In today's digitally driven marketplace, the need for small businesses to maintain a social media presence is clear. When it comes to taking stock of the ROI of various social initiatives, things tend to get a little more murky. Indeed, a whopping 57 per cent of business executives say that measuring ROI is their greatest social marketing challenge, even more than managing their online presence.1
How marketers measure social ROI
For better or worse, social media is forcing today's marketer to examine ROI from a variety of angles. According to an infographic2 by the InventHelp marketing team, many marketers are measuring the ROI of their social marketing activities by:
Followers and fans (75 per cent).
Website traffic (67 per cent).
Social mention (55 per cent).
Lead generation (38 per cent).
Sales (30 per cent).
While the above statistics all point to the fact that social media is great for generating soft leads, ROI is ultimately about converting those leads into sales. So, which sites are good at doing that? Here's a look at the top social media channels and how they measure up.
According to a survey by MDG Information, marketers still rank Facebook number one in terms of ROI, with 15.4 per cent of respondents saying Facebook provides "significant ROI" and 20.4 per cent "average ROI".3 To increase Facebook's effectiveness, some experts recommended using targeted ads that link to Facebook apps, which boast twice the conversion rates of websites.4
One business that found Facebook success is Edible Arrangements, an online retailer of chocolate-dipped fruit arrangements. Wanting to increase awareness of their brand on Facebook as well as drive holiday sales, they ran a cross-platform promotion offering a coupon for six free strawberries to the first 100,000 users to like their page and fill out an application form. The campaign increased their number of Facebook fans to 100,000 from 5,000 in just four days, along with a double-digit percentage increase in sales over the previous year.5
Ratings and reviews
Ratings and reviews came in a close second after Facebook, with user-generated content providing a high level of ROI for many businesses. Retailers report that both positive and negative reviews can drive sales. As such, many retailers are now incorporating customer review functionality on their websites in order to attract more traffic and rank higher in search engines.
Twitter, LinkedIn and more
Not surprisingly, Twitter and LinkedIn came in third and fourth, respectively, followed by participation in industry blogs and forums, company brand communities, YouTube and company brand blogs. The wild card in the mix appears to be YouTube, with the majority of marketers indicating that YouTube is where they want to increase future spending the most, followed by Facebook, blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Pinterest's visual appeal driving sales
While Pinterest did not show up in the aforementioned results, a separate Bizrate survey of 10 million users revealed that 70 per cent use the board for "shopping inspiration" and to "keep up with trends".6 In fact, some retailers report that customers who are referred to their website by Pinterest have a 70 per cent larger overall ticket than from other social sites, proving that Pinterest is a strong ROI contender for some businesses as well.7
Google and email crushing social media?
In spite of social media's growing popularity, it might come as a surprise that when it comes to generating sales, Google search and email are still in the lead. A Custora study of 72 million shoppers revealed that visitors who found retailers by way of organic search were 50 per cent more valuable than the average customer, and email customers 11 per cent more valuable. Meanwhile, Facebook customers were about average, and Twitter customers 23 per cent less valuable than the average customer over time. Their research also found that Google ads lead to clicks and actual conversions, perhaps due to a 10-year head start in the game.8
When it comes to social ROI, it seems that any number of channels can produce results. So perhaps instead of asking which sites are best for generating ROI, a better question might be how can businesses maximise ROI using the particular strengths of each channel or, even better, a combination thereof?
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.