The Roadmap to Measurable Social ROI

Many companies want to demonstrate the business value of their social media programs, but they're not sure where to start. In fact, proving ROI around social strategies has been one of the single most pervasive challenges for companies immersing themselves in this fast-moving digital world.

So what's the trick to demonstrating value against social media programs?

There are four key pillars to building a true success framework for social media that will help you define your measures of success and understand where and how your social strategy is driving value for your business.


The reality of today's social strategies is that they're labor-intensive. To do social well in today's business world, it's not enough to just have technology or a great plan. You've got to have experienced team members who are educated about social's role in the larger business strategy, whether it's a marketing, sales, or customer service focus, and who are empowered to impact the direction of your programs.

Gone are the days when it was enough to just have the intern run your social channels as an afterthought. Businesses that demonstrate success in social today have strong strategists, analytics-minded team members who can gather and interpret insights to impact future decisions and trajectory, and outstanding front-line teams that know how to engage communities in a consistent, authentic way.

It doesn't mean your teams need to be big, but they do need to have the right skill sets and experience to understand and execute against social's larger impact.


In a recent survey by Altimeter Group and Hootsuite, nearly half of the companies surveyed used whatever data was available to measure their social media programs rather than having business strategies define the metrics they track and measure against.

Having a strategy for social media that ties to business goals is absolutely critical to effectively demonstrate social's role in meeting those objectives.

Building a strong social media strategy means understanding what existing objectives social is being tasked with accelerating, whether that's top-of-funnel awareness for the brand, improving customer satisfaction, or engendering deeper loyalty and advocacy, and creating programs and measurement frameworks that are designed to support those.

It might seem obvious, but an effective measurement program depends heavily on having a strategy to define what needs to be measured and what success looks like.


The hard reality of most social programs is that social data lives and dies inside the technologies or reports that supply it. That means the learnings and insights from social media strategies are never applied to the programs that create them, and so they aren't used to improve or refine the strategies themselves.

Some simple changes to workflows, including more stakeholders in report distribution, including human insights on top of reported activity and program metrics, and initiating conversations among teams to discuss learnings, can help data really do its job and provide direction around whether programs should continue or whether something needs to change.

If you're already sharing your learnings inside, say, the marketing department, consider sharing what you know with adjacent organizations that could also be impacted by your online relationships with prospects and customers and collaborate with them to see how social can drive your mutual objectives.


The last piece of a strong social measurement program is having the technology that can provide the data and insights you need to see what's working and what's not.

Not only can the right social technologies help you automate processes and drive efficiencies (read: cost savings), but they can help validate or disprove your hypotheses around how social is driving your business, uncover missed opportunities or unidentified risks to the brand, and help integrate with other marketing technologies to provide richer, more illustrative insights.

Once upon a time, companies could make do with a few disparate solutions for their social programs, but today's most advanced social organizations need powerful, integrated platforms that have deep capabilities, strong partnerships, and the ability to scale and grow with their maturing social strategies.

Deriving value from your social programs is far from impossible. In fact, it's well within reach for any company willing to invest the time and energy in assembling the right building blocks.

Strong strategy, experienced people, well-thought processes, and flexible technology can help any organization determine the right metrics for their social media programs and get on the fast track to defining and illustrating their impact on their businesses.

Amber Naslund is senior director of industry leadership at Hootsuite.