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Measuring Social Media ROI – Brands Pull Back the Curtain

Posted on Mar 30th, 2014
Written by TopRank Marketing
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    A panel discusses social media ROI

    Marketers are increasingly faced with the challenge of proving the monetary value of social media marketing to the C-suite. Since social media is typically less of a sales tool and more of a means of nurturing new leads and maintaining a relationship with current customers, putting a price tag on social media can be a difficult thing to do.

    The C-Suite will always be concerned with profit, so it’s imperative that marketers can either prove that social media is making their brand money by generating new leads or saving their brand money though customer retention.

    Nick Robinson of SAP, Scott Gulbransen of DSI (formerly of H&R Block) and Lewis Bertolucci of Humana were all faced with the challenge of measuring social media ROI for their respective companies. At Social Media Marketing World, these big-brand marketers shared their secrets for measuring social media ROI in a session moderated by social ROI expert Nichole Kelly:

    Why Do You Think Social ROI Is So Important For Marketers?

    Lewis: We have to prove social ROI in order to get budget dollars.

    Nick: We found that it was useful to think like a start-up: make a business case for why the C-suite should fund social media.

    Scott: It’s important to show how social media is able to provide value to your organization. Get over the hump of being afraid of social ROI because you’re not new to social media anymore. You shouldn’t have a budget unless you can get results; do this by aligning social media with business objections.

    What Challenges Did You Face When Trying to Measure Social Media ROI?

    Nick:  One of our key challenges was that we were dealing with fragmented data systems that didn’t talk to each other or integrate with social media. We also struggled to find talent that understood social media, data analytics and CRM. At first, it was hard to find staff that was both socially and technically savvy.

    Scott: Education was our biggest hurdle. We found that you have to teach people about social media on an on-going basis. Since hard metrics are sometimes difficult to quantify, we learned how to frame softer measurements because they’re still important. We experienced success when we lined our KPIs up with business objectives. It’s important to think like a C-level executive, not a practitioner.

    We discovered that it was really effective to focus on the cost saving value of social media. We often focus on revenue going in but what about saving money? Saving money is just as important to the bottom line as bringing money in. And what about customer retention? It’s less expensive and easier to retain customers than it is to create new customers.

    Customers want brands to provide them with customer support on social media sites. If you understand how to related to and help the customers, you will keep them longer. When we starting thinking about social media ROI, we realized that we need to service customers where they want to be serviced. That’s why H&R Block provides direct, private customer service through a Facebook app. Twitter has also helped us “save” frustrated customers. Retention and customer interaction is key to increasing social ROI.

    Lewis: It was hard to know where to start and what to measure when we first starting measuring social ROI. We experienced success when we were able to align business objectives with key metrics.

    We also learned that it’s important to speak in the language of the C-Suite: talk to the C-suite in dollars and cents not fans and followers. Talk about awareness, exposure and virality. Translate reach into something quantifiable like cost per impression. Make it simple: present the top three most important metrics to the C-suite and tie the metrics back to whatever’s most important to your company. You should also set expectations for your social media program: what did you try to achieve and have you made progress?

    What Are The Top 3 Data Points That You Measure?

    Lewis: Cost per impression and cost per conversion are the two main metrics that we measure because we want to know how we’re impacting awareness. We also want to know how social is influencing the customer journey and where the social touch points occur along the marketing funnel.

    Nick: We measure cost per impression, cost per engagement, pipeline touch, and response time. We regularly send the C-suite a simple report and only show them detailed statistics if they have questions. We found that it was best to make the report simple and easy for people to digest.

    Scott: We primarily measure social ROI by net promoter score and customer satisfaction score. (Net Promoter Score, or NPS is how likely are you to refer our company on a scale from 1 to 10.)

    We measure NPS because the top of funnel stuff is squishier. The metaphor that we use is that we want to use social media to pass the customer the ball so that they can pass it through the funnel. We also want to know where the customer first touched us in their conversion journey and track them all the way through.

    What Changed When You Started Showing the C-Suite Numbers?

    Scott: People either became believers and wanted to start to participating in social media or felt threatened by the new opportunities that social brought us to connect with customers. This experience showed us that the more people in your organization who support social, the better. Everyone in the organization should play a part in owning social.

    Nick: The moment we first measured social touch along the pipeline was the moment the sales team got on board. We found that the sales team was just as hard to convince as the C-suite. We experienced success when we were able to show how social media affects the sales pipeline.

    Lewis: We found that social media marketing is about evolution, not revolution. We use our analytics to discover how we can better use social media. We also found that soft metrics are important even if they’re not profit driven.

    What Attribution Models Have You Used?

    Lewis: We found that the first touch model is better than the last touch model. The first touch model shows that if we hand the ball off, the lead can make a slam dunk. We also track third party clicks and integrate them into our CRM. Doing this allowed us to discover that engaged social users have a 300% higher MPS (motivating potential score) than non-social users.

    Nick: We look at all of the touch points in a customer’s CRM record and a mixed media model helps us craft budget recommendations. We learned that you have to get the data right or you’ll have an incorrect budget forecast.

    Scott: We prefer to measure first touch, but the C-suite always wants to see last touch. We found that you have to create your own mixed media model. Start by learning what attribution is and why it’s important to your brand.

    What do you think about Facebook Decreasing Reach for Fans of Brand Pages?

    Scott: Go somewhere else if Facebook isn’t the right thing for their business. Spend some time deciding which channels are right for your business and best align with your KPIs. Social media marketing is all about understanding your customers.

    Nick: We know what channels drive results for us and we’ve seen our customers move from Facebook to LinkedIn. I recommend that you collect data before making spending decisions or choosing which social channels to focus on.

    Lewis: Diversify! Facebook isn’t the only social platform out there. What about communities, forums or internal social media platforms? It’s time to become a social business. Start with social internally and grow out from there.

    Are you satisfied with how your brand measures social media ROI? What metrics to you think are most important and what analytics tools do you use? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments below.