Redefining ROI: What Real Return Looks Like for Social
Return on investment is (still) the social media marketer’s biggest challenge.
For years marketers have tried to tie tweets to sales, attribute Facebook to finance, and get dollars out of Instagram ads. But the true return of social media isn’t so cleanly defined. And there is a simple reason you shouldn’t chain your social performance directly to dollar signs - people don’t use social that way.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat - these are, first and foremost, personal platforms. They’re where we share memories and milestones, the highs and lows of our every day, where we tell stories we think our friends and families will care about. Brands’ utilization of social media, where the aim is to be discovered, to inspire and to educate consumers, will always come second. And that puts businesses at an inherent disadvantage.
When brand posts encroach on that personal user experience, it can act as a deterrent. It takes a thoughtful, strategic approach for a brand to work its way into these feeds in a way that isn’t disruptive to its consumer. Because, ultimately, people don’t go to social to shop.
To get ahead you have to redefine what ROI means to your strategy, and be upfront about how to measure it. If you’re trying to gauge your social performance against something that consumers aren’t using it for, you’re potentially overlooking metrics that tell the real story behind your social presence and how it contributes to your bottom line.
It’s time for marketers at every level to rally around redefining what ROI means in the digital age, and to align with the true impact of social.
Awareness Is Key
Sprout Social’s 2018 Index report found that 41% of marketers say generating sales and leads is their primary goal on social - yet only 14% of them actually claim they’re able to quantify revenue from social. That’s not because social marketers aren’t sophisticated enough to focus on conversions, it’s because social’s true value isn’t in direct attribution - it starts with awareness.
Expanding the net of people who know about your brand and its offerings gives you the leverage to effectively nudge them through the funnel, and along the path to purchase. Think long-term, not quick fix. Think relationships, not attribution.
The best way for brands to do this - engaging consumers with minimal intrusion and optimal relevance - is through highly visual social content and produced videos. Social marketers are seeing this move the needle, listing “more video content” as the key ingredient to success on social in 2018.
Have a Little Consideration
As we’ve noted, awareness is a big piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole picture. The data shows that while 80%t of social marketers are hyper-focused on awareness, they may be leaving out, or overlooking, the consideration phase.
The consideration stage is all about informing and educating, and brands can take advantage of the consumer need for information by creating content that compels audiences to exit social and learn more.
Given this, it comes as little surprise that educational content is where marketers and consumers are most aligned according to the data. It’s a key area where teaching overlaps with social strategy for marketers - posts that showcase new products and services (60%) as well as posts that teach them something (59%).
Consumers love it, too - their top preference for social content falls into the consideration category, with 30% wanting links to more information from brands. Your audience likely wants to learn more about you or your industry, and the data shows social is a strong distribution channel for content that supports that.
True ROI isn’t based on marketers’ goals and best practices - it’s defined by what consumers want, and what they're willing to take action on. Consumers prefer social content which aids in awareness and consideration, not so much the end sale.
Be mindful of what you’re doing on social and why you’re there. It’s not your turf, it’s a shared space between brands and people, where your role is to inspire and educate, not necessarily sell.
By keeping your consumer’s needs and preferences in mind, your brand will have the opportunity to turn social into a top-to-mid-funnel, needle-moving machine.
Follow Darryl Villacorta on Twitter