By adaptive - July 8th, 2014

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Generating a clear and transparent methodology for assessing social efforts against business goals is the key to positively influencing your business’ bottom line

The ability to assess ROI within the social media space often remains elusive. There are no precise barometers of how well the corporate social strategy is impacting the bottom line and this remains an issue for many organisations that face a future that demands social investment.

How can its value be assessed? How does it impact the business goals and bottom line? It is vital that your corporation understands the value of any tools or initiatives, not just those that are introduced through social. This ensures that resources are channelled more effectively and improvements are made where needed the most.

The real value of social doesn’t lie in how much money tumbles into the corporate coffers. It is hard to put a price on a Like and a retweet, a comment or a swift response to a complaint. Instead, value lies within the relationship between brand and consumer and the ability to build loyalty in an economy that has this quality in short supply.

“You can look at the value-add that’s new and unique to social media,” says Jonny Gifford, research advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). “Does it enable connections between groups where before there were silos? It’s hard to quantify the value of this, but easier to see whether it aligns with your business strategy.”

An example offered by Gifford is for one of their clients, Santa Fe Group, which needed better worldwide communication when a merger made it a global organisation. They adopted an enterprise social network as the platform for delivering on this need and it was precisely what the business needed to integrate communications internally across multiple continent.

The goal posts

As mentioned earlier, social media can strengthen relationships and the importance of this cannot be underestimated. However, the value cannot be assessed unless the business objectives are clearly outlined from the outset. There is little impact to be had with a few tweets and a limp Facebook page and no content that links back to the business.

“When it comes to social media, many brands and agencies miss the mark by losing focus of their business goals and producing the wrong KPIs that may be subjective but aren’t quantifiable or won’t effectively determine success or failure,” says Leah Pope, Vice President of Global Marketing at Synthesio. “By keeping it simple, brands and agencies can actually yield more accurate data from their KPIs that align with their big picture goal and objectives across the board.”

It is essential that there is a cohesive strategy that is aligned with corporate goals and this will ensure that social can be assessed against key performance indicators (KPIs) accurately and streamlined effectively.

“Our business goals at Davidson Asset Management are to find new clients and to keep existing ones,” says Euan McTear, Marketing Manager at Davidson Asset Management. “Social media can play a role in both of these goals, yet we find it difficult to assess just how responsible our social efforts have been any time we gain a client or every time we don’t lose a client. Social media is never fully responsible for a sale in our space, but we do find that it can still play a major role.”

McTear points out that the B2B space has a saying: “It is said that a business must have seen your name seven times on average before they will buy from you. That’s a lot, but if we are seen on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, then we are already halfway there.”

Goals can include generating leads or revenue, improving customer service or interaction, building a brand identity, improving internal efficiencies through an internal social network or establishing how the brand is perceived externally. There is also no rule that says a business can only have one or two goals embedded into their social strategy – there are ways of utilising different platforms to achieve different goals. The trick is measuring the impact once you’re done.

“Regardless of the quality of data you are extracting from social listening, human analysis is always key,” says Pope. “After all, the value of monitoring is rooted in subjective questions: why are you monitoring and what do you hope to get out of it? The challenge then is to connect the dots between the insights you gain, the actions you take and the results they deliver to your business.”

Transparent view

For many brands the value of social lies in hearing what is being said about their brands. What is the whispering words saying about their performance, customer care and ability to deliver on their promise?

Reputation is vital and social listening, as mentioned briefly earlier, is a powerful tool that offers the organisation a way of seeing exactly how they are perceived by their target market. It also hands over a fantastic tool for measuring the impact of your social on a proverbial silver platter – a benchmark of reputation.  What is being said today after a rich and targeted and active social campaign versus what was said in the past?

“The true value of social engagement is in how memorable your brand is and how much value it adds to the customer,” says Paola Bassanese, Director of Energya. “A brand’s followers interact because they feel listened to. Social media is a communications tool and a listening tool and can be extremely beneficial to test a new product, do some market research and acquire new skills.”

Social media can also be measured against both short and long term gains. A robust social strategy has a far longer time stamp than traditional advertising campaigns as it remains present and active and has the ability to generate loyalty and goodwill.

“Getting seen is a challenge in the B2B sector so we ask all new clients if they have seen any of our social profiles before signing a contract,” says McTear. “We keep that data and for ever social profile seen before a sale we count that as a success.”

Annette Morris, owner of LaFranglaise Internet Marketing & Web Solutions adds: “The value of social comes from learning something from your audience, boosting goal driven traffic to the website or winning new clients. Being aware of the social landscape cannot be underestimated when it comes to market research and development for any industry.”

In the final part of this series we will be examining what social insights the boardroom can buy into and how to translate complex metrics and measurements into the language of the C-Suite.

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