Will Marketers Continue to Struggle with Social Media ROI? [Interview]

social marketing, marketing, digital marketingAs marketers continue to invest in social media, research suggests that they are still challenged to prove the success of their initiatives. The “2017 State of Social Marketing” report from Simply Measured discovered that 61 percent of brand and agency marketers are finding it difficult to determine the ROI of their social media efforts. To learn more about the struggle, we spoke to Scott Fallon, vice president of marketing at Simply Measured, for more insight.

Do you think marketers should change the metrics they are using to gauge social media success? Why or why not?

“Marketers need to expand the metrics they use to gauge social media success. 58.9% of brands use engagement metrics–likes, comments, shares, and such–which dwarves the next most used metric of conversion and revenue metrics, at only 19.9%.

Without looking at web traffic and other conversions–including revenue–coming from social, marketers are missing learning what in social will have the most impact on bottom line business results.

This makes it difficult to nearly impossible to make decisions on the most effective social tactics if something such as likes is your primary measure of success.”

Are you seeing any differences in how B2B marketers are approaching social vs. B2C?

“We did not explore this in our current research. As a broad generalization, we find that B2B marketers can have a different perspective on goals than B2C marketers.

For example, where a B2C marketer might be happy with measuring engagement–such as likes–the B2B marketer is typically less interested in that and more focused on clicks on posted content. The B2B marketer is more interested in drawing a prospect deeper into the funnel using social.”

How can marketers better tie business initiatives to their social efforts?

“Marketers today are called on the mat to deliver leads that convert from activities such as email and paid search.

They need to treat social the same. They need to set social goals at the same level, which means looking at web traffic, form fills, and revenue that is coming from social activities, such as posts and sharing of content links included in posts.

We believe that engagement and awareness metrics are still important–because marketers can’t ignore branding and the top of the funnel–but too many think performance against those metrics is all they should expect from social.

Once those conversion goals are determined, and marketers have put in place the tools to track performance against them, then they need to adjust their social tactics based upon which content, posts, and social strategies drive the most bottom line results.

The summarized answer is that marketers need to stop viewing social as a side activity outside the main activities of demand generation, and treat it and report on it alongside the other demand generation tactics.”

How can marketers get more of what they need from their organizations (e.g., analytics software, publishing tools)?

“This will happen when marketers demonstrate that social can and does deliver on business results. Social is a lead source, social is valuable through the entire funnel, and social can be held accountable for driving revenue.

If marketers can show that optimizing social leads to better business results, they can justify the tools needed to evaluate which social activities have the best ROI.

They can also make the case for the need to track how links shared privately from social posts represent intent to buy and are driving business results, but because of a lack of tools to track that, the traffic coming from this source is being inaccurately attributed to direct.

Studies have shown that the volume of this dark traffic is massive.”

Marketers seem to see the value in influencers, but are having trouble investing in this area – why? How do you see this changing in the future, if at all?

“Our research showed that over half of brand marketers believe influencers are vital to the success of their social programs, but 76% have no dedicated budget for influencer marketing.

Why is that? Partly, we think it is because influencer marketing is not mature enough yet that it is setting business goals.

Today, the number one reason marketers engage influencers is to extend reach–55.2% say that is how they use influencers.

Influencer marketing needs to play by the same rules as other marketing domains such as email and paid search, if it expects to win budget: It has to set and deliver against business result goals, and not just focus on reach goals.

What we see evolving is the rise of the niche influencer. As the influencer space matures, and becomes more crowded, consumers can seek more specialized expertise from the increasing number of influencer choices.

So brands will invest in influencers who are effective in niches they care about, and not just those with celebrity-type followings and massively broad reach.”

What did you think was the most interesting statistic/finding in the report?

“The most interesting finding of the report is that social continues to increase in importance to the marketing mix but still 90 percent of marketers struggle to measure ROI or tie social to business results. Surprisingly, we found that only 57% of brand marketers set web traffic or conversion goals.”

For your free copy of the “2017 State of Social Marketing” report, visit the Simply Measured website.

marketing, digital marketingABOUT SCOTT FALLON

Scott Fallon is the VP of Marketing at Simply Measured. He has experience across startups, SMBs, and enterprise software companies, including Microsoft and BEA, and has launched or expanded both social marketing and content marketing at several companies. He holds a BA from University of California, San Diego and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

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