Measuring return on investment

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To measure the social media return on investment (ROI), goals of what needs to be achieved at the end of the campaign should be made clear in the beginning. So says Tom Manners, MD of Clockwork Media.

"Every business wants ROI, but can we define it? What does it mean?" asked Manners while addressing delegates at the ITWeb Social Media Summit 2014 in Bryanston, Johannesburg. "Naturally we are under a lot of pressure to show ROI for the social media campaigns that we run. A lot of marketers go head first into social media campaigns without really taking stock of how they are going to be measured."

When it comes to engagement and awareness, said Manners, we often assume it's about how many people see the message or content; however, without compelling, valuable, targeted content you're nowhere.

"Marketers should understand that social media is not a silver bullet, a cure-all, or a parallel strategy to more traditional communications.Content is the most critical part of the entire process."

It all starts with an idea, he explained, there are these great ideas that we want thousands of people to see on Youtube, tweet about and like on Facebook, but what do these responses really mean?

"We seldom think of what this idea needs to achieve in the end. Starting a campaign with no end goal in mind is a lot like catching smoke because it's hard to go backwards and retrace your movements if the need arises," he said. "Setting objectives and measurable targets right at the beginning can prove daunting when you hear a lot of talk about the 'vanity matrix', where the assumption is that 'likes' and views are things that actually show measurable results."

Manners stated that social media campaigns fall into one of the following categories: engagement and awareness, lead generation and customer care.

"From an engagement and awareness perspective, ROI is not always about volume," he said. "There exists this broadcast mindset where content is not targeted at a specific, relevant audience. It's similar to the idea of chucking a billboard on the side of a highway hoping that as many people as possible will see it, and the notion that we can put an ad on TV because that's the only way to reach a lot of people."

This doesn't make sense if you are targeting a particular group of people, added Manners, noting that it doesn't speak to the objectives of the business strategy as a whole.

"Demographical breakdown and user habits are some of the ways of understanding engagement and awareness, which obviously requires the understanding of the social platforms where these campaigns run," he said. "It's entirely possible using platforms like LinkedIn, Google Hangout and Facebook, to get a really good grip of the kind of people that are engaging with the content that you are putting out there. Where does the click come from, when and what did they click on, what was the action after the click? These are all points to consider."

Additionally, direct engagement is also key. "You send someone to your blog; they read it, engage with the content, what then? Do they leave immediately after that; are there other posts that could be relevant to them, or downloadable content? These are important aspects to take note of."

Customer care is also a great way to show ROI, noted Manners. It's as simple as responding to a customer complaint and managing the process beyond that.

"It's about presenting as many channels as possible for customers to air their dissatisfaction. Something as simple as a customer sending a complaint through a direct message on Twitter and having this complaint dealt with in real-time. That's a much deeper level of customer care; it keeps them happy and ensures their loyalty to the brand. That's measurable ROI."

Manners pointed out that using social media to brand your business isn't ground-breaking anymore, but is still important for branding and generating buzz and increasingly used for lead generation.

"Lead generation has become an important ROI strategy for modern marketers, as they strive to create demand and get their messages heard by increasingly sophisticated, multi-channel buyers. In today's complex world, marketers should use lead generation to build brand awareness, nurture prospects and customers, qualify leads, and ultimately generate measurable revenue."

Manners concluded that social media ROI is about the data that sits deeper than the "likes" and clicks, and how this data is put into business processes as a whole.

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