Why measuring social media ROI still stumps PR pros

Is the native analytics within social media platforms really telling you all you need to know? Here’s how to measure the true affect of your efforts.

Despite the rise in available data and an overwhelming number of third-party tools, measuring the bottom-line impact of social media efforts continues to be a major challenge for communications professionals.

Are most marketers struggling to build a concise measurement infrastructure that goes beyond what the native platforms will tell us? Or is it that we have an inflated sense of the outcomes social media can impact beyond lifting brand awareness and engaging with prospective customers?

The issue is multi-faceted and occurs due to breakdowns at both ends of your social media strategy.

Identify your goals.

Effectively measuring social ROI starts with a crystal-clear understanding of why you’re using it. Establishing goals and analyzing historical performance allows marketers to benchmark against past performance and provide a clearer measurement infrastructure. Whether your goals are improving brand awareness in key markets, generating downloads of an ebook or driving bottom-line sales, it’s likely that the platforms’ native analytics platforms won’t be enough.

Using Google Analytics provides granular detail allowing marketers to fully understand the effect of their message. As a first step, each strategic goal should be mapped to a corresponding Google Analytics goal to help you visualize the impact beyond awareness-level metrics.

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Cater to your customer’s needs.

It’s important to remember that the customer journey is becoming more complex by the day.

Content shock and platform overload have whittled attention spans down to mere seconds. As a result, marketers need to get more creative in their ability to visualize that process. Further, we must change our thinking on archaic attribution models that only assign value to final or original touchpoints.

That Instagram story or LinkedIn post may not have been the asset that drove them to your website to convert, but it’s likely that it was a critical first impression that made them remember your brand. Challenge your team to take your analytics to the next level by building an attribution model that fits your unique goals. This will allow you to better understand the exact role social media plays in your business, regardless of when it occurred in the buyer’s journey.

Be realistic.

While social media is an incredibly powerful engagement tool, marketers have a tendency to have misaligned expectations with its capabilities. As algorithms evolve, the ability to penetrate audiences through solely organic strategies has become all but impossible. However, with paid supplementation and integrated campaign deployment, the right social strategy can achieve just about anything, allowing marketers to nurture leads from awareness through to final conversion.

Marketers also treat these channels as rinse and repeat far too often, leading to diluted value and lackluster ROI. Too many PR pros overlook the great data that’s right in front of them to optimize strategy in real time.

It’s as simple as looking and listening. What content is performing the best? Is it all video that’s driving leads? Are certain topics overwhelmingly outperforming others? Review campaign performance daily and don’t be afraid to adjust budgets to go all-in on whatever is resonating most.

Matt Raven is a vice president with Shift Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the Shift Communications blog.

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