Proving the Value of Social Media Marketing

If you’ve ever handled social media for a company, you’ve likely had to remind the client on more than one occasion that it’s worthwhile, and not just another passing trend. While there are analytics that measure things like lifetime likes, page activity and conversion, it’s still difficult to measure the impact to the bottom line. To help us best explain the value of social media, Randy Fishkin for SEOmoz uses the Classic Conversion Funnel model:

Traffic sources like ads, organic search, bookmarks and referrals all drive traffic that directly converts, meaning that they result in a purchase/sign up action. However, “Visitors from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, et al. are known to visit a page and quickly depart,” says Fishkin. High bounce rates, low browse rates and bad conversion rates don’t exactly instill confidence.

The key to understanding the value of social media is understanding its role in the conversion process. Web surfers use the internet as “a tool for discovery, research and investigation,” browsing to find potential needs or desires, examining their options and ultimately making a purchase decision. Social media is less like an impulse buy at a grocery store, and more like “the considered purchase of a grill, television set or automobile.” What this means is that social media isn’t what closes the deal, it’s the channel through which potential future conversion are created. The role of social media is to create brand familiarity and drive visitors to content that further draws them in, but it “very rarely directly answers an expressly-stated need.” So what else does social media do?

  • Creates positive associations with the brand
  • Attracts brand followers and evangelists who can help spread the word
  • Delivers social proof via the people sharing the content and discussing the brand
  • More personal, trustworthy and more likely to capture a click

As we mentioned, social media does offer some analytics. According to Fishkin, the key metrics to track include:

  • Traffic data – how many visits and visitors did social drive to our sites?
  • Fan/follower data – how many people are in our various networks and how are they growing?
  • Social interaction data – how are people interacting with, sharing and re-sharing our content on social networks?
  • Social content performance – how is the content we’re producing on social sites performing?

Facebook, Twitter and other popular social sites have a variety of analytics worthy of attention. “For now, marketers are stuck with a combination of tools, manual collection, visit tracking via analytics and plenty of questions about the value of social media,” but we suspect these metrics and tools will improve with time.

Although it’s relatively hard to prove (for now), social media marketing most definitely has its place in an interactive marketing campaign. Facebook marketing, Twitter marketing, LinkedIn marketing and other social advertising sites are great avenues for increasing your brand awareness online. We expect to see improved analytics within the new few years.