Marketers are always looking to tie social media efforts directly to sales in an attempt to demonstrate the ROI of those efforts, but many do not understand how difficult it is to measure ROI definitively.
Up until recently, the most common way of quantifying social ROI has focused on sales–for example, how is an Instagram campaign driving purchases? However, this sales-oriented way of thinking does not accurately reflect what marketers are focused on. According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, “Eighty percent of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their primary goal on social, and another 80% say their key strategy is increasing engagement across their social channels” (Sprout Social, 2018).
This is because social media’s true value comes in the awareness and consideration stages of the purchase funnel. For the majority of brands, social media content should be leveraged to increase the amount of people who know about your brand and products. The secondary goal should then focus on guiding them further down the funnel with interesting content and exceptional customer service.
Though marketers focus on increasing brand awareness and increasing engagement, this is not the most stable and quantifiable basis for determining ROI. Ultimately, ROI is defined by what consumers want to see and what makes them take action.
When users were asked what types of content they want to see from brands on social media, Sprout Social reported, “consumers say they prefer content that aids in awareness and consideration, not the end sale” (Sprout Social, 2018).
The top preference—links to more information from brands (including discounts, sales and educational posts)—falls into the consideration category (Sprout Social, 2018). This proves that consumers are interested in learning more about the brands they are following.
The second and third most requested type of content included graphics, images and video (Sprout Social, 2018). These preferences, which fall into the awareness stage, show that users favor content that visually tells a story. Cisco reports that, “By 2020, online videos will make up more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic (85% in the US)” (Cisco, 2017).
It is time for marketers to reconsider ROI and what it means in terms of their social strategy. The data shows brands may be wasting time and effort on content and campaigns that no longer resonate with users. Also according to Sprout Social, “The top three content priorities for social marketers are misaligned with consumer preferences.”
While discounts and sales are what consumers want to see most on social, marketers should think twice before building social media strategies solely around these topics. Content that encourages conversations and drives ongoing engagement is more likely to build long-term relationships with target audiences.
The best social media marketing strategies focus on the awareness and consideration stage with entertaining and inspiring content, while encouraging audiences to continue on with informative content focused on products, discounts and sales.
Now that social media has proven itself as a valid and important channel for marketing, it is time for marketers to reassess strategies and align them with what the ever-evolving target audiences want to see.