Measuring the value of social engagement
Measuring social media’s return on investment can be a tricky issue for brands. Here, Neil Major, strategy director at Yomego, provides insight into an effective framework for measuring the value of social media.Marketing metrics have long been the source of lively debate, as the century- old quote from advertising pioneer John Wanamaker attests: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The rise of the web has changed things to some extent and it is now possible to track the customer journey, from awareness to purchase, and directly attribute a cost per acquisition. This model starts with the assumption that purchase is the primary objective however – and that all visits follow a linear path. Some longer-established marketing disciplines, such as TV, radio and PR, have models in place for dealing with this conundrum. Many would argue they’re flaky, but their shelf life has afforded them a degree of validity. Social media is the latest pretender to pull up a chair at marketing’s top table. But up until now, the sector has been unable to combine behind a collective voice when it comes to ROI. It’s a tough brief, given its digital heritage: it must be measurable, scalable, observable (open), attributable, and, above all, relevant to the brand, whether you’re Marmite or Samsonite. Last summer we kicked off a process to tackle this thorny problem, adopting a social approach and working with a variety of different stakeholders from across the industry to canvass opinion and share suggestions. Clients, agencies, media buyers, industry commentators and academics have all been involved to date, and a simple and transparent framework is now within our grasp. Starting pointThe question that crops up in every client meeting is, “Yes, but what will social media investment actually do for my brand? How much budget should I commit if there’s no tried-and-tested ROI model?” The starting point of the model needed to encompass the cornerstones of all social media strategies: development of relevant content planning; identification and outreach to the most influential advocates; amplification of the reach and impact of the positive messages; and quantified value aligned with other existing ROI metrics. The Approach – The Three As1. AnalysisThe starting point of any social campaign is always to see what people are saying. The web is essentially a huge unfocussed focus group, and tools such as Brandwatch, Radian6 and Sysomos can help provide some structure to the many voices and opinions that any brand will find exist out there about them. This data is useful, but apply a level of insight and analysis and you can reveal:
- Its nature: Where are people talking? What are the key topics? What is the sentiment?
- Its depth: Are audiences truly engaged or mentioning you in passing? Is there a groundswell of loyal supporters willing to support / defend your brand? How can they be segmented and embraced to help drive third-party advocacy?
- Its focus: Finally and allied to the above is the question of whether social commentaries are talking to you (direct) or about you (indirect). How and when should the brand invite itself into the conversation?
- Media value: These are the typical measures of many ad campaigns – awareness, reach and degree of engagement.
- Sales value: The value of social mentions can directly be applied to sales conversion if, for instance, an e-commerce client knows its traffic conversion rate. We can apply a value based on traffic derived from social media sources, either directly or indirectly. This section can also deliver a value in terms of increased customer retention if year-on-year sales data is made available.
- Growth value: Market share and share price can sometimes be the real determinants of marketing success, as assessed by board members. If attribution can be applied to social, a direct value can be applied in terms of the incremental value of the brand.
- Cost saving: Effective adoption of social media can slash costs. Some brands have saved millions by facilitating peer-to-peer query resolution so this should be added into the pot.