SocialSocial Media ROI: How To Define a Strategic Plan

Social Media ROI: How To Define a Strategic Plan

For marketers, there's an increasing demand to quantify the value of social media. Here's a guide to mapping a social media strategy with meaningful key performance indicators that align to business objectives for tangible measurement.

As marketers are tasked with the challenge of doing less with more, there’s an increasing demand to quantify the value of social media. Here’s a guide to mapping a social media strategy with meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that align to business objectives for tangible measurement!

Following the Social Media Strategy Funnel

Quantifying the value of social media can be a daunting task. Unclear objectives and numerous metrics add confusion. It’s time to ground your social media initiatives with a strategic plan that makes measurement clear and easy.

Start by following the social media strategy funnel. Before diving into tactics, you need to define social media goals that align with business objectives.

Social Media Strategy Funnel

“80 percent of marketers incorrectly begin with tactics instead of goals.” -eMarketer Report

Like most marketers, you probably began using social media because it was new and fun. “Everyone else is doing it… we probably should too.”

Confess already. You’re a victim of marketing peer pressure.

Stop the madness! Your time is precious. Don’t waste it on tactics that might work. You need a plan to strategically and confidently move forward.

Mapping a Social Media Strategic Plan

Start social media planning like any other strategic plan. My favorite method is using a “Who > Why > What > How” model to build a cascading tree for “Scope > Mission > Goals > Tactics”. See the charted template example below.

Social Media Strategy Goal Planning Tree

Note: Red circles depicted on the chart above denote the step number below.

Strategic Planning Steps:

  1. Select Scope (i.e., department, business function)
    (Note: All following steps are specific to this chosen scope.)
  2. Gather Scope’s Business Goals
  3. Define Social Media Mission/Purpose
  4. Define Social Media Goals
  5. Define 1-2 KPIs for Each Goal
  6. Choose Tactics for Each Goal
  7. Define Metrics for Each Tactic

Step 1: Select Scope

What aspect of the business will be using social media?

Evaluate the scope in terms of time (e.g., year) and business function. Social media can be used for a variety of business objectives including:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer service
  • Research
  • IT
  • Human resources
  • Executive management

The specific goals and KPIs of these departments will vary dramatically. As such, their purpose for using social media will vary as well. For example, customer service may target reducing call volume costs while marketing may target building advocates and improving satisfaction.

It’s important to define separate social media strategic plans for each department/function that has reason and resources to carry out such initiatives.

(Unless you’re in a very small business, don’t take on trying to “do social media” for all aspects of the organization. Social media is just a tool set. Keep focus on goals for your specific function, and collaborate to train others on using social media as needed.)

Step 2: Gather Scope’s Business Goals

Include the scope/department goals on your strategic planning map as a helpful reference for goal alignment. Label these with a letter so you can visually map them to goals in Step 4.

Step 3: Define Social Media Mission/Purpose

Why are we (the Scope) bothering with social media?

To help set the stage for goal planning, first define the high-level purpose. Example for Marketing Scope: “To build an army of advocates that in turn help build and maintain the brand’s position.”

Step 4: Define Social Media Goals

What do we want to accomplish?

Create 4-8 total social media goals that cascade from Scope business goals and align with the Mission. Map the letter ID of the corresponding business goals to each of the social media goals for quick visual understanding of alignment. Keep in mind that not all business goals will be applicable for social media. It may help to color code those goal labels accordingly to aid usability.

Consider using the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) strategic planning method when trying to determine the focus and number of goals. The BSC method incorporates four perspectives:

  1. Customer
  2. Financial
  3. Learning and Growth
  4. Internal Business Process

Plan 1-2 goals for each perspective. The latter two perspectives are often forgotten; yet planning time for training, operations, and policy documentation is imperative, especially for social media. These will consume time, so set goals and be accountable accordingly.

Step 5: Define 1-2 KPIs for Each Goal

How will we measure goal success?

Before tactics are chosen, you need to select a metric that’s most indicative of the goal’s progress. The KPI should ideally be resilient to tactical changes.

Social media evolves rapidly and adapting/changing planned tactics during the year will likely be inevitable. The goal, however, should remain steadfast, as should the metric for the goal’s success. Coupling the KPI to the goal, you should be defining S.M.A.R.T. goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

At the end of the day, there are really only three business objectives worth targeting:

  1. Grow revenue
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Improve satisfaction

Leverage these as guides for KPI planning. (See more great measurement tips in Jim Sterne’s book, “Social Media Metrics”.)

Step 6: Choose Tactics for Each Goal

How will we accomplish our goals?

To help select tactics, chart and score how different social channels can serve your goals. (See Magic Logix’s social media channels by goal infographic for inspiration.) Prioritize tactics using social channels that score the best overall for influencing your objectives.

Step 7: Define Metrics for Each Tactic

How will we measure tactic success?

Brainstorm and document all relevant metrics for the tactic. (I typically have 7-10.) Actual measurement of all metrics may not be feasible due to analytics or resource constraints, so prioritize ones that are most important for the KPI followed by ones that are easiest to track.

Limit the list of metrics featured on your strategic planning map to the 2-5 that provide the greatest value. Keep in mind that some of these metrics may surface as a better KPI down the road once you have more experience measuring and using it.

Final Mapped Social Media Strategic Plan

Social Media Strategy Goal Planning Tree

Next Steps…

Only 20 percent of marketers are planning social media goals before tactics, so this is a huge opportunity for you to jump forward! This is also the first stage in being able to measure ROI.

Stay tuned for my next column that will dive into specific ROI and cost/benefit calculations for tactics! (A partial sneak peak is available in my SES San Francisco presentation, Social Media: ROI Possible, embedded below.) In the meantime, complete your homework of documenting a social media strategic planning map!

Got questions or comments? Please post them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond. If you found this post helpful, please share it!

Social Media: ROI Possible from Angie Schottmuller, @aschottmuller

Editor’s note: This column originally was published on September 4, 2012, and comes in at No. 9 on our countdown of the 10 most popular Search Engine Watch columns of 2012. As the clock ticks down to 2013, we’re celebrating the Best of 2012 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!


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