SOCIAL MEDIA ROI -cropped-efx

August 16, 2016: Earlier this month, Emarketer published a new survey on social media spending that included data about how marketers regarded different social networks in respect to social media ROI (Return on Investment). The survey was based on responses from 551 social media marketers worldwide; while Emarketer didn’t break out the industries represented by respondent firms, they appear to consist of consumer-facing brands.

Here’s the breakout:

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Should you double down on Facebook?

While eMarketer’s findings suggest that Facebook should be the first place where marketers focus their organic and paid campaigns, it’s important to note that this may not hold for every marketer. While Facebook does have a lot of businesses on board its platform, they tend to be small shops, as our own data shows:

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Another thing to keep in mind is that Emarketer’s data is at odds with the results of prior surveys, for example, an April 2015 study by Manta of 540 small business owners. 59 percent of these marketers failed to see any ROI from their social media activities, most of which were focused on Facebook.

Proving social media ROI on any social network is difficult: 61 percent of the respondents to EMarketer’s survey reported “measuring ROI” as their single biggest challenge. Reckoning the ultimate business value of one’s social media activities isn’t rocket science, but the process does have many moving parts. One must identify the goals that the business is trying to achieve (for example, newsletter signups, lead form completions, ebook downloads, etc.), assign these goals dollar values, track all the costs of organic content production and paid spend on each network, and often design proxy metrics to correctly attribute the value of brand lift and other metrics related to awareness-building.

All this work needs to be done before the first post is published, and certainly before the first post or page is boosted/promoted. This kind of planning and preparation – as well as the resources to update social content frequently enough to move the needle – is often beyond the ability of small firms to pull off – a fact that may explain why, in Manta’s study, larger firms with bigger budgets were happier with their ROI than small ones whose budgets – and social content production capabilities – are very limited.

No single social network is best for every business

The only way to reliably determine which social network provides the best business ROI is to embark on a program of systematic, empirical experimentation.

Every business owner likely has a “gut” preference about which social network his or her business belongs on. But no single social network is ideal for every business. CPG brands can do exceptionally well on social media – including emerging platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram – if the form and content of their messaging is precisely aligned with the audiences they’re targeting, and the offer is compelling enough to prompt consistent user action. When these campaigns are coordinated with offline or non-digital demand-generating/awareness-building campaigns, a social media presence can both create greater affinity and move people through the funnel to a purchase decision.

B2B’s, on the other hand, are a different story. Long-cycle, high-value purchases require a different set of conversations to enable them, different engagement tactics, and longer time horizons in which to evaluate success or failure. Some anecdotal reports suggest that LinkedIn generally delivers a greater volume of qualified leads than competing platforms. Others point to Facebook as the place for the simple reason that Facebook so ubiquitous in our lives, which now seamlessly blend the personal and the professional. Ultimately, the only way to reliably determine which social network provides the best business ROI is to embark on a program of systematic, empirical experimentation.

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Emarketer survey: Facebook best network in terms of social media ROI
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Emarketer survey: Facebook best network in terms of social media ROI
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Proving social media ROI on any social network is difficult: 61 percent of the respondents to EMarketer’s survey reported “measuring ROI” as their single biggest challenge.
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