Measuring Social Media ROI

Love it, hate it, you can’t ignore it. Social Media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, G+ are the primary channels for traffic and growth for most  online businesses today.

Startups and businesses get attracted by the large and fancy numbers that are floating around (  e.g. 1.26 billion users500 Million Tweets per day)

and start projecting their hockey stick growth based on these numbers. To add to the the pain most online marketers over commit and under deliver.

According to BusinessInsider “Many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media.

They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return.???

Large brands and advertisers look at monetization over long term and tangible and intangible goals. They measure ROI of social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations.

I work with startups and startups are a different beast. They need to run quick experiments, decide what works for them and ROI is a simple arithmetic:

ROI = (All Returns- All Costs)/ All Costs.

I feel responsible for every $ that startups trust me with to hack growth  and hate BS-ing when it comes to program performance. I want to evaluate programs in real time and make quick decisions. I use the following spreadsheet to measure the ROI of the programs built around the simple arithmetic definition of ROI.

Download BhaskarThakur-Social-Media-ROI   (Right click and save)

Give it a spin and let me know if  it works. Big Brands you may also want to try this simple tool.

What does your digital footprint reveal?

Form Wikipedia

A digital footprint is a trail left by an entity’s interactions in a digital environment; including their usage of TV, mobile phone, internet and world wide web, mobile web and other devices and sensors. Digital footprints provide data on what an entity has performed in the digital environment; and are valuable in assisting behavioral targeting, personalization, targeted marketing, digital reputation, and other social media or social graphing services.
In social media, a digital footprint is the size of an individuals online presence; as it relates to the number of individuals they interact with.

We spend hours online visiting multiple email services, social networks, shopping and gaming sites, banking and financial services’ websites, blogs and a host of other websites which may include our own. As we surf the web from one website to the next we leave a trail and nuggets of information about ourselves. Everything we do online is part of our digital footprint.

Over the last few years publishing has become has become very easy on the web, and our digital footprint has evolved into 2 distinct flavors- Social and Personal. Our social footprint includes information we publish and share with friends and family or the world via social networking sites, blogs, etc. Our personal footprint includes information that we keep to ourselves or share with a few and includes our email, documents, financial and other details.

Facebook is the most popular social platform and our footprint on facebook includes status updates, comments, wall posts, photos, videos and links we share. For example, on an average 250 million photos are updated daily on facebook.  Similarly our Tweets, our bio, answers, questions and other engagements on LinkedIN, our video uploads on Youtube, Vimeo, our avatars on gaming websites etc. all makeup social footprint.

Our email accounts usually hold the key to most of our digital life. All welcome emails with login info, activation emails and banks statements are found in one primary email account. Most accounts also have important work emails which could include sensitive information, legal documents and communication, scanned copies of important documents, etc. All these could be part of our personal footprint. Along with email, our Pay Pal account, Ebay account, itunes account etc. all may form part of our personal footprint.

Here’s a cool Facebook app that shows how exposed our personal information is on the web.

Did you find that spooky? Yes there is so a lot out there about you for grabs..

OK So how do you find out how exposed you are?

Take a Simple Test 5 step test:

a. Do a Google Vanity Search (Google for your name) and scan through to the 20th page.
b. Do a Vanity Search on Facebook ( will also get you the Bing result). or go to Account Menu -> Privacy Settings -> View Settings -> Preview My Profile to see how the world sees your profile
c. Linked In Search for your name and see the results that pop up
d. Twitter Search: Go to and do a Vanity search to find out what is being tweeted about you.
e.Search for your bank account, driver license number or other unique identifiers and passwords on you local machine or install Google Local and search you local machine.

If you don’t like what you see in the results above, it’s time you take action.

World Without Me – Privacy in the Digital World

Today, netizens live very public lives. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+, Flickr and many other social networks it has become difficult to keep your personal life out of the public eye.  Also, the privacy settings on these websites can be very confusing.

Stalking on Social Web

World Without Me offers a solution in one simple word – “Percial???; very simply put, Personal + Social. “Percial” is the basis of some cool features on the Digital Afterlife planning website – World Without Me tools like Discussions and Dispatches help make your web experience percial – i.e. perfect blend of personal space while still giving an option to be selectively social.

World Without Me Discussions are closed private conversations which are perfect for talking about an important issue or planning a secret event with your close friends and family. Only the people you invite to a Discussion can view and participate in that particular Discussion. For example, you want to throw your best friend a surprise birthday party. you may start a Discussion on World Without Me inviting a few close friends to discuss the details of the party in secret out of sight of party poopers.

 Dispatches on World Without Me is a cool way to schedule messages for future delivery. You could set a future message to be delivered next week, or next year or even after a decade! You can also set Dispatches to be forwarded to your loved in your Digital Afterlife.

Moreover, you can personalize Dispatches by attaching audio or video clips or any file you would like to share with the recipient. For example, you want to send a future message to your spouse on your anniversary, containing a video montage of your last vacation together. You can create and attach the video montage to your Dispatch and schedule it for delivery on the date of your anniversary.

To add to your Percial experience, you can create a Digital Autobiography on the go by archiving your Digital Footprint at World Without Me. You can add important emails, upload documents, archive your Tweets and Facebook updates to your Digital Footprint and share it with your close friends and family during your lifetime and also after death.

The percial experience at World Without Me is a relief from the otherwise increasingly creepy social network scenario present today. Don’t think social networks are creepy? Well you surely have another thought coming after this app experience.

Planning Digital Afterlife Socially at World Without Me

The way we live and the way we die is changing. The trend is captured very well by the Doonesbury strip from earlier this week.
Doonesbury- Digital Afterlife
According to PC Mag, more people are making plans for their digital afterlife. In the U.K., one out of 10 people are now leaving passwords in a will.
Your Digital Afterlife is what you choose to do with all your digital data and your digital life once you die. Generally, a person’s digital life includes email accounts, social networks, blogs, websites, etc. which a person has invested a lot of time in and would like to pass on to his loved ones so that it’s not lost in the universe of digital data. Digital Assets could also include login credentials, Banking, financial and insurance information, Paypal, etc. which a person would like to pass on to his heirs so that they have easy access to all this important info after his demise.

There are few digital afterlife planning websites available today offering some of the three broad categories of Afterlife services-

1. Posthumous Messaging – Send out One/ Few messages after your Death.
2. Vault for Passwords – These websites let you store your digital assets like login credentials, PIN numbers and other sensitive information which you might want to pass on to your heirs.
3. Online Memorial/ Online Graveyard- A place to remember you and Online Mourning.

However  to effectively plan one’s digital afterlife one would have to register with several different digital estate planning websites as most of these websites offer different afterlife services but not all. World Without Me fills this gap. It’s a cool site where you can connect with those that matter and curate your Digital Afterlife socially.

Curate Digital Afterlife socially? Yes! Tools like Footprint, Discussions and Trigger help you curate Digital Afterlife Socially.

World Without Me allows you to Archive Digital Footprint and create an Autobiography of sorts. Digital Footprint may include important emails, Facebook updates and Tweets. You can also add important documents like a copy of your Last Will and Testament, Appraisal Letters, Personal Letters- it is a true Mashup of your Online and Offline Digital Assets. You may choose to share your footprint with your loved ones during your lifetime or after your demise.

World Without Me Discussions are designed to support personal and private conversations like planning a trip with friends that a person doesn’t want the world to know about, closed conversations with friends and family, planning a surprise party, tracking a parent’s health, planning family finances or anything that is meaningful or important.

The deceased user account policies on most major websites is vague. Your heirs have to go through an arduous legal process before they can access your online accounts. Trigger is a tool that allows users to decide who will declare their demise and when will their Digital Inheritance be set in motion. It is a great new system to pass on your digital legacy to your heirs – directly from within your World Without Me account and without any lawyers!

World Without Me is like one’s digital will curated socially . Start building your Digital Legacy at World Without Me today!

Facebook Vs Circle, Twitter and 4Sq


My Script for facebook, if I were a Voice Over Artist for Hollywood Movies.

In the Land of Search and Portals
When earthlings were struggling with Orkut, Yahoo and the likes
Came a Great Social Network called.. ‘Facebook
A site that got you close to those that matter
Let you share photos and stories.
And gave you uncluttered and consistent feel.

It soon had 1 of every 15 earthlings hooked on
Some were Farming, Some Fighting, Some Poking
Everyone was sharing and Liking
And every thing looked perfect

1 in every 15!!
That day Facebook decided to welcome Businesses
And everyone flocked to create Pages Groups, Polls and creative juice flowed.
Facebook was happy with Billions pouring in.
and soon they had 1 of every 10 earthling hooked on exchanging bullets, eggs and lambs

Then came a Little bird that started Tweeting..
Beak’ing’ like a wood pecker-into Facebooks users
and a Service that was inspired by Geometry..
Four Square
And Facebook went on overdrive adding features that no one cared about..

The Search Giant went back to the primary school for Geometry and Arithmetic
And came back with a Circle and +
and that…………….. made facebook Menopausal.

It is said, never instigate a company preparing for it’s IPO...

Facebook copied the Bird’s code, Square’s essence and
Stretched the Circle to make it Oval.

The Farmers and the Fighters were inundated with Links on left that led nowhere,
Strange looking faces on the right Grinning “Subscribe
and wierd scripts everywhere.

The purpose was lost..
The once mighty Facebook was feeling defeated..

This Fall.. From the makers of Wall, Poke and Like.. Watch the #Epic unfold on your Wall, in Circles, across Timelines and Checkins, Across screens of all sizes

Crowd Source or Crowd Critique – The GAP story

Last  week GAP unveiled its new logo (created by NY agency Laird & Partners) to it’s online community and the overwhelming response was negative. The online community jeered the new Logo and within no time websites were set up to ridicule the new GAP logo.

GAP heeded to the response and was quick to flip back to the 40 year old logo.

Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight??? was the update on GAP’s Facebook page.

Read the full press release here.

Is this a failure of Brand Management or success of Social Media?

Let’s look at the brighter side of the story:

  1. GAP saved Millions of Dollars it would have otherwise spent in Re-branding Deployment
  2. GAP could truly democratize change   and that will help re-enforce relationship with the patrons and community.
  3. Created the Buzz before the holiday season and I’m sure they will soon come out with a campaign/ promotion to leverage the incident.

However, there are few questions for Social Media Strategists and GAP think tank:

  1. Should GAP have considered crowd sourcing logo design rather than crowd sourcing criticism?
  2. What is the right time to involve customers in the decision making process?
  3. Are the public social communities the best platforms to discuss critical ideas and innovation? Should ideas be initially discussed within closed customer groups/ closed communities?
  4. Will this fiasco impact GAP’s branding?

Buzz Quotient: Measuring The Social Media ROI

Organizations are experimenting with Social Media Platforms and plans. However, after the initial experimentation, one has to quickly evaluate Social Media’s contribution to business, performance vis-a-vis other channels and establish best practices guidelines.

Social Media is not a sales channel and that makes measuring the impact on bottom line challenging. Social Media presence helps improve the traffic, conversions and revenue on other sales channels and also supports marketing, branding and CRM initiatives. The tangible and intangible contribution of Social Media to Marketing goals has to quantified and factored ito measure the true ROI on Social Media investments.

Here is the 5 step process I suggest to measure the Impact of Social Media and ROI on the Social Media Spend.

Set Social Media Expectations and Goals

Can social media drive sales? Is there a correlation between followers on Facebook and traffic to the website? Can Twitter help sell overstocked items? These are few burning questions for the top management and the marketing teams. The first step in the process of measuring the ROI is setting the Social Media Expectations and Goals. Define your objective and expectation from the Social Media. It is also important to define program Success Matrix at this stage. Starting with a clear mandate is a good idea.

For example, if you want to build  brand awareness, use Social media as a CRM tool and boost online sales you could start with goals statement that reads ” The Social Media campaign will help build a community of customers and potential customers; help understand customer’s need and pain areas better, endorse Brand Positioning, enable crowd-source innovation and augment online online sales. In the first 6 months we will build critical membership/ readership across Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YourTube, Forums, Question and Answer websites. In 6th thru 9th month we will evaluate these platforms on the following parameters: Reach, Engagement, Revenue, Sentiments, Branding and investment

Create the Social and Business data correlation framework


To record measure and improve the Social Media campaign you would need to mash Social data with data from other channels. Mashing Social Web and business data requires a robust analytics and reporting system. You may need to tweak your present analytics tool to accommodate Social data.  For example, your existing analytics may not support mentions on a platform and the associate sentiments.

Data co-relation will help justify the investment on Social media. For example, if you want to measure the impact of social media on online sales you would need to

  • Track Traffic from social platforms through the buying process. Sale may not happen in the first visit. (Cookie?)
  • Import this data into your analytics and reporting tool.
  • Calculate the lifetime value of a customer
  • Compare it others channels: search, affiliate etc.

If you want to measure the impact on Brand awareness, you would need to track

  • Brand Mentions in discussions across all platforms ( social and otherwise)
  • Sentiments of the conversation (Positive, Neutral, Negative)
  • Contribution of Social traffic to total Traffic
  • Impact on Direct Traffic

It’s important to map each goal with relevant matrices.
Identify Social Media Data points and Sentiment Analysis Framework

The next step is identifying data points and data sources for the Social Media campaign. You need to measure and record social media information like # followers,  # mentions ( with links and without links), # comments, competition’s data and your share of conversation.

Manual monitoring and recording  of this data is tedious and impractical. However, a number of  tools are now available to monitor, measure and record this information. However, you could  start with the free ones like:

  • Google Alerts
  • Twitter Search
  • TweetDeck
  • Seesmic
  • Technorati

Once you have the data you need to analyze the sentiments associated with the comments and mentions. Sentiment analysis involves filtering the positive ( Good service, Helpful Representative etc.) and negative mentions ( Service Sucks, Non Responsive etc) and assigning a weightage that reflects the communication intensity.

Adding weightage helps rationalize Social Media and Business data to a common scale. Adding weightage could be a bit tricky and the process evolves over a period of time.

Account for Branding, PR and Opportunity.

Social Platforms help Brands and Business get closer to the consumers and  create recall, loyalty and community. Hence it id important to factor in the intangible impact of the social media campaign.

If you are running a print/ online campaign say on Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal or The Economic Times what is your cost per reader? And how does it compare if you reach out to their communities on Facebook  Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The Economic times? Account for free visibility and reach.

How does the cost of running a PPC campaign on Google compare with the cost of running targeted paid ads on Facebook?

Over a period of time you would need to develop a formula that quantifies each interaction/ mention and follower on Social Media Platforms and merge this information with business analytics.

Merging Social data with Web and Business data will give you an insight into the opportunity.

Analyze and Report

The last step in the process is collating the data and putting it in a format that gives perspective and helps make decisions. Compare Quality of visibility/ leads, volume of visibility/ leads across campaigns in a report that’s easy to put together and simple to understand.

I recommend a report that answers business critical questions like:

    1. Is there a difference between a lead from Social Platform and from other channels on parameters like:
      • Time spent on website
      • Lifetime value of customer
      • Revenue per customer
      • Brand Awareness
      • Brand Loyalty
    2. How does the cost to reach/ acquire customers compare across channels?
    3. Is there  a difference in Brand Experience between a lead from Social Platform and from other channels?
    4. Which Social Media Platform works best for your brand?
    5. Is there a seasonality/ Day part across platforms?

Social Buzz is a function of visibility (size of the community) and associated sentiments across platforms. The 5 steps mentioned in this post would help you track and continually improve  your Social Media program.

10 Commandments for Social Media Success

At the conclusion of Social Media Workshop for small enterprise and start-ups the  most common question among excited and energized participants was ‘How do I take this to my organization?’. How do I champion Social Media for my product?

Social Media campaigns are great tools for Marketing, PR, CRM, communication and community building. However, social media success is a function of intent, listening, participating and intelligence.


I have worked on building social media campaigns for brands of all sizes and this post I share my learning.

1. Success starts at the Top

Getting the top management involved is critical to success of Social Media Program. As the program champion you would require to pull in the best resources for the social media campaign ( from other functions) and you will need Top Management buy-in to get the resources. Top management involvement also ensures keeping the Social Media initiative in sync with company’s vision and goals.

2. Analyze and Select the Platform

It is advisable to spread you resources and time across platforms to start. Adopt a equal mix of content (i.e. a blog or micro-blog), social networking (maybe Twitter or LinkedIn) , and community building (Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or YouTube). Over a period of time you could tweak the mix based on the experience and ROI on each platform.

3. Train to Listen, Comment and Create Content

Social Media participation includes 3 activities: listening, commenting and creating content. Monitoring and reading your industry’s Blogs, FB posts, Tweets is a good launch pad. Google Alerts are efficient tools to listen to the ecosystem.  The next step is to start commenting on social networks and blogs and creating your own content. Commit equal time to these activities.

4. Set Content Approach and Frequency

On Social platforms it is important to be consistent in frequency and communication. Brainstorm and decide the pitch of your blog, Facebook/ Linked In Page and Tweets. To achieve maximum branding mileage the communication across the platforms should be integrated and synchronized.

Plan the number of blogs you will publish every week,  number of interaction on networking websites and tweets every day.

5. Content strategy

Identify the best talents for the 3 platforms ( Blogs, Social Networking and Community Building). Writing content for these platforms requires varied skills and 1 person may not bring the necessary skills to the table. Also, develop a strategy to crowd source content. Encourage your customers, followers  and other members of the audience to contribute.

6. Blogging / Micro Blogging Best Practices

Develop an identity for your Blog. Identity comes with consistency, tone, and character of content. Blog posts should engage your audience. Substantiate you assumptions with data, analysis and point of view. Encourage audience response with questions and other tools. Schedule your blog calendar and write down 1-2 blog ideas daily. Quote industry authority and experts in your blog.

Follow the trending topics for your tweets. Here’s a detailed post on Tweeting.

7. Social Networking Best Practices

Depending on your target audience you could select a platform like Facebook or LinkedIn or both to network. LinkedIn usually is recommended for B2B businesses and Facebook for B2C. It helps to have members senior members of staff active on the networking platform. Build out the company profile and encourage employees join the platform. Follow the Industry leaders and experts.

8. Community Building Best Practices

Social Platforms like FaceBook are great community building tools. You can use these platforms as formal/ informal channel to connect with your customers and audience.  Start by creating a custom branded page on Facebook and employees to join the conversation. Post regularly and be keep the audience engaged with information, polls, questions, applications and other tactics.

9. Optimize and Promote your presence

You would need to Optimize your social media presence and tune it to create visibility on the social media. Optimization techniques vary by the platform and I will discuss that in seperate blog posts. Here’s a detailed post on Optimizing Tweets. However, you could start with

Including  keywords in your Blog posts, Tweets and Facebook comments.
Placing social media buttons on your website, Blog helping the audience connect with you
Use tools to synchronize social media feeds across multiple platforms (e.g., tweetdeck).
Reward your audience with simple give-aways for answering, participating, commenting, retweeting, social bookmarking, etc.
Reply to the comments and suggestions.

10. Learn and Tune your Program

Dig into social media analytics to evaluate performance of of various platforms and decipher visitor behavior. Evaluate the ROI for each platform and the program to optimize social media spend. Evaluate skills and performance of the employees and deploy their time on the platforms they are best suited for. Learn from the Social engagement models  of your competitors and other organizations.

This post is a framework for Social Media success for enterprise and will help you champion Social Media initiative in your organization.  Each of these 10 Commandments needs to be adapted and fine tuned for an organization.

Online Retail- The 2010 Paradigm

So who spends maximum online? Men, Women, Teens?

Where should the big brands and online retailers put their advertising $ in 2010 ? Search, Portals, Social Media?

Online shopping experience is changing in more ways than one. It is no secret that peer review and recommendation is the single biggest influence in the purchase decision. “I want that red stilettos that Jane has??? syndrome..

A recent study by comScore reveals a direct correlation between Online spend and time spent on Social Web. Visitors to Social Media websites ( read: Facebook and Twitter) spend more money online than other Internet users. Average

Per the comScore study, In the US in Q1 2010, visitors that spent the most time on Facebook also spent the most dollars on online shopping. The top 20% Visitors to Facebook (by time spent) spent average of $67 online.

Facebook Time Spent and Online Shopping
Facebook Time Spent and Online Shopping

Facebook Non Visitors spent $ 27 online shopping; much less than the average $50.

On Twitter users spend more than average Internet user, and more than most Facebook Visitors

Twitter Time Spent and Online Spend
Twitter Time Spent and Online Spend

The key takeaway from this study is that Twitter and Facebook are no longer teenage hangouts. Older audience (heavy spenders with higher disposable incomes) are propelling these platforms.
Online Retailers and Brands  better hone your 2010 plans to  include Facebook and  Twitter.

Improve Conversions with SEO and Social Media Cocktail

The Clients and Brands I work with usually have a fixed annual budget for Internet Marketing and a mandate to achieve incremental positive ROI.

Internet Marketing ROI is a function of Traffic, Leads, Sales and Brand Buzz. For sometime ( in 2008-2009) I tried cross-selling and up-selling SEO and Social Media Marketing (SMM) to my clients for additional fee; however, more often than not, it did not work. Business owners and Marketing Managers had one simple answer “ here’s the budget, use it the way you want, get me 50%??? over last years.

It did not take me long to figure out the trick was in blending the SEO and Social Media Marketing to get the maximum Bang for Buck. Here’s the 5 step SEO and Social Media Strategy that I have seen delivering maximum value to my client’s outbound and inbound Internet Marketing Programs.


#1. Website Usability Analysis

Is your website a space occupier on your business card? A digital brochure? Or is it a Brand Ambassador and a Sales Force?

Successful online campaigns start with websites designed for the target audience with visitor touch points and action callouts. Analyze the server logs to identify visitor click patterns and make changes to the website architecture to engage your visitors. Critical parameters to analyze includes Entry Page, Exit Page, Click Stream, Page Drop Rate, Referring websites and Keywords.

– It is advisable to add short contact forms on all pages and link to contact form in the site-wide footer.

– Test the forms regularly to ensure it works fine.

#2. Optimize your website, put together a Link and Outreach Program

Identify the key phrases that are most relevant for your business and have sufficient search volume . If you are a local business include geo targeted key phrases in  your key phrase bucket. You may want to optimize for Brands and models, if you are a retailer.
Include Key phrases in the website’s content, page titles, metatags, and other elements.

Develop  a Link strategy that’s clean and viral. Add Link baits and give other websites a reason to link to you. Avoid direct link solicitation.

#3. Social 101: Thought Leadership Blogs

Thought leadership blogs and absolute must if you want to create a buzz and grow your Brand. Create Blogs in your key product domains or service areas. Motivate the experts in your company to blog in their areas of expertise. Setup an editorial team and protocols. The digital assets you create on your blog will go a long way in establishing your leadership in the industry which will encourage repeat visits and new business. Target to establish your blog as one of the top go to destinations for information on your industry.  Here are some ideas on Blog posts:
o Industry news and trend analysis

o Opinions, critique and whitepapers

o How-to guides

o Interviews, Profiles and Reports.

#4. Social- Deep Dive


Leverage the reach of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with your customers and Industry. Build consistent brand personality across social platforms. Use consistent branding, communication guidelines and visual layout across the social websites.

Encourage your employees and customers to join your social network. Incentivize feedback. Participate in discussions, conduct polls.

#5. Observe, Measure and Tweak


Setting up the website and outreach program is just the beginning. Success comes for observing the trend, measuring the impact and tweaking the program.

Set up monitoring and tracking for top key phrases you are targeting. The would include:

  1. Brands
  2. Competition
  3. Key Personnel
  4. Negative buzz like “ Brand + Sucks???

Establish response mechanism and protocol for positive and negative buzz on the Internet.

Evaluate and Key Phrases and Social Platform’s performance. Unique Visits, Referring website, Click Path and Conversion Rate are few important parameters to evaluate platforms on. Tweak you strategy/ tactic based on intelligence from analytics.