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.

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

social

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.

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.

Dominate Organic Results with Google Maps and Social

For a new website it is not easy to get to the TOP of Organic Listings in Google using standard white hat SEO techniques and Ranks from Black Hat techniques do not last.  It is important for new, small website to look at alternate strategies to gain traction the web.

Local Search Optimization and Social Media Monitoring and Participation is one such alternate technique for Geography specific Brick and Mortar businesses ( e.g. Doctors, Lawyers, Restaurants, Bakeries).At the buying decision/ Purchase stage the Search Queries  for such businesses tend to have Local  Search Qualifiers or Social Search Qualifiers. For example “Sushi in Manhattan???, “budget hotel NY 11001???, “Review of The Sushi Place??? etc.

Blended Local and Social Media Strategy can contribute significant Traffic, Customers and Revenue to such Local businesses.

Did I say Blend Local and Social?? Here’s what I mean..

Local Search targets the prospects while they are exploring options. If you own a Sushi Restaurant in Manhattan, you want to be visible in the search result for all “Sushi + Manhattan??? searches. Local searches tend to have better conversion rate than other Key Phrases. These are the top sites that impact Local Search Visibility :

Maps.google.com
Yelp.com
Insiderpages.com
Local.Yahoo.com
Citysearch.com
Local.com
Google Maps
is the primary entry point into the Local Search space.

Social Media and Opinions influences the buyer’s decision to buy your product or service over competition . Positive Recommendation and User Testimonials go a long way in influencing the buying decision.
Websites and Business can dominate the Organic Results on Search Engines by Blending Google Maps and Social Media strategy with the Optimization Program.

Here are 3 simple steps to Blend Google Maps and Social Media strategy with the Optimization Program.

Step #1. Optimize your website for Local Search

Step #1.1. Add Local Information to the website
Create a page for each location of your business. Embed Google map on each page. Add driving directions, area map and local point of interest on the page. Write the meta data to include Geographic modifiers.

Step #1.2.  Submit to Google
Create Geo-Sitemap with KML reference and submit it to Google Local from an authenticated Google Webmaster Tools account.

Step #2. Optimize your Google Map Listing

Step #2.1. Evaluate and Revive your existing Google Map listings
Or, Create Your  Listing

Google Maps picks up data address and other location specific data for directories and other sources, if businesses do not volunteer data. Search for your Company Name’s name on Google Maps to get the information in Google’s database.
Rectify the information if the information is incorrect or dated. To rectify the entry one has to submit the correct data in the Google Local Business Centre and verify it over Phone or mail.
If you do not find information about your business on Google Maps create a new entry in the Google Local Business Center and verify it over Phone or mail.

Step #2.2. Spruce up the Google Map Description
Edit the listing to add description about your business or company and also key search phrases. Include city name and Neighborhood information. Include hours of operation, pricing information and other details. Add high quality and relevant images of the business.

Step #3. Monitor and Participate in the Social Media

Step #3.1.  Monitor the web for Google Maps Description
Google Maps pulls data and reviews from multiple sources ( like Yelp.com, TripAdvisor.com) for the Google Maps listing. These sources vary by the industry. Identify these sources by examining your listing and other listings in the category. Monitor the discussion and try to resolve any issues with the reviewer. Encourage reviews from happy customers.

Step #3.2. Get active in Social Space.
Monitor the Social Media and Review platforms for positive and Negative comments about your business. Participate in the discussions and defend your brand. Never fake comments. Learn from the customer feedback.

Buzz Quotient

Social ain’t fad no more. Social Web is the present and the future of  the world wide web and Internet. However, there are questions about  ROI of the Social Web Investments.

In this post I would like to introduce a method to quantify a website’s Social Web footprint and discuss Social Web strategies.

Definitions:

Buzz: a measure of website’s visibility on the Social Web.

Buzz Quotient: Normalized Score/ Index of  a website’s Social Web Footprint.

Concept:

Measure the width and depth of  website’s Social Media Engagement ( The Buzz)

Social Engagement Width is the spread across channels

Social Engagement Depth is the intensity of engagement

Calculate the Buzz Quotient by normalizing the Buzz.

Social Web Strategies
Social Web Strategies

Social Web Strategies:

Social Novice: Try out the top 4-5 Social Channels. Run Pilots to sell the program within the organization. Define success matrix and define budgets. Recommended for Starters.

Social Explorer : Build your foot print across as many channels as possible, keeping the depth of engagement shallow. Works for brands that have appeal across  socio economic segment and advised on diet budget.

Social Selective : Build your foot print across few channels, engage, entice and seduce your customers and prospects  . Works for niche brands.

Social Champ: Build your foot print across as many channels as possible, engage, entice and seduce your customers and prospects. Works for brands that have appeal across  socio economic segment.