Tracking Social Media, One Sip at a Time

ROI tracking makes or breaks your marketing decisions, and it’s for a very good reason–you don’t want to be throwing good money after bad and dedicate your resources to an effort that is just not generating effective returns. Of course, this is old hat, and nowhere near groundbreaking news for experienced business owners. However, in a world where social media stands as a forum laden with marketing potential, we are in dire need of a rethink to how we measure ROI.

When asked the question, “Do you feel the need to measure your social media ROI?” only 37 percent of business owners polled this year by the Social Media Examiner agreed that this was a marketing priority. Curiously, this lackluster response comes alongside the knowledge that social media platforms make it easier than ever for companies to track involvement with their latest campaigns (to “Like” or not to “Like,” that is the question). So, what gives?

This is where traditional ROI starts to break down. ROI is defined as the exact dollar amount gained from every dollar amount spent, and yet, social media doesn’t really work that way. Many business owners see social media as a significantly more qualitative marketing venture, and rightly so. Rather than use social media as a transaction producing machine, the focus is shifting to how social media changes customers. Social media insinuates your product, and your company, into a customer’s daily life. This then nurtures your audience, builds brand awareness, and increases the holistic quality of your customer relations.

And what measuring stick are you supposed to use for what is admittedly a grey area? First, there are the easy metrics. Website traffic, followers, shares, retweets, and likes are simple to track and quantify. While these may not translate directly to sales, they do help you see who is participating in the conversation. Customer engagement is an incredibly valuable asset, and by building your relationship with them through social media (or a newsletter), you’re laying the foundation for impressive returns.

As for what this looks like in the flesh, try this on for size: I am crazy about a good cup of tea. Maybe it’s my inner Anglophile, or proof that I belong in another century… Lucky for me, in recent years, tea has gotten some serious international love. Whether we’re talking Teavana, or Starbucks, everyone has their own brand and ads aplenty. I’m rather partial to hot teas, but my fiance, on the other hand, is a fan of anything iced. More often than not, he goes for something like Arizona, but I’m an organic girl myself, so their sugar-packed variety just doesn’t cut it for me. And then I found Steaz.

The Pennsylvania-based company makes canned iced teas and when they showed up on the grocery store shelves, I paid them about a glance’s worth of time and went on with my day. But then, the oracle that is Facebook hunted me down. A Steaz advert came up in my feed with that all important “USDA Organic” to catch my eye. I did it, I clicked, and then me and Steaz clicked too. Why? Instead of “Buy Our Drink Now!” their wall was filled with a conversation about my favorite drink in the world–tea! They highlighted who grew their crops, the ins and outs of fair trade, and a whole lot of other boutique mumbo jumbo that got me interested (Psst! I hadn’t even had a sip yet!). And of course, there was a coupon…

On my next trip to the grocery, you can guess what ended up in my cart–a few Steaz cans to see if they lived up to the hype. I think they did, and I’m not the only one. It turns out that their discussion-based, coupon-incentivized campaign doubled their sales and resulted in 250,000 coupon downloads. Was this a success? Heck yes! Did they have some metrics to back it up? You betcha! But, what was the dollar gained per post measurement that lead to such a rousing return? They probably won’t ever truly know, because customer involvement is very different than sales. In fact, I would say it could even be a more powerful return entirely.

Steaz and a lot of other businesses out there are harnessing social media to create a culture surrounding their product, one they can track, but maybe not quite quantify the way we’re used to. I guarantee you that the next time I’m staring at a shelf full of tea, I’ll reach for the Steaz, and I’m pretty sure my fiance will too (see you later, Arizona!)–mission accomplished.

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