What is the ROI on social media?

Everywhere I go I hear this questions. It’s from perspective clients. It’s from speakers at Chamber for Commerce meetings. It’s from ‘internet experts.’ So What is the ROI on social media. My personal opinion is that it is not the right questions and the superficial answer in most cases is $0. Its about the brand and community you can build first and foremost. Leading with ROI sets the project up for failure. Its somewhat an old school world way to gauge this.

The first issue I see is there are a lot of people that have no idea how to do social media correctly. There are few prevailing reasons why this is.

  1. Most companies know they have to have a social media presence but cannot see how to make that fit their particular business. This seems to be a common theme. Engineering firms seem to be particularly problematic. But what about a doctors office. Or a dentist. Or a Cigar Shop conversely has a much easier path because of the built in community.
  2. My pet peeve is when companies hire 20 somethings and feel they are an expert. Now in some cases, they may be however, when I see a kitten bemoaning work or cute animal pictures with quippy sayings or obscure hashtags that are ineffective, it becomes fairly clear that the level of social media panache.
  3. Stopping and starting is also a huge issue. I see so many people start ‘doing’ social and then stop. Just like in a business, you have to consistently participate. I know that there are many things business owners need to do but your almost better not to do anything rather than running your social media campaign like a Katy Perry song.
  4. Treating Social as a one trick pony is also bad. I had someone tell me today the his entire marketing strategy to tell people what he does is social media. He’s not doing SEO. He’s not doing SEM. He’s not doing any branding.
  5. Stop telling people to buy your product. Ever see the annoying guy on TV that says buy my product. That is the quickest path to have someone unfollow you and defeat the purpose of a building an audience.

So why should you have a social media plan. The one thing I try to impress on my students is that social is part of the the entire digital marketing strategy. So as I write this blog, it is a prime example of how this should work. This post will go out on social channels and if you as the reader deem it as a good piece you will share it on your social media. This will send signals to Google that the content of this article is worthy to be shared. As a result they will reward my site.

I often tell the story of when I asked my business partner two write me a page about schema. Well at the time we were one of the first to be talking about this so we picked up multiple shares on the page and we picked up links from multiple websites legitimately. This is how things should work. A link from a highly prestigious website has quantifiable value, but if i want to rank on a highly competitive term and that link is helping supporting that term. The what is the ROI.

Most businesses need to focus on building community and creating signals to support their marketing efforts. Yet very few know that because these elements are presented in a vacuum. Social is one function. SEO is another and Branding a third discipline and that is no longer the case. Each one of these elements need to be present for the digital marketing arm of the business to be successful.

One company that runs their social media perfectly is Williams-Sonoma. Their posts provide multiple paths for community building. They¬†understand the brilliance for marketers that social media is. The people that like you give you a path for you to communicate with them at will and they don’t betray the trust always providing useful information that has products appended to it as an after thought. If you want an ROI this is where that sits.

If your a service the way to come up with the measurable value of Social is harder, however if you have any spend on web marketing, social must be done right for all aspects to work right. In other words, build a community.


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