Social media ROI is a tricky concept. It’s often argued that social media ROI is hard to demonstrate, and one of the reasons for this is because many times, the effects of social media take weeks, months, even years to materialize and often cannot be tracked. But make no mistake: social media engagement does impact ROI, and here’s how.
Allow me to share a story that will reveal the hidden ways that social media affects ROI. About 3 years ago, I was shopping at Whole Foods, when I noticed some Wallaby Yogurt sitting on the shelf.
I decided to try some. When I got home, I tasted it and didn’t really like it. I didn’t buy it again for three years.
Until one day, I randomly decided to tweet a recipe for a fruit and yogurt smoothie I had discovered and wanted to share it with my followers on Twitter:
A couple of days later, I noticed I had a new follower:
Weird. I wondered why I suddenly had a new follower, and it took me a few minutes to remember that I had recently tweeted something with the keyword “yogurt”. Whoever managed Wallaby’s social media accounts had probably used a service like TweetDeck to find users who recently shared yogurt-related tweets and then just followed them (sidenote: this is a standard social media strategy. When I managed the Twitter account for a health website, we did the same thing, except with health-related tweets).
I didn’t think much of it at the time, and it didn’t make me suddenly want to go out and buy Wallaby yogurt.
But then, six months later, I found myself at Whole Foods again, looking for some organic Greek yogurt for a recipe. I scanned the shelf and there were only two brands that fit my criteria of being organic and Greek-style. One was Wallaby yogurt.
Now, had they never followed me on Twitter, my only association would have been “Oh yeah, that’s the brand I tried a while back and didn’t like. I should go with the other brand.”
But instead, I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s that brand that followed me on Twitter that one time after I tweeted that smoothie recipe. Eh, maybe I’ll give them another try.”
So I did. And actually, it was a lot better than I remembered.
And as I was preparing dinner, I thought about how social media ROI is a tricky thing to prove. A lot of times, there is a delayed effect of online brand social media activity that only materializes months later, offline. It cannot be tracked. It takes a long time to impact consumer activity. But brands should be aware that just because you don’t see an immediate payoff in consumer activity, you shouldn’t stop investing in your social media marketing efforts. Social media can an even more effective investment than traditional marketing and advertising, and while it may be harder to prove, it often provides a better ROI.