Social Marketing ROI Could Be Hiding in the Customer Journey

Not sure whether your social marketing strategy is producing returns? Sales might not be the best measure for social marketing ROI depending on whether social is an earlier stop for customers in the buying cycle.

Indirect Social Marketing ROI Hiding in Your Brand’s Social Marketing Efforts

Tracking sales back to digital marketing efforts is not always easy. For instance, you might be overlooking social media marketing ROI simply because the customer buying journey starts – instead of ends – on social channels. Find out how to make sure these social media pit stops pay off.

New data released from marketing firm G/O Digital indicates that for Millennial consumers, Facebook is their social media resource of choice when it comes to learning about brands. Given that social is rarely the first or the last customer touch point in the buying cycle, it stands to reason that it’s often one of the channels buyers research while they are still deciding whether or not to make a purchase or which brand to buy.

Assuming that many consumers – especially many younger consumers – are utilizing a brand’s social channels during earlier phases of the buying cycle, it leads to two questions:

1. Are brand marketers who discount the value of social simply underestimating the role of their social networks in the customer’s buying journey?


2. Are many of the brand marketers that discount the value of social failing to use social networks in a way that positively impacts conversions?

Both might be true.

While it’s not accurate to say that social marketing results are not measurable, it is fair to say that a brand can be positively or negatively impacted by its social marketing efforts in ways that are not always measurable.

Sales are easy to measure. Perception? Not so much.

Let’s say that you are in the market for a new automobile. You have test driven a few different models and have narrowed your choices down to two comparable cars from two competing brands, represented locally by dealerships. You decide to check out their social sites and find nothing to sway your decision on either of the two brand’s social pages, but after checking the dealership’s social pages, find one that is full of praise for the service department and one with several unaddressed complaints.

In this case, your perception of both brand and dealership pages may be impacted, one toward the positive and one toward the negative. The next day, you drive to the dealership whose customers provided positive social proof and buy from them. Neither the dealership or parent brand may ever know that you visited their social networks at all, and so will not be able to track the sale back to social activities; yet their social pages played a big role in the decision you ultimately made as a buyer.

Just because you can’t see social marketing ROI doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Stop discounting the value of social marketing. Consumers expect to be able to research brands online, including their social networks, which often provide them with an idea of the more personal side of the brand, its employees and values. A brand’s social channels demonstrate whether they are engaged with and responsive to followers.

A quick look at the math surrounding the use of social networks should convince you that consumers are researching your brand on social channels and social marketing ROI exists, even if you haven’t figured out how to track it:

  • 73% of U.S. adults use Facebook (
  • 30% of U.S. adults use Facebook for news (
  • 67% of the U.S. online population trusts Facebook, 81% of the U.S. online population trusts Pinterest, and 73% trust Twitter ( 81% of the U.S. online population trusts Pinterest, and 73% trust Twitter
  • 33% of the U.S. online population say they have made a purchase based on a recommendation from Facebook, 31% from Twitter and 47% say they have made a purchase based on a Pinterest recommendation – almost half! (

Earlier we pointed to results from a G/O Digital study on Millennials, noting that they trust social media (and Facebook in particular) when it comes to choosing brands. When asked which social network they found most useful in researching products or services before visiting a local business, their answers aligned with the statistics cited above.

Social Marketing ROI Could Be Hidden in the Customer Journey

In addition, more than half said they visited local business Facebook pages at least once a week and nearly 60% said they and nearly 60% said they had engaged with Facebook advertising sponsored by a local small business at least once a week before buying an item in-store.

Start Using Social More Strategically to Engage, Entertain and Intrigue – and Capture Social Marketing ROI

Consumers are increasingly turning to social networks to research brands and discover brand recommendations. Your social networks are impacting your brand’s performance and perceptions for better or for worse. A brand’s presence on social networks is no longer optional; absence sends a negative brand signal to customers and consumers doing research along the buying journey. A brand’s positioning on social networks is telling those consumers what it’s really going to be like to do business with them.

If your brand is not yet represented on the social networks most often used by your customers, now is the time to get on board. If your social media pages are not being actively monitored and updated on a daily basis, now is the time to change that. If your social status updates are a long string of “buy now!” promotional updates, now is the time to become more strategic, based on a new understanding of the role of social media in the buying cycle.

We recently covered some of the basics when it comes to best practices for the most popular social networks and also provided links where brand marketers will find more in-depth information about Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.