ROI for social media

How to Prove Social Media ROI

By: Rich Thomaselli

December 6, 2018

It may be hard to believe, but almost half of marketing agencies – 46 percent — said selling clients on the value of social media marketing was still a challenge in 2018. That’s according to  a survey conducted this year by Databox and Sprout Social to learn more about the obstacles faced in selling, tracking, and reporting on ROI driven from their social media marketing efforts.

So how best to meet the conundrum of CMOs who understand that social spending is up, but are unsure of how to value it? How do you get buy-in with the C-suite to get budget and other resources for social? In such a data-driven environment, ROI is most definitely measurable, where things get tricky is deciding what to measure.

Define Your KPIs

“Get honest about what you mean,” said Beckie Somma, director of Digitial Strategy for New York-based marketing agency Taylor. “Is it sales? Is it intent? Is it something like brand health and reputation work? You need to define that first.”

If you’re talking about brand awareness, get specific here. You need a metric to base success on because it’s not sales, which is a hard and fast number; or even an education campaign, where you can measure success by the amount of web traffic you drove to your site.

Set Goals

If you’re talking about brand awareness, what does that look like? Are you looking to increase awareness across a specific audience segment? If it’s increased engagement, shoot for a specific number and a timeframe (increase followers by 10 percent by the end of the first quarter). If it’s conversions, go back to your KPIs—are you looking to increase registrations for lead gen or are you looking to increase sales?  What’s the goal?

Like in any budget, you have to account for expenses: ad spend (if you go the paid route), cost of tools and software; depending on the organization, you may need to include the cost of labor. Even if you are not required to track this metric, do it anyway because if your program is successful, you’re going to want to use that figure to justify hiring more staff or arguing for additional resources.

Track It

Google Analtyics is the free, go-to solution and google provides a how-to guide in goal-setting. Each platform also has its own native analytics tools but you wouldn’t be the first department to have try to track conversions across multiple platforms and websites. So, you may need to find a low-cost tracking tool to help you do that. There are tons of them out there. It really depends on your needs.

If Something Lands, Do More of It

Did your target audience really like that video you posted featuring salsa dancers overlaid with techno music? Figure out why. What time of day and did you post? What day of the week? Test it. Figure out what content drives engagement, sales or whatever goals you set at the beginning of the campaign.

Make Your C-Suite Execs Part of the Campaign

It’s easy for someone who knows little about social media to dismiss it. So make them part of your campaign. If you work for a more buttoned-up organization the best place to do this is on LinkedIn. LinkedIn isn’t the same network it used to be; it’s rolled out a lot more features recently that make it, well, more “social.”


See what your competitors are doing on social; where they find success, how often they post, analyze their content. You don’t want to necessarily mimic them, because they may not have the same KPIs or goals you do; however, a little competitive analysis can only help, may give you some good ideas.

“If it’s consumer brands it’s eyeballs and engagements,” says Joe Beccalori, the CEO of New Windsor, N.Y.-based agency Interact Marketing. “With social, you can get more of a one-to-one engagement and run more focused campaigns. It’s more of a rifle instead of shotgun approach to branding. When it comes to B2B lead generation, you can show (CMOs) numbers that similar companies are producing because of their social.”

Report on ROI

In order to prove ROI you’re going to have to present your results to the person holding the purse strings. Discernment is necessary here. How savvy your audience is will determine the language you use. Avoid jargon if you’re talking to execs or anyone, actually, who may not know as much as you do about the subject. Make sure you align your results with your organization’s business objectives. Be transparent about the limitations of the data you have. If buying a more expensive tool will provide you better insight to a metric you don’t currently have, then say that. They’re usually monthly subscription plans, that you can discontinue if they’re not proving a ROI.

Want to learn more about proving ROI at your organization? Head to lovely Atlanta this spring for The Social Shake-Up, May 6-8.

At The Social Shake-Up