3 Rules For Showing Social Media ROI

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Measuring ROI on social can be tough sometimes, but following these rules may help. (Image via Sprout Social)

While on a plane the other day I noticed a woman boarding the flight clutching two seemingly dead and wilted roses. My split-second reaction was ‘why in the world would you be tightly holding on to two dead roses like a contestant on an emo version of The Bachelor while getting on a plane?’ Then it hit me. That’s probably the way many people in business view social media. They don’t understand its value or meaning so they dismiss it, and those of us who ‘carry’ it, as odd or unnecessary.

We’ve all been there. The team or brand we work for has those one or two executives who view social media as a necessary evil — emphasis on evil — who make it difficult to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. Instead of getting frustrated and trying to explain the nuances of a well crafted social brand strategy that builds true advocates, you should take a step back and attempt to speak their language.

The key to any good strategy is defining strong Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that showcase how the tactic helps the company reach overall business objectives. The same can be done for social. That’s not to say you should abandon all the creative content your fans or customers love and only post sales messages but it does mean potentially adjusting the way you view the purpose of those posts.

So how do you do it? Here are three rules:

Ditch The Vanity Metrics

“Engagement has always been a metric social marketers spend too much time on. It is not a focus of ours in most circumstances. I have always liked what Brad Smallwood (VP of Marketing Science at Facebook) said in 2016 : “The allure of measurable and traceable ‘shiny’ metrics — such as social-media users’ ‘Likes,’ ‘Shares,’ message posts, and ‘clicks’ — has led marketers to endless, often beautifully crafted, intricate reports on the irrelevant.” For us it all comes down to how we are impacting our objectives. Engagement can be a variable that has an impact on a larger goal and is something we track, but it in itself is not the end goal.”- Kenton Olson, Director of Digital Media & Emerging Media, Seattle Seahawks

Likes, shares, Retweets, and comments are a great way to see the health of your content and accounts but they are not actionable business metrics.

The key is to find ways to connect your organic content to trackable efforts that help the business. These shouldn’t be the end all be all in determining what you create, but it should help prove ROI. Metrics like year over year traffic driven to your website, email addresses collected and Facebook video views that can be used to create lookalike audiences to reach new customers with similar tastes of your current customers are a few examples of the way your organic content can help the larger goals.

Start With The End Goal In Mind

“For transactional campaigns, such as ticket sales and merchandise, it is always important to start at the top of the sales funnel – awareness. From there we use paid social and other targeted messaging channels (i.e. email) to move people down the funnel. A recent unique example of growing that top level awareness is how we have handled announcing our schedule. Over the past three seasons we’ve shared “the making of the Seahawks Schedule” with non-traditional elements. This past year it included two coffee artists. We have found content such as this that is unexpected will generate a lot of reach and awareness and help let our fans know tickets are now available for purchase.” – Kenton Olson

When you’re starting the process of building your content calendar for the week, month, quarter or year make sure you map out your business objectives before ever writing a content idea down. By doing so you can align your creative and business goals.

Kenton provides the perfect example. Most teams handle their schedule release in a topical manner; a graphic with the opponents, dates and times, an article or video featuring the most interesting matchups and likely a link to purchase tickets. It’s nothing overly special for a day that is basically the unveiling of Outlook calendar appointments. But the Seahawks realized the value of the moment to the business as a whole. By creating truly compelling and borderline viral content around it helped achieve the overall business goal of selling tickets. It may not be a one-to-one relationship but the more people who see that kind of content the more are aware of when games are and are excited to buy.

Without understanding the overarching business goals Kenton’s team couldn’t have aligned the content to help achieve them.

Not All Objectives Are Created Equal

“We measure each campaign independently as the objectives for each campaign can be vastly different. They can range from signups for a contest we are running with a partner, to merchandise sales, to driving awareness around a gameday event, to share of voice. Achieving these business goals helps determine success of a campaign.” – Kenton Olson

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to metrics for your content. You have to take each piece and campaign as its own puzzle to figure out. While one may be to help sell tickets, merchandise or an online product, the next could be about simply getting people to your website or building fan affinity. Each will have vastly different ways to measure success. Don’t be afraid to change your KPIs based on what you’re trying to accomplish with your content and goals.

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While I never found out why that complete stranger was clutching on to those roses, I’m sure she had her reasons. Reasons I’ll just simply have to guess about what they were. Hopefully, if you take the time to truly define your social strategies KPIs and how they align with the overall business goals, you’ll never again have to leave any of your bosses guessing as to the meaning and value of social media to your company.