How to Measure & Grow Social Media ROI
Social media is a great way to engage with potential customers and build a brand community—and it’s cost-effective, too. Unsurprisingly, it’s now the preferred channel for marketers.
But quantifying the ROI of your social media marketing efforts isn’t easy. Only 15% of marketers actually use social data to measure ROI, while 46% say their organization views it largely as a marketing resource.
We’re about to show you some tips for measuring the true value of social media, what to do with the results, and how to improve your ROI.
What is social media ROI?
As you probably know, ROI stands for “return on investment.” So, social media ROI is the return on investment from social media marketing activities.
If you’re using paid social ads, it’s relatively simple to measure the ROI. Take your profit (money earned from social media marketing efforts) and divide it by the investment (total cost of those efforts):
Profit / investment x 100 = social media ROI %
However, the equation becomes complicated when dealing with investments that are not directly linked to money.
Why is social media ROI hard to measure?
It’s hard to quantify the non-monetary aspects of social media. Let’s say you posted a great infographic about call center training, and it got a ton of likes. Even though you know this level of engagement generates “soft” leads that should turn into customers, it’s tricky to prove that this really is the case.
Measuring shares and comments can sound vague compared with hard numbers such as clicks on your website’s CTA button or precise measurement of your ecommerce conversion rate. You may also struggle to convince executives of social media’s value because they’re not used to the terminology.
The trick is to demonstrate the overall value that social media brings to the business. For example, you could measure an increase in followers or the number of positive mentions. You could also show the value of social listening through the intel you gathered and passed on to the product development team.
This formula starts with all the social media actions that create value and divides this measurement by your investments (people hours, ad budget, etc.).
Value / investment x 100 = social media ROI %
Does social media usually have a high ROI?
There’s a perception that social media doesn’t have an especially high ROI—but that’s probably because not enough marketers actually measure it in order to find out! Like we said already, it’s not an easy thing to quantify, or to prove. But there is so much potential for high ROI in social media—not least because of the sheer number of people who use it every day. Of course, some social platforms are more successful than others.
According to a 2021 report, more than 40% of marketers said that Facebook was the most effective channel for their businesses in terms of ROI. Again, this is probably due to the amount of users (there were 2.8 billion active users every month in 2021. It’s easy to segment your audience and target specific demographics, and Facebook’s algorithms can really help you out.
Instagram didn’t rank quite as highly in that study, perhaps because its metrics are even more nebulous than FB’s—but around 30% of respondents said the platform gave them their highest ROI.
Whichever platform(s) you use, the relatively low cost of social media marketing means that it should be easier to see a return on your investment. You can advertise for free in most cases, and even if you choose to use paid ads, it’s still far cheaper than something like a billboard or a TV ad.
What is a good ROI for social media?
Here’s the thing: there’s no universal number for a “good” or “bad” ROI in the context of social media. Life might be a heck of a lot easier if there were! Sorry, marketers—it’s up to you to do the research and decide for yourselves what sort of figure is acceptable for your business.
This will vary based on your specific costs and margins, and the goals your business wants to achieve. For the marketing industry in general, 500% (also expressed as 5:1) is considered to be a good ROI. In this scenario, you’d gain $5 for every dollar you spend on a particular campaign. But this is a rule of thumb that applies to all forms of marketing, not just social media.
Basically, as long as your ROI is above zero, your investments are making money. However, you don’t want to be at that end of the scale. A 2:1 ratio would be better, but it still may not be profitable depending on the other costs involved in your business.
If you think your ROI is not where it should be (or where you want it to be), this may not be the fault of social media. It may be because your strategy needs tweaking.
What is the average ROI for social media marketing?
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that there’s no universal “average”, either. As we mentioned in the intro, only 15% of marketers even use social media data to measure ROI. And only 60% of them actively share their results. So, it’s almost impossible to put a figure on.
What is a social media ROI benchmark?
The only way to decide what is a “good” or “average” ROI for your social media efforts is to evaluate them against the rest of the market. This is known as benchmarking. You find out how your competitors are doing, and see if your business measures up.
You can also benchmark against your own performance in previous months, quarters, or years. For example, if your social media ROI was acceptable last year but has taken a dip, it’s time to see what you can do to improve it.
Why is it important to measure social media ROI?
Measuring social media ROI is an integral part of your social marketing strategy, as it shows which tactics aren’t working and need to be reviewed. You can then figure out ways to improve and deploy extra resources if necessary.
On the other hand, if it shows that your strategies are getting great results, you can build on that success. The ability to prove the value of social media marketing comes in handy when it’s time to get approval for your yearly budget!
Evaluating your ROI also helps you identify and act on emerging social media trends and keep a close eye on your target audience.
As we mentioned, it’s easy enough to measure the ROI on paid ads. But if you only measure revenue, you’re not demonstrating the full value of social media—which means the results might be disappointing.
What tools can I use?
Social media is all about building relationships, which can’t be measured by numbers. For example, if you use AI for customer service and a customer gives positive feedback, it doesn’t mean they actually spent any money with you then and there. But the interaction made them feel good about your brand, which may bring them back in future.
However, there are plenty of metrics that can be measured, and there are tools available to help you measure them. These include free ROI calculators, as well as built-in analytics tools on many social media platforms.
Google Analytics lets you customize an attribution system based on your own goals. The results indicate which social networks bring the best results and which content is most popular. There’s even a tab showing which platforms brought in the most conversions.
If you’re using paid ads, Facebook Pixel provides breakdowns of traffic, attribution, and conversion data. Meanwhile, Facebook Offers provides online coupons that can be redeemed offline, which is great for retail social media campaigns as it shows how social media actions can be monetized.
How to measure social media ROI
Define objectives and set goals
Your definition of “value” will depend on your business objectives, which might include boosting brand awareness and customer satisfaction. Start by defining what value means to your business, and create a set of clear objectives.
While objectives define where you want to go, goals show how and when you’ll get there. Set a number and a deadline—instead of just aiming to boost referral traffic to your social platforms, say that you want to improve it by 20% in six months.
It’s helpful to use the S.M.A.R.T. framework, in which each goal must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You should also measure past performance to establish benchmarks, and be clear about how much value each goal will bring.
Track the right metrics
It’s important to choose metrics that align with your objectives and help you make informed business decisions. You also need to check that you have the capability to measure them effectively, or you risk getting false results.
Things like comments, likes, and shares are sometimes called “vanity metrics,” but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. It’s fine to measure these as long as they align with your objectives. You can use them to evaluate the general success of your social media presence, see how you compare to competitors and which content engages users.
More tangible metrics to measure include site traffic, leads generated, sign-ups and conversions. Don’t forget to analyze each of your platforms, ad formats, and ad placements separately to find out which generates the most revenue.
Whichever metrics you’re using, check them regularly, and measure ROI over a specific period based on your sales cycle. If the sales cycle is four months, there’s no point looking at the results after a couple of weeks.
Calculate your investment
The next step is to work out the cost of your investment in social media marketing and factor it into the calculation. Choose a specific campaign or timeframe to measure, so you have something to compare it to.
First, look at the monetary costs—how much are you spending on paid versions of social media management tools, paid social ads, and agencies or consultant fees? How much did you pay your writers, editors, and content managers to produce the material you shared?
Harder to quantify is the time spent by your social media team on a certain campaign, but you can add this up and put a figure on it. Think about meetings, posting and promoting content, running ads, and undergoing training.
Create and share a report
The best way to collate and present your findings is to create a report. If you use a template (you can find these online or in some analytics software packages), you won’t have to build new reports for every campaign.
Make sure the report is easy to understand, even for those in your business who are not familiar with social media. Use the data to show how you’re meeting business objectives, and include insights to highlight the value of non-monetary aspects.
Point out which tactics were effective and which were not—what lessons have been learned and how will you use them to maximize value and revenue in future?
Ways to improve your ROI
If the analysis shows a need for improvement, one way to boost ROI is to optimize your social media output.
More than 40% of marketers named Facebook as the most effective channel, but you should use the full range of social platforms to determine which works best. It’s also helpful to use A/B testing, where you split your audience in half to see which version of an ad or post generates more interest.
For example, on your website is a guest blog called “contact center vs call center,” and you want to direct your social media users there. You could experiment by posting the link in different types of posts and seeing which get the most click-throughs.
It’s important to be driven by the data. You might perceive that certain posts get lots of likes or shares, but you have to crunch the numbers to make sure you’re right and find out why. Then you can use the figures to inform what kind of content you publish.
Customer analysis is also important. Find out who is scrolling through your social media and when, and you can tailor your content to them. It pays to be aware of the competition, too.
Social media moves fast, so you’ll need some flexibility in your strategy to keep up with the changes. Look out for new platforms and technology, emerging trends, and changes to algorithms—as well as customer preferences and behaviors.
How to grow your social media ROI
Using a social platform is the norm for most businesses these days, but it’s not enough just to maintain a presence—you have to make sure that you provide regular content that engages your audience and raises awareness of your brand.
There are lots of tips you can use to enhance your social media output. Encourage users (and employees) to share your posts, and interact through competitions, feedback, and user-generated content. You could also branch into affiliate marketing and partner with social media influencers.
If you find that certain content performs well, there’s nothing to stop you repurposing or re-using it across channels. Turn a long-form blog into a listicle or a how-to post, or add a video. Almost 69% of marketers say video ads outperform image and plain text ads on Facebook.
Then there’s social media commerce, which is when users can purchase from you without leaving the platform. This will help you prove ROI as you’ll have quantifiable numbers, such as the amount of people who saw the post or ad and clicked to buy the product.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s optimized for mobile—that’s where most people browse social media. Remember that social media is a fast-paced world, so if someone engages with you through a comment or a question, it’s crucial to respond as fast as possible (39% of social media users expect a response within the hour!).
Is it worth measuring social media ROI?
Absolutely! It’s not an easy task, but if you’re using social media for your marketing, you need to make sure your strategy is effective. With some lateral thinking, you’ll be able to demonstrate the overall value of paid and organic activities and prove to the suits that social media is worth a healthy chunk of the budget.