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Marketing | Feb 19
John Bonini on September 5, 2019 • 16 minute read
We recently teamed up with Sprout Social to learn more about the challenges agencies face in selling, tracking, and reporting on the ROI driven from their social media marketing efforts.
We heard common challenges around setting goals and expectations, optimizing ad spend, and tracking and attribution.
However, the social media marketing landscape has matured.
Agencies have grown accustomed to the pushback and have identified the tools, processes, and reporting techniques to successfully communicate the ROI of their efforts.
After surveying 57 agency professionals, we learned about the tools they use, the specific metrics they track, and how they tie everything back to business goals.
Here’s what we learned.
Table of Contents:
If you’re trying to determine how to measure the ROI of your paid or organic efforts on social media, consider these eight options that our respondents use.
“Proving social media ROI first requires you to understand and pinpoint the actions that you want your followers to take—the actions that will ultimately lead to a sale,” says Marc Herschberger of Revenue River.
“For some businesses, that could be ecommerce purchases. For others, it could be newsletter subscriptions.”
“Once you’ve nailed down what those actions are, it’s easier to track whether or not they’re being taken,” Herschberger says.
If you have a long sales cycle (i.e. one social media post is unlikely to lead directly to a sale), Raul Tiru of GlobalOwls recommends “breaking down the journey into smaller chunks” and then tracking each of those actions separately.
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers uses Google Analytics’ goals for tracking social media ROI: “Create UTMs for each page of your website and for each channel where you’re going to share/promote those pages. From there, you’ll be able to track on Google Analytics precisely where the traffic comes from.”
“You’ll also want to create conversion goals in Google Analytics. Your goal could be a visitor signing up for your newsletter, clicking the purchase button, etc. Once you have UTMs and goals set up, you’ll be able to see in Google Analytics exactly which social media posts generate traffic and conversions.”
Des Dreckett of XenMedia Marketing recommends “creating landing pages and forms that are produced specifically for social media posts. This makes it easy to track which platform sends the most traffic, generates the most leads, etc.”
For example, if 200 people converted from a landing page or form you only shared on social media, you can confidently infer that your social media activities generated those conversions.
Another option that’s very similar to the custom landing page approach is creating coupon codes that you only share on social media.
“We use coupon codes via promotions for things like Instagram influencer campaigns where analytics data isn’t available,” says Adam Riemer of Adam Riemer Marketing.
Mike Schiemer of Bootstrap Business uses a combination of the approaches above to track social media ROI.
“I recommend creating trackable URLs that point to custom landing pages to effectively track conversions such as sales, ebook/white paper downloads, email newsletter signups, app downloads, and other KPIs with a defined value.”
“Using tools like Google Analytics and its Campaign URL Builder is effective and free.”
It’s nice to have an easy or automated way to track social media ROI, but Chris Handy of ClosedWon says there’s also value in tracking your ROI manually.
“When we work with sales and marketing teams on connection strategies, we put a focus on making authentic connections—and candidly less on using UTM codes in links. This does require a commitment from sales reps and marketers to getting back to basics on manually marking where people came from.”
“Having both categorized and open-field lead source fields in a CRM allows us to measure the broad strokes, while the nuances can live in the open fields.”
Handy provided this example:
“For ROI calculation, we use our own marketing analytics tool—ROY—which aggregates data from ad networks and attribution partners such as Appsflyer or Adjust,” says Peter Fodor of AppAgent.
“Our ROI prediction uses historical purchase data coming from in-app purchases or subscriptions for a specific platform (iOS or Android) and channel (Facebook, Google Ads, Snapchat, etc.), so we’re able to predict the long-term ROI after a few days with a fairly good level of accuracy.”
If none of the options above work for you, many of our respondents also recommended using one of the third-party ROI-tracking tools in the section below.
There are a lot of advantages to using a third-party tool when tracking social media ROI. For one, these tools automate a lot of the tracking work for you. For two, they usually produce reports automatically, reports you can deliver directly to your boss or clients.
Here are the nine best social media ROI measurement tools, according to our respondents.
“We use HubSpot to identify when social media is the first touchpoint for leads and website visitors,” says Sharon L. Hadden of Social Savvy Consulting Group. “We can then provide a personalized experience to those customers on the platform(s) where they’re most engaged.”
Myrna Arroyo of Pepper Inbound Marketing also recommends HubSpot: “We use HubSpot’s campaign reporting tools to track the source of every contact in our database so that we know which social networks are generating the most contacts, leads, and sales.”
“HubSpot can track every single website session, click, interaction, or lead that comes from the posts we push out or sponsor,” says Candice Grow of Leighton Interactive. “By being able to track exactly who came in and converted from a social post—and what they converted on—we can put an ROI on the effort.”
“Having a list of names we can hand over to the client at the end of the month and show what they did truly helps put a value to social efforts, especially when our goal is to convert more leads,” Grow says.
“Databox is a great tool for social media reporting because it allows you to create a dashboard of important metrics from all your different social channels. So not only can you see how you’ve progressed over a specific time period, but you can also see how each channel has progressed over specific time periods right next to each other.”
Editor’s note: Need a way to centralize your metrics from multiple social media channels? Grab this free Social Media dashboard that combines and displays data from HubSpot, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Danny Florian of KIT Digital Marketing also recommends Databox, along with Unbounce and Zapier. “Whenever a lead submission form is filled out, we send an SMS message to the appropriate person. Quicker response rates usually translate to higher closing rates for the sales team.”
“We then send out automated weekly Databox reports showing cost per conversion and other important KPIs that prove the ROI is there,” Florian says.
“To track and prove social media ROI, we use Sprout Social’s reporting tools, the built-in analytics tools in the channels themselves (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and Google Analytics,” says Megan Dorer of Fortune Web Marketing.
Editor’s note: Looking to prove the ROI of social media? Start your free trial with Sprout Social’s Agency Plan and get all the training, reports, and content you need to prove the ROI of social.
Like Dorer, The Blogsmith’s Maddy Osman says she “counts on internal social media analytics tools. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. all have this functionality built-in.”
Using each platform’s built-in analytics comes with some advantages. For example, Kevin Williams of SurgeStream says that “Pinterest has very in-depth data that you cannot get from Google Analytics or other tracking tools.”
If Google Analytics’ goals are one of the best ways to track social media ROI, then obviously Google Analytics is one of the best tools ROI tracking tools.
“To prove ROI, we use Google Analytics and CoSchedule by setting up tracking UTM tags on social media messages,” says Dario Sipos of DWR. “We create a custom report in Google Analytics and set goals to track ROI.”
“The generated report shows all the conversions we made through people clicking on the intended link. And using reporting templates provided by CoSchedule, we then prove that social media marketing is paying off.”
Editor’s note: Track your social media metrics from both Google Analytics and each native social platform. Grab this free Overarching Social Media Analytics dashboard that consolidates metrics from Google Analytics, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
“At Mention,” says Sandra Chung, “our clients use our tool specifically to prove their social media marketing efforts in a number of different use cases:”
“Using ‘Reports,’ our customers can easily customize reports to meet their needs, depending on which type of business objectives they want to measure.”
“We’re all about results-driven metrics for all of our digital campaigns—lead generation, conversion rate into customers, and ROI,” says Kayli Kunkel of Ironpaper. “That’s why we’ve been really impressed to learn about the core functionality provided by a company we partner with called RevTrax.”
“RevTrax provides serialized barcodes that you can use in your social media marketing, advocacy, affiliate campaigns, and even paid search. These codes capture data from the first click to the final offer redemption—even in-store purchases.”
“This tech allows us to see the true ROI of our campaigns and optimize social media (and other channels) around the best-converting ads. Then, of course, we can apply these learnings to other channels.”
Brooke Tomasetti of SmartBug Media uses a combination of HubSpot, Google Analytics, and Rival IQ.
“HubSpot allows me to tie social media marketing efforts back to client goals. Google Analytics is great for seeing which social platforms account for what percentage of sales. I also use RivalIQ (integrated with HubSpot) to dig deeper into Instagram metrics, which helps me know what to double down on.”
The final tool our respondents mentioned was Oktopost, recommended by Gerry Dapergolas of Strategic IC:
“As a B2B inbound and ABM agency, we use a mix of organic and paid social strategies across our clients—and a range of tools to assess ROI, including HubSpot, Oktopost, and the built-in analytics on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.”
While many agencies focus on metrics like conversions and sales to communicate the ROI of their social media marketing efforts, others use engagement indicators from the posts and/or ads themselves to communicate the value of the overall strategy.
Here are the seven metrics our respondents track to measure social media ROI.
Conversions offer a logical starting point—and for many of the agencies we surveyed, the endpoint—for communicating the ROI of social media marketing efforts.
“I prove ROI by showing conversion data using Databox dashboards,” says Chris Ross of Eight Digit Media. “Every campaign I run on social media is conversion-focused, so it’s much easier to prove ROI when you can point directly to leads coming in the door on a daily basis.”
Editor’s note: Track your conversions alongside your other key Facebook Ads metrics using this free Website Conversions dashboard.
“We find that tracking assisted conversions in Google Analytics provides a strong measure of value for social media,” says Craig Wilson of Sticky Digital.
“The nature of social media marketing tends to be that it can drive initial interest but not strong immediate conversion compared to search. Tracking assisted conversions allows you to attribute where social media featured on the customer journey, even if it didn’t lead to the final conversion.”
In addition to measuring conversions, Reece Dyer of Blend B2B recommends “putting a large focus on cost per conversion.”
Cost per conversion is important for both organic and paid social, but it’s particularly important for paid social because it tells you whether or not running ads is profitable for your company.
“Everything ties back to return on ad spend (ROAS), and/or cost per acquisition (CPA),” says Tyler Pigott of Lone Fir Creative.
“We believe in creating multiple short-term test campaigns before going all-in with larger budgets so that the goals we are communicating to the client can be built on reality and we can manage expectations.”
“We also make sure to have closed-loop reporting set up within the client’s CRM so we are able to gauge the quality of leads and how the sales team is able to work those leads.”
Nettly’s Thorstein Nordby recommends tracking leads, but not just overall leads—leads down to the type of lead: “Our main KPIs when reporting to clients are traffic, leads, MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, customers, and revenue from online channels.”
“It should be pretty easy to know whether your social efforts are driving qualified leads if you have good visibility into your marketing funnel,” says Jennifer Lux of SmartBug Media. “Properly tagging social attribution will help you understand whether visitors turned into leads, MQLs, SQLs, and, eventually, customers.”
“From there, you can close the loop and look at customer lifetime value or customer retention—depending on the type of business—and attribute a certain qualitative value to customers who initially came to your site from social efforts,” Lux says.
Lux also recommends tracking how visitors from social engage with your website: “Other preliminary metrics that might be useful to evaluate from social leads include the number of pages visited and time on site.”
Our respondents also listed a number of social engagement metrics they track to measure and prove ROI:
To learn more about any of these metrics, check out our post on the 24 most important social media metrics.
Now you know how to measure social media ROI, which metrics to track, and which tools to use. But there’s one more important step: showing your boss or clients that your efforts are paying off. Several of our respondents offered tips on how to prove social media ROI.
“When I work with my clients, we set up the numbers that will mean success—and the timeframe for us to achieve them—before we begin work,” says Eve Mayer.
Several other respondents echoed this advice.
“Successfully proving ROI is only possible by looking at business or campaign objectives at the start,” says Kriselle Laran of Zeno Group.
“The OKR system works by defining a few key objectives for the company, like ‘increase our following on social media’ or ‘increase the number of leads generated through social media.’
For each objective, we define 2-3 measurable key results.”
“In my experience, you can only expect your clients to understand and accept the hard facts and data that they can physically see, either via a report or their own incoming leads,” says Stuart Dixon of Provance.
To show your clients their results, you can use a data visualization tool like Databox, or you can create your own custom reports.
“We issue custom monthly reports that provide detailed metrics,” says Steve Yanor of Sky Alphabet Social Media. “It’s a seven-page report that features both 90-day trailing and 28-day performance, along with a detailed table of historical data.”
Editor’s note: Consolidate all of your social media ROI reporting into a single view for your clients or boss with this free Google Analytics Social Media dashboard that lists your goal conversions by each social network and shows how much traffic social is driving to your site.
“We try to create an ROI benchmark for visitor acquisition (both new and recurring) in addition to LTV of a new customer,” says Nate Shivar of ShivarWeb. “If you know those numbers, the value of social media marketing is usually clear.”
“If you know that 50% of people who download your offer become customers, then you can calculate the monetary value that offer generates per download,” says Phil Wiseman of Analytics That Profit.
“The first question I ask my clients is, ‘what’s the value of every lead you generate?,’” says Shounak Gupte. “Track the conversions/signups the website is getting, multiply that by the value of each signup, and then explain that to your clients.”
“The explaining part is the trickiest, Gupte says, “but you’ll get better with time.”
Originally published in May 2018, this post has been updated and reformatted to make it easier for readers to find the exact information they’re looking for.
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