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The great social media debate part 2: can you put an ROI on social media PR success?

Posted by Louise Moran on 10th January 2012

All well run businesses have metrics in place to measure success, from targets to grow sales, marketing objectives to increase ‘stickiness’ and brand loyalty right down to KPIs to generate cold hard profits

Tech PR professionals or bean counters?

Meanwhile, in the tech PR industry we measure hours dedicated to clients, agree monthly budgets and work to achieve expected coverage results, all the while attempting to quantify our efforts by discussing number of hits, opportunities to see, impressions and engagement, not to mention counting up retweets, Facebook likes and blog comments.

What’s the ROI of a tweet?

However, at the recent AMEC conference on social media measurement, debate broke out when Philip Sheldrake claimed it is impossible to measure the impact of PR campaigns and social media PR outreach using current methods. He stated that trying to measure the value of a tweet was as arbitrary as trying to measure the ROI of your right leg – at which point Pete Devery of Microsoft EMEA replied that the ROI on his leg was being able to walk, or cycle – it’s clear that not all PRs agree on this point!

The fact is, that there is no clear cut way to measure social media ROI, with a recent Adobe survey showing 78% of European marketers are dissatisfied with social media measurement. In June this year, a poll at the AMEC European Summit on Measurement 2011 revealed just 11% of clients demand social media evaluation as part of their wider social media PR strategy. How do you know you are on track if you aren’t measuring against KPIs as you go?

Do you get what you give?

It doesn’t seem like any other industry is faring much better. Econsultancy’s recent State of Social report revealed that 41% of respondents cannot put an ROI figure against any of the money they spend on social media PR or marketing, with a bold 8% claiming they can determine ROI for all of their social media spending.

Measure what you can

While we will never be able to come up with the value of a tweet or a Facebook ‘like’, Econsultancy has uncovered three important social media metrics that can – and should – be measured. These are:

  • Direct traffic and click through from social media websites
  • Assisted and unassisted brand awareness
  • Customer engagement

By measuring these ‘hard’ metrics and coupling social media strategy with core business objectives, a company can at the very least ensure their social media efforts are being linked to achieving business goals, even if we’ll never be able to put that pound, dollar or euro sign in front of the ROI we achieve.

Next steps

So should tech PRs look beyond the PR industry to devise social media measurement metrics, or will collaboration be possible between tech PR professionals to devise a common industry standard for social media measurement? Look out for our next blog to find out.

Photo credit

Louise Moran