Social Video ROI – Does It Really Matter?


Measuring social video ROI can be a daunting challenge for retailers today.  In fact, ROI can be often overlooked in social video initiatives when marketers choose to focus on the less tangible goal of customer relationship building.  In this article, I review the reasons why social video ROI measurement is a critical element to the success of your social video program.

Coming of age: Social video initiatives realizing ROI expectations

Social Video ROI has come into prevalence now. I base that claim off of two key survey results from Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:

  • Video marketing holds the top spot for future plans: A significant 76% of marketers plan on increasing their use of YouTube and video marketing, making it the top area marketers will invest in for 2012.
  • ROI has become a top-priority. The number-one question marketers want answered is how to track the ROI of social media. (It can be presumed that ROI expectation applies just as much to video as any other media or social channel, if not more so.)

The overlooked challenges with measuring the ROI of social video

One of the most overlooked challenges with measuring the ROI of social video is how to align the engagement data provided by social video KPIs with the real-world economic objectives of sustainability and profitability. The problem is that too many marketers involved in social video simply ignore these objectives. They think that being a part of the community and engaging with others online is enough.  They are quick to dismiss the benefits of having the qualifiable and quantifiable outcomes that ROI can provide.

One notable thought leader in the social video arena that I talked with recently about this issue is Kevin Nalty. Kevin is a popular YouTube Partner and author of Beyond Viral: How to Attract Customers, Promote Your Brand, and Make Money with Online Video. He is also the Consumer Product Director of Psychiatry Consumer Marketing at Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson). He has a strong grasp on the business side of marketing initiatives, especially with online video. Kevin stressed to me that that while he believes it’s true that ROI’s connotation has evolved, he thinks social video still has to meet the traditional standard of ROI for it to be a sustainable business practice – no matter what the size of the enterprise may be:

“On the ROI front, the technical difference between “return on investment” is usually a quantified financial return (the revenue divided by the cost). So the statement that if it “betters our lives, it has ROI” doesn’t quite make sense to me as a business guy. For instance as a marketer, I can create a lot of entertaining or educating web content to support my target customers. But that’s not directly tied to revenue… it’s goodwill or indirect marketing. Hopefully that content does help people, but if that was my only goal then I would not likely succeed measuring it from an ROI perspective.”

Kevin also stressed that for people who work in mid-to-large size enterprises, measuring ROI by standards that all departments can agree on can also be especially challenging.

“My initial thought/concern is that these various pieces are often executed (at least with larger companies) by different departments that measure success quite differently.” says Kevin. “As an example, I’m guessing most PR folks (who often engage in the “top-of-funnel” activities) don’t know or care about CRM.”

Kevin also explains that the biggest and most challenging ROI opportunity he has found with social video is that it allows itself to be well-integrated into both top-funnel activities (such as marketing and PR with reach and awareness), and also mid-to-end funnel activities (such as customer service and sales).  The main challenge is that a single social video initiative for a larger enterprise can require different measurements of business success based on which departments you need to get “buy-in” from.

Social video ROI doesn’t end with the sale

Lee Odden, social media expert and CEO of TopRankMarketing, recently shared with me his view on social video ROI. He thought that in order to realize the true value of social video ROI, it needs to be measured not only across the buying cycle, but also across a customer’s entire lifecycle. This includes monetary purchases with a hard economic value, and also activities that lend themselves to those things over time through relationship building — including consumer advocacy, contributions, and collaborations with others.  In the video below, you can hear some of Odden’s own impressions and advice for ROI strategies with social video.



Conclusion: It’s time to get serious with measuring ROI in your social video

As “social” becomes more essential to business activity, ROI becomes even more essential to make your social video initiatives sustainable and profitable. It’s fine for some organizations to experiment with social video at first without measuring the hard benefits, but you always need to be thinking about relevant business outcomes. “Social” helps you build customer relationships, but ultimately it’s the ROI that gives your social video program the focus it needs to achieve success.

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