How to accurately measure your social media ROI

by Louise Johnson
on 13 Apr, 2017
Louise Johnson

Is your social media delivering direct results for your business? If you’re investing in social media and feel like you’re not seeing results in your business, it’s time to get serious and put some proper measurement in place. Make sure your social media is delivering a worthwhile ROI.

Over 60 million businesses have a Facebook page, yet only 4 million of them use advertising. Organic reach is decreasing steadily – when company pages first launched in 2007 you could post and feel confident all your fans would see your message. However, as advertising content on Facebook has steadily increased and user growth plateaus, the competition for facetime has become intense.

Facebook has employed algorithms to ensure users see only the best, most relevant content to them – it’s probable that less that 2% of your fans are seeing your posts in their feeds.

So what does this mean? If you want to reach your fans on Facebook you need to start treating it like a paid advertising platform. In fact, as branded activity grows across all social media channels it’s important that you evaluate how worthwhile the “free” model really is in terms of the time, resources spent and the ROI to your business.

Social is now a pay-to-play platform

Like any other paid channel, it’s pretty important that you start to see some returns on your investment. It’s time to get smart and set up a system for measuring the effectiveness of your efforts and use insights to make marketing decisions about the social tactics you use.

Aligning your social investment to measurable business results isn’t an easy exercise. It will take some time and energy to strategically define and setup your social goals and evaluate how you want to measure them.

A starting point is to set up your campaigns to deliver on your main business goals. At the most basic level these will include:

  • Brand awareness
  • Brand Engagement
  • Website Traffic
  • Lead Generation, or Sales

 

 Get more insights: Setting good social media marketing goals  

 

Setup your pixels

Before you start measuring your business goals, you need to get some tools in place to enable proper measurement. Bear in mind that social channel metrics aren’t very reliable. In 2016 Facebook admitted it had overstated how long users watch video by up to 80% and that organic reach stats were also overstated – so it pays to look at your statistics as “indications” rather than carved in stone facts.

The best practice is to start taking measurements from multiple sources – the channels themselves, your analytics and unique tracking URLs – you will be able to compare and get a sense of what’s real in your social insights. Plus, if you add in the tracking pixels or code for each of the channels you use, you will be able to track and compare conversions within each channel.

You have the ability to create unique tracking pixels (Facebook) and conversion tracking code for each of the social channels. Simply find your unique tracking code and install it across every page of your website – similar to how your analytics code is installed.

Also, make sure you compare against another tracking source. At least assess campaign results against more traditional campaign tracking tools, such as the Google Campaign tracking URLs. These let you assign a unique URL to each campaign asset and track traffic through to your website at a more granular level.

As I write this Facebook has announced the release of its Advanced Measurement tools to all advertisers, making it easier to compare the effectiveness of Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network alongside other publishers. The new tools will be rolled out to business manager users during 2017.

 

How to measure Brand Awareness

This is a measure of how well your brand name is becoming recognised within your market. It’s a tough one – above the line marketing relies on brand recall surveys to measure how well their sponsorship or TV Advertising has performed. Online we can be a little more specific, but it’s still a fairly subjective measure.

Brand name searches
Since Google introduced secure search, most of your search term results are caught up in the “not provided” section of your Google Analytics. However, you can get a measure of search terms within Google Search Console tools, filter by your brand name, or close variants, to get a count of searches on your brand.

Direct traffic
Within the Acquisitions section of your Google Analytics, you’ll find traffic from direct sources. While some of this may come from unattributed direct links, you can take the traffic for “/” as a fair estimation of the number of visitors who directly typed your URL into their browser.

 

 Achieve more results: Measuring the ROI of first impressions

 

How to measure Brand Engagement

Brand engagement is a very subjective measurement and may include a whole array of factors. Look for signs of growth rather than absolutes here.

Don’t rely on vanity metrics like post reach and post likes. They are nice numbers, but they can be easily inflated and don’t necessarily indicate actual engagement. Just because you appeared in a lot of feeds doesn’t mean anyone was taking notice and, similarly, a like on a post is nice, but did they click through and read the content or did they just like the picture?

Likes and followers can be misleading too – just because someone was compelled to like your page once doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actively engaged with your content. In fact, unless they’ve been interacting with your brand consistently it’s likely they’re not actually seeing your content unless you’re directly targeting your “fans” in your advertising and paying for their screen time.

Measuring content sharing also has its pitfalls – a Time magazine article revealed that there is little correlation between what people share and what they actually read.

Growth in page Likes and Followers
Your likes may be a big number, but you want to see consistent growth here over time. Break them out into new paid and new organic followers for each channel. Look at individual campaign effectiveness – does some creative work better with others. You should be A/B testing everything. Also, look at changes in the cost per like on paid follower campaign – it should be dropping consistently over time.

Readers
Getting people to your website is the point, so you want to measure how many people clicked through and actually read the content on your site. Clicks on your post or advert are a good start, but dig deeper and look at “time on page” or look for analytics plugins that can help you measure “scroll depth” so you can evaluate how many people read the whole article. Bear in mind that time on page only measures the time between arriving at the page and clicking off to the next page – it’s often left ticking while your “reader” is off checking their email.

 

 Learn more : Expert advice on how to build a strong brand

 

How to measure Website Traffic

The point of all your social efforts is really to bring people to your website where they have the full opportunity to discover the greatness of your brand.

Source
Dig into those analytics and find out which social traffic is delivering you the most visitors, then look deeper. How many bounced? How long did they stay? Did they convert?

Advanced segments
Use Advanced Segments in your Google Analytics to see how your social traffic behaves compared to each social channel and visitors from search, referrals or direct. Compare the ratio of new to repeat visitors for each channel, and break out visit durations to see which channels are more engaged. There’s a good guide to get started with segments here.

 

How to measure social conversions

Now we get to the point – how much traffic did your social efforts drive conversions on your website and what’s the value of those conversions to your business? Show us the money.

It’s important that you correctly set your goals in your analytics program and assign a dollar value to them where possible. These values may need regular adjusting, but at a very basic level take a look at your last six months of financials.

  • #1 How many leads did you get?
  • #2 How many leads converted into sales?
  • #3 What was the total revenue from those sales?
  • #4 Pull out unusually big projects and unusually small projects so you get a more accurate figure.
  • #5 What is the average revenue per lead ( #3 divided by #1) ? Use this as your goal value.

Conversions – social channel
Get into your channel insights to see how each creative campaign and piece of content converted, based on the conversion measures you’ve set for each campaign. Which content pieces were the winners and why?

Conversions – analytics
The conversions by channel views in your analytics will also give you a rough count of direct conversions from social traffic and measured campaigns. It’s important to compare these against those measured by each social channel so you can get a happy average.

However, in analytics goal conversions and transactions are generally credited to the last channel that referred the user and they don’t take into account prior visits that may have led to that conversion. You need to measure the role your social channel played in the final conversion.

Multi-channel conversion funnels
Google analytics can help with its multi-channel funnel reports by showing how sources of traffic work together to create sales and goal conversions. The reports are generated from conversion paths, the sequences of interactions (i.e., clicks/referrals from channels) that led up to each conversion and transaction. Look at the Assisted Channel Report, Top Conversion Paths, Time Lag and Path Length reports to get a clearer view of the big picture.

 

Share more: Powerful ways to boost online conversions.

 

Social ROI reporting must be regular

Once you get some of these values in place it’s important to set up your systems so these reports come in regularly. For some businesses it might be daily – if you’re running targeted campaigns and testing lots of variables you want to be able to kill the weak quickly, not let them suck budget for a whole week, or month.

If you’re spending a decent budget in search then weekly should be your minimum. Most businesses settle for monthly.

Whichever timeframe you use, make sure you sit down and look at your reports and make decisions based on them. What kinds of content worked best? Which channels worked best? Which audiences were most receptive? Look at how you split your content and advertising campaigns and who you are targeted and make changes and optimise your budget based on the result. A report that’s emailed around stakeholders and just glanced at isn’t worth doing. It should be a key part of your daily, weekly or monthly social workflow.

Finally, keep a keen eye on each channel and Google Analytics for better ways of measuring. After all of the reporting accuracy fiasco, each channel will be introducing new tools in the coming months to improve your reporting, and improve their credibility.

 

Ready for action?

If you need help setting up social reporting or analytics for your website then the team at Thirst Creative are here to assist. We’ll help you define and interpret reports to provide the insight you need to confidently base your decisions on.

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