If You Can't Measure Social ROI, Is It Wise To Ask For More Budget?

As luck would have it, along comes a piece of research today that underlines a point I was making yesterday. According to Campaign's coverage of the Content Marketing Association's study, The Role of Social in Content Marketingfour in five marketers will be spending more on social as part of their content strategy in the year ahead, despite the fact that only just over a quarter (28%) are confident they can measure ROI. It's worrisome that nearly half -- 42% -- admit to not being able to confidently measure ROI.

I have said it before and I'll say it again -- marketing is in a wonderful position to shape new products, services and customer experiences based on the data it gleans from digital, but unless it can translate these into insights that the rest of the business can understand and get behind, it will all be for nothing. I would love to be a fly on the wall when the CMO from one of the nearly half of organisations that cannot measure ROI asks for extra budget and is then asked what the business will gain from the increased spend. Or even better -- what would be the answer when the marketers is asked for a justification on last year's budget that would indicate extra spend was warranted in the year ahead?

That was my point yesterday. With the ability to measure emoji "reactions," there is a real danger that marketers will start counting each "wow" or "yay" as an end, rather than a means to an end. Instead of counting the interactions, marketers have to be able to say what they lead to and how that represented good value for money. It need not necessarily be a direct link to sales, although that would obviously be the strongest metric the board could get behind. It might be the leads generated, an increase in propensity to buy or improved awareness or even just share of voice. 

The rest of the research was interesting, if a little worrisome for Twitter. Facebook is the number one destination for b2 -- but then LinkedIn is the top choice for b2b, leaving Twitter to wonder exactly where it fits in. Interestingly, Facebook's cull of organic reach has seen an adaption in brands' attitudes to social, with more than half identifying their top priority as amplifying campaigns and only one in five -- in second place -- naming building a fan base as their prime objective.

Maybe, then, a metric that the rest of the business can understand would be around acceleration. Perhaps if a firm ROI cannot be reached, then the conversation could centre on how putting "X" into social content gave us double the exposure we would have got through display and it lead to X more accounts being opened and X% greater share of voice. These might be very marketing-led metrics, but the business case could be built around improving reach and engagement and empowering budget to go further.

Whatever it is, marketers must brush up on their elevator pitches for more social budget. If they can't sum it up in five seconds, then the channel with all its "likes" and "shares" will continue to be seen as just a bit flaky. 

2 comments about "If You Can't Measure Social ROI, Is It Wise To Ask For More Budget?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 14, 2015 at 9:11 a.m.

    Sean, most marketers have difficulty defining ROI , let alone measuring it, for all of their media buys. Why pick on social media?

  2. Blair Symes from DialogTech, October 14, 2015 at 12:04 p.m.

    A staggering percentage of people access social media on their smartphones, so any measure of ROI needs to take this into account. For marketers using content on social platforms to drive website visits and leads, that means being able to tie offline phone calls from mobile web and landing pages back to the piece of content or social ad that drove it. This article provides a bit more clarity on engaging and measuring ROI from smartphone users via Facebook:

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