Three steps to prove social media ROI

Successfully proving ROI is only possible by looking at business or campaign objectives at the start. Social media and digital platforms give consumers an avenue to give real feedback about what they’re reading or seeing, and conversely companies can also understand what kind of content creates conversations, drives traffic back to a website, or even results in sales or donated funds.

Every piece of feedback—whether it be a like, comment, click or purchase, gives companies and organizations valuable insight as to who their audiences are, what captures their attention, what repels them, and what drives them to action. The data has always existed, but now we have the ability to read it. And if the data is there, it is our responsibility as professionals to take that data and better arm our campaigns and strategies with it to be better ensure success.

Building strategies with measurement in mind from the start gives you an understanding of where you actually need to begin so that you end in the right place. Data-driven strategies can you give you a you reason for that strategy to be developed—the why behind the what. There is far more to social or online behavior than can be understood by vanity metrics like viewers or followers. You have to instead create a sort of “surround sound” analysis to better define the impact that programs have on your business—and how to optimize for future success.

When you’re building these strategies you must first understand your objectives. I’ve seen many organizations start backwards—they start with the creative or story idea and then they try to report on success without having defined metrics. If a social audience grew during the course of executing that creative idea, they assumed that the strategy had an affect even though there is no direct or measurable relationship. Or on the flip side, they spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on a creative idea and there is seemingly no effect at all. Before creating any strategy and before implementing any proposed tactics, you have to understand what your business objectives are so that you can map your activity to that.

Second, look at the data you already have and apply it to your strategy. Whether your company has been collecting data about your audience or you’ve researched industry data for a defined audience (i.e. Generation Z), you can use that information to map out a customer journey or a “Day in the Life Of” (DILO), and focus on channels that target that persona. Data is extremely powerful, and not used often enough.

Lastly, once you have tangible results from your campaign, don’t look at just the numbers. Instead, try to understand what the numbers mean. If you had 100,000 impressions on a Facebook post, compare that to what you normally get so that you can see if that number is a good number. It sounds like a lot, but if you normally get 400,000 impressions on a post, the one in question is performing well below standard. Balancing quantitative with qualitative data will allow you to explain your results with context and can help your organization to work better together to determine next steps.