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Why you’re struggling with ROI

Touching on my first piece here at Memeburn, I wanted to share with you a little something that I have been thinking about since my first post. The measurement of return on investment (ROI) in social is one that can be measured when you begin to understand and produce ROI-related material. Sound simple enough? Well, it is.

Let’s say there are 21 to 22 working days in a month. Let’s say you, as a brand, produce 42 to 44 pieces (two a day) of social media related content (not mentioning the weekend content when you pretend to have a life). Let’s say that out of those 42 to 44, 50% are focused on your brand’s product. Now, one can argue that all content produced by a brand, by default, are product focused. Well, in social media, you’re wrong. And that’s just the start.

Simply producing content about the products your brand has to offer on Facebook has no bearing on your sales. There, I said it. It’s what we’re all thinking, I’m just saying it. Analysing your brand’s revenue over the time your brand was running a related social media campaign is not good enough to assume that the increase in said revenue was directly related to the social media campaign. It’s more than likely that the main driving force behind the increase in sales was the result of an above the line campaign, be it TV, a great radio advert or simply better below the line marketing and in-store discoverability or promotions.

I’m not saying it can’t happen, but no brand I know simply runs a social media communication campaign and hopes for a ROI without additional marketing channels picking up the slack, so to speak. Social media campaigns are executed to drive awareness and awareness does not directly equate to sales. It’s a fact.

Now that I’ve crapped in your proverbial cereal bowl, how do we fix it? Well, if you can cast your mind back to my first post, you’ll remember the element of “context” I raised in the latter part of the post. Well, now’s the time to start finding ways to create that context and the first way of doing it is by simply understanding what you’re doing with the content that you have at your disposal. Separate your content; know the distinction between basic brand messaging and what should be driving sales. Without a call to action – be it to buy, redeem or collect in real-life – there’s no way of truly measuring the monetary ROI of your efforts.

Facebook released deals last year and failed. Why? Because brands were too busy content marketing and obsessing over likes. Deals disappeared because of the lack of uptake as well as the few lesser-mentioned fundamental issues with the product itself. Now, as the focus on social media for brands has increased, so has the amount of money brands are spending in the space. Brands are doing their best to prove that ROI and are spending money on things like online stores and the more intrinsic elements like creative and media spend behind promoted posts. In reaction to the uptake and increase in spend, so brands are now beginning to wonder; where’s the return? The value? The cheese? Well, let’s step back for a second here. Creating a beautiful cover page for your brand on Facebook… is not going to sell more of your product. It just isn’t.

Promoting your posts is not going to produce a return on investment either. Why is funneling – a basic marketing practise to ease purchase – not being used?


Facebook deals’ shelf-life was quickly negated by a pivoting of the product into what is now known as Facebook offers. It seems like the service was cleaned up and re-released into the Facebook marketing arena with a better understanding of what brands want from personalised discounts and redeemable coupons with their customers in mind. The uptake, well, from reputable sources, the adoption from brands in emerging markets like South Africa has been slow – snail-paced, to be correct.

But why aren’t brands using it? It works in the same way as promoted posts and the measurability of the offers is as accurate as handing out coupons in a shopping mall. What more could a brand want than seeing digital based customer funnelled into a point of purchase? Fine. I wouldn’t recommend a brand use the offers functionality for every post, nor would I recommend they use it more than twice a week or ever, depending on your brand, but if ROI is what you’re looking for, why aren’t brands using modules like this more? It costs less, people! It costs less than spending large amounts of money behind driving likes and reach. Less marketing, less effort, all for a more measurable return. Sounds like a win to me.


But it shouldn’t stop there and if you’re like most early adopters and are sick of Facebook’s do-whatever-we-like-attitude, then build your own. Yes, build your own. It’s relatively easy creating the ability to redeem discounts and coupons for in-store-purchases online. Integrating a system like that takes time and sure, when you’re a huge fast moving consumer goods brand, ensuring it works at point of sale maybe be harder, but it resonates with the fact that people are expecting too much from services they can’t necessarily control – like Facebook. Bring it home. Create your own redeemable discounts and couponing service on your website. Better yet, start with mobile. Then execute in store.

Train your staff and close the circle. When you leave nothing to chance and you’re doing it better than a social network built for people, not businesses, you can then keep punting your intrinsic messaging and not have to worry about working out the ROI of a like.

Author | David Alves

David Alves
As Business Solutions Manager in eCRM, it is David's responsibility to take the lead in managing all CRM developments, strategies and implementation across Pernod Ricard's brand portfolio. David has a passion for tutoring, sharing knowledge and embracing new technologies as quickly as they arrive and dissipate. He can be found... More
  • Lyle Bunn

    Well said David.. and by the way… that in-store dynamic signage (as “owned” media) can/should be part of the campaigns that reinforce and leverage other “paid” and social engagement.

  • Agreed, Lyle. Thanks for the comment, sir. I believe any execution with a ROI measurement attached to it’s KPI should and must have a through the line execution, otherwise what’s the point in measuring sales – what would be the point of even setting a KPI? Thank you again for the comment, man.

  • Good post, thanks David. But I don’t get this obsession with ROI (in mediums that are not there for ROI) that marketers seem to have. What’s the ROI of your HQ being in a trendy city centre and not in the cheaper suburbs, or the posh fleet of cars the directors drive, or the corporate clothing, charity donations, event sponsorships and Xmas party? My point is that we do lots of stuff because its good for the brand, because it allows us face time with customers and suppliers, because it generates analytics and market intelligence because because because. Do we have to try to drill down to a number that makes us feel good about our social media activities? Perhaps agencies are so desperately trying to price/commoditize social media that they are missing the point? My suggestion is that if you don’t get social media, if you think it has to be reduced to an ROI to justify involvement for you or your clients then best you step away from social media because you just don’t get it.

  • Ed Personius

    Ahh, yes, a little lucidity from someone who remembers that making money is what pays the social marketer’s salary…

  • Hi there Ed, thanks for the comment. Like I’ve said before, it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s simply the hard facts and before Social Media gets painted with the all mysterious 3:1 PR Ratio of ROI. This forms my search for an attainable and understandable value to what happens in Social Media. Thanks again for the feedback!

  • Howsit Simon, I’m so glad you commented because I have been waiting for this kind of a misunderstanding. If you read my post, you’d understand that I dissimulated between what is “good” for the brand and what counts when it comes to the bottom line. If you had to say “because it feels good for the brand” to your CMO, you’d be laughed out of the boardroom, being being kicked black and blue. I understand the need for social media for brands, I really do.

    I’ve been doing it and investing my time and effort into the industry for the past 4 years and even though that does not make me an expert or even an authority on the matter, my opinion is that if you’re justifying a marketing expense, specifically man hours, on building a brand and nurturing a brand’s community but have not way of showing how it impacts a bottom line – I’ll eventually show you the door.

    With that said, as Gary Vaynerchuk continues to ask; “What’s the return on investment of your mother?” I always reply with, I don’t know, simply because for me, it’s infinite. I can’t place a value on it. It’s the same consideration I make for social media. Because I believe so intensely in social media as an industry, it breaks my heart to write the things I do, but part of who I am and what I do constantly questions and probes for better answers and that includes my industry of work.

    I reiterate my point I made to Ed (above or below), pieces like this form part of my search for an attainable and understandable value to what happens in Social Media. Unlike some, I have not accepted the fact that it’s “simply good for the brand”, I want more. I want to continually prove my industry’s worth…don’t you?

    Thanks for the feedback, Simon!

  • Hey David, I’m agreeing with you. Your CMO would be right to laugh if you only use social in your marketing strategy. My comment was aimed at those that don’t get that a marketer has many tools, ONE of which is social media. The marketing plan will include brand-oriented and retail-oriented aspects and some channels lean more to one than than the other. Social media leans (heavily) towards brand. Its probably the most NB brand channel/tool out there. So judge it on its merits and not with a narrow ROI perspective. Cheers, Simon

  • PS, digital media owners have a very direct ROI for social media. Marketing content via social media leads to click-throughs and advertising. Nice!

  • Thanks for the feedback and replies, Simon. I appreciate your energy and enthusiasm for the discussion. Cheers!

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