Social Media ROI: Gauge Return on Influence to Understand Your Investment

By Leanne Gilardi
TOPICSSocial Media

Being social is about engagement. It’s about getting people to like you (literally).

What does it take to be liked? As an online retailer, what exactly can you glean from investing your time and money into a social media campaign? Without hard numbers to show a traditional “return on investment,” it may seem hard to justify. But, with a closer look at your activity, there is a way to measure the influence and impact your messaging has on your customer base.

More engagement on social platforms leads to stronger brand-presence in your market and a bigger opportunity to influence your public.

Types of Engagement:
The “Like” — AKA the +1 of Google+ or the follow on Twitter or Pinterest. While I fully agree with in stating that your “follower count” is essentially poppycock, it is important to have enough people following you, or liking you, to stand out as a reputable brand. So, it’s worth getting that follower count up and posting content that your audience actually likes. People are more likely to be influenced by a brand they like. When there is more social proof that your brand is likable, the more likely people are to invest in it.

Spreading the word — AKA clicking the share button on Facebook or re-Tweeting on Twitter. This is one of the greatest sources of engagement. When people feel your content is good enough to share, you are definitely doing something right. What you choose to post will position you to successfully boost engagement and make sales. Create content that is worth sharing and share content from others; this humanizes your brand. The most influential brands on social media are not just there to post, they’re listening, too. Become familiar with what your followers are engaging in outside of your brand.

Interaction and conversation — People commenting on your posts, replying to your Tweets, leaving reviews on your page — all these things are influential factors. If you can get participation from your audience, you can better reach them with content, further humanizing your brand and influence. Always carefully consider how to approach these interactions: how you respond to a simple Facebook post can change the way your followers view your brand. Be honest and genuine.

Measuring Engagement:

Here are two simple equations to measure engagement on a post:

Facebook: facebook engagement rate

Twitter:   twitter engagement rate

At the end of the day, ask yourself: Have I seen any changes in my revenue from online sales? Has the traffic to my online store increased? Have I been presented with new opportunities since I began investing in my social presence? If the answer is yes, you’re on to something.

Don’t Forget: Research, Research, Research

Social networks are a great place to learn more about your industry and audience. Take advantage of the vast amount of information out there and research as often as possible. As I mentioned before, you want to know what your audience is talking about and how often they’re talking about you (or your industry). Pay a visit to the social analytics page on and type in a few keywords or competitors. You’ll instantly be able to see how many people are Tweeting those keywords or replying to your competitors. Topsy’s social search tab actually shows you the Tweets — a great place for inspiration and evidence of the most influential topics!

Use the Right Social Channels

What channel is best of for you? The first step is to know your customer base. You will want to invest your time in the ones your customers are using the most. Here are a few tips for each of the major social networks online retailers can benefit from:

  • Facebook:
    • Post weekly, or bi-weekly if you can. Offer FB exclusive coupon codes and share photos that display your products, events you attend, or even submitted photos from happy customers! Influence the conversation on your page by posting newsworthy content. Be sure to take advantage of the cover photo space and list all of your company’s information.
  • Twitter:
    • Your personality on Twitter will influence how your customers view you; for example, you can be a constant flow of coupons and deals, or you can be an interesting new resource for your industry. Post as often as you can! I would highly recommend using Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to help you schedule Tweets in advance. Use photos when you can; they engage far more people than just a text Tweet. Shorten your links so you can maximize your 140 characters. Just recently, Twitter released access to so you can now view your progress. (Stay tuned for more on paid Twitter campaigns.)
  • Pinterest
    • This is a place to truly shine and share the other values of investing in your products. Just think of the possibilities for Board themes! Do you sell linens? Compile images for differently themed parties, unconventional uses, picnics, corporate events, and more. Do you sell dog toys? Find images of adorable pups, DIY dog toys, and other creative pet accessories.
  • Instagram
    • People are driven by visuals. On Instagram, you can share photos of your products in action, or even share the culture of your team. It’s a great outlet for creative interpretations of your brand.

The Don’ts of Engagement:

  • #hashtagging #every #word #you #say
  • Ignore whenever someone Tweets at you
  • Not having a crisis plan or not addressing complaints – switch to private messaging when appropriate
  • Only talk about yourself
  • Expect results overnight – a solid social media campaign can take 2-3 years

And Lastly, Must-Have Social Media Software/Tools:

  • Sprout Social
  • True Social Metrics


Photo by Rosaura Ochoa

Leanne brings more than five years of experience to her clients at EXCLUSIVE. With a background in public relations and communications, she has helped online retailers across multiple industries connect with their customers.