Finding the Value of Social Isn’t Hard, It’s Just Complicated

This is the first in a series of posts on the new Spredfast Social Value Framework.

Over the past few years, I’ve read too many articles, blogs, and thought pieces to count on how to gauge social ROI. “It’s impossible,” many have said. “Social media is a waste of time,” others have yelled from the rooftops.

And yet, despite the naysayers, the social space continues to build momentum. We see increased adoption year-over-year from both individuals and brands, bringing with it increasing levels of time on site and attention across a diverse set of platforms. We see new social technology and innovation changing the way that people share, communicate, and spend their days.

So, what’s going on here? If there’s no value in social media, then why do companies continue to spend so much time there?

I’ll be the first to admit that creating value calculations for companies in social media has been a difficult concept to get our collective heads around. But throwing around words like “impossible” is a lazy way to go about it. Instead, let’s step back and think of it from a different angle.

Let’s Reframe the Discussion

I’d like to talk about another technology that we all use on a daily basis: email. Email is so ubiquitous in our daily lives that it’s grown into a non-decision for any new or existing business. Or said another way: when is the last time you remember seeing a meeting on your calendar to try and gauge the value of having an email system? I’m guessing never.

If you really wanted to build out a model to gauge the value of email to your business, you’d need to break down the buckets of value that the technology provides. What’s the value of an internal communication network? Or outside communication to partners, prospects, customers, and vendors? How about the power of being able to build an external, paid email campaign to drive new business? Or the customer service cost savings – can you imagine not having a contact email on your website for new and current customers to reach you?

If your head is spinning, you’re not alone—and this is the same response I see from lots of social media teams trying to gauge the value of their social efforts. Trying to put a single number on the value of email is very much like quantifying the ROI of social media in two main ways. One: it’s difficult, but if you break down the value components, it helps you get started on the road to monetization. Two: There’s no easy answer to the question. It will be different for every business out there.

The answer is complicated...but complicated is different than impossible.

The Spredfast Social Value Framework

We know that many social marketers are looking to define the value of their efforts. We’re here to help, and it’s a challenge we’re taking on with vigor.

At Spredfast, we believe that good strategic planning can not only give teams a view into the current levels of value that social is driving, but can also shine the light on other potential sources of ROI that their current strategy could be missing.

We’ve been building out a framework that will help the diverse set of brands, media companies, sports teams, non-profits, and all other groups we work with define the value they can already recognize from social.

Too many social teams jump right into metrics and dollars before first stepping back and asking, “What are we trying to achieve with social?” That’s why the Social Value Framework starts with theory, and then moves on to building out financial models.

The Social Value Framework is built off the concept of priority groups. We’ve defined eight different buckets of how social can impact your business, as seen in the left-hand column above. These goals are a mix-and-match scenario, depending on your company’s current priorities.

We start the process by understanding the wide value of social, but concentrating on the areas where you want to make short-term gains. Do you want to build out a direct revenue campaign? Great. Do you want to increase awareness in a more efficient manner? Social can help push that program forward.

Over the next few months, we’ll be walking through different steps and examples to use the Social Value Framework, but for now, make sure you’re getting started by focusing on what’s important to your organization. Those are the first steps that will help turn an “impossible” concept into value that’s understandable, strategic, and very, very real.

Chris Kerns's picture

Chris Kerns

@chriskerns
Chris Kerns has spent more than a decade defining digital strategy and is at the forefront of finding insights from digital data. He currently leads Analytics and Research at Spredfast. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and AdWeek, among other publications.