Why You Need a Social Media Measurement Plan and How to Create One.

After years of increases, social media spending declined in 2019.

The CMO Survey saw a drop in social media spending to 11% of marketing budgets from a high of 14% in 2018. Why? The authors suggest, “… despite massive financial investments, social media is rated as contributing only moderate value to company performance (3.3 on a scale where 7=very highly and 1=not at all).”

If you’re not confident in social media’s return on investment (ROI), it will only get harder to secure funding for social media budgets. How can you improve this confidence? Ensure you have a strong measurement plan in place to better prove social media’s impact on the bottom line.Social Media Strategy Measurement Plan for Marketing Advertising and PRStart with business objectives not social tactics.

In creating a social media strategy it is easy to start with social media tactics. You ask questions like, “How can we improve our Facebook page?” So you develop strategies to improve engagement on Facebook and you increase likes, shares and comments. Yet having a better Facebook page is not a business objective. That is why it gets hard when management asks how Facebook Likes contribute to the bottom line.

Having a measurement plan ensures you start with your business objectives (what impacts the bottom line) first. From there you create strategies and tactics (current and new) to help get to those objectives. Then you determine how those outcomes will be measured through KPIs (metrics) tied to micro- and macro- conversions.

How to define business objectives.

The objective of most business’s is to increase sales, but each organization’s situation is unique and requires a much more nuanced definition. Insight can come from a situation analysis or the reason you are creating a new strategy. There is often a problem or opportunity that has become the focus of marketing efforts creating the story of your plan. The CMO Survey reports marketer’s see social media as a tool to help accomplish the following business objectives:

  1. Brand awareness/brand building
  2. Introducing new products/services
  3. Acquiring new customers
  4. Brand promotions (contest/coupons)
  5. Retaining current customers
  6. Improving customer service
  7. Improving employee engagement
  8. Marketing research
  9. Identifying new customer groups
  10. Identifying new product/service opportunities
  11. Improving current products/services

Identify strategies to meet business objectives.

Most social media plans have multiple strategies or ways to improve brand efforts and help to meet business objectives. List all your strategies such as an influencer marketing campaign, a special offer, an employee advocacy effort or branding social media ads.

Identify tactics used to support key strategies.

List the main tactics that support each strategy. For example, a business objective to increase sales to a new market may have a brand awareness strategy supported by a tactic of targeted Facebook ads, a tactic of influencer marketing on Instagram, and a tactic of employee advocacy on LinkedIn.

List measurable conversions by tactic and strategy.

List measurable actions users take to fulfill your business objectives. They can take the form of macro-conversions and micro-conversions. Macro-conversions are the key actions closest to business objectives such as an online sale. Micro-conversions are the smaller actions that move a prospect closer such as visiting webpages, signing up for a newsletter, down loading an app, or following a social media page.

Connect macro-conversions to business objectives.

Link social media metric KPIs by tactic and strategy to macro- and micro-conversions. Creating a dashboard of the KPIs for macro-conversions by tactic and strategy can be a top line report of social media’s contribution to company performance. Creating this in your digital measurement platform such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, HubSpot or Salesforce gives you real time access or the ability to schedule regular reports to share with management.

Measure micro-conversions to map the customer journey.

Identifying and measuring micro-conversions on the way to macro-conversion can map out customer journeys. Micro-conversions help you understand human behavior giving insight to optimize strategies and tactics. Analyze metrics by tactic KPI to determine how many people are completing the customer journey and where you are losing or retaining people. This does not mean you will map one journey for all or even most customers. Google click stream data of thousands of customers found no two journeys were alike – varying from 1-176 days and 65-600 touchpoints across categories, brands and products. The marketing funnel still applies, but consumers have more control and options in moving themselves from awareness and consideration to conversion, loyalty and advocacy. Today it is more like a marketing scatter plot. The best you can do is optimize the touchpoint clusters around funnel stages and use CRM data for personalized content.

Conduct experiments to optimize strategies and tactics.

Having a good measurement plan that includes both micro- and macro-conversions enables you to know which tactics and strategies are contributing the most to company performance. From there you can experiment with different tactics and strategies replacing low performing ones to optimize social media. The results of a social media audit can help identify which strategies and tactics to experiment with first. While no two customer journeys are alike your micro-conversion and macro-conversion data can identify clusters of touchpoints versus outliers. Focus optimization efforts where many of your customers engage in the funnel stages on their  unique journey. Also deliver custom messages through unique customer tracking such as Google Analytics User-ID.

The benefits of social media measurement plan.

Going through this process can take considerable time and effort. But once you have the plan in place the benefits are numerous. A social media measurement plan:

  1. Collects the right data to answer company performance questions.
  2. Creates reports or dashboards to share with decision makers.
  3. Allows analysis of segments of your social media plan.
  4. Enables testing different solutions to improve social efforts.

Do you have a social media measurement plan? What else could help improve marketer confidence in social media’s contribution to company performance?

A Simple Guide to Calculating A Social Media Marketing Budget.

You have worked hard in researching and developing a social media strategy and plan, but how much will it cost? Budgeting is an important part of social strategy and probably needed if you want your strategy to be executed. Few managers or business owners will approve any effort without first knowing the cost. Understanding expense is also an important step to calculating return on investment (ROI).

Free social media budget templateTo help make the budgeting process easier I have created the Social Media Budget Template shown above. I have broken down costs into five expense categories and divided each category into in-house costs (to be performed by employees) and outsource costs (to be hired out). I also suggest calculating the percent of each line item under a category and the percent of each category out of the total budget to understand where you are spending most of your money. As you understand how each category is contributing more or less to overall success you may want to adjust percentages to match contribution level. Each item and category is calculated as a monthly expense and percent of total per these categories:

Content Creation covers in-house or outsourced time to write and design plus any fixed costs such as stock photos or video production. Estimate time to create the content needed for the strategy in a month. You can get an idea of how much you need from a Content Calendar. For in-house employees divide salary into an hourly rate. For outsourced help calculate by their hourly rate or their cost per piece or project.

Social Advertising is paid outsourced costs for reach per social channel such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Again, start with a Content Calendar and estimate how many posts will be paid native ads or promoted/boosted posts. Then calculate costs based on current rates per social media network. Because much of social advertising works on a bidding process many managers set per day limits. Thus, this category is estimated based on spending per day, per network multiplied by the number of days you expect to be running social ads in a month.

Social Engagement is the cost for employees or contractors to listen and respond to brand talk per channel. Listening and engagement are important activities in social media. They cannot be planned ahead of time, but you can estimate how much it may cost based on current activity. You could go back to or perform a Social Media Audit to get an idea of the level of customer activity on brand social media channels. Are there hundreds or even thousands of posts everyday day or a few dozen? From there estimate hours per day needed to engage all or a percentage of those customers per channel. Multiply number of hours by employee or outsourced rates.

Software/Tools covers monthly costs for social media monitoring and other automation software services. These software services and tools can help save time and thus money in other categories such as content creation and engagement. There are a lot of free tools, but to get access to advanced features and enterprise level service many organizations have to pay. This budget category is broken down into monitoring, scheduling and analytics as a first step. You may find it useful to add additional categories such as consumer research, automation, or scheduling software. Some tools may have one time costs but most are billed as monthly access fees.

Promotion/Contests are costs for prizes, discounts, etc. Besides buying reach through native ads, many businesses build audience and engagement through special offers, discounts and contests. Whether they are executed through a Facebook app, hashtag or unique offer code promotions, contests, sweepstakes, coupons and discounts have hard costs associated with them. In this category estimate those expenses per campaign. For example, you may have a summer campaign and a holiday campaign or campaigns that happen around specific holidays. If you have a social campaign built around a live event, don’t forget to include those costs as well.

Finally, add totals per month, per line item and category. Also calculate percent of each category and category percent of the total budget. This social media budget template is a good way to calculate how much a social media strategy will cost to execute, but how do you know if the total is too much or too little overall?

One way to put total social media budgets into context is to compare to competitors. In a Social Media Audit you may have uncovered insight that a main competitor is much more active in social media and seeing business success as a result. Your strategy would be to increase your social activity to compete and your budget is an estimate of what it costs to match that level of engagement.

Another way to put your total social media budget into context is to compare to industry standards. In an analysis by Content Factory they estimate that outsourcing professional social media marketing can cost anywhere from $1,000 per month to $20,000 per month. Admittedly this number is very broad. Another approach is to look at typical percentages of overall marketing spending and social spending. In other words, take your existing marketing budget and estimate social media spending based on current standards.

Nick Rojas of The Next Web points out that businesses spend an average of 10% of revenue on marketing. Yet, this could vary by industry. For example, B2C products companies spend an average 16% of revenue on marketing. For social spending the CMO survey indicates businesses now spend an average of 9% to 15% of their marketing budget on social media (expected to increase to 20% by 2024). Thus, a general guideline would be to take your marketing budget as a percent of revenue (such as 10%) and then calculate a percent of the marketing budget (9%-15%) dedicated to social media.

Seek additional research to narrow this estimate further. The CMO Survey reports social media spending by sector including B2B Products (9%), B2B Services (12%), B2C Product (13%) and B2C Services (15%). Companies with over 10% of sales from the Internet spend more on social media (14%) compared to those with no Internet sales (11%) and small companies (<$25 million revenue) spend the most (15%). If your estimated social media marketing budget from the template above is significantly off from this general number you may want to go back and adjust the plan.

Budgeting in social media can be complicated. But taking a step back and calculating costs based on categories and in relation to marketing spending averages can simplify the process. If you are budgeting against a solid social media plan tied to real business goals with the right metrics in place a return on investment (ROI) will be justified.