Is it too Yorkshire of me to say stop asking me for the ROI on social media?

I have been really busy recently, with this launch and that, but in my spare time I have been reading quite a lot on the ROI of social media and scratching my head. As more and more of these amazing buzz monitoring tools spring up out of the woodwork providing us with this set of data and that, it seems the big question is still what is the return on investment from social media?

Sure data is all good and well but unless you have someone with half a brain who can process that data and tell you why this spike in conversation took place it’s pretty much useless – as useless as giving a caveman a microwave.

I am sure there are loads of brands out there monitoring social channels but not doing anything with the data they get and that’s the most important bit. If you are listening that’s great – now use that information to improve your product or service.

I was running a social media workshop with the marketing team of a well-known global brand the other day and they were saying that the most senior person in their business was regularly asking: “That’s great but where is the money?” Now for a start I do think that is a bit callous. However, let’s be honest here that’s what every business really wants – sales. Social media can be fun, help with traffic and it’s a great form of direct communication with your customers but at the end of the day the client wants to see an impact on their sales.

I have been working for another client for several months now writing and engaging on various social networks and they have regularly asked me about direct sales from social media and often I had to show them the data from the latest campaign but I did struggle to show direct sales from social media. To be honest I helped the client begin from a standing start and although they regularly acknowledged that their website’s traffic had increased by more than 300% and the most popular section of their website was their blog – the client still wanted to know the direct sales impact from running a social media campaign.

Personally, I think this is an education process for us all working in this industry. Social media is about helping the sales process but it’s far, far more than that. It has many more benefits than most other forms of marketing – don’t get me wrong I am not saying it’s not the holy grail to business success but if its executed beautifully and integrated properly with a media relations, advertising and direct mail campaign it can be hugely effective. Thankfully the client I am referring to got a £10,000 sales enquiry last week off the back of a blog post, and the client told me personally, which was nice to hear. I suppose I am saying it can take time to educate but we should all try to do our best.

So for one last time, social media isn’t about direct sales, it’s about building relationships. However, if you build strong relationships the money will eventually follow because people buy from people they like.

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Posted By Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.


Andrew Allsop

Brilliant post, really enjoyed reading that! When you take a look at the benefits social media can offer (such as the benefits of customer engagement) and a holistic view of your marketing strategy it’d be ignorant, good ROI or not, to think it’s not worth investing in.

When you look at how many of the ftse 100 companies survived over 20 years since it’s inception it gives you the idea that businesses need to take better steps to ensure their sustainability. A benefits which I truely believe social media offers over many other marketing channels n

Dag Holmboe

Hi Chris,
I saw your tweet, which got me here. The key to understand is that the ROI is easy to calculate assuming you have the return and the investment values. The investment is usually pretty quick to calculate (= basically what you charge the client). Instead, the tough part is to figure out the social media return. There are actually two questions; first, what is the social media return, and second, how do you attach a value to the social media return?

We have developed an ROI app that takes web metrics as input. Using the web metrics, we model the social media return based on a series of “return channels” (eg consumer insight, support) to which we know the value. Aggregating the different social media returns, we get a monthly social media return.

Mind you, this is not an exact science but it help a marketer to model, estimate and optimize the social media return for one or more campaigns, and it helps the marketer push a prospective client across the goal line as well as justifying the marketers continuing relationship with the client.

Let me know if you would like to see a demo of the product.


Dan Elson

Ace post and its exactly what i have been thinking! Clients need to understand that over time relationships build up between the brand/company and between customers and potential customers. This relationship then, in time, does increase sales as customers become advocates of the brand and therefore the best possible marketing takes place, by which i mean your customers actually sell your brand and your products/services to other potential customers through reviews etc. In my opinion social media is now a must for all businesses, just as a website was a must 5 or 10 years ago!


Defining the R in ROI for Social Media | Smartdog Digital

[…] This post is in response to Chris Norton’s blog post about the ROI on social media. […]

Illiya Vjestica

To add to Chris’s valid points above. Social media ROI can be more than just monetary gains.

When defining the return on investment for social media, we first must defined what ‘R’ or return actually is.

Return on Engagement – How many people are you engaging with? Is this engagement showing results in terms of the number of Retweets, website sales, @mentions, Facebook likes, inbound links or traffic.

Return on Participation – If your promoting a launch or competition, how many people through social media are participating in your campaign? Think about participating in conversations where you don’t already have a voice? Have you moved from a running monologue to a meaningful dialogue with your customers?

Return on Involvement – This can look at the number of sign ups or the number of people who are actively involved in your social media campaign. A lot of marketeers measure involvement on blogs, how many comments do you get? Are users actively adding to your blog community? You should ask yourself is your company currently part of the conversations about your product/industry? If the answer is no, then get involved in them.

When defining the return on investment for social media, we first must defined what ‘R’ or return actually is.

Return on Attention – Are people listening to you more than competitors? How are you currently talked about compared to your competitors? Are you receiving negative or postivitive attention?

Return on Trust – This is key, I can’t stress enough how important trust is online. Brands are turning to social media to build trust and re-assure customers about their message. Nearly all brands and companies should be looking to build better relationships with their key audiences. Trust is what makes a brand powerful.

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