Making the business case for a social media marketing program 1

In the past week, we’ve talked about ROI being the only metric business decision makers are really interested in when it comes to social media marketing. We’ve also talked about the opposite of ROI, when opportunity and market edge is lost by not utilizing social marketing effectively.

So building the business case for social marketing is the natural next step to our ongoing series on social ROI.

Social media measurement admittedly can be difficult to calculate. As an organic, trust-building activity best suited for influence and soft lead generation, drawing a direct cause-and-effect between social marketing and ROI is a challenge. But it can be done effectively. And if your online program can be shown to be beneficial to your business, it will be one that justifies a budget.

How do you build the business case for social? A formal checklist will help you build a case tailored to your organization’s needs, provide insights into your results, and help you analyze outcomes to refine your programs:

Identify benefits

This one is easy, as social media has been proven to be a valuable marketing tool.

Fully 72 percent of small businesses have found that going social boosts website traffic. Assuming your organization’s website is optimized for sales activity or lead generation, this is your number-one benefit and your path to extrapolating ROI.

In addition, many businesses that use social marketing correctly are able to:

  • Monitor conversations that happen online about them
  • Monitor the competition and improve insights about their target markets
  • Identify new product and service opportunities
  • Use it for customer service activity

Added to soft marketing benefits like increased awareness, positive brand perception and reach, the benefits begin to add up in a significant way. By doing some research and some evaluation of how your particular organization will benefit, you’ll be on your way to building the business case you need to justify going social.

Acknowledge risks

There are very real risks to going social, with privacy and security being high on the list. The spontaneous nature of social media can also backfire on companies. And finally, many organizations worry that the conversational tone of social media will undermine their careful branding. These are all legitimate concerns that must be addressed before a decision maker may feel comfortable about undertaking a social media campaign.

Not engaging in social media, or not using it effectively, however, has its own set of risks which often can be shown to be more damaging.

Define goals

What is your baseline for marketing improvement? Where do you want to move that goalpost? Given resources, what are the reasonable outcomes you can expect or strive toward? What is possible? Desirable? Achievable?


Determine your target demographics by studying your current customer data, online and offline. By knowing who your prospects and customers are, you can better determine how they buy, where they congregate, and what information they need to make decisions.

You can then make informed decisions about what platforms you need to reach the influencers, what the messaging should be and how it should be presented, and what resources will need to be assigned to be successful.

Commit to measurements

Many marketers swear by measuring content by its performance; they create databases that track their social media updates and online interactions in a highly detailed way. Inbound marketing, among other things, uses content downloads and webinar registrations to capture solid leads (and measurements).

And, of course, website metrics — and social metrics, which increasingly are becoming more useful — are the ultimate measurements of referred traffic from social media. For instance, if sales have increased, and the number of referrers that your website analytics show to be coming from social efforts has spiked, then dig deeper into those stats and learn whether they are directly related (they probably are!).

Website analytics can now show a more comprehensive customer journey, not just last-click. Google Analytics, for instance, has found that on average, customers interact with a brand 4.3 times over a two-day period before they make a purchase. This means that last-click attribution can’t be the only metric cited in your reports; social marketing may account for earlier interactions before the final purchase decision.

Demonstrate ROI    

This is where you measure operational efficiencies and cost avoidance that result from social marketing, as well as the more obvious sales and marketing impact of cost-per-lead and cost-per-acquisition or sale. It’s determining market reach, market penetration, retention, transactional increase and customer lifetime value. By tying activity-based metrics to the bottom line, you are bridging the gap from a “soft” marketing activity to hard business revenue. Data can be your friend!

Finally: I know I’ve just spent a week advocating that your outward ROI calculations must be more substantive than “likes” and “retweets.” And it’s true — for those determining budgets, whether they are corporate executives or small business owners — this is the bottom line.

Internally, as marketers, however, it’s helpful to realize that metrics traced back to social media lead generation efforts aren’t always absolute substitutes for meaningful marketing goals.  The fact is, we marketers will always be concerned about customer service, public sentiment, competitive analysis, brand and reputation management, and customer engagement. And in the end, measurement must be holistic, or else it will miss the effect of social combined with traditional marketing. Internally, ROI becomes specific to an outcome or goal; there is no one answer.

Now that we’ve talked about building a business case for social marketing, next week I’ll talk more about how to calculate and present ROI to business decision makers.

Lynn Esquer/SocialproseLynn Christiansen Esquer is a principal at SocialProse Media. Email her at

One comment

  1. Pingback: Calculate a social media marketing ROI measurement the C-suite will understand | SocialProse Media

We welcome your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s