Social media strategy and ROI

Social_Media_bandwagonIn a recent post, I discussed the challenges of making a business case for social media. Until recently, I have been feeling unprepared for the inevitable question: “what’s the return on investment?” While it is obviously more practical to propose a pilot rather than a full fledged undertaking with initiatives of this nature, a concrete strategy has eluded me. Certainly, I am not the only one musing over this as I have noted a growing interest in ROI with the I standing for Insight and Influence and who knows what else.

David Armano’s perspective is interesting because in coining the Return on Insight concept, he suggests that social media be used in the listen, learn and adapt cycle. An enterprise uses social media to “listen” and gather insight which is used as the basis of experimental initiatives. The learning and insights gained from these pilot projects inform subsequent work ie. the  tweaking and adapting component.  Beth Kanter builds on Armano’s philosophy, suggesting that ” listen, learn, and adapt is the secret sauce to social media strategy success. In her excellent  Techsoup presentation, Beth suggests that it may even take up to 24 months to reap the reward – ie. return on investment. Beth’s specialty is in non-profits and fundraising but her insightful ideas are applicable across the board. Caroline Rhinebarger makes reference to Return on Influence. Based on these excellent ideas, my strategy will include these elements:

1. Listen: the need to monitor the conversation about your organization before leaping onto the social media bandwagon makes tremendous sense. Listening means finding the online social spaces where our audience is already communicating, monitoring the conversations that happen there and gathering intelligence we can use to better understand this audience. I have just set up the following to find out what’s being said about us and associated topics.

  • RSS feeds based on keywords such as prescription medication use. Beth suggests even using words like: ” “organization name” sucks”
  • Blog searches: searches of sites like Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Bloglines and BlogCatalog indicate what people are saying about us
  • Twitter searches indicate if people are “tweeting” about us
  • Facebook searches of contacts we already know

2. Learn

Based on the information learned from listening, experiment with some social media tools to meet our objectives.

a) A blog to inform the public and health professionals about health fairs and academic detailing workshops with updates posted as needed.

b) A Twitter account to apprise the public on upcoming events, disseminate information on current topics and direct the audience to our website updates. In addition to communicating our own messages, tweeting involves passing on relevant public domain tidbits from reliable health sources.

3. Adapt

Assess whether the strategies above are working and tweak them accordingly


  • A weekly report summarizing the information that is being generated in social media
  • A blog entry every two weeks; number of blog comments; number of blogs linking to us
  • Twitter updates as needed
  • Content of key words and comments (what people are saying about us)

I recently spoke to an official responsible for public engagement in ministry of Citizen Services (yes, there’s such a position!) and he had lots of good ideas.  He offered to help us negotiate around challenges such as the approval process which can be an obstacle to getting the content out through web 2.0 channels. He also suggested that we define a content strategy.


David Armano, The Collective Focus Group Paper

Maddy Grant and Lindy Dreyer,  Got Your Listening Ears On?

Beth Kanter How non-profits can use social media

Explore posts in the same categories: Government, Social media

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