How Marketers Should Measure Social Media ROI

If you’re selling your service or product through social media and can’t figure out how everything you’re posting brings in revenue, that isn’t “dark social”—it’s just value you haven’t measured yet.France-based social media management company Agorapulse has spent more than a decade helping companies organize their social inboxes, publish content, define trends and cull data. Lately, however, its clients have been looking for ways to prove that the work they’re doing on organic social media actually earns money for their companies. During the pandemic, Fiona Abrams of fashion firm Delta Galil’s Brayola lingerie brand was receiving a lot of intent-based questions from consumers on social media. What colors and sizes does this come in? What is your return policy? Where do you ship? Abrams took the time to attach UTM codes to the Brayola URLs in her social media replies and began tracking where consumers were coming from and what they were buying. Agorapulse CMO Darryl Praill, left, and founder/CEO Emeric Ernoult espouse the virtues of “tracking what can be tracked” in social media marketing.AgorapulseThe time consumed by building and adding all of those codes manually resulted in more than $2,400 worth of labor costs for Brayola. However, the data that came back as a result indicated that Abrams’ work on social media brought in nearly $4,900—making her efforts a nearly $2,500 success.Adams later approached Agorapulse and noted that if the links from marketing email, social media ads and affiliate programs can all be tracked through software, social media links should be tracked in similar fashion. Not only are marketers leaving some of their teams’ value on the table when they don’t track their work on social media, but few marketing tech firms are currently helping them do so. That’s some lost opportunity for all parties involved.“Social media is another channel like any other channel, it shouldn’t be treated differently,” said Agorapulse CEO and co-founder Emeric Ernoult. “Unfortunately, the fact that we have looked at social media as just a branding play, or visibility play and have not accepted it as a business-generation play has been very negative to [the marketing] industry, in my opinion.”Arriving earlyAt the B2B Marketing Exchange attended by Adweek in Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier this month, there were numerous companies offering marketers ways to streamline their business and break through noise. Only one was talking about the potential return on investment still hidden in social media marketing, and Agorapulse CMO Darryl Praill laid out the bleak numbers to a small breakout session of marketers.“Historically, most CMOs view social media the same way they view communications: ‘I’m going to issue a press release and forget about it, hopefully, the press will pick it up, and I’ll get a story or a mention or a backlink’… It’s a good optics thing, but it’s not driving revenue,” Praill said, adding only 10% of the brands at the conference have a dedicated social media person.Of more than 10.7 million social media posts studied by Agorapulse—excluding Instagram, which doesn’t allow for links—32% contained a link back to a website. Of those nearly 3.4 million links, only 1.9% contained any tracking parameters. While marketers could know who was visiting sites, what those visitors’ intentions were and which of them was most likely to buy a product, they’re forfeiting the opportunity for 98.1% of all links they send out to social media. While Agorapulse’s Ernoult said it’s impossible to track everything on social media, he and his company see room for improvement. Rhonda Geidt, who served as head of marketing for b-to-b manufacturer and Agorapulse partner Shapeways until last year, saw revenue increase 12% from a year earlier from increased social media marketing and credits tracking for the change. She was not only able to see which linked posts worked and which didn’t, but could show results directly to her company’s CEO.“What we bring to this is basically moving from zero to one: Moving from ‘nothing is tracked’ to at least we can track what is trackable,” Ernoult said, noting that Agorapulse automates link tracking for links on social media posts and in bios. Meanwhile, advances in AI could provide an opportunity to detect patterns like website purchases immediately following social media link posts. “By pattern matching, you aren’t able to resolve the entire ‘dark social equation’ because you can’t resolve the whole thing, but you can at least start building visibility into it.”Next stepsAgorapulse launched its social media ROI service a year ago amid a rosier economic climate. Even then, however, it considered its findings and surveyed 300 social media marketers. They found that 98% thought it was somewhat or extremely important to measure the business impact of social media—though just 35% are measuring it today. Why? “Tools too complex/expensive.” “Lack of buy-in.” “Time constraints.”According to HubSpot Blog’s 2022 Marketing Industry Trends Report surveying 1,000 global marketers, social media is the top channel for both business-to-business (49%) and business-to-consumer marketers (45%). While 72% of marketing spending goes to digital channels, just 11.3% is funneled toward social media. Between that and lack of social media measurement, 88% of social marketers told Agorapulse they feel that their career progression is negatively impacted. Another 77% feel they aren’t an important part of the business strategy. But even Praill and his Agorapulse colleagues realize those concerns aren’t enough to make marketers track social media and tie it to revenue. A “shitty economy” where banks are collapsing and chief financial officers are getting stingier has created some interest in social media tracking, Praill said. With Google Analytics 4 launching and placing added pressure on marketers to track social media’s direct effect on sales, Praill said that marketers no longer consider tying social media to revenue novel or ideal. At this point, CMOs will see it as essential.“This conversation is in its very, very early stages and CMOs are only now waking up and realizing that they need to do this because of this convergence of events shaping their world,” he said. “They’re very interested in knowing how they can use social media as a channel because they recognize that it is the gasoline in their engine for everything they do.”

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