Social Media and ROI: What Should You Expect? It depends.

Gaining ground within social media and digital/Web channels has to do with content and thought leadership. The more quality content you can generate, the more you (or your company) will be seen, heard, and followed. Add to this a high “engagement factor” (the amount of responding, sharing, that you and your followers engage in) then you are most likely on your way to a good Return on Investment (“ROI”).

That said, if you were to outright ask me, “What’s my return on investment going to look like?” I would be hard pressed to give you a number. Every client and every situation is different, from the industry or niche you operate in, to your reasons for wanting to engage in social media, to how involved and active you can or want to be.

Many of my clients come to me because they . . .

• Have little experience in social media, other than the occasional Facebook post or like, and simply don’t know where or how to start
• Don’t feel they have the time necessary to dedicate to beefing up their social media and digital presence
• Don’t know what’s reasonable to expect in return for their efforts.

Getting started and making the time are easy to address. Social media (at least how we know it as today) has been around in a big way since 2007. There’s history, there’s precedent, and there are clear do’s and don’ts. As for what’s reasonable to expect for a return on your investment . . . it depends.

With Social Media, ROI doesn’t show up as easily it does with direct marketing or advertising, where there’s a clear target and a beginning, middle, and end to a campaign. Measuring Social Media ROI is more complex, especially when Social Media is done in concert with other, more-traditional marketing efforts.

While I can clearly measure the exposure my clients get through various Social Media and Web channels—such as the number of tweets, LinkedIn shares, or Facebook posts; the number of new followers or connections; or an uptick in likes, Web traffic, and new subscribes—I can’t for certain quantify if Social Media alone is generating more sales. It’s simply impossible for me to link every client’s sale/new client acquisition to what ultimately influenced a customer to buy (unless I do a customer survey, of course, but that’s a whole other topic!). Most likely, there is no one thing that made it happen. Most likely, it’s a combination of various efforts made by my clients, including Social Media.

Social Media can go a long way to getting customers interested and to the “table,” but sealing the deal also relies on your customer/prospect’s emotional connection to your product or service, together with pricing and delivery. Is your product or service what the prospect wants? Is it what the prospect thinks he or she needs? And are you the one to provide it?

Ultimately, TV, Radio, Print, Social Media, the Web, and what you get out of your efforts with each of these mediums, is all about communication and approach. Just as most people wouldn’t produce their own TV or radio spots to sell a product or service, Social Media really should be viewed no differently—especially by busy executives and business owners who are running their companies and don’t have the time, the inclination, or the experience to optimize Social Media as a branding and messaging tool.

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