All Articles Marketing Study shines a light on social media’s marketing dilemma

Study shines a light on social media’s marketing dilemma

3 min read


For many businesses, social media requires going back to marketing basics. Based on Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, “How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses,” 94% of respondents use social media in their marketing mix. Social media has become a “must have” in every marketer’s toolbox.

Despite this, there’s a disconnect between marketers’ use of social media and their ability to measure it, according to Social Media Examiner’s report. While 83% of respondents say social media remains important for business, 40% of respondents report they’re challenged to connect social media marketing efforts to measurable results. In fact, this has been identified as the top issue on this survey for three years running. With other forms of marketing, it’s critical to be able to track your results in terms of revenue and expenses to yield a return on investment. What’s the problem with social media?

While in the early days of social media, it was acceptable to keep your social efforts as something special, off on the side without specific business goals or marketing allocation — that’s no longer the case. Since social media has become an integral part of the marketing plan and budget, these financial indicators need to be measured.

In theory, it should be easy to track your costs. For most marketing, this is the case. You’ve got distinct categories of costs such as media, creative and other fees.

When you use social media for marketing purposes, the difficulty is that everyone in your organization, from your C-suite executives to your customer service representatives, may be involved in one way or another with related expenses that aren’t tracked for these purposes. Further complicating this process is the fact that part or all of the social media efforts done by these employees may be part of their “regular” job, and as a result it’s difficult to break out their social media costs. Without these numbers, it’s surprising that almost half of respondents say they can track marketing expense reductions — because the reality is these costs may be shifted to another department without any savings.

If expenses are difficult to track, sales are even less direct and hence more challenging to follow. To this end, it’s important to incorporate methods for tracking results into your social media executions in terms of calls to action and unique promotion codes. Further, you must ensure your conversion process is as efficient as possible or you’ll loose prospects before you’re able to discern they’re in-market. Therefore, the fact that 58% of respondents report they can track leads generated by social media and 40% of respondents report they can track improved sales according to Social Media Examiner’s survey is pretty good. (Of course, this data doesn’t state the level of revenue from these elements.)

In the absence of hard figures such as revenues and expenses, social media marketers use softer, less direct metrics such as increased exposure and improved traffic. Here’s what 10 social media experts recommend tracking. As marketers expand their use of social media and get a larger piece of the marketing budget, these factors may no longer be sufficient. Therefore, it’s critical to lay the groundwork for measuring social media efforts and the sales they generate.

When it comes to social media, what does your organization track and why? Ideally, what would you like to measure, and what do you need to accomplish this?

This post is by Heidi Cohen, principal of Riverside Marketing Strategies.