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ROI vs. Engagement: Quantifying Social Media

ImageSocial Media marketers get absolutely obsessed with engagement figures, whether it’s the retweet count on Twitter or the number of +1’s your brand gets. However, likes and other engagement metrics are only half of the story.

Let’s study some real data for a moment here to justify what I mean. The company in question (who will remain anonymous) have under a thousand Twitter followers, around 8,000 Facebook fans, less than 300 YouTube subscribers, a small Google Plus audience, and an even smaller Pinterest following. Whilst they are active across all of these channels, their engagement across them all is very varied:


As you can see they’re performing best on Facebook at the moment, however what does this actually mean for the company in real terms?

Well, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find out, and after a few tweaks to Google Analytics reports we’ve revealed that Facebook is actually their fourth highest revenue generating source, with a higher average order value than from Google traffic.



Interestingly, the other social media channels feature much lower down the list, with YouTube at 26, Twitter at 81, and Pinterest and GooglePlus not generating any revenue at all for the page over the period studied.

So, great news on their Facebook page which is showing a very positive ROI, however how can they take it a step further?

With a Google AdWords campaign you would measure ROI by keyword and by adgroup at a macro level, however this practice very rarely transfers over to the thinking on social. We think you should be measuring ROI in granular detail for all of your social channels with your content as your key focus.

One way to solve this problem is to create unique URL’s for each of your social media posts so that you track back the ROI literally by post to see what’s working for your page. An example below for a smaller client shows where we’ve done this by giving each Facebook post a parameter for the date it was posted, allowing us to track back the impact this had on site.

Social Media ROI


The Google URL builder is a really useful tool for doing this quickly, and as long as you set up a standardised naming convention for your parameters then the data will be easily read. If for example we as Zazzle Media were posting onto our Facebook page about our latest blog on the 1st March, we may set the URL up like this:


URL Builder


For example, this would allow us to see if tweeting or posting about our blog on that date was more effective than the product related content we had put out the day before in driving people to the key areas of our site.

The ultimate goal here is to analyse your social posts across all platforms by engagement and ROI.  So for example, you should be able to see which posts are getting the highest engagement and ROI, and be able to break it down by day, time, campaign, and channel to give you a fully sliced and diced view of your key info.

There’s a number of tools you can use to help you with this process. Unmetric for instance can help you organise your content across channels by theme/type, whilst Sprout Social and other off the shelf tools can help provide you with engagement by dates/times. They key though is pulling it all together and using it to inform your social media plan, across all of the relevant platforms.

Key Takeaways

  1. Engagement is important, but it is not everything – not understanding the return you are getting for different types of posts and the effect they have on your ultimate marketing goals means that you are only getting half of the picture
  2. Measurement is key – knowing which posts or campaigns drive certain actions on your site is imperative for judging your marketing mix and content strategy.
  3. You can quantify return on investment from social media – it’s not necessarily easy right now, but you can measure ROI from social – you just have to come up with creative solutions to allow you to track the process.  Tagging URL’s is one way for ecommerce or online goal driven businesses to succeed in a multi-platform environment
  4. Help is available – this process is currently painful – your community managers will most likely cringe the moment you tell them to place unique URL’s on each post across all platforms.  However there are numerous tools to help you such as the Google URL builder for the creation, and Google Analytics, Unmetric, Sprout Social & Simply Measured for the ROI tracking.
  5. You need to be doing this – if you’re investing in social there’s simply no excuse to not be doing everything you can to track the ROI from your activity.


Join The Conversation

  • Mar 5 Posted 4 years ago Heather MacLean

    Hi Ben!  Interesting post.  My question would be however, why would you limit "engagement" to likes, RTs, etc.?  I would even pose another question around what are the goals that are trying to be achieved?  

    In the words of Jason Falls, engagment is not a goal, it is a result.  Engagement is much, much more than likes or RTs, etc.  Engagement by definition and according to merriam-webster is emotional involvement or commitment.  Liking something or RTing something does not necessarily mean that someone is engaged. Instead they may like something once. It doesn't mean that they are committed to a brand eternally.  The same goes for the other things considered engagement.  

    No, real engagement, the emotional involvement or comitment by a person to a brand ocurrs when you build a relationship.  A relationship is about getting to know someone.  Listening first and getting to know someone.

    Social media is not traditional media where people working for brands push messages.  Social media has lead to the democratization of people.  Now the consumer holds far more significant power with the ability to respond and express his or her opinion in public.  

    I agree with the need for data!  Absolutely!  How do you incorporate the results from full social media engagement?

  • Nate Mendenhall's picture
    Feb 28 Posted 4 years ago Nate Mendenhall

    Very insightful post. Thank you for sharing!

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