Need to Measure the Impact of Your Social Marketing Program? Here’s How.

It is that time of year when most marketers are knee-deep in building a case for their 2013 budget.

Despite the five-year enthusiastic rush of companies to jump onto the social media bandwagon, social programs are still just one fraction of the total marketing budget. Still, as enthusiasm gives way to practicality, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to measure the effectiveness and impact of social marketing.

But how? Rather than taking a myopic perspective and focusing merely on Return on Investment (ROI), you might want to consider  monitoring the quantitative and qualitative benefits  of social marketing across four perspectives, according to a recent Forrester Research, Inc. report, The ROI of Social Marketing.

The author, Nate Elliot, makes a good case for the need to change the way we measure the contributions of social media programs as the medium matures. To that end, it is essential that social marketers use a combination of approaches to validate the business case of these programs. Elliot refers to a balanced social media marketing scorecard that includes:

  • Financial: While increases in conversions and revenues per sale are the monetary results that are most obvious to see and easiest to measure, there are a host of other financial benefits to consider. These include: measure improved promotion response rates with social-enabled commerce; measure improvements in average consumer spend and share of the wallet; measure the savings from decreased return rates; measure other eliminated costs; and finally, use a media mix model to validate brand impact in the social channel.
  • Digital: There are several ways to measure gains in digital, from assessing the program’s impact on search engine relevance, measuring traffic to owned media, tracking all brand touch points to analyzing short-term metrics when your objectives are short-term.
  • Brand: Fortunately, marketers don’t need to reinvent brand metrics for the social media age. The key here is to define your objectives and then select the brand attributes that fit those objectives.
  • Risk management: Many marketers only think about the positive ROI, but what about reducing the potential negative ROI that you didn’t anticipate? To assess this perspective, you can estimate the costs of potential PR issues that would arise from a negative event, forecast the likelihood of these issues occurring in the next year or consider the extent to which the costs may be reduced.

In sum, he urges social marketers to create their own social media marketing “Balanced Scorecard” by using each of the four perspectives and determining the appropriate targets within each.  It is just as important to not rely on just one or two perspectives, even though you might be compelled to  want to, for example, only use financial and digital because they are the easiest to measure. Even though you may be compelled to rely on just one or two perspectives—don’t.

Let’s hope that with these guidelines the effort to build a business case for your social marketing program just got a whole lot easier.

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: Toddi Gutner