First, you have to assume that your firm can assign a dollar amount to the "investment." Often marketing staff hours are all dumped into one, large overhead bucket. Given that approach, mixed with the assumption that all social media will cost is time – there isn't even a great place to start!
A second reason that ROI is difficult to nail down is that the "return" is normally based on leads or closed contracts. To be quite honest, rarely are marketers (to be read as a separate function from BD professionals) given credit for closing a new contract. It is generally much easier to assign the win to the referral, past performance, or repeat business column.
So, what can we do to measure up and show some sort of success for our time spent cultivating relationships through social media profiles?
1. Define success first! Every principal is different, and many marketing teams aren't expected to go out and win business on their own. So when it comes to social media, have the conversation up front about what success is in the eyes of your team. It could be leads, email list sign-ups, web traffic, surpassing competitor benchmarks…any number of things.
2. What if success is still defined as closed contracts? Set realistic expectations and clear parameters on what markets your firm's social media will focus on. The only way to make an impact and PROVE that you made the impact is by eliminating the confusion on which leads came from which source.
3. More about benchmarks… When it comes to successful social media, engage and interact with as many target clients as you can. This doesn't always mean huge numbers though, and unfortunately managers that aren't connected with social media may not understand why the Facebook page doesn't have 2,000 likes yet! Benchmarking against some of your competitors can help show if you're gaining ground with followers as well as set realistic expectations from management.
4. Seek ways to define your firm's expertise in the market. Social media is one of the most effective ways to share your expertise in a non-promotional way and that has a significant tie-in with what conference planners and publishers are looking for. Securing a speaking engagement at a conference of your clients is a huge win. Period.
5. Choose a problem to solve for your clients. If you want to prove that you care about your clients, solve their problems. Investing your time and energy into developing an online resource or community that doesn't start with your firm's name is great for your relationships, but it also opens up a number of ways to define success by making a tangible difference in your industry.Social media is a communications tool and communications efforts can have a number of goals. It's important to determine what those goals are before assessing the success of your efforts.