How To… Think About The ROI Of Social Media.

Ingram’s Magazine reached out to me to write a column for their latest issue. Specifically they asked me to tackle the infamous question, “What’s the ROI of Social Media.” Here is what was published in the May 2015 Issue.

I often have conversations with marketing pros and members of the C-suite who say the world of technology is moving so fast, that they are struggling to keep up. Many are attracted by the newest shiny object (e.g. Apps like Snapchat, Periscope). They are constantly reading headlines and stories of businesses seeing great success with social media. But when it comes to running their own business, these same people struggle in answering the question, “How should we measure success with our social media efforts? What is the ROI?” And they hesitate in enabling their teams with the things they need to be successful. It’s one of the most frequent questions I hear.

Marketers often look in the wrong places for the right answers to give back to the C-Suite. They obsess over with the tools and the technology. Getting Likes, Followers, Views—the ROI in social media is not about the tools. It’s about how you’re using the tools to achieve real business objectives. Business outcomes that matter to the organization. Your goal isn’t to be good at Facebook; it’s to be better at business because of social media.

Here are some things to consider in order to ensure social media is aligned and successful for your business:

1) Educate the business. Do this frequently, not just once. I advise clients to conduct quarterly meetings (at minimum) that are cross-functional “Social Media Education Sessions.” This establishes a baseline of knowledge about the tools. The key is to make it a safe place for all to ask questions about how the tools work. Furthermore, these sessions should highlight specific social media efforts that have helped other businesses augment their sales, products, service, marketing and communications. Do not focus on your own business in these meetings. It’s easy to get derailed and focus on yourself, so set aside different meetings/sessions to discuss these topics.

2) Commit for the long-term. Far too often do I see episodic or sporadic approaches with social media. Businesses try and shortcut their efforts, making them seasonal, and expect immediate results. This couldn’t be more wrong. Social media is not a fad. And it’s more than just running a campaign. It’s an everyday expectation in the world we live in now. Much like you have processes that you’re constantly refining around customers who walk through the doors of your business, or workflows for customer-service calls received—the same is true for social media. It should be a part of how the business flows.

3) Define your persona(s) and their customer journey(s). The golden rule applies here; know the audience(s) you are trying to affect. Don’t stop short by only defining demographic information. Bucket groups based on their shared psychographics, emotional and practical needs. With each audience, map out all the steps in their customer journey from awareness to conversion. Take it a step further and define the loyalty stages post-purchase. Knowing this information will help you understand the strategies and tactics that are more effective for making them a customer and retaining them.

4) Set social media goals that ladder up through marketing objectives and business outcomes. To be successful, your social team needs to have a clear understanding of how the business operates. If they have a clear understanding of these objectives and outcomes desired, it sets the stage for them to put social strategies and tactics in place that support these efforts and achieve these goals (and more importantly, you can set measurements if this was achieved). When your social team presents results, they should take time to correlate how specific tactics are aligned to business outcomes or objectives that have been set and how to refine them.

5) Create quarterly and yearly budgets for your paid, earned and owned efforts on social. It’s a common misconception that because social media is free to use, large budgets are not needed. This couldn’t be more wrong. As with other traditional channels, when well-integrated in to your overall marketing efforts online and offline, supplementing your social tactics with paid spends can make a big impact.

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