3 Ways to Measure Social Media ROI

Ian Lurie Jul 14 2009

It’s very, very hard to measure social media in a way that credits it with all the great stuff it can do for an organization.
Sure, you can measure clicks from each social media outlet, and measure conversions from those clicks. But that’s a tiny, tiny sliver of the real story.
Here are three metrics I use to measure social media. Two of them require work. But that’s why we get paid, I believe.

1: Conversions

Track conversions, straight-up. If you run a Facebook campaign and get 500 new orders in 3 days, woo hoo! Your work paid off.
If you get 5 orders, though, does that mean the campaign flopped? Not necessarily. So before your boss fires you for running that damned campaign that cost him $0/click, check out the next metrics.

2: Ranked pages

Search engine reputation management is a turf war. The more positions you can occupy in the top 10 search results on your name or brand, the harder it is for a smear campaign to get traction.
Twitter and Facebook pages get crawled and ranked, just like any other page on the internet. Get those into the top 10 for your brand name, and you probably just grabbed 30% of the total available real estate on page 1.
Look at what the folks at momAgenda accomplished (OK, they had a little help from moi) and you’ll see what I mean.

They have nothing to fear re: their reputation, but still, it’s nice to have that kind of control.
Valuation: If you need to assign a dollar value, you’ll have to create a scenario and model what would happen if someone’s gripe hit the front page of Google. Conservatively, what would that cost your company? If you now hold 2 more spots on page 1, then you reduced that cost by 20%. Rough math, I know, but it’s all we can use for this kind of hypothetical.
No ranked pages yet? On to the next statistic:

Links

99% of social media sites nofollow their links, so you won’t get any direct link love for your labors.
However, other people visit your fan page, and see your Tweets. When they do, you acquire links. Here’s one client’s link profile after a major social media win:
social-versus-links.gif
See how the traffic falls back down, but links keep climbing? That link growth outlasts the burst of publicity a successful campaign gets you, every time. That’s one reason social media and SEO are inseparable.
Valuation. Assigning a dollar value to this is even harder, though. What’s a link really worth? I usually turn the argument on its head and ask, “What’s a #1 ranking for [insert phrase here] worth?”. Every link you add helps you get there. So while you can’t assign a hard value, there’s definitely a return there.

Other metrics

I could throw around terms like ‘goodwill’ and ‘branding’ but most CFOs don’t want to hear about that stuff. Stick with the metrics above.
Any others I’m missing?

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6 Comments

  1. Well said.
    I also like to talk about engagement and influence. While the easiest metric is to track actions taken by a visitor (newsletter sign ups, subscriptions, comments or purchases) tracking the # of retweets on twitter, or the actions taken on a fan page can be a great benchmark for the effectiveness of your social media work.
    RT’s or fb actions show the number of times your company is let into a visitors inner circle (the friend to friend comm channel) which should be seen a super valuable.
    Influence can be tracked by links (not just the # of them but also the quality (who tweets or share links. del.icio.us bookmarks or diggs can also show influence)
    Beyond that, links, rankings, traffic and on site engagement (bounce, time on site etc) are all good.
    So much to measure, the challenge is always to keep it simple, yet valuable enough to convince the boss, the client and yourself that you’re doing just fine :)
    Rock on!

  2. Well said.
    I also like to talk about engagement and influence. While the easiest metric is to track actions taken by a visitor (newsletter sign ups, subscriptions, comments or purchases) tracking the # of retweets on twitter, or the actions taken on a fan page can be a great benchmark for the effectiveness of your social media work.
    RT’s or fb actions show the number of times your company is let into a visitors inner circle (the friend to friend comm channel) which should be seen a super valuable.
    Influence can be tracked by links (not just the # of them but also the quality (who tweets or share links. del.icio.us bookmarks or diggs can also show influence)
    Beyond that, links, rankings, traffic and on site engagement (bounce, time on site etc) are all good.
    So much to measure, the challenge is always to keep it simple, yet valuable enough to convince the boss, the client and yourself that you’re doing just fine :)
    Rock on!

  3. While Twitter and Facebook do get crawled, I’m not sure that they get ranked in the same way that other pages do – and I doubt few have used Twitter as prolifically for marketing as I have.
    I’ve heard SEO experts say that the ephemeral nature of Twitter and the small amount of content per tweet renders each individual tweet URL rather unimportant and hard to find via search. A brand’s Twitter PROFILE will come up high in search results, but you’d have to include words that are extremely obscure for tweets to be found via Google. Bing is talking a lot about integration of tweets, so perhaps that will usher in a different kind of priority in general search for these short bursts of data.
    Personally, I find it impossible to search for almost anything in Facebook except a profile, and even that’s not always easy to find. Am I missing something? I’m working on campaigns that integrate Facebook and Twitter, so I’m not a skeptic – just hoping for better information about how they can help search. Can you expand on that?
    @CarriBugbee
    Social Profiles: http://bit.ly/CarriB

  4. @all – sorry for the double comment post (ha!)
    @Carri – some thoughts
    1) I agree with you, probably not going to have a massive impact on search results directly, but it does benefit indirectly by increasing the chances content being discovered in social networks, being stumbled or even being bookmarked. As Google relies more heavily on user actions with a page for content quality, i think this becomes even more of a benefit.
    2) Google doesn’t take the most advantage of real time search or status updates, (thats what companies like bit.ly and topsy.com etc are all working on) so at the very least improvements to search are coming.
    3) ultimately, getting passed around friend to friend is the best most trusted channel. So regardless of search discovery, social networks are the place to be! (but I can tell you already knew that lol )

  5. Ruri

    Ruri

    Well I wondering how to track our campaign in Facebook?
    I still don’t have any experience to increase link from social media. But If adding to rss directory or social media. I already done that.

  6. D. T.

    D. T.

    Search engine rankings are definitely good, and so are search rankings for individual video sites (if you have a video) like YouTube, Veoh, and AdWido or on the video meta-search site Truveo. For example, that “banned” X-Box 360 commercial with people pointing at each other as if their hands were guns is the top hit if you search simply “xbox 360 commercial.” That shows you the impact of that video pretty well.

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