The hidden ROI of social media

Julia Claire Campbell Marketing, ROI, Social Media, Strategy 7 Comments

When the topic of “social media” comes up at your organization, what are the first questions that people ask?

Why is social media such a big deal? How will it directly grow our organization? How will it close sales or increase donations for us TODAY?

A question that I hear a lot from organizations exploring the jump into social media is: “What is the ROI, or return on investment?”

In other words: “How can I quantify my limited time and stretched resources and be assured of a return?”

Well… the short answer is, you can’t.

You cannot be assured of a definitive, predictable ROI from social media, no matter the size or your business or nonprofit.

This is true even if you are Proctor & Gamble, “the world’s largest marketer” (according to Business Insider) with a $10 billion annual ad budget.  P&G recently laid off 1,600 staffers in its marketing department to dedicate more resources to its social networks – but it’s impossible to know (yet) how this has affected sales.

Sure, it certainly helps to have unlimited staff and resources to dedicate to marketing on social media platforms – you get out what you put in, after all.

In my opinion, the real ROI with social media comes from the hard-to-measure-in-hard-data benefits – benefits that require more examining in order to be translated into dollars.

My two favorite examples of intangible but valuable return on social media investment are:

1)      Establishing yourself as a Thought Leader. Thought Leaders are those wonderful people you turn to when you want to find credible, accurate, up-to-date information on a topic. Thought Leaders share (for free usually) an abundance of useful information that people want to read. A great example of a Thought Leader in the social media realm is Chris Brogan. Brogan advises businesses, organizations, and individuals on how to use social media and social networks to build relationships and deliver value.  Another good example is Becky McRay of Small Biz Survival. She started her site to “write about small business and rural issues, based on my own successes and failures.” Both of them have sizable social media followings because they have established themselves as Thought Leaders in their industry.

2)      Engaging with dedicated, even obsessive, Brand Ambassadors. Every brand, every business, every nonprofit wants Brand Ambassadors – those individuals that identify with your brand as a part of their persona (online and off). These are the people who put your brand in their “About Me” descriptions on Facebook, share links about your brand, post photos related to your brand, or even include your brand’s logo on their profile or blog page. Brand Ambassadors love your cause, your product and your brand. Social media is a perfect medium to encourage these enthusiastic individuals, due to its up-to-the minute speed and ability to create social connections and personal relationships.

It may be hard to justify spending time and resources on social media efforts without seeing the dollar return. But if you put the time into the two above areas, the return will soon become tangible.

What other results do you see from your social media efforts? Anything to add? Please leave your ideas in the Comments section. Thanks for reading! 

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  1. Pingback: We know we need social media but don't ask me why | New Media and Marketing

  2. Pingback: The big picture implications of embracing social media « J Campbell Social Marketing : Marketing & Social Media Strategy

  3. Mani

    Amazing information about ROI thanks for sharing cool stuff.

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