The Myth of Social Media ROI

What did we do before every aspect of our life could be posted on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter and photographed for Instagram? As social media quickly permeated every aspect of our lives, the business community, spurred on by social media analysts, hurried to set up Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Pinterest boards the like.

Today it is not uncommon to have a conversation with a clerk in a retail store or an email from a business associate end with, “Be sure to check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for our weekly contests. You’ll catch pictures of the fashions/foods/products that vaguely relate to our business on Pinterest and Instagram and you’ll want to check our blog for a more in-depth look at what we have to offer. Like what you see so far? Be sure to up-vote our comments on Reddit and would you mind dropping by our G+ page to leave a review of your service here today?”

It’s exhausting. Is it worth it?

The rush for businesses to embrace social media had little to do with their desire to spend half a day posting content, and everything to do with using this new way of networking to boost sales. While there are benefits to social media marketing – benefits that we will explore in detail later on in this article – the link between social media and direct return on investment (ROI), or social media ROI, is a myth.



social media roi

Saying that social media ROI is a unicorn (a mystical thing that many believe in yet it cannot be proved) is not a popular opinion. Why should it be? It takes time and effort to keep up with all that posting, tweeting and photo sourcing and it takes money to hire a social media expert to do those things for you. To hear that your efforts are not producing the social media ROI you expect can be daunting. But hear me out.

I Can Measure Social Media ROI

No you can’t.

ROI is extremely subjective. Social media ROI is even more so. Social media can be extremely hard to quantify. Check out Company A, whose goal was to get 1,000 followers on Facebook, and they thought they hit that goal by posting interesting and engaging things. However, what are those 1,000 followers doing for Company A? Are they reading the witty and amusing stories but not purchasing products? Are they reposting the social media offerings? Are they interested in a business relationship?

Now let’s look at Company B that has just 50 followers, but each post is designed with a sales target in mind. Each post announces a sale, product information, a social-media-only special, etc. At least 75 per cent of the followers make a purchase following each post.

Yet, it’s not as simple as improving the quality of your posts. Sure, you can gear your social media to be more sales targeted, but you must also consider the industry and target demographic of your customers.

Let’s go back to Company A with those 1,000 followers. In order to increase social media ROI, Company A stops posting what they had for lunch and their thoughts on Jaden Smith’s latest ramblings and starts posting strategic information about their products, services and how they can make your company/life even better. Company B, with its 50 followers, has already been doing this. Company B can still easily outstrip Company A in sales conversions.

Why Are You Doing This to Me?

For your own good, obviously.

What kind of digital marketing agency would be we be if we sold you a bill of goods? In business, there is no one-size-fits all answer, especially when it comes to social media marketing.

The reason Company B can easily outstrip Company A in social media ROI is because of the industry they are in.

Company A sells heavy duty lawnmowers to large institutions like prisons and sprawling university campuses. Company B sells pop culture trinkets that keep pace with the celebrity hijinks of the moment. Have a lawn growing out of control? Company A can help you with that. Want Justin Bieber shaped earrings? Call Company B.

You see, social media is all about being in the moment. It’s about impulse. It’s about having something to read while you’re hiding under your desk from your boss. The board of directors for the university aren’t likely to wake up thinking, “I wondering if Company A has a 2 for 1 special on industrial lawnmowers today. Better check their Facebook page,” but the 50 followers on Company B’s Facebook would be delighted to wake up to a .99 cent ringtone download of Beyonce’s latest hit.

If you are not engaging your target market properly with social media, there is no social media ROI for you.

So, I’ve been wasting my time because I don’t market to impressionable tweens that have a large disposal income?

Now let’s not get dramatic.

Networking always has some value, but any tool is only as good as the person wielding it. Throwing out a bunch of posts/tweets/photos and seeing what sticks is not efficient, but there are ways every company, from your Company A’s to your Company B’s, can use social media to their advantage.

Okay, I’m listening…

Good, because what I’m about to tell you can dramatically improve your social media ROI.

There are many benefits to social media. For example, I just love what Sholem Berkowitz, a social media strategist and consultant at SocialWeber, has to say about the non-direct social media ROI benefits. Berkowitz points out that your feeds and posts have hidden gems that your customers will use. Your social media will help to show how you operate as a brand. It will give potential customers a look at how you handle responses and complaints. It gets your name out into the industry and if your clients are fans of your company, they will follow you even if they don’t buy much – it keeps you on your client’s radar.

Now that you know there are some ways in which you can garner social media ROI, it’s time to hone your tools and wield them with precision!

How Do I Increase My Social Media ROI?

First, you must select which social media tools will work best for you.

social media roi

Company A may want a Facebook Page to showcase and talk about their new lawnmower models, but they don’t need a Twitter account because their client base doesn’t tend to tweet about lawnmowers. Company B loves Twitter because their demographic is ideally suited for the typical Twitter user. A company that makes custom cakes can make great use of a photo sharing site to share their cakes and inspire clients by showing pictures of what can be achieved with custom cake making. An animal adoption centre can also benefit from several streams – photos of their adorable kittens and tweets about when a pet is ready for its forever home. Think about what you offer and whom you offer it to. Then review your social media choices and select which one(s) will give you the best social media ROI.

The next step is to tailor your messages for your audience.

BuzzFeed is all about entertainment and companies use it sponsor content that can get them clients. However, if you are a funeral home with a stately reputation, you may want shy away from posting “The 10 Most Awkward Funeral Rites in History!” and have a modest Facebook page where you can impart wisdom such as where to find the best funeral flowers in the city. Company A may want to post the specs of their new Lawnmower 2000 Supreme but avoid posting video clips from The Lawnmower Man. Company B, on the other hand will sell more Grumpy Cat toe rings after posting a clip of Grumpy Cat’s latest media appearance.

There is, however, one major indirect element that boosts social media ROI.

What is that?

Ask yourself this: who is the king of the Internet?


social media roi

That’s right. The Internet runs on Google. This company has the highest market share when it comes to search engine results and if you are not showing up on the first page of Google search results, you are missing out thousands of views and potential sales.

Google search engine results are driven by keywords and the more targeted keywords associated with your brand, the higher your rankings. In this regard, social media ROI has value, even if you are not using social media to your best advantage, because your social signals have a direct bearing on your rankings. If you are putting content out there on the web that Google is picking up on as people search for your products and services, then your value to Google goes up; and as the “king of the Internet”, pleasing Google means rewards for you (web traffic, sales conversions, ratings, visibility).

So What’s the Final Takeaway Here?

The bottom line is, be very suspicious of anyone that says they can give you measurable social media ROI.

The success of your social media campaign is difficult to quantify and if your social media expert is applying one basic formula for all of their clients without getting to know who you are as a company and the ins and outs of your target market, you will always miss the mark.

However, social media does generate some indirect ROI in the terms of your Internet presence and in the terms of your rankings on Google – and this has value. As you post, tweet, and Instagram, you build relationships with your customers that can directly or indirectly/inadvertently lead to sales.

Social media is an important part of today’s culture and should not be overlooked as a marketing tool. Like any tool, you need to have realistic expectations and knowledge of how it works. When applied correctly, you can get great results. When applied incorrectly you will get some results.

Now that you know, feel free to tweet about it.


Kazooky Digital Marketing has been around since the Internet went mainstream – the period in Earth’s history known as the late 90s. Since we emerged the same (digital) time the World Wide Web was becoming a global obsession, we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital marketing. This is why we know social media can be an ally for businesses – and we want to show you how. Contact us today to learn more about online marketing and how we make it work for you.

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