This is part four of a ten-part series of Direct Marketing trends for 2013. To read the original article with all ten trends, click here.

For most marketers, social media is now a standard component in the marketing mix. With there being little debate that social is a critical element, a majority of CMOs still report difficulty in defining ROI for social efforts.

Well-structured social marketing programs carry many benefits including brand awareness, loyalty, customer engagement, feedback, and increased sales. The metrics to measure each of these is often debated and even more frequently, subjective.

 

According to a recent study by Wildfire, 38 percent of responding marketers still use increased fans, “likes,” comments and interactions as a measure for social media ROI. Getting more results-oriented, 24 percent of marketers use increased revenue, and 15 percent use increased brand awareness. The challenge with the metrics is the often-allusive attribution of sales and the true impact that social had on buying decisions.

The reality is that social engagement is just part of an overall cross channel marketing program. In order to quantify impact to sales, more structured metrics must be established that attribute actual transactions to various social efforts.

One way to obtain results from social efforts is to collect information regarding social impressions at the time of transaction. This is made possible through analytic platforms that track ad impressions, click-throughs, and conversations. Combine that information with transaction data at the time of online purchase, and you have a pool of big data that supports quantifiable analytics.

Attribution for offline purchases can be made through discount codes and point-of-sale survey. The result is empirical data that can be used to demonstrate the impact of social presence.

Another objective measure is through controlled testing. Traditional campaign management is adopted for social marketing with newer marketing automation platforms. With test and control groups, marketers can analyze online sales of groups that have had targeted exposure to specific social content vs. those who did not. This provides quantifiable net lift for social efforts. Simple math from there gives a basis for ROI.

So, while Facebook likes provide insight that a potential consumer has viewed your page, until this activity is correlated to purchase activity, calculating ROI above $0 is difficult at best. Using technology to understand where traffic is coming from, targeting audiences, and adjusting campaigns in real time is critical in defensible social marketing ROI.

Trend 5- Hyperpersonalization: The Use of Big Data