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Getting the Right ROI from Your Social Media Strategy

Corinne Balicki

Associate Communications Strategist, Forum One

The ROI of your social media efforts is the sum of actions that create value, and a measure of how effective your digital outreach strategies and campaigns are. ROI is defined by an organization’s social media goals, the metrics used to measure those goals, and finally, the effort put in to reach those goals. You may be asking yourself if you are getting the right ROI from your social media strategy.

In the myriad of tactics that make up your digital strategy, social media plays a very important role. While large amounts of time go into web content and design, as well as campaigns and events, social media is often how your audience discovers your blog posts, event invitations, and Calls-to-Action (CTAs). That being said, having a firm grasp of how your social media strategy contributes to your mission is often overlooked. If you suspect that you’re not getting the social media Return on Investment (ROI) you should, or if you need to refresh your social media strategy, take a step back to reevaluate your ROI plan. 

Why is your organization on social media?

If a clear, crisp answer didn’t come to mind when you read this question, then your effort to capture ROI has probably been difficult. If you want to effectively use your time to get audiences to actively engage with your brand and mission, you need to define what you’re trying to get out of your social media presence. Your organization’s purpose on social media is its North Star for ROI. For example, are you using social to raise brand awareness? Solicit donations? Build a community? In many cases, you may be using it to do all these things and/or more. Clearly define in one sentence (or in bullets) why you are on social. These reasons are your base for success.

Are your social media metrics demonstrating success?

You may be clear on what you want to achieve, but less so on how to measure the ROI. For better or for worse, there’s no shortage of metrics to gauge social performance. From measuring followers, likes, and shares, to referrals and impressions, you have a lot of things to look at. If your goal is to build a community, you may want to focus on your organization’s response time, discussions in your replies or comments section, and/or participation in groups. If your goal is to disseminate your practitioner resources, you may want to be pulling social media referral rates, and tracking if those clicks from social led to downloads. Make sure that your key performance indicators (KPIs) are directly tied back to your overarching communications goals.

Does the effort you put into content creation make sense?

How much time are you spending crafting social media content and managing a social editorial calendar? Are you investing in social media management tools? These internal elements also contribute to your ROI measurement. The type of content you develop should depend on what you want to get out of it. For example, investing time and money on a video posted natively on your Facebook page may not lead to the same amount of website referrals as a link to one of your latest blog posts. Know what action you want your audience to take before developing the content to match it. 

Also, know which channels your audiences are most active on and for what. This will dictate how much time you should be investing in content creation for each channel. For example, if your most engaged followers on Twitter are journalists and policymakers, you should not focus on developing Twitter content geared towards individual donations.  

Is your audience still with you?

Maybe it’s been a while, or maybe when you began your social media efforts, you never researched where your key audiences were engaging the most. Nothing wastes more time and money than talking to no one on a platform void of your audience. Your organization needs to meet target audiences on the platforms they’re already on and prioritize those channels that most effectively reach them. 

Start by assessing the channels you use. Don’t forget to consider where the majority of your audience is located geographically. In the United States, social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Youtube top the usage charts, but in countries across the globe, other social media channels may perform better. For example, in Asian countries, social media networks like QZone (China) Line (Japan), WeChat (China), and KakaoTalk (Korea) are the most popular channels and in Russia, Odnoklassniki and VKontakte rank among the most popular.

Then ask yourself, how are your engagement levels? Does one platform do better than others? Where are similar organizations engaging? Does your audience use different platforms for different CTAs? Social listening tools can also be helpful in this process. If you realize you’re not on the best platform(s) for reaching your audience, create a new plan. If there are stakeholders within your organization you will have to convince to change, use the insights you’ve gained to produce a compelling argument. Remember: your audience determines your direction, not your internal stakeholders. Don’t waste time, money, and effort being on platforms that don’t make sense for your audience.

How does your organization compare?

Market research can help you to determine how your audience engages with similar organizations (or competitors). But now, dive deeper: compile a detailed list of similar organizations in terms of mission, organizational structure/size, number of social media followers, etc. Then, look at their social media presence with the following lens:

  • What kind of content are they producing?
  • How does their engagement compare to yours?
  • How does their post frequency compare to yours?
  • What tone and voice do they use?
  • How do they engage with their followers?

What can you learn from others? How do their strategies differ from yours? You may also find that your competitors’ ROI metrics appear to be on par with your own. If so, review your KPIs levels of investment. Are they realistic compared to what you see others doing? Do they align with what you can reasonably achieve? If you are investing a lot in certain tactics or content, but not seeing the right ROI, you may want to readjust and build your goals more realistically. 

Above all, to have a good understanding of your social media’s ROI, you need to dedicate the time to review your data regularly — monthly at a minimum, but weekly is even better. All social media platforms collect and present analytics differently, so it takes more than a quick scan to get the right picture. Also, each organization is unique in what it aims to achieve, so there isn’t one golden way to measure ROI. 

Written By

Corinne Balicki

Associate Communications Strategist, Forum One

How-to Guide to KPIs: Justify your ROI with solid KPIs

If it’s time to reassess the way you measure success, start by reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Learn how to get started by downloading our guide.