Social media focus: What do you see as the ROI from social media?

The Drum catches up with a selection of industry experts to ask their views on some of the big issues affecting the social media sector, such as video and data.

What do you see as the ROI from social media?Jim Dowling, managing partner, CakeThere are plenty, but top of my list would be measurements that clearly link to commercial gain. 15 per cent of all retail is now conducted online, and 50 per cent of online traffic is being driven by social media. As a result, it is quite easy for brands to track whether their efforts in social media are turning into business. The investment is an investment in content or conversation. The return is a sale, an existing customer spending more or a disgruntled customer retained. Jim Coleman, managing partner, We Are SocialThe measurement of ROI itself is out of date. While it has classically been defined as a financial measure, return is no longer always about the bottom line – brands are becoming less interested in tracing back social media to the actual sale itself. For social media, return could be a better understanding of your customer base and their sentiments towards your brand, a more engaged user base that fosters brand loyalty and the ability to use your social communities as a focus group to influence new product development. Steve Richards, MD, YomegoIt depends on each client’s different key business drivers. Social ROI needs to be delivered in a meaningful way, integrated with a client’s existing metrics. Essentially, you need to take a step back and look at what you want to achieve within your business, and how social can fit in with that. Do you want to improve customer service (eg. increase satisfaction, decrease call waiting times etc) or increase sales, conversions or more? And at the end of everything, do you want to put a financial value on the ROI of social media investment? This can be tricky but can be done and we have been working on a model with key industry commentators to achieve this.Jonathan Palmer, head of social, Vizeum UKSocial media allows us to change perception, gain awareness and create an ongoing dialogue with our consumers in order to build brand preference and loyalty. It also allows us to gather, over time, a lot of valuable consumer insights, which can be used to help optimise our future planning and ensure that we are giving our clients the best strategies going forward. More importantly, social plays a part in an overall comms strategy, and the ROI should be part of a greater holistic brief. Martin Jordan, marketing director, EquatorIt has to be about awareness. Being active in social media takes a lot of investment and your initial return is based on whether or not anyone is listening or even better, engaging. While said listener may not buy straight away, the trust/relationship that you can create via social media may contribute to them doing so at some point in the future. If you can ascertain what role social media plays in your purchasing funnel, you’ll be able to take that initial engagement and through time translate that into a financial ROI. Dominic Sparkes, CEO and co-founder, TemperoThe ROI of social media is almost entirely up to the brand – in much the same as it is with any other marketing medium. Without a strategic view, pre/during/post data analysis and efficient implementation, the potential value will almost certainly be lost.With the right elements in place however, brands have the opportunity to create and maintain close relationships with their audience, gather valuable market research and ultimately benefit in a much more personal way than any other medium allows. Glyn Britton, managing partner (strategy & innovation), AlbionThere’s not one simple way to make social pay. The different social platforms can all do multiple jobs. Most brands seem to be trying to make Facebook and Twitter pay back as an awareness channel, which is tough to do. We have had success using Facebook as a conversion driving channel – using it in a purposeful way to ‘tractor beam’ people who've expressed an interest (a 'like') down the funnel to being paying customers.Jan Rezab, CEO, SocialbakersIt varies from industry to industry. But one thing holds true for any business: It’s important not to focus on one measurement. There are a number of measurements that brands need to take into account, for example engagement rate and quality of customer service, fan growth and most engaging posts. We’ve seen many examples of ROI’s in many different industries, for example, making money via up selling through social customer care and creating compelling online offers that are social and shareable yet engaging.Allen Hull, insight & strategy director, 1000headsAwareness, consideration, retention, acquisition, advocacy – define the objective of the social media activity and assess the ROI based on the what the brand is trying to achieve. And if social isn’t delivering, be honest about it. The return doesn’t have to have a pound sign next to it, it just needs to align with business goals.Paul Shepherd, CEO, Coup MediaIt's a broad question, but on the whole the ROI is an engaged community (whether that be across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc) that recognise your brand as either a thought leader, an innovator, a brand that takes the time to develop and share great content or a brand that uses social channels to listen and respond in a helpful and timely manner. All of that ultimately that stands you in good stead when customers want to buy the kind of product or service you are selling – and if your competitors aren't in that space yet, all the better for you! If they are, then so should you be.Keyboard image via ShutterstockThis piece is part of The Drum's social supplement, published in partnership with Yomego. The supplement is available for purchase or for subscribers to download.

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