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Social ROI: Challenges and Solutions

Social media marketing can be a big driver for marketing growth, since it is one of the newest marketing channels. As this article by Taylor Pearson points out,

In 1994, a display ad might get a 70% click-through rate. Display ad click-through rates are now in the neighborhood of 0.05%…So we starting sending more email. Marketers in the late ’90’s regularly saw 99% of their emails get opened. However, the more emails that got sent in an attempt to prove that people like to open their email, the less people liked to open their email. Open rates for email today are around 15–25%.

Social marketing is the new frontier. Just think about where email marketing was 10-15 years ago, and where it is today. Email marketing is still important and always will be, but it no longer has the growth potential that social does. Even my VP of Marketing sees the value in social.

VPSocial’s role in the customer journey is changing and evolving. Let’s compare social benefits from 2017 with 2012. You can see the change from brand awareness to impact on sales (AKA revenue).

2012 2017
Source: Introduction to Full-Funnel Social Analytics

Older marketing channels, such as email and display advertising, have been successful because you can measure their effect on revenue. So how can you link social activity to conversion metrics like visits, purchases, and revenue?

The Challenges

Social poses some unique challenges. Converting fans and followers into paying customers can seem impossible both to implement and to track. In fact, one of the key findings from our annual State of Social Marketing Report was that social is definitively a marketing function, and ROI is definitively our #1 challenge. 

The percentage of social media teams that live within the marketing organization has grown from 49% in 2015, to 63.2% in 2016, to remaining relatively stable at 64.7% in 2017. Meanwhile, 61% of social marketers grapple with determining ROI in 2017—the same percentage as 2016.

Source: 2017 State of Social Marketing Report

We asked marketers from around the world to reveal their biggest social media challenges in 2017. A majority of brands and agencies said measuring ROI was their greatest challenge.

StrugglesMarketing departments own social media by and large, but are failing to understand how it contributes to the bottom line. Social is a newer marketing channel, but it is evolving at an impressive rate. Why are analytics and tracking mechanisms not evolving? Measurement looks nearly the same from 2013 to 2017.

Why Is ROI So Difficult?

Determining ROI is difficult for three reasons:

  1. You aren’t clear on what your goals are. Are you supposed to be focused only on building a strong community on social, or are you responsible for driving a certain number of leads/purchases/revenue? Who sets these goals—you? Your boss? Without firm, role-defining goals, it is hard to track towards said goals. 
  2. You don’t have the right tools to track the metrics that will help you map towards the goals you’ve set. Usually this means that you don’t have access to the software you need.
  3. You’re missing the big picture. The ability to see what happens past UTMs and different tracking codes becomes very difficult through channels like private messaging (things like Facebook messenger, text messages, emails, Slack, and Whats App).
Dark Social

All this communication does not pass a referrer, which means Google Analytics counts this traffic as “direct.” This is more commonly known as dark social. By understanding how people engage with your content via private channels and learning which social channels and pieces of content are driving actual web visits and purchases, you and your social team can finally prove the real ROI of your campaigns.

The Solutions

By seeing how all of your social content is being consumed, you can learn which content is driving which type of behavior, and optimize for it. For example, Lucy learned that Twitter drives traffic, but dark social drives goal completions.

conversion trackingRelate your current metrics you track and go down-funnel to tell the entire story; always mention revenue. Shamless plug: conversion tracking will speak in terms of revenue for you. Make a total social impact scorecard that tracks things like total engagements, site visits, page views, conversions, purchases, and revenue from purchases.

GoalsMeasure and optimize your campaigns based on revenue. This way you can speak the same language as your CMO, which is key in order to get budget and show ROI.

First, let your campaigns run for a period of time before making any changes. This way you have a true baseline to test against. This will also inform you about what type of posts and content are driving conversions and revenue compared to visits and page views.

ConversionsNow it’s time to learn and test. Test different messaging, images, and even channels to see which has the largest impact on revenue. This information will then drive your strategy going forward. You will know what type of content and messaging will work best depending on your goal (engagement, traffic, conversion).

You might be thinking, “This sounds great if I am a retailer or sell something directly from my website, but what if I don’t?” No worries. This is perfect for retailers or eCommerce, but can also work if you don’t directly sell on your website. You can assign a form fill, email sign-up, or goal completion a monetary value (based on your business) and learn how social is impacting your top conversion goals.

I’ve been taught to always end with a punch, something that means something to your audience.

Garmentory, a leading online retailer for emerging and contemporary fashion, saw a 79% increase in revenue from purchases driven by social in the first 90 days of using Social Analytics, Content Share Tracking, and Conversion Tracking.


That is a great conversation to have with your boss. You can show that you have a scorecard and how you are improving social to optimize for multiple metrics, especially revenue. This is what your executive team has been waiting to see from social.

If you would to explore how to track your social activity to revenue, feel free to contact us by filling out the demo form below.

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The State of Social Marketing 2017 Annual Report


Sidney Waterfall

I’m the Head of Demand Generation here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our full-funnel marketing strategy that focuses on driving awareness, generating demand, and promoting customer retention. Out side of work I enjoy golfing, hiking with my dog Riggins, red wine, and watching college football!

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