How do you crack the social ROI nut?

John is Brightfire founder and CEO. A graduate of Strathclyde University Business School, he has worked in a variety of senior management roles in digital media since 1997, re-launching Brightfire as an inbound marketing company in 2010, joining forces with HubSpot. Beyond work, John’s passion is skiing, and he has been fortunate to travel the globe on numerous occasions in search of that perfect powder day. These days that includes dragging his family along, too!

Find John on LinkedIn and follow Brightfire on Twitter.

Social media may have turned into a staple attribute of business strategies but linking ‘likes’ to sales remains one of the biggest riddles. While marketers often adopt a “just engage and see what happens” attitude, for CEOs and CFOs figures are the only thing that truly matters.

Regardless of its allure, social media has always been a controversial marketing method, since its ROI is near-impossible to measure. This is partly due to the free, organic nature of social conversation, which makes tracking engagement indicators through to sales an uphill struggle.

So without a clear view of the impact social marketing activities would have on the bottom line, how do you convince the Board of the need to embrace social media? Social ROI is a notoriously tough nut so how exactly do you crack it?

It’s all about the metrics

It all boils down to your organisation’s analytics approach. Do the indicators you are measuring closely match and reflect your campaign objectives? Have you determined and put the right tools in place that will allow you to achieve your goals? For example, if the main objective is capturing leads, are you using the right social media assets that will enable conversion?

Metrics such as number of fans and followers are easy to measure but while important, they are a testament to nothing more than your company’s social reach. Gauging such elusive things as brand sentiment and sale conversion requires a deeper analytical look, one that makes it mandatory to align all internal processes with the sales cycle.

This means understanding the specifics of the customer journey and acting accordingly with the view to meeting prospect expectations. The process usually begins with raising brand awareness by being where your prospects are, it then goes through prospect engagement and lead conversion, where content is critical, and ultimately (and hopefully) ends with a sale. These stages are equally critical, as they all lead to the coveted goal – generating quality leads and turning them into customers. But it is the bottom of the funnel performance indicators that have a direct link to ROI.

The key to social ROI: Full integration

To say that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to social ROI would be like claiming that all clients have the same needs. It’s up to you to decide which metrics to use to track social engagement through to sales. But in the current digital landscape, with increasing consumer demands for relevancy and personalised services, analysing the performance of your social media activities can be a very disjointed affair.

This calls for the need to approach social media analytics with an integrated mindset. Forget about teams operating in silos and provide the atmosphere where marketing and sales can work together around a common goal, backed by an integrated marketing strategy. This will not only give the two teams a “bigger picture” view of what it is you’re trying to achieve, but it will also help encourage a collaborative approach to identifying the right metrics, taking into account what are usually the two sides of the same coin.

Recent research by PulsePoint identified a chasm between consumer needs and existing digital marketing practices. The key to bridging the gap, according to the authors, is to embrace a full-funnel inbound marketing thinking based on a 360-degree view of the customer journey. Thus, to reach the ever-elusive consumer, marketers need real-time intelligence that only unified marketing automation platforms, with their all-in-one tracking, testing and conversion capabilities, can offer.

As the demands for relevant social content increase, an integrated approach to marketing and sales, an inbound marketing strategy and the use of a unified marketing automation tool are the key to tailoring your content to your specific audience and identifying the right metrics to track. Armed with this intelligence, you should be confident next time you have to face tough ROI questions in the boardroom.

Image courtesy of All my loving/Wikimedia Commons

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