4 Metrics for Calculating Social ROI

After much planning, you’ve executed your social media strategy. It’s been going for a few weeks now, so when should you start wondering if it’s working? How will you know if it is successful? What metrics can you use to determine success?

Interestingly, when I’m talking to people about how Parthenon helps our clients run successful social campaigns, these questions almost never come up. People assume we measure likes and reach, and it’s not until I tell them about creating metrics for social — outside of impressions — to generate ROI that a discussion starts.

We measure the success of social media through actual data that can generate a social ROI. How do you do that? First you must think about the metrics used to define success online:

  • Conversions
  • Amplification
  • Sentiment
  • Assigned Value

One of my favorite bloggers and analytics pros, Avinash Kaushik (pictured below), defines these metrics in his blog as:

  • Conversion Rate
  • Amplification Rate
  • Applause Rate
  • Economic Value


The difficult part of measuring social return is relating a like, or post comment, to the more important metrics. Here’s how Avinash and Parthenon make this happen:

Metric 1: Conversions

Conversation Rate = # of Audience Comments (or Replies) Per Post

So what? This rate tells us that people are actually interacting with our posts and engaging with our content. This means we are doing something right AND that we should do more of it.

Metric 2: Amplification

On Twitter: Amplification = # of Retweets Per Tweet

On Facebook, Google Plus: Amplification = # of Shares Per Post

On a blog, YouTube: Amplification = # of Share Clicks Per Post (or Video)

So What? Isn’t this reach? NO! This number tells us how many people are not only interacting with our post, but are also SHARING it with others. This means you are actually reaching your second-level audience, not just seeing how many second- and third-level connections you have.

Metric 3: Applause

On Twitter: Applause Rate = # of Favorite Clicks Per Post

On Facebook: Applause Rate = # of Likes Per Post

On Google Plus: Applause Rate = # of +1s Per Post

On a Blog, YouTube: Applause Rate = # of +1s and Likes Per Post (or video)

So What? When a billboard goes up, a commercial comes on or an ad is served, you don’t know how people feel about it. This metric shows how many people like your message! When combined with your amplification, you can actually get second- and third-level audience members to move to the first level by posting more of what they like — and like to share.

What’s more, when someone in your social circle searches for content you’ve put out and that people have applauded, the Google rank moves your work above content that has received less positive attention.

Metric 4: Economic Value

OK. So, now on to the good stuff; the steak, not the sizzle. This is what a CMO cares about and budgets for, and while this is should not be your primary objective, it is important to make sure your investment in social media can directly affect the company’s bottom line. Avinash has two great blogs about Micro/Macro Conversions and Economic Value. These will help you figure out how to set up your conversions and how to assign value. That’s key, because you need both to actually see the big picture.

Economic Value = Sum of Short and Long Term Revenue and Cost Savings

This is the most difficult yet most valuable metric listed. You will have to work with your entire finance team to figure a number your comfortable associating with the hourly cost of social media to your company. Once you’ve don that, measure how many clicks from social drove conversions on your site. This is where is gets simple for ecommerce sites, you’ve just seen how much revenue you generated through social and how much cheaper (or more expensive) it was than your traditional marketing.

For non-ecommerce sites, your conversions may lead to the bottom of the funnel for a follow-up. If you’re tracking how many web leads turn into sales, and I hope you are, you will have your revenue from social figured out and then you perform the same task as above. The point of this is to determine how much value your social efforts bring to the company through the many micro and macro conversions that take place on your website.

The reality of social media metrics and ROI is that it all can’t be measured or related to business objectives. By nature, some things are subjective. However, if you can use the data provided to you by the platforms in a more imaginative way, you may actually be able to see what your investment has given you. This way you can continue to budget accordingly while also keeping those bottom-line focused CMOs happy.