A VineSprout client recently used the term “fuzzy marketing” to describe marketing initiatives such as social media. While the term may have a negative connotation to some, I like it. Typically, marketers want to tie all endeavors to a number (units sold, etc.), and that is completely understandable; companies need to find out what's working and what isn’t. Good marketers realize they cannot control or calculate the exact ROI of every particular marketing activity. But sometimes the efforts that are difficult to calculate are in fact the most beneficial.
First and foremost, social media is a communication tool just like email or the telephone. Social enables your business to have conversations and engage with customers. What better way to find out what your customers like and dislike than to talk to them?
Take a restaurant where a patron has a bad experience. Before social media, that customer was never coming back and probably telling his friends about his overcooked burger. With social, the customer leaves a negative tweet, and the restaurant has the opportunity to bring that customer back in by offering a meal on the house and making sure a better experience is had. I can't quantify the exact ROI there. It’s fuzzy. But I know that a customer was saved. When done right, social can take a digitally vocal customer and turn them into a band ambassador.
So what does this mean?
We must try to analyze what we can. This begins by defining what really matters. What's important to you? For some it may be strictly the number of likes or fans. For others, it’s all about driving traffic or sales numbers. I prefer to focus on engagement, customer insight and the quality of interactions. Although some aspects of social media can be fuzzy, there are ways to help track Social Media ROI and find out what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. Here are three of my favorites:
1) Include unique call tracking phone numbers on social media platforms to learn which channel drives the most leads and conversions.
2) If people are coming from Facebook or Pinterest and then making a purchase on your website, that's very easy to calculate. Track where your traffic comes from with Google Analytics.
3) Use coupon codes in social media promotions. One local grocery store publishes a phrase on Facebook that fans can mention at the checkout in exchange for a free cupcake or a discount.
Ben Pavlovic is the co-founder of VineSprout, Inc., the Chicago public relations firm that specializes in growing startups by getting them in the news. VineSprout has worked with graduates of Excelerate Labs, Healthbox and Incubate Miami. Follow @VineSprout on Twitter.