The Real ROI of Social Media Marketing

It’s often said that social media is a conversation but when it comes to marketing, let’s face it, the conversation can seem pretty one-sided. Brands put out endless streams of content, hoping for likes, comments and other signs of audience engagement only to be met with a whole lot of silence.

Little wonder, then, that some people, many doctors among them, question whether social media provides enough of a return on investment (ROI) to warrant participating in the first place. But as marketing expert Amber Naslund recently wrote, the real problem is one of perspective. Simply put, too many companies obsess over the “media” — Facebook, Twitter, whatever — when they should be focusing on the “social.”

The idea of being “social” with our customers means bringing them closer to the company and giving them better, more streamlined access to two things:

1. The information and people they need to create a strong, positive buying experience with a company

2. Other customers or community members that can relate to their buying needs

It’s not about promoting products and services, but rather, about generating trust, reducing friction and providing an experience that surpasses community members’ expectations. To accomplish that, Naslund proposes what she calls a “mini-manifesto,” part of which is adapted here:

Realize that customer experience is multi-dimensional: The purchase experience, customer service experience and community experience all constitute different moments but they’re all helped by having a more social philosophy in place.

Stop assuming that consumers’ relationships need to be with your brand in order to have value: Consumers can have relationships that are around your brand, e.g., with other community members, without being with your brand. By facilitating that, you’re still serving a critical and unique role (which, over time, provides its own ROI).

Stop selling, start sharing: Simply put, people don’t use social media to be sold to; they use it to connect with other people. Content works best when you’re willing to create something that’s useful for your customer and relevant to your company, often without your product ever appearing in the discussion.

Share even if no one shares back: Even if community members don’t want a “relationship” in terms of having extended conversations or personal interactions with you they still appreciate clear communication, accessible and friendly help and a peek behind the curtain to see who you are and what you’re about.

Rethink the benchmarks of social success: Rather than focus on clicks, likes and follows, measure success holistically. If you operate in a more personal, accessible way, do people seek out more information or come into your office? Do they become repeat customers? Do they recommend and refer you or otherwise indicate that they like you, whether they “comment” or not? As Naslund puts it:

We must honor the idea that ‘engagement’ comes in many forms, most much more subtle and nuanced than what we can accurately observe on a Facebook page. Our goal is to connect with our customers and serve them better than anyone else.

Approach social media with that goal in mind and a positive ROI will follow.

To read Naslund’s post in full, click here.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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