ROI in Social Media: How Important is it to be Everywhere?

39 amazing comments

jesus photo

When you first start getting interested in blogging, online marketing and social media you feel like you need to be everywhere.

You start with your blog and then slowly (or not so slowly) branch out into writing on other people’s blogs.

Then there is Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

And now we have Pinterest sending more traffic than a lot of those things combined.

So at some point you have to ask a very interesting question: how important is it to be everywhere?

Let’s take a look shall we?

ROI: The all important return on investment

The logical place to start this post is with a quick chat about the definition of the term ROI or return on investment.

So, putting things simply:

Your return on investment is the amount of money you gain or lose when you make a specific investment.

A high ROI mean that you are gaining more than you are spending. A low ROI means you are losing money.

Now, you can get a lot more technical than that and talk about the maths behind the profit margins, the actual rates, etc. But in terms of social media ROI it’s just useful to know that you should be aiming for some kind of positive return.

What’s the catch?
If you have come to this article after working in social media marketing for a while you will realize something extremely annoying: it’s near impossible to measure a financial return on investment when it comes to social media.

Why is that?

  • It’s not just money you’re investing
    When you work in the social media marketing game you know that it’s not just a flat sum of money that you are investing (as opposed to buying a TV advert). You are also investing time. So how do you calculate your time spent Tweeting, checking in to Foursqaure, etc.?
  • Your goal isn’t just sales
    The second thing that hits you is the realization that you aren’t just trying to make sales. Social media campaigns are often about building community, growing a mailing list or creating some buzz around an event. How do you measure those things financially?

Some very smart people have tried to measure those things accurately but, to be honest, I don’t think it can be done. Every social media platform needs to be measured differently and even different activities on the same platforms have different goals and outcomes.

The Twitter example
Let’s take Twitter as an example. You might calculate that every visitor that comes to your site from Twitter is worth $1. But what about the one visitor that engages you to build a $5,000 website? He may not have found you unless you’d done 500 tweets that only brought in $20.

And what about all the Tweets you do addressing people’s complaints? Are they equal in cost to all the Tweets you do promoting your blog posts?

What about the Tweets you do promoting other people’s material or making jokes to appear personal and likable? Are they all costing your business the same amount?

So can you measure ROI in social media at all?
Don’t get me wrong. You can measure and track a lot of these things if you are that kind of person or work for an organization that has money to spend. I’m not saying you can’t calculate any ROI for any social media activity.

You can.

And you should.

Because if you are spending money on staff that do your social media stuff (or spending time doing it yourself) you want to make sure you aren’t just guessing at what’s going on.

Google Analytics
A screen grab from Google Analytics social section illustrating your social impact.

Google Analytics now has a whole section devoted to the behavior of your visitors in terms of social sharing. You can see how many people are engaged and how many don’t do anything at all. And, most interestingly, you can set up goals to see how many social media followers are converting to certain outcomes.

Jenn Deering has written a really cool post over on KISSmetrics about how to measure and track certain social media campaigns.

So if you have the ability to track your social media efforts you should do it.

So what should be the ROI in social media? Should I be everywhere?

If you’ve read this far you’re probably more confused now than you were when you started.

Sorry about that.

But it is a good thing if you’re confused because it means you are thinking about things.

Some social media strategists have an approach where you just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. That is a lazy approach.

Other social media strategists have an approach where you do something on Twitter and then blindly hope that’s what caused your traffic spike. That is a stupid approach.

You are at least attempting to figure out what works and why. And that is very important.

Personalized limits and goals
In my opinion your social media return on investment should be based on personalized limits and goals that you set for yourself or your organization.

Now, these goals might be:

  • Financial goals
    Product sales, ticket sales, Adsense clicks, etc.
  • Non financial goals
    Email subscribers, increased Facebook likes, better search engine rankings, etc.

The idea is to develop your goals and then set limits on how you will achieve them, when you will achieve them and on which platforms.

What this means is that you don’t have to be everywhere all at once, but you should give almost everything a go at some point in time.

You should then create primary and secondary goals for your campaigns.

For example, let’s say you are running a Facebook competition. Your goals might be:

  1. Primary
    Get people to spread the word about the competition on Facebook (shares).
  2. Secondary
    Increase email subscribers on website.

This gives you multiple opportunities to track and measure your ROI. Indeed, it gives you specific ROI metrics that you can follow.

Not all social networks are created equal

Something that a lot of new comers don’t realize is that not all social networks work the same for your business type.

I work with a lot of “bricks and mortar” companies to help them with online marketing and what I find is that often they have heard about how big Twitter is and as such want to throw heaps of money at it.

That’s fine, but Twitter doesn’t work so well for construction companies in Australia.

Sure, you could have staff on Twitter talking about their latest projects and addressing complaints that existing clients have. But that shouldn’t be the major place you put your online marketing budget. Wouldn’t it be better to upload professional photos on Facebook, tag the location and ask recent clients to share the album with their friends?

Often it is also not about what is possible, but what you can manage. Some companies just can’t afford to train all their staff on Twitter and G+ behavior and best practices.

You don’t need to be everywhere but you should take time to research as many social media networks as you can to see how well they perform in your industry.

What do you think?

How important do you think it is to be everywhere? Do you think that money is the only true measure of a return on investment when it comes to social media? And how do you measure the non-financial aims like growing a community or a reputation?

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39 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Tracey Grady | Ready Set Quiz

    I recently made a note of something that Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income advised bloggers: ‘Be everywhere’. But a big part of his framework for being everywhere is to write frequent guest posts.

    To me, guest posting is something which can be measured more easily than twitter because your site’s analytics can tell you about the traffic visiting from the blogs you’ve guest posted on (especially if you set up specific landing pages for those visitors, something I have yet to do).

    Two or three years ago I used to participate in twitter chats for graphic designers, and I would get a bunch of new twitter followers during and after each twitter chat. Lately I participate in business related twitter chats and so far the ROI has been far lower. I don’t know if that’s because it’s a different group of people or where people’s following habits have changed over time on twitter.

    What do you think of Tumblr for generating traffic to your (non-Tumblr) blog? I’m considering setting up a Tumblr for images relating to my niche, and cross-posting these on Pinterest, with the Pinterest pins linking back to the Tumblr blog (which would then link to my site).


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Tracey.

      Pat is totally right in that sense. It’s a strategy used by guys like Leo from Zen Habits to grow really big really fast.

      I guess my post was more about social media because a lot of people/companies are totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of sites to join.

      Your Tumblr idea sounds really good. I’m glad you mentioned Pinterest. I’d be interested to see your results.


      1. Tracey Grady | Ready Set Quiz

        I have a personal Pinterest account and I’m considering setting up a board for my business/blog there instead of creating a separate account. This is because my individual boards have a lot more followers than my overall account does (apparently this is fairly common on Pinterest).

        I’ll let you know how I go with the Tumblr/Pinterest cross-posting.


  • Johanna

    I’m so glad this is being addressed BT. It’s so hard to be everywhere, especially as a one-man-blogging-band, so to speak. Sometimes, keeping your blog out there on several social media sites means that no creative work gets done, and as we all know, good blog posts whether at home or ‘abroad’ as guest posts, take time to craft well. Twitter works better for me than Facebook, Stumble provides peaks but with no engagement, LinkedIn is just, well necessary and Pinterest – aargh! It’s so time consuming and addictive.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I haven’t really even given Pinterest a serious look yet. Just… blah… too busy.


  • CreativeBlogger

    For me, trying to be everywhere would just be setting myself up for failure. It’s doable, but I think you’ll grow a healthier ROI if you focus on the few social networks where your target audience hangs. Instead of spending 20 hours a week updating all your social outposts, you can focus on building avenues to a few strategic outposts that convert well (copyblogger covered this regarding pinterest recently http://goo.gl/xGCBH)

    I think ROI is rarely about money in the beginning.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Great link bro. Thanks for stopping by.


  • Rachelle

    I think it totally depends on the business. Twitter is working a lot better for me than Facebook and I think the biggest hurdle with Facebook for me is that I don’t have a clue how to make my page look decent and just when I get around to doing something about it, they change everything all over again.

    Plus…I have a lot of old friends on Facebook and my extended family. I don’t want my blog followers or some idiot troll knowing anything about my family and friends who have known me since I was a stupid teenager. Even my mom is on Facebook. I’m pretty much the same on the internet as I am in real life. People who meet me say I talk the way I write. (Not sure that’s a compliment) Still it’s just kind of wrong. I’m pretty sure my cousins don’t need to see my eviction pictures.

    Twitter works for me as a tool to engage with bloggers and internet friends not too many people who might be clients follow me on twitter. One of the popular things I do is go read through relevant court decisions related to landlord law and tweet them with a comment. Every time I do that I get a couple new followers.

    I’ll also get a bit of traffic from it as well.

    One thing I’ve learned from the trademark dispute that I’ve had is that the internet is all about transparency. I got the legal papers where they want to quit with their ill advised foray into stealing my business name. Their major demand is that I delete all the blog posts and never mention them or their businesses again.

    It’s always seemed strange to me that people/companies act in completely unethical ways and then get bent totally out of shape about people knowing that they’re unethical. They’re not at all concerned about actually being lying scheming thieves, they just don’t want people to know about it. Here’s a thought, how about you behave in ways that you don’t mind having people know about? Because it’s the right thing to do and for no other reason.

    I’m just not comfortable around people like that. They have no idea who they are and what they stand for.

    I love the internet but I also hate it. I love the way like minded people can gather even if they are the tiniest minority. I love what’s happening to education.

    I hate that you have to worry because the internet is forever, almost like a bad tattoo on your forehead. Imagine being Rebecca Black who is a teenager and who had an internet hit song, and people are sending her death threats. How’s that going to look on her 30 years from now? Or your potential boss looking at your Facebook or twitter. We’ve lost the art of “not seeing” as a kindness to others. Everything is out there.

    Then there’s the trolls. Whomever invents a troll repellent you can spray on your computer will be a rich person.

    So social media is like the glue that kind of holds it all together. I say do the social media you like the best that seems to work for you and go with it. You can waste a lifetime following everything and everybody. If it doesn’t feel good don’t do it. If it feels good do more of what ever that is. I’m pretty sure that’s why there are a ton of different options. You don’t have to be everywhere and do everything, life is short, go with what you care that jives with your personal style, learn it and do it well.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Oh man Rachelle… not reading this now. Ha ha. After work.

      Love it.


      1. Rachelle

        HaHa that’s what happens t


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          I agree Rachelle.

          I think the best and worst of the web is going to get a lot better and a lot worse. Hackers, trolls, etc.

          Great comment as always.


    2. Chuck Bluestein

      Rebecca Black? “Hot girls have problems, too. They are just like us but they are hot.” That Hot Problems video came out 2 weeks ago and 70 million people have seen it. They sing so awful that they make Rebacca Black sound like great. They said in an interview that they know that they cannot sing and they are not hot.


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        I weep for the future.


  • Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web

    A great, timely topic for me to see, BT. As you know, I recently authored a guest blog post which has now gotten over 100K tweets. Yes, 100,000! The question: How in the world do you measure that as an ROI on the blog post when neither my website nor the website of the blog host have seen traffic increases anywhere close to the incremental leaps and bounds of the Twitter-life of the post.

    I liked your suggestion of giving everything a go, while not all at the same time. And I use caution about that — I want to always make sure the social media account that I have created can be deleted. We all know how bad it looks when somebody comes across some social media page of yours that hasn’t been updated in months. So even though I’ll give it a go, I must also be able to delete it when it turns out to not be worth the time investment.

    Imagery for your post. Once again, astounding. The figurine represents a well-known entity who some believe is everywhere at all times – much like the titled question of this post. But, then, there is also the eternal question about one’s personal (dare I say, spiritual) ROI and what the figurine’s likeness represents… “treat everyone as you would like to be treated,” or “the Golden Rule,” or even “love thy neighbor,” all have huge implications about our own life’s ROI. I think it’s a classic illustration of what you do with your blog: help others.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Scott that post’s Twitter love was amazing. What were the main benefits for you?


      1. Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web

        Probably the main benefit was a stronger relationship with the blog’s host; I am sure I’m missing the boat somewhere on this, but there were no other known benefits.

        And the number of tweets is still climbing, too! There has got to be a way to leverage this that I’m not seeing. Otherwise, it’s just a case of Twitter love gone unanswered πŸ˜‰


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          I actually spent a lot of time thinking about this. It really bugged me that I couldn’t find any bigger ways to leverage that amount of success.

          Can you post the link here so my readers can see what we’re on about?


          1. Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web

            My pleasure. Here is, “Website Shampoo. Clean, Fresh, Attractive.”

            http://www.click-finders.com/blog/website-shampoo-clean-fresh-attractive/

            Can’t wait to see the insights from others, too. Thanks for the invitation to post this here, BT!


  • chris

    Having gone through this myself and having worked with someone who had previously studied my niche’s societal habits, I found that my readers are focused on one primary network and to a much lesser extent, one other.

    There is my focus.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      And the results are good?


      1. chris

        In the early stages but playing out as I’d expected.

        I will add a note on using Google+. My niche people were early adopters of this and used it a lot. However, as the newness has worn off, they are using it NOT to have conversations (post a question and get answers in comments) but only to post news bits they find interesting with little-to-no commenting.

        I have seen niches where there is a very healthy community on Google+. Therefore, for anyone thinking about Google+, first look at how your niche community is using it and then decide.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          G+ is a really strange entity at this point in time. Like, you have to be on it for SEO reasons but it’s not all that fun.


  • Marcus

    I’d drill down that strategy further to say, “Be everywhere that your target audience is.” This can help you decide which social networks to prioritize over others. If you’re an executive recruiter, you absolutely have to be on LinkedIn. If you’re into design and photography, give Dribbble and 500px.com a shot.

    On the flip side, it’s equally important to decide which social networks not to be on. Certain ones are infamous for high volume, low-converting traffic (e.g. StumbleUpon). Moroever, you can disregard social networks that your intended readers don’t use anyway. If I’m trying to target musicians, I’d ignore Hacker News in favor of ReverbNation.

    Clay Collins delivered this message eloquently in an episode of The Marketing Show titled, “The Rule of Five 1’s.” Here’s the link to the video:
    http://www.marketingshow.com/show/tms_video/rule-of-five-ones-online-business-marketing-strategy-plan/

    Burnout from social media is a real problem. One idea I’m toying with is “repurposing” content and releasing it on different social networks. For example, take a long killer blog post you wrote and turn it into a video and a podcast. Put the video on YouTube and get the podcast onto iTunes. You’ll expose your stuff to different audiences, in their preferred media format. It might be tough to nail down the right workflow at first. After you figure it out, you can focus on cranking out good stuff once, then turn it into multiple versions (audio, video, etc.)

    One of the time-consuming aspects of social media is the “content curation” part. You can’t just keep sharing your own stuff, or you’ll look too self-promotional. If you can find and share the best stuff in your niche (that’s not produced by you), it will win you trust and more followers. Searching for that material and filtering out the bad stuff can suck up endless hours, though. Now I focus on a few aggregator news sites and follow some power users. This speeds up the process of finding viral content worth sharing.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I really like the repurposing idea Marcus. Another great one!

      How much time do you spend commenting each day bro?


      1. Marcus

        I don’t spend too much time on blog commenting. I really should be building relationships with other travel bloggers, though. I’ll ramp up the comments when I put up the site for my latest project. I was actually just working on a video for that today.

        Twitter is where I hang out the most. That’s another good point. If you already like a social network, maybe it’s better to stick to that one first. Then move on to other ones. Trying to master all of them simultaneously would be a bad idea.


  • Dale Grove

    Hi BT,
    Loved this post… gave me a lot of food for thought. I had a conversation with a friend about this exact topic earlier today. I am relatively new to blogging and it has been very hit and miss for me. I think trying to be everywhere would totally overwhelm me at this point. My friend Raj at Pink Chai shared that I should only post a couple of times a week to start and gradually build to more frequent posts. I have found that blogging can take up a large chunk of my day if I am not careful… still need to take care of business too!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Dale.

      I post once every week, sometimes once every two weeks.

      Posting daily is really not necessary IMHO. Better to have longer in depth posts less often.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      1. Dale Grove

        Wow! Can’t believe you responded so quickly! I will be back! πŸ™‚


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Ha ha. It’s what I do. I’m on all day and most of the night. Lame huh?


        2. Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web

          Keep coming back, Dale. I’ve found that things here just keep getting better and better!


          1. the Blog Tyrant

            Too kind!


          2. Brendan

            Yeah. When I get an email that this site has a new post, I genuinely freak out. I’ve printed out a ton of the posts so I can save them and furiously highlight and scribble notes.

            Don’t remember how I got here either. Is that weird?


  • Brendan

    I think that being everywhere isn’t everything. You don’t need to be on every single social media platform to be successful. For my main website, the majority of my traffic comes from Facebook and from two niche forums. I got sick of trying to play the google backlinking game a long time ago and if i get traffic from search, great. And if not? no problem. I just got over 13k unique visitors last month and am making very decent money from it. Spending more time on my mailing list (and autoresponders) and Facebook have meant the world for building a community and relationships. Even if you are business minded, remember that relationships are two-way streets. Yes, I’m getting people to come to my site, but i ACTUALLY LIKE THESE PEOPLE! We’re friends. For real! So not only is my site/email list/opt-ins/etc/etc better, but my quality of life is better.

    Try it out. You’ll see.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Nice work Brendan! Totally agree.


  • Lisa | Renovating Italy

    Be everywhere at once is seriously doing my head in! As a blogger with a family and must admit lack of clear direction I struggle. Yet here I am moving ahead slowly, building a strong loyal following mainly on Facebook and at the blog.

    Around a year ago I was approached by a journalist who said her article would appear in the New York Times, although skeptical I went along and multiple emails and a phone interview later here is the result. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/greathomesanddestinations/04iht-reblog04.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&ref=global-home&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1336366900-8JTkwaGpMxaqp58J3OYU6g

    The thing that inspires me with this article is the comment made by Darren Rowse “When you also show the mistakes, pitfalls and give readers a peek at the everyday parts of your life (which at times may be mundane and very β€˜normal’), you also make yourself relatable,”

    The thing that caught her eye about my blog was the personal feel, images and great interactions at my fb page. She saw that relationship I have taken time to build. I really do love my readers.

    Although I may not be technically proficient with blogging I am an almost 50 year old with 16 years of renovating experience, I love it, and it shows.

    So for me it’s Facebook and Pinterest which is where my readers hang out. Luckily my hubby is a stats hound and lets me know how I am going along in a measurable way.

    over and out, ciao lisa


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Lisa you are killing it! NYT!


  • Aaron Hoos

    In the social media ROI conversation, the ability to spread the word seems to be overlooked (at least, in the circles I run in). There’s always debate about whether or not social media can be tied to sales or SEO but a huge value of *SOCIAL* media is when your network share something about you with their network.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Aaron.

      Good points.

      I guess what people in the corporate world are worried about though is that spreading the word is pointless unless it leads to earnings. But it’s hard to measure where abouts along the process that happens or doesn’t happen.


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