What Can Be Done About Low Social Media ROI?


When was the last time you went a day without seeing an article about social media? Specifically, what brands could, should and ought to be doing on social media in order to get a higher ROI?

Hardly a day goes by, right? The body of work on this subject would surely stretch ad infinitum around the world, if it were printed. There are a few reasons for what now seems like an industrial scale of production on this topic. This is partly due to it being a relatively new marketing discipline. Some would also cite the corresponding growth of content marketing, which is an unforeseen consequence of the rise of social media. Partly however, this explosion of content about the ROI of social is down to the fact that proving one exists isn’t easy.

Are we all just placing our bets in the hope that in the long-run we are right?

False Rumors of Email Death

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At the same time, the death of an older form of marketing – email – has been widely rumored for long enough that some mistake this for truth. And yet, email is alive and well. According to an Econsultancy 2014 industry census, 68% rate email good or excellent, with 23% of their total sales coming from that channel. Social however, only had 32% of respondents claiming it to be good or excellent. A staggering 30% considers it poor, from that same survey.

Email is still, according to a Marketing Sherpa Survey, the preferred channel for 75% of consumers. An often reported statistic, from the Direct Marketing Association is that email has an ROI of 4300%. Which means, for every $ 1 spent, brands get $ 43 back.

A Social Leap of Faith

In a New York Times op-ed, author and technology journalist, Stephen Baker, highlighted the fact that on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, social media was barely in the game. According to an IBM study, ‘a scant 0.68 percent of online purchases came directly from Facebook. The number from Twitter was undetectable.’

Baker compares social media to the arrival of other major technological shifts, like electricity, and the consumer websites of the dot-com bubble era. Thousands of well-funded tech startups designed to generate ad revenue from “eyeballs.” Sound familiar? He feels that, ‘The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.’

He is right, from a historical perspective.

But for your average CMO, trying to measure returns from a multitude of channels, they can’t afford to think in decades. A quarter is long enough, in the digital world. Engagement is great, and yes, it helps to raise awareness when customers are moving along their unique buyer journey; but can you honestly say you’ve put a dollar amount on your own social media returns? And if you have, are they really anything to write home about?

Best of Both Worlds?

Social media still has qualities which, from an ROI perspective, are hard to nail down. Not exactly what a CFO wants to hear, but it’s unfortunately true. Email however, is doing better than ever. Can the two be combined in a meaningful way?

Gregarious Narain, Chute’s CTO and Co-founder, worked with Atlantic Records to produce a customer-generated video for the popular movie The Fault in Our Stars. Every image, was crowd-sourced using the hashtag #TFIOSencouragements on Instagram and Twitter, sourced and filtered using the Chute platform. In total 3,800 frames were collected, with the end result – using lyrics by Ed Sheeran – has had 10.8 million views so far.

Narain told the blogger, Ann Handley, “All it takes is consistent engagement and collaboration. Your fans want to hear from you, talk to you and be recognized by you. They are no longer happy just consuming the one-way stream of content brands historically produced.”

With social media listening tools it is possible to bring social data, deep customer insight, into an ongoing narrative with your customers. This opens the window on the CRM, bringing more light into an otherwise dark room.

Providing engagement is delivered using customized language, tailored according to audience segments, then the information derived from social and into email marketing campaigns will drive email ROI even higher.

Download our free guide, Amp your Lead Gen w/Next Gen Social, and learn what really matters with social listening and marketing automation.

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