How to Measure Social Listening ROI

How can you quantify a conversation? It seems counter-intuitive to turn a medium based on social interactions and relationships into a cold numbers game, but you have to somehow measure the effectiveness of your social listening strategy. Social listening is an asset. You need to know what’s working and what isn’t, otherwise what’s the point of having a strategy at all?

Below, we have a few basic ways to begin measuring your social listening ROI. Surprisingly, it primarily involves data you should already be used to working with—interactions, leads, pay per click, etc.—and applying those metrics to your social media networks.

We also have a great guide to social media marketing, called “Toolkit to Marketing Automation: How to not look like a robot

Why is measuring social listening ROI so difficult?

The terminology is to blame, in part. “Seventy-three percent of CEOs think marketers lack business credibility … because we talk about these trends like social media,” says Nichole Kelly, author of How to Measure Social Media, in a podcast for Social Media Examiner. Social media, and by extension social listening, is a marketing strategy that’s decidedly different from anything that came before it. Consequently, many marketers have gotten caught up in the novelty of it all, and have insisted that they need to find new ways to measure it. Words like “retweets” and “mentions” are often foreign to execs used to more traditional performance indicators, when really they’re easily measured and not all that different from indicators we’ve measured in the past.

[Tweet “73% of CEOs think marketers lack business credibility b/c they talk about trends like social media.”]

Social media lingo is not going away any time soon, however, so you’ll need to become versed in it. However, looking at each metric separately can make the task easier.

Start with Costs per Click

The first step to getting back into familiar territory is to focus on common performance indicators. A good place to start is with costs per click. “At the end of the day, if you can compare social media to what you spend on pay-per-click advertising and start measuring it with something simple like cost per click on all of the web traffic you are sending to your site, you have something that justifies a budget,” says Kelly.

Put another way, comparing the average per-person cost of a PPC campaign with the number of people who come to your site through free social media posts can give you an idea of your social listening ROI.

Look at Leads

Analyzing how many leads your social media strategy brings you is another simple way to determine your social listening ROI. Using a specific link in each social media post can tell you if that person came to your site from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or another network you posted in.

There are a number of free programs—like Google URL builder and Bit.ly—and CRM software platforms that can help you create and track custom links. Even some social networks have their own form of lead measurement. Facebook, for instance, has Conversion Measurement, which lets companies that advertise on the site monitor the behavior of the customers clicking on the ads.

You can also get creative with how you track leads; you can even let the customer do the work for you. Post a discount code on Facebook or Twitter, for example, and then see how many customers use that code.

Measure Interactions and Reach

Interactions are another key way to measure social listening ROI. They show you how many people your post has reached, which is essential to your social media marketing’s success. Per Forbes, “the average ‘like’ on Facebook takes seven seconds per person while close friends of this person will take an average of five seconds to digest that ‘like.’ Analyzing these numbers by how many likes were received, multiplied by how many friends of those likes witnessed the action give a more accurate — not to mention sunnier — idea of how far your message reached.”

Additionally, keep track of the number of followers you earn over time, also known as your reach. A greater reach equals greater exposure. More people seeing your content means more people will share share it.

William Flanagan

CEO & Founder, Audienti. Former VP-Cognio, Founder-sentitO/Verso, SALIX/Tellabs, PrimaryAccess/3Com, CompuServe. Expert in data-driven marketing.

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