3 Reasons You Can’t Measure Social Marketing ROI

Posted on by Tom Copeland

“Social media ROI” is a fallacy doomed by our inherent need to quantify everything around us—even human behavior, conceptions, and goodwill.

Let’s put it this way: if you see a young man help an older widow across the street, feelings of altruism might conjure up inside of you, right? Is that measurable? Is there a “feel-good” metric? How about an independent benchmark?

The answer, of course, is no. So if you’re trying to estimate ROI figures using traditional calculations, you’ve already missed the most basic, rudimentary principle of social media: It’s about personal engagement, not mass-media messaging.

1. You’re not getting clients as a direct result of your social media efforts

Social media efforts generally don’t lead directly to qualified prospects or business. For example, people simply don’t hire lawyers from Facebook, and they don’t think you work for a particularly special firm just because you’re on Twitter.

Social media augments your firm’s reputation and visibility on the web. It’s nothing more and it’s nothing less. It should consume no more that 10% of your time for that reason, but not that reason only. Consider this: the more time you spend on social media, the more enabling the opportunities will be to commit cardinal social media mistakes, like typos, or on the more serious side, an inadvertently controversial, offending, or self-serving commentary or message, all of which can sink whatever popularity you’ve worked hard to achieve in an instant. Is spending extra time on social media worth that risk?

2: You cannot measure your success on social media

How do you measure the success produced by your social media engagement efforts? Hold on to your seat for this one – you don’t. Isn’t that a relief?

The reason being is somewhat intuitive: you cannot measure human behavior and perception on the kind of individual, personal paradigm you would need to in order to quantify the value of interaction with social media. A “like” isn’t actually worth anything of any economic value or benefit to your firm or partners. There’s no incremental income derived from a comment, a retweet, or an endorsement on LinkedIn.

When I’m reviewing program ratings for my broadcast television spot purchases, I’m looking at aggregated data – thousands and thousands of households reporting to a media data analytics firm – which tells me exactly how one television program can be measured decisively against whatever other television program is playing on any given network. It’s a function of how many people are watching television at the time and what, specifically, they are watching. The cost of a 30-second spot on one show on one affiliated channel is drastically different from another based on these highly-detailed, intricate figures. There’s a limit to the options that a family or household can engage in, creating comparative value between options – a key component to tracking and measurement.

Imagine trying to apply the same methodology to find out if the Facebook Pages post you released has garnered more of the user’s attention than the post above or below it in the News Feed. It’s impossible, and yet it would be the only true way to find out what users who see your posts think of them.

3. Your users don’t care about your firm.

Remember, social media isn’t a platform for you to generate client leads, so stop trying by promoting your firm. Instead, focus on updates and posts that are more “human.” I know a lawyer that works hard on his Facebook page. He’s always doing something new—writing blog posts, filming videos, posting about the events he attends. And it’s mind-numbingly boring.

Though he posts frequently, he rarely captures a “like” or “comment”, because he’s focused on personal promotion – generating a “return” in the form of someone hiring him—rather than on giving his followers something they might genuinely be interested in. One day there were fourteen of the same exact messages published back to back in the same minute, one on top of the other in my feed. It was obviously a glitch attributed to a mass-update program like HootSuite.

So, what’s the point of having a social media profile at all? Approach this activity only as a way to build an interactive consensus and dialogue, broaden client and community awareness about you or your firm, and reinforce your brand and online presence. Then, measure your success simply by the genuine interactions you receive from your posts and nothing else.

Focus your posts on building goodwill, not building business. Focus on producing light-hearted, feel-good news snippits and stories. Post about employees who volunteer or community events you’re not involved in. Help spread PSA messages, and comment and share interesting community or local or national news. Connect with users by publishing opinions and messages on issues that are timely, personal, and cared about.

You can’t measure any financial return on your investment of time, and in some cases, money, in you or your firm’s social media activities, but you can at least acquire a sense in the sentiment and feedback of those you engage.

Tom Copeland is the marketing director at the law offices of Craig Goldenfarb, a West Palm Beach-based personal injury firm.

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