Return on Investment, otherwise known as ROI, is the cornerstone of your business. If you can’t demonstrate that the client is getting a good return on the money they are paying you, and the time they are putting into their business relationship with you, then as an Agency you will struggle. In this post, I’ll show you how you can prove your social ROI to your customers.
To look at this more closely, I’ve asked the opinions of three agency experts who have plenty of hands-on experience in measuring social ROI and the challenges that it presents. Let’s hear from:
- Leandri Janse van Vuuren, Managi, Director of Social Media 101
- Nika Stewart, CEO, Streambank Media, LLC and
- Daniel Melick, Director of Digital Strategy, Three21
The Challenge of Proving Social ROI
Over the years I’ve found that proving social ROI to clients comes down to ensuring that four key elements interact and influence each other positively. Those elements are:
- education and
All these need to be managed and addressed to demonstrate Return on Investment. Each has a knock on effect on the others. If expectations are unrealistic then clients need to be educated about the respective social media platforms and the right metrics to fit with their goals. If objectives aren’t clearly defined then there will be confusion and expectations can easily get out of hand. If there isn’t the budget for the right, robust, metrics then you won’t be able to demonstrate, effectively, that objectives have been met.
If you’re struggling with one (or more of these elements, help is at hand. I’ve unpicked the issues and will you a checklist for each element. Any ‘no’ answers in the checklist identify areas that need plugging and where you can make your Return on Investment more robust.
1. Define clear objectives
Every piece of client work is different and that requires a bespoke approach to social media. But, sometimes, clients need help with translating their business objectives into the social media marketing objectives that will count. And, of course, social media marketing is just one part of the mix. In reality, clients will also be advertising, using public relations and creating content. The goals in terms of social media need to be viewed in that context.
There are many possible goals when it comes to social media marketing, including: increasing followers, increasing visibility and loyalty, promoting events, promoting thought leadership, driving website traffic, improving engagement, increasing opt-ins, and generating sales just to name a few.
But it’s not good enough simply to take what a client says they want in terms of objectives and to base your social media marketing planning around that. Your role is to dig deeper so that each objective is linked back to the clients’ strategic vision.
- Have you set social media marketing objectives for the work you will be doing for your client?
- Were those objectives set after discussions about the client’s wider marketing activity and goals?
- Have you got a clear idea about any other marketing activities currently being undertaken by the client or on behalf of them?
- Are you clear about the purpose of any other social media marketing activities and how they are being evaluated and over what timescale?
- Do you understand how the other marketing activities fits together with current, and potential, social media marketing activity?
2. Manage expectations
One of the biggest issues for agencies is to manage the expectations of clients and what they think, and hope, social media will achieve. The danger lies in seeing social media in isolation and equating followers, likes and shares with meaningful results.
The trap of falling into defining social media marketing success through vanity metrics is a common one says Leandri Janse van Vuuren, Managing Director at Social Media 101: “When it comes to metrics and campaign tracking, one of the easiest mistakes you can make is to focus on ‘vanity metrics.’ Instead, we focus on engagement metrics to help our clients understand how much of an impact their social media presence is having on their ability to attract, retain and convert potential customers.”
Some clients, particularly the smaller ones, might still assume that sales will follow directly from social marketing and that needs to be addressed swiftly in discussions. The reality is that you need to manage expectations on a number of levels – what social media marketing can achieve, what you have control over, where social media fits in terms of the client’s wider marketing and also the timescales involved.
You know that you can drive traffic to the client’s website but if the content they have on that website isn’t up to the mark, and visitors aren’t converting, then everyone is wasting their time and effort and it’s frustration all around.
Where social media fits into the big picture is a crucial part of being able to prove social ROI. You need to have a clear idea about your client’s vision of success – their ambitions for the business and how that maps back to the work that is needed to get them there. There also needs to be a reality check about whether their vision is possible.
As Nika Stewart, CEO of Steambank Media LLC says: “Before starting any program, we always like to set expectations because if a client expects social media to bring instant sales (without doing any other work), they will be very disappointed. Sales can definitely be a goal but it’s part of a larger process. Our clients recognize that social media is an integral component of their overall marketing and PR strategy.”
- Have you spoken to the client about their expectations regarding the social media work you will be doing?
- Has the client set out their vision for what ‘success’ means in terms of the work you will be doing for them – have they ‘painted’ a picture to give you an indication of what is important to them, and why?
- Is the client clear about what you have control over, and what you don’t, in terms of the work you will be doing for them?
3. Educate clients
A key part of managing the expectations of clients is around educating them about what social media marketing can do for them and what it can’t and the nuances of the respective social media platforms being targeted. The platforms they think they need might not be the best ones to target.
As Daniel Melick, Director of Digital Strategy, Three21, explains: “We guide the client to understand how to effectively use each social network. Each medium has a unique strength to engage with the user. So, to build a successful campaign you need to understand how users interact with the brand on all platforms and utilize the necessary ones to achieve your goal.”
There is a skewed perception of instant social media marketing success which can influence client expectations. People see the stories about posts going viral and high click through rates but don’t have the background about what went into getting to that point. Clients aren’t interested in the detail of the process. After all, they want results. But they need to have understanding of the stepping stones along the way.
- Does your client have a clear understanding about the work you are proposing and how it will fit with their wider business and marketing objectives?
- Have you discussed with your client the specific nuances of the social media platforms you will be focusing on and why?
- Have you discussed with your client the timeframe for interim results?
4 Budget for robust tools
The goals you set with your clients will be varied and the metrics, of course, need to fit those. Insights on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are widely recognized as providing helpful analytics.
To understand the full scope of the impact of your social media marketing then it’s more than likely you will need multiple, quality, metrics and that will require a budget. Evaluation, of course, is essential but clients don’t always want to commit budget to that. Often they will see it as a given and covered in the cost presented in the proposal. So there are a couple of issues here that need to be addressed.
The first is getting past the idea that just one or two metrics will do – because, quite simply, they won’t anymore. You AND your client need to understand that.
As Daniel Melick emphasizes, you need to have enough of the right metrics in place to give you a comprehensive, and balanced, picture: “It usually is a mix of tools from the social platform’s provided analytics – Google Analytics, etc. Utilizing multiple data points from a plethora of platforms helps give a better view of what is going on. The more pixels; the better the picture.”
There are many tools and insights that are free: Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics and the like. But ‘free’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Affordable paid tools such as Agorapulse really need to be in your basic Return on Investment toolbox.
Budget for robust metrics checklist:
- Are you using both free and paid tools to help .the work you will be doing for clients?
- Are you breaking down, and tracking, every element of your work – tweets, landing pages, etc.?
- Are you constantly reviewing the metrics you use to check their fitness?
Be sure to ask enough questions of clients to be sure that they understand what social media marketing can do in relation to their goals and their business. It’s only to your agency’s benefit to challenge clients enough rather than getting swept away with the excitement of winning a new piece of business?
By delving into this process, you can more closely tie in social media marketing activity to the strategic vision of the client to achieve more, and better, results that can be proved to have an impact.
How have you shown social ROI to your clients? Let me know in the comments!