Social ROI: Stop Counting, Start Measuring

For many marketers measuring social media ROI is a daunting challenge, one we’re not quite yet sure how to meet, but an objective we continue to strive toward, driven by the need to understand channel effectiveness, achieve budget efficiencies and answer senior management calls to justify investment in new media.

Yesterday, I joined the IPA Social Works panel to chat Social ROI: the possibilities and impossibilities, and what steps brands can take to set campaigns up for measurement success.

The key themes from the audience and panel members were:

There is no one-size fits all answer. There is no single metric or type of analysis that will suit every campaign or activity, simply because different campaigns and activities will often have different objectives. The first crucial step is to clearly define these specific objectives and the purpose of measurement, which could be to inform a variety of decisions. An appropriate measurement approach can then be adopted.

Social media and social media measurement will continue to evolve. Social media, as a channel, is continually changing. New platforms such as Snapchat appear and become mainstream with different applications or demographics, and, as each platform evolves, so too does the way in which consumers and brands use them. Measurement techniques must evolve alongside the channel. Brands are more likely to make the most of what social media measurement can offer if they base their measurement approach on an adaptable set of best practice principles rather than adhering to an inflexible set of best practice rules.

Social media should be held to the same measurement standards as other channels. As a relatively new channel, brands’ approach to social media have often tended to polarise to one of two extremes: Some, for whom social media falls well outside their comfort zone, have set the bar for justifying spend on social media well above the same bar for other channels. Conversely, other brands do not to associate social media with other channels. It is simply seen as a necessary presence and provides a different class of engagement and value for which measurement is not required.

Effective measurement often requires organisational change. Social media is a channel which bridges paid, owned and earned media and which can have multiple functions – for example spanning marketing, PR and customer service. As a consequence responsibility for managing social media can sit in different and often multiple teams. A cross team, uniform approach to social media is key to unlocking its business value and to integrating social media measurement with that of other channels.

Robust examples of measuring true business value are currently few and far between but collaboration across industry bodies, clients, agencies and the platforms themselves will see more shared over time. The IPA Social Works group has set the ball rolling by inviting clients and agencies to submit case studies for review. Over 130 have been received to date, and of these just 25 have passed to peer review with 8 deemed robust best practice examples and featured on the IPA Social Works’ website.

The number of case studies passed is representative of where the market currently is and the challenge brands are facing. As the measurement approaches and findings of these first examples are shared collective knowledge will grow and more are expected to filter through.

Audience conversation on Twitter:

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