Measure Your Social Media Impact in 5 Steps
AKA: Tying Your Social Media Efforts to Revenue
By Gretchen Fox, CEO
This article was originally published in Forbes on November 1, 2016
If you are one of the many marketers still fighting to get social media funded appropriately at your organization — this is for you. As a recovering corporate executive, I’ll tell you flat out, if you can’t tie your social media results to revenue, you won’t get your program funded well. Period. And while social media brings value across the whole organization (more on this later), today, I’m going to show you exactly how to figure out the revenue impact. Let’s get started.
Recently, I wrote a post called “Busting the Myth on Social Media ROI“; if you haven’t read it, the summary is: “Stop listening to anyone who tells you that social media can’t generate revenue. What those people are really telling you is that they simply don’t know how.” If that post was the “why” you need to be measuring social, this post is the “how.”
At the last Women In Technology International (WITI) Summit, then CMO and Head of Product of YouCaring.com, Aimen Barma* and I first opened the kimono on this topic, sharing deep insights into a recent case study where we drove a 30% increase in pageviews on YouCaring.com, a 400% increase in new fundraisers created, and a whopping 3500% increase in donation revenue month-over-month using organic/earned social media alone.
This video shows some of the highlights from our talk and below, I have broken down the five steps we took to measure and prove that social media is a powerful revenue driver — if you can measure it properly.
Step 1. Talk across the organization.
Too many times social media marketers narrow their metrics to only include social channel growth and engagements. Social should be creating impact across all aspects of your business. It’s a cross-functional channel and needs to be measured that way. Social can impact marketing, sales, PR, hiring, employee advocacy and product development. Before you decide on your metrics, do your homework. Understand all the possible places social can/should impact your unique business and then talk to your department heads and agree on which metrics matter to them. Most often, your company will want you to show revenue growth, which is what we have focused on in this case study; however, when going through this process, it is highly recommended that you take a cross-channel view of social metrics.
With this project, Aimen was in a unique position as Head of Product and CMO, giving her the ability to look at social from a more holistic point of view than most. In my more than 10 years of experience leading social programs, I have found often marketing “owns” social which can sometimes limit the scope of the value. Don’t let this limited view limit you or social. Doing this exercise to determine all the potential metrics will allow you the opportunity to break through these limitations within your organization.
Step 2. Choose your key performance indicators (KPIs).
While it is important to measure the full impact of social on the organization, be careful not to get lost in the data.There are hundreds of different things you can measure, have you ever exported Facebook insights? Their are close to a hundred metrics available on that platform alone.
Once you know which areas of the business you will measure, decide which are the most important metrics to do so. At our agency, often times, clients want an off-the-cuff answer to what should they measure. The inconvenient truth is that each business must go through this process and base their metrics on their unique business.
YouCaring is a social technology platform. Their business goals are to help their users fund their needs and to help people learn crowdfunding is a great way to get the help they need. And so, for them, it’s important that we measure donation revenue and new fundraisers created. These are unique metrics for this company. Aimen also noted:
“Most of the companies I have been at, if something is an acquisition channel — it gets funded, because it’s driving sales. If something is more of a branding channel or a community channel, it may or may not get funded. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.”
Step 3. Identify your tools.
Once you know what you want to measure, it’s time to figure out HOW to measure. Sometimes you might be able to find an off-the-shelf tool but in my experience, it’s usually not that easy. I’ve personally used many, many tools including Adobe, Radian6, and Hootsuite but always found myself cobbling everything together manually until we started building our own for clients. For this project, our resident Data Scientist Alan Rakov, built a tool to automatically ingest feeds from social channels, Google Analytics so we were able to see correlations between all data points. Alan points out:
“There’s a lot of talk about the power of data but it’s really the insights that marketers need. For this project, showing correlation between specific content pieces and donation revenue was the key to giving the social team insights they needed to shift to optimizing the strategy for revenue vs. engagement.”
Step 4. Obsess about tracking.
Too many people think you can’t track social. Luckily, early in my career, I had a boss who taught me that pretty much anything can be tracked, you just might have to get crafty about it. One thing I did when I ran social at Live Nation Entertainment was to use codes for people to enter at purchase. Those codes were only given out through social channels. In our WITI talk, Aimen talked about how she has done the same things with mailers and television ads. If you can’t track it, you can’t prove it. Sometimes tracking will need to include some manual work. For example, with in-store retail, you might need to have the clerk ask “what inspired you to come into our store today?” Whatever it takes to get the data, get the data.
With e-commerce companies, you have an advantage of all transactions happening online. In these cases, internal compliance is typically the biggest obstacle. For our clients, we create a tracking code link generator tool to make things as easy as possible. The more detailed your tracking, the more insights you can garner. Our tracking code system is similar to the Google Analytics URL builder but customized for our needs: social media category, platform name, campaign name or content category, content type, author initials and date. This data is appended to the end of every single link posted from every single channel and allows us to be able to drill down into exactly which piece of content drove what business impact. It creates a treasure trove of data for data geeks like me.
Step 5. Report and analyze weekly.
You might be wondering, well what did you DO to achieve these amazing results? And the answer is, after these steps were implemented, we:
1. Benchmarked what was happening with the previous approach to content and social marketing
2. Developed a new content strategy based on The Social System
3. Published using best practices
4. Analyzed the data and optimized our approach each week against our new KPIs
The real gold is in the analysis because what drives reach on Facebook, isn’t necessarily the same thing that drives revenue. And once we put YouCaring through the system, we had better context for the data. At this point, we could make better decisions and optimize against the right metrics not just the ones we get from the platforms themselves.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be! It’s really not that complicated, just take the time to follow the steps above and you’ll be on your way to putting these kind of hard numbers on the board, too. Too many social professionals aren’t taking the time to implement the process required to prove out the value and that’s an industry problem that needs to be solved, and solved now.