20 Stats That Explain Why Marketers Still Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI [Data]

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Meghan Keaney Anderson
Meghan Keaney Anderson



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When it comes to social media, many marketers are still figuring things out as they go. This is especially true in terms of justifying their investment of time and money into social media marketing efforts.

But LinkedIn launched 9 years ago. We've had 8 years to get to know Facebook, and 6 to wrap our heads around Twitter. So why are so many of us still struggling to report on the value of social media ? For quite a few reasons, it turns out. We've compiled data from a handful of different recent studies to break apart this question and zero-in on the key challenges social media marketers are struggling overcome. Let's dive in.

Marketers' Social Media Usage & Measurement

1) 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form. (Source:  Aberdeen ) Tweet This Stat

2) The majority of marketers (59%) are using social media for 6 hours or more each week. (Source:  Social Media Examiner ) Tweet This Stat

3) 83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business. (Source:  Social Media Examiner ) Tweet This Stat

4) 53% of social media marketers don't measure their success. (Source: Awareness, Inc. Tweet This Stat

5) 52% of marketers cite difficulties in accurately measuring ROI as their biggest source of frustration in social marketing. (Source:  Adobe ) Tweet This Stat

6) 96% measure number of fans and followers, 89% measure traffic, 84% measure mentions, 55% track share of voice, and 51% track sentiment. (Source: Awareness, Inc. ) Tweet This Stat

What These Stats Say About the Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI

For one thing, they say that marketers are scrappy. We'll use any tool within reach to assess our effectiveness and help us move from a gut feeling to a proven method. But the reason fan, follower, and traffic volume are at the top of the list has far more to do with ease of measurement than with priority. Social media channels come equipped with a handful of useful metrics to measure reach and engagement, but what's missing is something that ties that activity to a marketer's core business and bottom line . We've identified three core reasons why this is the case:

Reason #1: Lack of an Integrated System

7) By 2013, lead management campaigns integrating 4 or more digital channels are expected to outperform single- or dual-channel campaigns by 300%. (Source:  Gartner ) Tweet This Stat

8) 60% of businesses do not have an integrated social media strategy. (Source: Satmetrix Tweet This Stat

9) 50% see the need for tighter integration between social and the rest of marketing and 35% see the need for better integration between marketing and the rest of the business. (Source: Awareness, Inc. ) Tweet This Stat

10) 56% of companies struggle to efficiently capture and analyze information from multiple social media channels. (Source: Gleanster ) Tweet This Stat

11) 54% of marketers said the leading difficulty in measuring social media ROI is the inability to tie social media to actual business results. (Source: Awareness, Inc. ) Tweet This Stat

12) When asked why they struggle to tie social media to business results, 54% of respondents said it's hard to analyze unstructured social media data. (Source: Awareness, Inc. ) Tweet This Stat

13) When asked why they struggle to tie social media to business results, 50% of respondents said it's hard to integrate disparate social media data resources. (Source: Awareness, Inc. ) Tweet This Stat

What These Stats Say About the Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI

There is tremendous potential in connecting social media data to your overall marketing analytics and relationship management software. And yet, according to multiple reports we found, integrating social media -- particularly social media data -- into an overall marketing strategy is among the toughest challenges out there. A lot of this is because social media tools tend to be isolated from the rest of marketing tools.

This underscores a much larger problem in the marketing field. As new channels have emerged and become more dominant, marketers have adopted a collection of different tools to manage them. You have an email service provider for email marketing. A social media tool for social. And website analytics for all that happens on your site. But the true story of your customer experience and your marketing strategy exists in the intersections between these channels. Without sharing data between the tools, marketers get a fragmented view of their marketing.

The good news is, now that the problem is clear, a number of software platforms are moving to solve it. HubSpot now integrates all of your marketing data in one place. HootSuite has been moving to integrate with multiple analytics providers. And piece by piece, other tools are starting to connect through API integrations.

Reason #2: Lack of Agreement on Purpose and Goals

14) The Social Media Examiner  found that respondents most often saw the key business benefits of social media marketing to be increasing exposure and traffic to their site. Tweet This Stat

15) Awareness, Inc. , on the other hand, found that 78% of respondents listed "better customer engagement" as their top goal. Tweet This Stat

What These Stats Say About the Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI

Another reason some marketers struggle with measuring social media ROI is the lack of certainty around goals. We find that when we ask marketers about their goals for social media, their answers range broadly. Sometimes marketers focus on qualitative goals like engagement or brand affinity. Other times, they align closely with what they can definitively measure like follower count or traffic. The challenge, however, is that too often social media goals reflect the core functionality of the channel rather than the core needs of the business. 

Reason #3: Difficulty Interpreting First Touch vs. Last Touch Attribution Data

16) Last-click attribution is the most common measurement model used by marketers to evaluate social media results. (Source: Adobe ) Tweet This Stat

17) Adobe found that using first-click attribution instead of last click resulted in social media ROI data that was nearly twice as high (88%). (Source: Adobe Digital Index ) Tweet This Stat

What These Stats Say About the Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI

It’s called last-click attribution because conversions are measured based on the  most recent channel  that brought a visitor in before they converted. Think of it like giving your most recent date credit for leading to your wedding engagement rather than your first date. The problem with measuring social media through last-click attribution is that social channels tend to engage people at the top of the sales funnel rather than right before they buy. Even for marketers who manage to integrate their social media channels into their overall revenue and customer acquisition analytics , there are still decisions to be made about how to interpret that data.  

Some Good News in Social Media ROI

18) In the next 5 years, marketers expect to spend 19.5% of their budgets on social media, almost three times more than the current level. (Source: The CMO Survey ) Tweet This Stat

19) Fewer than 30% of large organizations will block social media in 2014, vs. 50% in 2010. (Source: Gartner ) Tweet This Stat

20) According to a survey of 700 marketers, 75% intended to increase social media spending this year. (Source: Wildfire Tweet This Stat

What These Stats Say About the Struggle to Measure Social Media ROI

Social media began for many as a nights-and-weekends project. Without years of historical evidence as to its effectiveness, many companies were slow to dedicate budget to it beyond just a little bit of staff time. The good news is, research is beginning to show a gradual reversal of that position.

Despite the current challenges to measuring social media ROI, there is some meaningful movement in the space. All-in-one software platforms and analytics integrations are making a single view of marketing data more possible, and investments in social media measurement seem to be on the rise.   

What about you? What are your key ROI goals for social media and what, if any, limitations are standing in your way to achieve and measure them?

Image Credit: Zach Klein

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