The One Question Marketers Fear Most


Algorithm shift? Google rankings drop? Budget constraints? When you ask your marketing department about these topics, it shoots a bolt of terror right down their spine. But there’s one question they fear even more. One that is so hard to face that they’ve compiled millions of pages of content with semantics and side-stepping in order to avoid giving you a direct answer.

Social Media Marketing ROI

How Can I Measure My Return On Investment Of My Social Media Marketing?

Usually this is the part one would say “How does Kobe Bryant measure his ROI of a basketball?” or “Don’t measure sales, measure engagement” but I’m not going to play those games with you. The truth that your marketing department is afraid to tell you is that most of the time you can’t measure the ROI of social media.

Unless you are inside a consumers mind at all times, it’s impossible to know every time your social media efforts were the reason they decided to purchase your product or service. Hell, the customer wouldn’t even be able to tell you if you asked them.

ROI of Social Media

How is that possible though? Why are companies investing millions of dollars if they can’t get tangible data on how much money it’s making them? Because logic. When television commercials first came out, they received the same type of criticism and doubt (And they still undergo much scrutiny today). But you don’t see brands giving up on them, do you? There’s a quote that helps us understand the logic of why TV ads and social media remain vital investments for successful brands…

Social Media ROI

Figure out where your audience is going, and be there. With digital marketing evolving at such a fast pace, there are only a few principles that remain timeless. This is one of them. There are over 2 billion people (almost 30% of planet Earth) using social media and that number is growing fast. Whether you should be on social is not the question though because that answer is very clear.

The topic here is return on investment. And it’s totally understandable. There’s no financial rationale that supports investing money into something that you can’t directly measure. Mystery has never been a close friend of budget decisions. But therein lies the beauty of it. Majority of the benefits that social provides are not measurable. You can’t measure familiarity, trust, offline word-of-mouth, and most of all you can’t measure emotion. Below we will talk about the pieces of social media where ROI is and is not measurable.

These are 3 parts of social media marketing that boost businesses:

1. Advertising
2. Contests / Campaigns
3. Posting and Engaging

In relation to ROI, only two of these are measurable.

1. Advertising
2. Contests / Campaigns

1. Measuring the ROI of Social Media Advertising

Thanks to Facebook’s Custom Audience Pixels, you can directly measure the people who clicked on your ad and converted on your site. Once you’ve compiled this audience, you can re-target them or even create a “lookalike audience” of those who converted on your site. Mark Zuckerberg makes it so much easier to find and target your most relevant audience, which benefits both you and the consumers.

Facebook custom audience pixels

You can also use Google Analytics to directly measure the amount of website traffic from social that converted on your page. This is a lot more high-level, but it helps you understand the behavior of the people visiting your site from social. How many pages are they visiting per session? How long are they staying and where are they dropping off? These insights can teach you how relevant your social media traffic is and whether they engaged with other parts of your site beyond the landing page.

Google analytics pic

2. Measuring the ROI of Social Media Contests and Campaigns

The purpose of any giveaway isn’t because the company was just feeling generous. It’s because they’re looking for leads. Once you’ve built a following, you can implement a giveaway in exchange for Email addresses or form fill-outs on your website. By using a customized URL on social with sites like or UTM tracking, you can directly measure the people visiting your page from that campaign. Again, here you can use Facebook Pixels to re-target these visitors who showed an interest in your giveaway (which logically means they have an interest in your product). If you know the value of a lead, then you can easily figure out what your ROI was for that campaign.

Now comes the biggest chunk of what companies do on social:

3. Posting and Engaging

It’d be impossible to build and nurture a following on social just using giveaways and ads. There are tons of of ways you can organically gain a relevant community, but you have to understand why they are on social first. They’re on to engage with their friends and share/consume interesting, entertaining or helpful content. If they wanted to buy something, they’d go directly to your site or punch a search query in Google (Although Mr. Zuckerberg and company are making big moves to change that).

The Unmeasurables

Social Media ROI

  • Familiarity

The first thing you can do as a business on social media is to capture the attention of the most relevant audience. This means that you have to refrain from that aching urge to post pictures of your product or promoting your latest sale. Before you can do that, you have to become familiar with your potential consumers. And this is meant to go both ways. You have to be familiar with their interests and needs, and you also have to make yourself familiar to them.

Research your competitor’s pages to see which posts and what strategies get the most engagement. Then create your own version of that, but try it differently and make it better. Having a fresh mind coming into this space will help you, but you want to make sure to make your mistakes early (before you have thousands of people watching and waiting for you to make a mistake).

You can’t measure that moment where one of your followers needs your product and automatically thinks of your brand (thanks to the awesome content you’ve been putting out).

  • Trust

The next (and probably the most important) use of social media is building trust. Consumers are much more likely to go with a brand they trust, regardless of price (or even quality in some cases). It’s the reason you purchase Coca-Cola instead of the knock-off brand: The quality it exactly the same, and the knock-off is cheaper, but you still stick with Coke.

Measuring Social Media ROI

You can use social to inspire the same type of trust that brands like Coke have done. When you deliver posts that tell stories of actual consumers using and advocating your product, you are automatically injecting direct social proof (which is much stronger than the size of your following).

Unfortunately, no one has invented a trust-meter yet, making this one impossible to track.

  • Offline Word-Of-Mouth

You also use social to create a memorable pre/post consumer experience. Stellar customer service will help you turn your current customers into advocates, which results in offline word-of-mouth marketing. You can give people a truly remarkable impression by promptly answering their questions or solving their issue.

You can also go above and beyond for your customers or leads on social media, which not only pleases the person you’ve helped, but does so on a public platform for all to witness.

social media offline word of mouth

Generally, users prefer to use social media for customer service issues because it’s an easy means of communication for them and it also puts your brand on the spot in front of a huge audience. In their eyes, you are more likely to address their complaint or question because others are watching versus a private message or Email where all eyes are NOT on you.

Unless Facebook is actually listening to our conversations, you can’t measure this either.

  • Emotion

When an event makes you feel something, you are much more likely to remember that experience. Companies use social to tell their story, but they make a mistake. They do it from their perspective. Stories must be told from the customer’s point of view.

What problems does your product solve? What does it feel like once that problem has been overcome? Happiness? Relief? Empowerment? Once you’ve tied that emotion to your message, you have simultaneously stamped yourself into the top of your customers’ mind.

Data has also shown that people usually make purchase decisions based off of emotion. So when you can tie your logo to a feeling, it will trigger every time someone sees it which will then encourage them to buy it.

Social Media Marketing

But remember, you cannot measure the amount of emotion you have injected into your audience. Nor can you attribute a purchase based off of an emotional interaction that someone had.

Again, an example where social drives a sale that is impossible to attribute back to the source.


Marketers and Business Owners have to accept the fact that you can’t measure all of the ROI that Social media provides. The same way you can’t directly measure TV commercials, but your instinct tells you that it does have a meaningful impact on your brand. If it wasn’t working, the major players would have given up on it long ago.

It’s not easy get results, and it takes time before those results start to roll in. Be patient and methodical.

There are too many brands getting it wrong. Just like any marketing platform, you need to constantly educate yourself on the new strategies and capabilities.

Most of all, don’t be afraid of the risk you take with social media. Remember, risk comes with mystery but it also comes with great reward.


Created by Tim Mehta – Social Media Manager

Social Media Manager