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The ROI of Social Media [#SMMW16 Takeaways]

I just returned from Social Media Marketing World in San Diego and had the most amazing time! While I have SO many takeaways from the event (let’s just say my mind was blown with all of the great information and superb speakers) in today’s post I want to just touch on one of them – the ROI of social media.

This takeaway was inspired by the last keynote speech of the event given by the incredible Mark Schaefer. You can read Mark’s highlights of the speech (in his own words) here.

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One of the first things Mark covered was that so often as marketers when we think about social media we think about things we can put on a spreadsheet; things like reach, likes, shares, engagement and so on. But, the ROI of social media isn’t always necessarily quantitative.

So what that means is just because you have a number of likes, or just because you get a certain amount of clicks…that’s not the entire picture of the ROI of social media. What Mark said, which I thought was so great, is that a lot of times the ROI of social media is qualitative. Meaning, it’s difficult to measure because what you’re measuring in social media is more about the relationships and connections that you make.

He gave an example of being on Twitter and connecting with someone on Twitter. That relationship ended up leading to another connection, which led to another, which led to multiple business connections along the way.

These are just some of the things that happened as a result of one Twitter connection. How do you put this list on a spreadsheet?

These are just some of the things that happened as a result of one Twitter connection. How do you put this list on a spreadsheet?

On a personal note, I can think of so many connections that I have made on social media that have led to other connections and ultimately dozens if not hundreds of business opportunities.

I’ve always been a believer in the qualitative ROI of social media and that relationships are at the heart of that. As a social media marketing professional, this can certainly be challenging when it comes to data.

The relationships formed through social media don’t neatly fit on a spreadsheet. I think this is an important thing for any person or business to keep in mind as they evaluate any social media channel as a business tool. Not to necessarily disregard the numbers, but to keep in mind that you can’t measure social media like you can any other marketing effort. Of course, there are some numbers you can measure but the problem with that is that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

I believe when you think about social media you have to think about it in the long term and it’s got to be more about a relationship goal. The challenge for a lot of companies is that they want results quickly, especially in social media, and it just doesn’t happen. Just like in real life, building and nurturing relationships in social media takes time. This is something I’ve been teaching for years and years – relationships are built on small interactions over the course of time. Every like, every follow, every connection…it adds up over the course of time. So as a business, you really have to look at social media through the qualitative lens and understand that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

You never know where one connection is going to lead. I think so often we think very short-sided when it comes to connecting with someone. But just keep in mind that you never know where that one relationship could lead and how things could come back to you.

Another big takeaway from Mark Schaefer’s keynote speech was about content. He advised to, “stop chasing the shiny red balls of social media.” There’s lots of shiny red balls in social media. Right now it’s Snapchat, earlier in the year it was Periscope, in the past it’s been FourSquare. He suggests, rather than chasing that shiny red ball, we should focus on the areas that make the most sense for our business. I agree with this, although I will say there’s a fine line between trying out a new platform and seeing if it’s a fit for your business and jumping on every band wagon. My caveat to Mark’s point is don’t be afraid to try new things!

Platforms change slowly. Strategies change quickly!

Finally, Mark touched on the reasons behind why we share things which I thought was so fascinating. He said the reason people choose to share is usually for one of three reasons:

  1. It’s self identity. Much like picking the kind of car we drive or the coffee we drink, picking the things we share is a way to self identify ourselves.
  2. Acts of generosity and kindness. We share because we are motivated to do something nice for someone else.
  3. A symbol of love and support. Similar to an act of generosity, we share because we want to show our love and support.

The reason why he offered these reasons for sharing was to provide us a way to evaluate the type of content we are creating. When you can create content that is not only shareable, but makes people feel like the hero for sharing, there is power in that.

Mark also talked about an alpha audience. Your alpha audience is people that share, no matter what. This I thought was so interesting. In thinking about it, I have people I can identify as my alpha audience. Mark said it’s typically around 1% and it’s important to know who those people are and to nurture those relationships. By doing so, imagine increasing your alpha audience to 2% and then 3% and so on. If you could do this, your competition would be blown out of the water.

So going back to the ROI of social media, it’s really about creating juicy, relevant content that your audience is craving and also being the type of person that people want to share what you have to say.

Check out my broadcast on this topic:

Were you at Social Media Marketing World this year or did you follow along online? What were some of your biggest takeaways? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment below or jump on over to our #GetSocialSmart Facebook Group and join in the conversation. I’ll see you there! 


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