Return on investment has long been a key topic of debate in and around the social media marketing sector. Sure, you might be able to gain a whole lot of followers, but are any of those people actually willing to spend money with your brand? Is social media activity actually indicative of likely consumer purchase behavior?
Of course, results will vary based on a range of factors - the specific company, the product itself, the creative elements used, etc. As such, it can be very difficult to get a real assesment on a true social media ROI baseline. But what if, beyond all that, we were also actually looking at social media marketing ROI all wrong from the beginning?
That's what LinkedIn's latest research report examines, looking at the common social ROI measurement process, and how that may be missing the broader impacts of such campaigns due to incorrect alignment with expected outcomes. You can download the full report here, but here's a quick overview of the key elements.
The report starts off by looking at what LinkedIn suggests is the key issue with social ROI measurement - that we're looking for a return too quickly, even in comparison to our general sales cycles.
Because there's an ingrained expectation that marketing initiatives will deliver immediate impact, we're often looking for upticks in the data before, realistically, they're likely to be present.
Why does this happen? Maybe it's part of our learned process, that we assess marketing initiatives in month-long cycles in order to maintain awareness and control of ad spend. Maybe, realistically, we should see results in a month - but LinkedIn argues that such expectations are not realistic, and may, as a result, be clouding our view on actual performance.
Indeed, even more than just seeking results too fast, LinkedIn suggests that we're often looking at the wrong metrics entirely.
Again, LinkedIn's argument here is that we're using generic, traditional measurements to filter our results, rather than adapting our expectations based on the medium and/or campaign specifics.
That failure to adapt then leads to another problem - the increased expectation for faster results, in campaigns where that may not be realistic, means that marketers end up feeling more pressure to find ways to make them happen. And that can lead to poor decision-making.
LinkedIn says that because we seek to optimize our campaigns too soon, under pressure to perform faster, we often don't get the full breadth of potential results from our social ad spend.
The solution, LinkedIn suggests, is that we should shift our focus to longer-term turnaround, and ensure that our campaign ROI measurements are better aligned with our actual goals.
There are some interesting considerations here - definitely, marketers need to be realistic about their potential results, and traditional marketing metrics and expectations can cloud such. But at the same time, you don't want to wait too long with a failing campaign, so you can see why marketers might also seek to switch up their approach early in order to generate better response.
There's a balance, of course, marketers need to use their skills and experience to know when to adjust, but LinkedIn's notes around potential expectations do raise some worthy food for thought, which may help with your 2020 campaign planning.
You can read LinkedIn's full "The Long and Short of ROI" report here.