BCS author Eileen Brown explains the virtues of using social media to actually engage with your customers rather than just getting your money back.

Social media return on investment (ROI) is something that all companies want. But ROI is a very difficult thing to measure through something as intangible as a social media campaign, a blogging strategy or web competition.

Case studies are examples of your success in the corporate world, and also a key indicator of sentiment and success in the social media space.

In these difficult times, when companies have no budget, social media tools must deliver a positive ROI. If you run a project, you need to prove the ROI and demonstrate its’ worth.

Old Spice had an innovative way to persuade women to buy Old Spice in the US. It launched an online video campaign called ‘the man your man can smell like’. The campaign, launched during super bowl week 2010, targeted TV programs where viewers would likely watch together. 

Online engagement and conversations increased. The agency captured the real-time online messages and recorded over 40 different responses to comments posted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. This had a huge knock on effect. The Old Spice website had a 300 per cent increase in site visits and with sales of Old Spice body wash up by 27 per cent in six months since campaign launch.

Dell wants to drive repeat business, drive visitors to their site and lower their costs. Its IdeaStorm site is full of user generated content and ideas for future product development. As social media impacts every part of marketing, Dell sees a correlation between customers visiting its social and tech centre sites, discussing and purchasing of products.

So how do you realise ROI for your social media activities?

  • Measure your success in your activities. 34 per cent of B2B firms don’t currently do this. Find your baseline and measures to make sure that you can grow your figures and improve upon.
  • Be credible. Get a blog. Demonstrate your credibility. The company will want to see positive PR and visibility. Employee blogs will add to these column inches as your presence increases.
  • Get case studies. Find recent stories that are relevant to your organisation. Position them to the budget holders who want to see ROI, not the amount of fans, page views or ‘Likes’. They want to see revenue. The Old Spice campaign worked. It led to an uptick in sales. Sales matter, numbers matter.
  • Listen to the customer. Dell has a 24 x 7 command centre. It listened to the conversations taking place about the company around the world. Credible insiders get a better response to their conversations than a Marketing or PR person.
  • Have different strategies for your brand. Be prepared to change direction quickly if your strategy isn’t getting any traction. That way, you’ll be able to see which strategy generates the best ROI. ROI is what the executives understand.

If the board doesn’t get the value of social media, remind them that 50 per cent of your competitors are using social media and will be quite happy to have the conversation with your customers instead

And if they’re still not convinced, I’ll talk to them about the business value of social media and why they can get business success by following some simple guidelines in my book Working the Crowd.