Social Channels ROI

Social ROI: The numbers do not add-up

I read a lot about statistics and big data in the digital world and always wonder why the research says businesses are failing to see the ROI of social media. Econsultancy recent B2B digital trends report says that only 25% can actually measure the return on their investments in social media.

Why Social Media

Before talking measurements; the question is always why are we on social channels to begin with? In my case, I work in the B2B industry and the focus is brand awareness and lead generation. Personally I do not have a secret formula for measuring brand awareness, so I won’t cover that.
However, when it comes to lead gen. the secret is “Centralization”. You know the saying “All roads lead to Rome”; this is what it takes. All marketing activities – offline and online- need to lead to one single hub that connects the dots. Easier said than done you will say and I won’t argue. Mainly because an average company would have at least three or four systems to manage its operation. HR and Finance would have one, the operations team would have an ERP like SAP or any other. Marketing and Sales would have a CRM like SalesForce, and they would also have a marketing automation tool of some sort. On top of all that there would naturally be a website and, as most in the social media age, a showcase company page on LinkedIn and a Facebook page in spite of the 11.2% decline in Facebook engagement according to LocoWise research on 5000 pages.

Connecting the dots

To effectively measure; my secret formula is basically driven by the web ability to pass codes through the URL, the web address, of the hub where all roads need to cross.
To elaborate, let us say we want to identify an audience for a new service offering. So we build a webpage on either the website platform, or better yet, the marketing automation tool that in most cases would be connected to the CRM system. The web analytics of that page can also feed into Google Analytics or any other traffic analysis program used. What all the other channels need to do is to unify the communication, so, if you are posting on Twitter, LinkedIn, or any social channel about this new offering, give the URL of the hub, but send also a simple code in a format like this “?campaign=NewOffer&src=FB” or “?campaign=NewOffer&src=LN”. Even if the channel is a poster or printed media. Include the same URL, and add a code like “?campaign=NewOffer&src=Print”. You can even create a QR-code using that same format so users can easily scan the code on the printed media instead of typing such complex URLs.

Get the numbers

So once the campaign is launched, look at the analytics software and build your metrics around those codes we have passed to each channel. So, we can see how many visits came from social channels vs visits from print, for example. However, the real beauty comes from the actual registrations (a.k.a leads) that feed into your CRM. If you have the right setup and the correct technology, the leads should be linked to their channels and this is where we can actually get the numbers that we need to effectively measure the ROI of all the social media activities we have been engaged in. In most CRM platforms like, for example, leads are converted into opportunities and a monetary value is assigned to each. So whatever the cost of the marketing campaign on social channels, this can be compared to the value of each lead.

The numbers do not add up & the dark side of social

If by now you are saying the numbers never add-up, then we are on the same page. Tracking is great provided each channel actually forced the use of those codes we have suggested. But there is also the issue of “Dark Social”.
A research by Radium One into “Dark Social” defines it as the social platforms that go undetected by web analytics software. So when someone, types the web address on What’s App for example, such traffic source is undefined and apparently 95% of the digital population is in the practice of copying and pasting URLs into such applications.

RadiumOne Dark Social Research Oct2014
RadiumOne Dark Social Research Oct 2014

The URL we have suggested works nicely with the extra codes, however, they are not really required to actually load the page. As such, the practice of manually typing the URL results in these codes getting dropped out and as a result we lose the advantage of identifying the channel. Having said that and to be technically correct, most web traffic analytic software would detect traffic from the social channels even if we do not have those nice codes. But that will not be true if the social channel is “What’s App” for example.


In summary, I hope you still try to centralise your campaign around a single digital hub, and set those special tracking codes. As of this writing, Dark Social channels still go under the radar and people do manually type URLs. Nevertheless, having some numbers is by far much better than having none, even if the numbers do not add-up.

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