How do you measure or put a price on social media love?

Are the things your people are doing on Facebook actually delivering and how can you find out? Paul Cotton has some advice from his experience in the digital world.

The phrase “social media return on investment” has been bandied about a lot lately. Notoriously slippery to get a hold of, it seems to be causing a reasonable amount of concern in business circles. The people running your show, mag, or radio program’s social channels are doing all this Facebook stuff, and it’s on the internet so surely it’s just as measurable as ad clicks but somehow that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Having worked in the wide world of digital with everyone from entertainment to financial clients, and specialising in social media for a good portion of that, perhaps I can provide a rough idea of what’s going on and some thoughts on how to approach it.

First up, tracking social media ROI is an inherently flaky process. You don’t own the services you’re using and they only give you a portion of the data that relates to you so tracking an end to end user journey is nigh on impossible. That’s just the technical side of it. When you start talking sentiment tracking, things get even weirder. How do you put a price on love?

The measures for calculating ‘social success’ (likes, retweets, etc) are not ROI in the strictest sense. You can’t determine your ROI purely from your social data sets. You’ll need to compare the social data against more ROI relevant data (sales, for instance) and look for correlations. Match peaks and troughs, start to get a feel for when social activity lines up with say, an increase in yield. Monitor this over a substantial period of time so that you can feel more confident you’re not staring at coincidence.

Even with clever link tagging tactics, we’re a long way from seeing the full picture for every user who transacts. This is why we’re (mostly) looking for correlation. Social networks have made the path to purchase less straightforward than ever and we work in a world that’s defined by hard seeming science. But hey, when you think about it – content creators and advertisers still treat extrapolated TV ratings and other measures as though they were exact, so remember that you’re not alone when it comes to social media measurement and just having to do the best you can.

Paul Cotton is a creative planner at Salmat Digital. 



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