How to prove the ROI of social media

Social media is a key tool in a digital marketer’s toolbox. To me, a millennial digital marketer, this seems to be an undeniable fact. But this is not a commonly held belief by all. 59% of marketers are actively using social media to support their lead generation and business goals, but there are still 41% who have not yet gotten on board with using social media to grow their business.

If executive leaders are going to invest time and money into an initiative, they’re going to want to know how it will pay off for them. So how do you prove the return on investment (ROI) of social media? What do followers, engagements, and impressions all really mean for a business’s bottom line?

Step 1: Determine the goal of your social media campaign. 

If you’re creating a new account for your business or are revamping an existing one, why are you doing so? There are three main reasons why many people invest in their social media:

  1. To increase brand awareness
  2. To increase leads in your sales funnel
  3. To increase brand loyalty and “stickiness”

All of these goals are important if a brand wants to have a successful social media presence, but by having a campaign focused on each, you can track the appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators) to then show that you’re reaching your goals (more on that in the next step!). 

For instance, if you’re just starting out, building brand awareness is helpful to create a larger pool of people at the top of the sales funnel. Whether or not they end up engaging with your brand, it’s valuable to have more users learn about you, what you offer, and what you’re using social media for. 

If you’re interested in increasing leads in your sales funnel, you will likely need to incorporate some paid social media into the mix since that will allow you to reach a target audience. For example, on LinkedIn, you can target by job title, seniority, company, company size, etc., to reach the people who you think would be most likely to buy your product or services. 

And finally, increasing brand loyalty should be a goal of your social media campaign as it aims to engage and retain your current audience. Your social media should be a megaphone that amplifies your key messages and continually offers valuable resources and information for followers. That way, you demonstrate that you have your customers’ best interests in mind. Additionally, social media is a great place to interact with prospective and existing customers because you can speak with them directly and answer any questions they may have. This increases a brand’s stickiness and deepens its relationships with followers.

With nearly half of the world's population using social media platforms, it’s certainly the place to reach your current and potential customers.

Social media engagement


Step 2: Decide what metrics are most valuable to track. 

If you’ve ever opened your business’s Facebook page, clicked on the “Insights” tab, and been completely overwhelmed by the amount of data there, you’re not alone. There may seem like an inordinate number of metrics to track, but you don’t need to keep a close eye on all of them. Rather, pick which metrics will be most impactful to your strategy and monitor them so that you can use the data to inform your social media content moving forward. 

There are two types of metrics that I typically focus on the most:

  1. Engagement: This category tracks the number of interactions that users have with your content. 
    • Engagements: Number of times users interact with your content, completing actions such as likes, comments, shares, and clicks. 
    • Average engagement rate: The number of engagements divided by impressions (or reach in the case of Facebook, as Facebook favors “reach” as a metric over “impressions”). A high rate means that users are finding your content interesting enough to interact with. Typically, anything around .5% is considered average, while anything around or above 1% is considered excellent. This varies depending on industry, but can be considered a benchmark as you first launch your social content. 
    • Mentions: When users mention your brand  with “@[your handle]” without it being part of a reply, or when users tag you in a story. This indicates good brand awareness and increases your reach to those users’ followers.
  2. Awareness: This category tracks how many users your posts and profiles are reaching.
    • Impressions: The number of times your post shows up in a user’s timeline/feed. 
    • Reach: The potential unique viewers a post could have. 

In order to reach the goals you set forth in step 1, select goals for these metrics. Do you want to increase your average engagement rate? By how much? And by when? Make sure the goals are SMART ones (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based) so that you can show your executive team a concrete plan. 

Step 3: Measure your goals.

Set a cadence to track your progress. A common way to do this is by selecting KPIs that you measure monthly, biweekly, or weekly. That way, you’re consistently examining your data to find any trends that may impact your strategy. For instance, you can see if the type of imagery, length of copy, topic of the post, etc., impacts how many people engage with the content, and then can adjust your posting style to fit what resonates with your audience.

In terms of how to measure the KPIs, you can use a variety of tools that house your metrics in a dashboard, like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Khoros, to name a few. Another option (that’s free!) is to dig up the insights for your page manually and track the growth yourself. The beauty of measuring your goals is that you can pick a method that fits your budget and time constraints. 

Additionally, it’s important to track your progress in Google Analytics. This will help you determine whether social media is helping drive traffic to your site and, ultimately, is leading users to take the action that you want them to. To view this data, go to your Google Analytics dashboard, and go to Acquisition > Social > Conversions. If you don’t know how to set up goals in Google Analytics, Google shares a helpful step-by-step guide here. By setting up these goals and tracking the number of users that are driven to take action on your website, you’re building a solid case for higher ups that social media is helping grow the business. 


Step 4: Communicate with your executive team to share this information with them.

All of this work won’t be worth much if you don’t communicate with your executive team about how your strategy has been going and what you plan to do next. Set up a quarterly meeting to catch them up if they’re not involved in the process and ask them if they have any focus areas or goals that they’d like the social media campaigns to focus on in the upcoming quarter. Make this a team effort that has the business’s values and objectives at the core of your content. 

Need some help getting your social media strategy off the ground? We’ve got you covered! Contact us to see how we can collaborate. 

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