Measuring your marketing ROI is one of the biggest challenges facing all marketers, and it’s no different for those wanting to track their social media efforts.

TrustRadius’ 2015 Social Media Marketing Trends survey – commissioned by SimplyMeasured – compiled the comments of nearly 600 social media practitioners on questions relating to goals, challenges and measurement tactics for their programs.

One of the biggest challenges, with 60% of all marketers highlighting it, was accurately reporting and measuring marketing ROI (Return on Investment) with 50% also saying “tying social activities to business outcomes” was one of their top three challenges.

Businesses struggle to measure marketing ROI

Accurately measuring marketing ROI for your social marketing is still a top priority and there is still confusion for many brands and businesses on just how to make sure their social content and marketing campaign strategy is working.

Simply Measured carried out a further survey in 2017 of 1,000 ad agency employees that spanned 111 countries and who specialised in social marketing. Of the survey’s respondents who were asked to identify their top three challenges, measuring ROI was still picked by 61.4 per cent, followed by “tying social to business goals” at 35.5 per cent.

Defining Social Media Success

If you haven’t decided what social media success looks like for your business, defining your social media marketing ROI is even more complicated. You need the right tools to measure, optimise and make the link between your social media activity and what business goals are being achieved.

One of the most important things to understand is that, as a business, you can’t just “do social”. A social media or marketing campaign strategy doesn’t exist in isolation. It should be used to enhance whatever promotional activity and marketing the business is already doing.

Effective Marketing And Content

If you don’t have an effective marketing plan or content strategy, that’s a whole other blog. Without one, your social media channels will struggle to find the right audience and will be full of dull and irrelevant content. If you don’t have the right processes in place for good customer service, social media isn’t going to solve that either.

As Jay Baer says in his – Not Tracking Social Media ROI is Your Fault article – “figure out what you want to track, where you can track it, think about both current customers and new customers, and go do it.”

Simple advice perhaps, but it works. So how do you do this? For Buffer’s Kevan Lee the key elements of tracking ROI are:

  • Identifying your monetary investment in social media
  • Attaching a monetary amount to your social media goals

1 – Identify Your Objectives

Your objectives should be representative of what you want social media to help your company achieve. If you need help determining goals, use the SMART framework – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

You could choose: New followers; click-throughs; online purchases; form completions; newsletter signups; PDF downloads; video plays, time spent on a landing page.

All of the above have metrics which allow you to measure the ROI of your marketing efforts.

2 – Assign A Cost

There’s a number of ways to do this and the image below shows what they may look like in an ROI report:

  1. Lifetime value – how much do you earn on average from any individual customer over their business connection with your company?
  2. Lifetime value multiplied by conversion rate – how much is each potential website visit worth to you as a business?
  3. Average sale – how much does the average visitor spend through your website?
  4. Pay Per Click costs – How much would you end up paying if you used ads to achieve the same social media actions?
Measure online marketing roi six simple steps

Source: www.dashboardjunkie.com

If you’re unsure of how to calculate the customer lifetime value, this website will help, but you can also try asking yourself the following questions:

  • If someone could guarantee your business 10 quality leads, via a web form submission, what would that be worth to your business and how much would you be willing to pay per form submission?
  • If someone could guarantee 1000 newsletter signups, what would that be worth to your business and how much would you be willing to pay per sign up?

How you answer these questions gives you a good alternative for setting the value you place upon that type of conversion.

3 – Tracking Your Objectives

Once you’ve established what objectives you wish to track, and the potential monetary value of them, there are various ways in which to track and monitor your social media efforts and determine the ROI of them.

Email sign-ups.
Use MailChimp or a similar program to track newsletter sign-ups, open rates, click through rates etc. You can use MailChimp’s inbuilt analytics to segment your subscriber audience even further into smaller lists which can be targeted with specific promotions.

Use website analytics.
Google Analytics is the big player here, allowing you to measure visits, website engagement, social platform referrals and set up goals and event tracking. But it takes a bit of work to make sense of the Google Analytics data.

Have a read of Simply Business’ Small Business Guide to Google Analytics for a comprehensive explanation of just how to get the most out of this platform. The basics of Google Analytics is that it tracks patterns on your website and it’s an entirely free program and integrates with other Google programs, like AdSense and AdWords, which only makes it that much more valuable.

This excellent article from Neil Patel runs through the processes necessary to set up four specific ways in which you can track goals using Google Analytics.

Social media metrics.
Assess what social media metrics you want to focus on and improve; is increasing followers and reach your most important, or is driving traffic to your website from your social posts a better measurement of investment for your business?

Alongside measuring the social post engagement metrics that the social networks provide, such as likes, shares, impressions, and link clicks, you should be using tools like Beacon to track the visitor journey from social post to sale and to protect against click fraud.

By bridging the gap between your website and social media activity, you will gain insights into how effective your social posts are at driving traffic to your website and learn how your visitors engage with your website content.

Beacon attributes visits and conversions to individual social posts, so you’ll learn which parts of your social media marketing is working best. With click fraud detection and mitigation across search and social, Beacon feeds other parts of the Martech stack with better quality data, to enable improved analytics, decision-making and results. Bots are prevented from seeing and clicking on your ads, giving you significantly more human clicks for the same ad spend.

And, in the wider context of using social media, you need to have a tailored social content and marketing campaign strategy which matches actions to platforms and ensures you’re hitting the right targets with the right content. We previously looked at this in our how to tailor your social content strategy article.

Another, slightly more fiddly way to measure social media is by using UTM parameters. Add these short text codes to a URL to track important data about website visitors and traffic sources. UTM parameters work with analytics programs like Google Analytics to provide a detailed picture of your social media success.

There are five different UTM parameters: campaign source, campaign medium, campaign name, campaign term, and campaign content. Using them allows you to directly track which social media platform referrals are coming from and it enables you to use A/B testing to see which type of content performs better (visual versus text for an offer for example).

4 – Pulling It Together

Of course, once you’re getting all these trackable metrics, you then need to ensure you’re doing something useful with them and this goes back to having a coherent marketing plan or social media content strategy.

You will be able to identify what is – and what isn’t – working much easier and adjust your efforts accordingly.

This graphic from The Social Metrics Map by Simply Measured gives a great set of examples for how you can pull all this information together.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’re going to be dealing with a lot of averages and assumptions when you first set out tracking and measuring your marketing ROI. But even if your numbers are off target when you first begin, the discussions towards gaining your marketing ROI data will provide you with enough insights into what is really driving your business to know where to start making changes.

This is a journey that can take several months, if not years. There is no “quick fix” to getting it right and it will involve a process of trial and error. Make sure you keep everything as simple as possible, at least when you start out with setting an ROI strategy.

Set one or two conversion goals as key targets and feel free to pick simple ones which are easy to track and define values for – such as website visitor numbers from social posts. It gives you some quick wins to prove the business value of your long term ROI strategy.

5 – Reporting Back

Of course none of the above is any use if you don’t then report – and action – your ROI efforts so that you can highlight key areas of success and identify elements which aren’t working and act accordingly.

Set up a template using whatever tool you feel most comfortable with, a Google Spreadsheet for example, and make sure you record each activity carried out on each social media platform and the outcomes of any campaigns.

Make sure you use easy to understand language – not everyone who will be looking at the reports is a social media expert, explain any acronyms you use and provide a guide if necessary.

Check your metrics frequently, daily if possible but certainly no less than once a week and choose a timeframe in which to measure specific data – and stick to it.

You need to make it clear there are limitations. Demonstrate what’s possible with the data you have, but be clear about what’s not in the realm of possibility. Otherwise you’ll be set up for expectations you can never meet.

To meet the measuring ROI challenge, you’ll need to update and adapt your strategy constantly and make use of the valuable insights you gain from past and current social media campaigns.

There’s always more to test, more to learn and – ultimately – more to gain for your business.

Get started with Beacon

Start your marketing ROI journey by having the best available data. At Beacon we’ve been champions of transparent marketing data since our foundation.

See what Beacon can do for you or the brands you represent by watching a 4 minute demo video. Or calculate how much you might be losing on your paid media campaigns to click fraud with our click fraud Calculator.

For this digital agency client, Beacon detected bot activity on the campaigns at an average of 28% and this reduced to 16% bot activity just two weeks into using Beacon following the traffic audit.

That’s 12% more humans engaging with their ads, resulting in an uplift in conversions and 25% increase in cost per visitor.

NOTE: Updated March 2022.