Top 5 Social Media & Marketing ROI Measures

My TOP 5 ROI Measurements – Measuring the Returns of Social Network Marketing

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by Patrick Courtney

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Online Community Unconference East 2009 at Baruch College here in New York City.  It was my first unconference and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I met a lot of interesting people and participated in some lively discussions about online communities.  One particular session left me with a lot to think about.  It was a discussion on measuring ROI, and the pursuit to define and standardize quantifiable metrics best suited to measure the return of online community investments.

A participant in this discussion made the following comment at the end of the conference when asked what they learned that day, “I learned a lot about ROI.  I learned that no one knows what ROI is for communities so I get to make up whatever i want.”

As humorous as it was at the time, that comment defines an ever-present struggle of proving the worth of enterprise social networks.  An online community is a living, dynamic strategy that can produce many valuable returns on your investment, not all of which will have direct financial impact.  It’s difficult to quantify (simply) the returns on a strategy with so many moving parts.  While a community initiative might end up being a marketing spend, the returns are cross-departmental, which makes measurement difficult when companies are silo-like in structure.

A few key takeaways emerged from our ROI discussion that I wanted to share:

Define the R –  It’s a good idea to define your goals and the appropriate strategy to achieve them before trying to justify the investment.  There are a lot of shiny new social networking tools and resources that are well suited for achieving business objectives but believe it or not, not all of them are going to work for your business.  Are you shooting for short term financial returns or more long term, value based returns?  Do you intend to build your CRM system, lower support costs, raise brand awareness, increase brand loyalty, glean marketing insights, increase sales, generate word of mouth, all of the above? If you dive in without clearly defining your purpose, you run the risk of botching the execution and potentially causing damage to your brand.

Quantify the R – After you know what you want and what you’re going to do, figure out how you’re going to measure it.  Peter Kim wrote a much talked about post back in December boldly stating that ROI is strictly a financial ratio and if social media marketing can’t be measured by ROI, then there’s no place for social media marketing; a sentiment often echoed by C-level executives.  Others believe the traditional metric of ROI is less applicable because of the complex nature of social media and the return is no longer as clear cut as a direct bottom line impact.  Methodologies such as Net Promoter, ASCI, Engagement Loyalty, ROBI ROCI and ROP, among others, are growing in popularity for measuring returns on social network marketing strategies.

Wait for It…- Online communities take time to produce results.  You’re probably not going to see them on Day 1, and you may not see them on Day 31, but if you have the correct measurement methodologies in place you can be confident that sooner or later that needle will start to move; how well you’ve executed your strategy will determine which way.

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