It’s budget time: 3 tips to show social media’s value

Is your boss demanding more accountability from your online outreach? Here are three tips to help you measure up.

It’s budgeting season—prime time to show the value of your social media efforts.

Here are three insights to help you showcase your impact before 2020 allocations are locked in:

1. Speak to your executives’ level. “Tailor data to your stakeholders just like you tailor content to different audiences,” says Cisco senior social media and talent brand manager Carmen Collins.

Don’t underwhelm or overwhelm. Know who wants what.

“The ‘big cheese’ needs a 10,000-foot view, so you might include follower growth and highlights,” Collins says. “A team manager needs a 5,000-foot view, so you might also add reach and engagement. And your social team needs an ‘in the weeds’ view that digs deeper with clicks, ‘likes’ and content trends.”

2. Don’t fight the sales funnel; use it. Of course, these types of engagement metrics alone won’t impress more budget-minded bosses.

“Most execs also want to see business impact, not ‘likes,’” says Collins, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to show that a tweet drove a sale.”

Citing social media’s overall impact on the sales funnel is smarter and more realistic than trying to show sales causality.

“You may need to walk them through a journey. A lot of social media sits at the top of the funnel, where it drives awareness, brand affinity and more,” says Collins. “When your social media gets a lot of engagement, your audience is now moving into the consideration phase. If they click on a link or watch a video, they’re taking action to drive outcomes. People move in and out of the funnel at different times and different rates. Set the right kind of goals, and you can show value.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tie online efforts to dollars—just do it differently.

“My team focuses on supporting the hiring process,” Collins says, “so I use metrics showing how our content helps the business save time, money and resources in making those hires. Savings of resources and dollars are still very much a business impact.”

3. Embrace data storytelling. Don’t email a monthly Excel file and expect that it will stand on its own. Data without context is as useful as spam—and just as welcome to busy execs.

Results can instead be presented as a “story” on a PowerPoint slide. “This keeps execs engaged and more likely to remember successes,” Collins says.

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end—even if you’re presenting KPIs. This can be as complex as an infographic or as simple as plugging data into timeline on a slide.

For example, “We won’t just include a bullet that reads, ‘X Instagram post saw Y percent engagement,’” says Collins. “We instead show how that compares over time, whether it’s week to week or even year to year.”

She also includes status buttons such as “on track” on her slides. “They’re easy to digest and clearly illustrate what needs watching and what needs action,” she says.

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and event producer. Carmen Shirkey Collins, senior social media and talent brand manager at Cisco, will reveal more measurement insights in Ragan Training’s Oct. 17 webinar “The Social Media Measurement Guide” with guests Amanda Robinson (The Digital Gal) and Andrew Bates (AARP).

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