthentic. Instead, focus on usefulness and earn the interest of your audience. What is the point of value for your followers to take away? Leverage the most useful or interesting point to drive your messaging.

Stand apart from your competition by appealing to the feel-good brain, because the rational brain is no fun! OK, that’s not exactly true, but more often than not, it’s the feel-good brain that moves the needle. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio put it best when he said, “We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” Throwing around facts and figures all the time can get stale and boring. Use conversational, everyday language to build trust with your brand’s audience. Kindness, humor, and positive language are more likely to resonate with your readers in a good way and prompt them to convert or engage.

Know how your social media efforts are supporting your business objectives.

Social media is powerful because it can support various stages in the customer journey. It’s important to know where along this journey you want your social media efforts to help support. Is your goal to create awareness? Drive leads? Improve loyalty and retention? Or generate conversions? When deciding what metrics to measure, ask yourself: Does it align with my objectives? Does it help me make decisions? Do I have the capacity to measure it effectively?

Kanye West was on to something when he suggested we should have social media without all the likes and follower counts. Social metrics such as followers, likes, comments, and shares are sometimes called vanity metrics, but it’s important not to dismiss them entirely. These metrics help you gauge the overall health of your social presence, measure yourself against competitors, and determine what type of content resonates best with your audience. They only become vanity metrics when they have no relation to your business objectives. It’s important to know the meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that make a difference to your business so you can keep them top of mind as you build out your content and measure your progress. Avoid using these types of metrics in isolation, and instead, use metrics that directly demonstrate how social media is helping achieve your objectives. These could include reach, audience engagement rate, site traffic, leads generated, sign-ups and conversions, and revenue generated.

Measure your ROI and make improvements to your strategy as needed.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of metrics to measure social media performance. A common problem with social media marketing is that there is no common denominator for measuring its ROI. Because of this, the effectiveness of social media is often either measured poorly or not at all. To measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts, you must first identify your KPIs. If your goal is sales, you should quantify success from purchases made from social media referrals and measure ROI as a dollar value. If you goal is to increase brand awareness, focus on impression, follower, or mention count. If your main goal is conversion, look to referral traffic from social media platforms. And if engagement is what you’re looking for, track your ongoing engagement rate. Set up trackable goals and monitor consumers’ actions, analyze your data, and report on the results. We use a handful of tools to help us do this, including Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters, Facebook pixels, and Google Analytics.

  1. UTM parameters: We add these short text codes to a URL to track data about website visitors and traffic sources from a high level (which networks are performing best) down to the granular details (which specific post drove the most traffic to a specific page).
  2. Facebook pixels: A piece of code that, when it is placed on your website, allows you to track conversions from Facebook ads.
  3. Google Analytics: Tracks website traffic and on-site conversions attributed to social campaigns.

Now comes the fun part! As you measure your ROI over time, you can lean on your data and benchmark against your competitors to make strategic tweaks in your approach and your spending. Shift your budget to support the efforts that are most successful in supporting the business goals that you outlined. Be always testing different content ideas and strategies to see what gets you closer to fine-tuning your KPIs. Social platforms are ever-evolving (hello, Instagram Stories!), and a truly effective social marketing strategy includes paying attention to these changes and being willing to find new ways to support your business goals.