No ROI On Social

There’s No ROI In Owning an Efin iPhone!

ROI In Owning an Efin iPhone? Seriously...We read a lot of stories that talk about how companies are joining social media by the droves, but are...

We read a lot of stories that talk about how companies are joining social media by the droves, but are they really? I mean, what are they doing? If all they’re doing is opening social accounts and sitting on their professional graveyards, is this really joining social media? I think not.

A recent YouTube video, Social Media ROI Hypocrisy, makes an excellent point. Many companies will spend thousands of dollars supplying their employees with iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and other smartphones, without once asking what the ROI is. Yet, let a marketer mention social media, and “What’s the return on investment, here?” is the question companies have to know.

Only 14% of Companies Get It

A recent InSites Consulting survey of 400 senior marketing managers delivered some interesting, and somewhat frustrating results:

  • 68% of companies have a Facebook page
  • 56% have a Twitter account
  • 47% have a LinkedIn account
  • Only 14% actually have integrated social media
  • 20% aren’t doing anything at all

So, out of all the Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn accounts that companies have, only 14% combined are actually integrated into the companies’ various campaigns. Meh.

You know what the biggest barrier is to full social media integration? Return. On. Investment. InSites calls it “financial added values”, but it’s still ROI, no matter how fancy you dress it up.

Wake Up And Smell the Social

Having a company social account alone isn’t enough. Especially if you’re going to claim that “you got no ROI from social”. Social media marketing is like exercise; you don’t see results unless you actually do something.

So, if integrated social marketing isn’t hopping on the most popular social sites and creating an account, what is it? First, let’s make sure you’re ready:

How to know if you’re ready for social media marketing

  • If you feel like you’re being forced to integrate, you aren’t ready;
  • If you’re still uncomfortable about the ROI, you aren’t ready;
  • If you don’t know the reasons for integrating, you aren’t ready;
  • If you don’t understand what you’re going to do once you get there, you aren’t ready for social media marketing.

If you have all those issues out of the way, let’s get started.

What Is Integrated Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a lot of things, and they all take work, as I think I’ve already been clear about in the first portion of this article. –But, what are those “things”?

Creating a strategy

Would you build a house without having blue prints? No. –And you shouldn’t use social for business without having a plan, either. However, you have to remember that social media isn’t a standalone marketing method. With this in mind, how are you going to incorporate it into your currently successful methods?

For example, if you use television advertising, this is an excellent opportunity to share your company with the world as a business that cares about the consumer. Most companies that succeed with social use it as a consumer platform, to connect, troubleshoot and otherwise communicate with their target market.

Once you’ve made the decision to set up your accounts, but before you actually do, have a well-outlined strategy of how you’re going to use social media. Your strategy should include the (realistic) goals you want to achieve. Split those goals into phases, such as “set up”, “communication” and “reputation management” – which brings us to the next point…

Tracking your reputation

Unlike many other forms of internet marketing, social really opens your company up to feedback. Hopefully, it’s positive feedback, but you can’t please everyone all the time, as the old saying goes. You need to know how you’re going to watch, listen and learn what people are saying about you. For example:

After all, if tracking social media as a way to gather public sentiment is good enough for the government, it should be good enough for you.

Choosing your public voice

If everybody in the company hops on your social account, followers will become confused. Having one or two dedicated individuals running your social gives your company a personality, which is what you’re aiming for anyway. Who wants to speak to a building, when you can speak to a person? However, you want to choose your people wisely; a strong voice can make all the difference in the success of your social media marketing. Even if you have a large company, you at least want to have a social media “manifesto” outlining how your voice(s) are expected to communicate with the public so there are no surprises waiting in the wings.

Setting up your reputation management strategy

Hope for the best; most companies never see the dirty side of social media. Yet, prepare for negative comments. For smaller companies, this may mean you and your employee talking it over. For larger companies, make sure your marketing department is talking to the PR people, who are talking to the sales people, who are talking to… you get the idea. A chain of command has to be in place. How will your company respond if a customer bad-mouths you, or someone tells you to kiss off? How will you deal with hostility? Getting your online reputation management strategy ready before a crisis strikes is the first step to avoiding – and managing – one.

Share your social accounts

Many… oh so many… businesses set up their accounts and then hide them in the basement. You don’t have to be embarrassed. When you set these accounts up, wear the badges proudly. Give your website visitors easy access to your company via these social sites. Put those easily-recognizable, linked icons on your site and on your blog where they’re visible!

Customize your accounts where possible

Twitter lets you customize your background. So do YouTube and Facebook. For that matter, although it’s limited, so does LinkedIn. These accounts are your online “face”; put some makeup on them! Add your logo, colors, information…  claim them as your own. Put a big ole’ “we are here” stamp on them!


Okay, so I left this one for last when it should be first. Let’s be clear, here. It does no good to go through all the setting up, strategizing and personalizing if you’re not going to listen and interact with people. Don’t use the excuse of “no one is talking to me”. It gets old. Get out there, already!

There are literally millions of people online, interacting on these social platforms. How many of them are you going to leave to your competitors, simply because they didn’t talk to you first? Find people of like interests. Share good information, even if it’s not your own. Do something without thinking “what’s the ROI” first.

I strongly encourage you to read The Marketing Nut’s 125 Ways to Integrate Social Media to Zoom Your Business. It’s a long list of possibilities any company can easily do to get their social going. Fulfilling even half this list will give you a strong start.

Change Your Thinking

You have to start thinking differently. You have to take the time to stop and study your market. Here’s a hint; social is growing. Only once you step outside the box of thought that says “ROI now” will you gain inspiration and growth. You can’t not go there simply because of fear of the unknown. Eventually, you have to ACT – or be lost behind the companies that do.

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9 Responses

  1. Gabriella-
    Well done. How much of this “reaction” to social media by businesses is due to the mindset of the business itself? tn your experience, are there certain types of businesses that get social media marketing better than others?

    My thoughts are, all the profitable social strategy in the world can’t be discovered and applied if the businesses stakeholders don’t believe in integrated (or any for that matter) social media as a component to online marketing.



    1. Hey Travis, nice to see you on this side of the tracks…Good question. In my personal experience with Level343, what we’ve found is that a high percentage of people participating in SM have no definitive plan or strategy for their social media. They know they need it, but in light of not being able or not having the knowhow of tracking, what to track, how long to track… they can’t figure out the ROI. Therefore, they abandon any type of campaign or critical thinking in order to create a specific goal with ROI.

      Maybe I should have given an example of how SOME things in social can be tracked. For example, if I’m selling fruits baskets and I put my efforts and budget into Facebook, I can look at my Insights. There, I can see how many people are sharing this particular post, and even go as far as building a specific landing page that will take you, the buyer, from A-Z. – And it’s all trackable till that moment of sale: through Google Analytics, through Facebook Insights, and other available tools. How many people interacted, how many bought right away, how many people follow us on two social networks versus one? Can you sell more on Twitter than FB? These are ALL measurable actions. Now that is an ROI businesses and companies can understand.

      In order to get there, however, you have to create and BE VERY specific on the ROI you are measuring. Not “what is the ROI in social”, because there isn’t one in the terms of what we think of as “ROI”. It’s not a wide net you can throw and expect not to explore; you can’t compartmentalize it into smaller trackable actions.

      In regards to your second question: what businesses get SM better than others? Meh – everyone is educating themselves to a certain degree. I know places like Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Orabrush at least get the Youtube medium. What businesses don’t know, we try to share with them: whether in our reporting, blog posts (including guest posts and radio shows), consultations or SEO work.

      1. Great feedback. What side of the tracks was I on before coming here? 🙂

        It has been suggested, for larger clients who have a budget, lead with branding. From SM activity build a compelling ROI case study, and then sell to other (often smaller) accounts using the ROI case study.

        What is your reaction to this approach?


        1. I’d argue against “lead with branding”, since we have, and are currently working with two large, well-known brands in their respective niches. What’s interesting is that, while their brands are very much in the forefront, but they’re missing a huge segment of the population looking for specifics within that brand. For example, brand A has worldwide recognition, a HUGE amount of traffic for their name brand, but this corporation isn’t seeing much activity in their geographical areas. Why? Because:

          a) Their keywords are not reflecting geo targeting
          b) They don’t have a specific action (questions or email, phone number, address etc.) page or PLP on their site for people in city A, B, or C.
          c) Their content and language is very industrial, not approachable, since they aren’t “engaging” for lack of a better word.

          So, in this case, we have put the brand name aside (secondary in the actual content strategy). That’s not to say we don’t use it, but the focus is on those who are familiar with the brand, yet haven’t shopped because the brand isn’t approachable.

          We’re in a time where businesses have to wake up. Sure, use brand – but a brand only goes so far in terms of communication. Our society as a whole, thanks in large part to social media and the Internet, is starting to change the way we expect business to be done. We want the “humanity” back in “business”. Therefore, there are many cases where the brand should take a back seat, and let the story of that brand shine – which humanizes the larger corporation.

          In regards to your second suggestion, we’ve never done it that way. It’s not a bad idea, I’m just not sure that’s an approach I can stand behind. Most of our clients have been referrals, so we haven’t had to do the “show and tell” step prior to working with them. When it does happen, we insist that the first step in working with us is to fill out a discovery – a preliminary questionnaire that encompasses content, SEO, SEM, social, etc. We want as much understanding as possible of how they perceive their needs and what’s important to them.

          This also gives us the opportunity to see if they are a client we want to work with. At this stage in our business, we insist on working with the client not for the client. We will then give them a synopsis based on our findings. This includes a look at their GA for 30-40 days. Then and only then do we recommend an actual campaign based on “their” needs.

          No cookie-cutter solutions, Travis – we preach it, we practice it 😉

  2. I get the feeling that a lot of companies are jumping on the social media bandwagon because they see their competitors doing it and don’t want to be left behind. I agree that very few companies have a coherent social media strategy and are just going with the flow because “it seems easy and everyone else is doing it.”

  3. The most important point is having a plan, and asking yourself as a company what you want to achieve from social media. As everything you say on these platforms will give an impression about your business and image.

    1. Exactly, I think the conversation and the questions should have a purpose. It’s not about numbers, likes, or even people. It’s how those metrics will give you value. How you ask the questions to find the actual value. Reminds me of a song ” It takes two to make things go right” lolol. I just read a fantastic post by Olivier Blanchard – Explaining “Social Media ROI” AGAIN. And Again. And… Again. His explanation, is brilliant. Thanks for your input Wasim.

  4. This will be a bit of a ramble… Small businesses, IMHO, have the most to gain from a Social Media strategy because they don’t have a strong brand to pull their marketing cart. But, just from anecdotal experience, they seem to have the most difficulty making the decision it’s worth their time. (And, by the way, almost every small business owner I have met with has pulled out his high-end smart phone at some point in the conversation.)

    About 30% to 50% understand the need for an updated site and good (on-site) SEO, but they view this mostly as an external activity they pay for. It is still a challenge to get them to allocate the resource and attention to actual “content” — and that’s not even talking about the blog content. I’m talking about product and service pages, about pages, etc… even photos.

    I’ve been puzzling over this for some time now and have tried coaching, offering services to write the content (either myself or outsource). I’ve even considered tools that would allow them to generate a first draft quickly by answering some questions. (Inertia seems to be one of the problems.)

    It may just be the current economy, but small shops like mine are going to have to figure out how to better adapt to these SBO’s thin staffs and sparse resources.

    End of ramble 🙂 Great post, Gabriella.

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