The Social Media ROI Framework- a Model for "I"

Challenge: Especially in times of lean budgets, many organizations are reacting to the emergence of Social Media by tacking responsibilities onto resources that are already fully utilized. The results aren’t surprising; these under-resourced social media efforts do not yield desirable outcomes in terms of awareness, revenue, or operational efficiencies.

Solution: Use today’s post to specify core use cases and to build a spreadsheet that provides empirical labor estimates. I recommend that you revisit this exercise periodically to fine tune current and forecasted resource needs, which in turn play a substantial role in defining the "I" of your social media ROI calculations.

Use Case 1- Read Content
  • If you haven’t yet invested in a social media monitoring tool, start with Google.
  • Count up the quantity of brand mentions that appear in a week. Break this out by major channels/categories like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, news, and channels specific to your business model (Amazon product reviews, for example).
  • Make a “feels right” estimate for how much time will be needed to read a mention. Hint: It’s somewhere between 15 seconds and three minutes.
  • Multiply the time per mention by quantity of mentions.
Use Case 2- Respond to Content
  • On average, about what percent of mentions will your brand respond to? Again, try to break out by channel/category. For example, response rates to Flickr photos will be far lower than posts on your Facebook wall.
  • Multiply your percentage by the total quantity of mentions estimated in the prior use case to establish an estimated quantity of replies per week.
  • Like you did with “Read Content,” estimate time per response and multiply by total estimated responses.
Use Case 3- Create and Publish Reports
  • Estimate how much time per week will be needed to record mention and response metrics for your brand in a spreadsheet.
  • Another hint: Social media monitoring tools require no time to generate reporting, whereas the operational cost of “free” tools can begin to look daunting once the building spreadsheet reports is considered.
Use Case 4- Analyze Data
  • Allocate enough time per week to allow analysis. Analysis should be conducted by resources beyond those who participate in the first three use cases. Think along the lines of a 15 – 30 minute review per week by Marketing, Customer Service, and Sales executives, for example.
Use Case 5- Create and Publish Planned Content
  • “Planned Content” tends to skew more towards marketing and awareness than the responsive content mentioned above. This includes executing contests, content that ties in with other channels, and more. 
Use Case 6- Manage Fans and Profiles
  • Clicking “yes” to allow friends and fans to follow your brand doesn’t take that much time per week, but record it nonetheless to complete the picture. Over time, these small activities add up.
  • Bigger brands might need an hour per week. Smaller businesses should expect something more like 15 minutes a week.
Use Case 7- General Monitoring
  • It’s important to earmark time per week for pure browsing of mentions across different channels. Without allocating this time, organizations tend to gain tunnel vision around primary sources of content at the risk of missing out on emerging new blogs, for example, or the long tail of mentions across the internet at large.
Next Steps: After you’ve completed this exercise, you’ll have a first stake in the ground for how many hours per week your brand will need to support core social media efforts. To estimate labor cost, multiply by an estimated hourly rate. If appropriate, different hourly rates can be applied for specific use cases like Analyze Data.

Keep this data relevant: By necessity, most of the inputs (and therefore outputs) of this exercise are estimates. As time goes by, however, you’ll have real data coming in. On a regular basis, fine-tune the numbers for both volume and for time spent per use case. These refinements will bring more clarity to your current state and can support more accurate forecasting, too: Use trends to estimate when fans/followers/mentions will increase by 25%, 50%, and beyond and note how turning these dials affects overall resource demands. Along with other data inputs, your spreadsheet will become a budgeting and resourcing blueprint that justifies shifting resource costs from traditional areas like call centers and Marketing/PR to where the customers are: Social Media.