Proving the ROI of organic social media
7 ways to get your boss off your back
I went viral on Twitter this week. This thread breaking down Clancy’s Auto Body’s hilarious rise to TikTok fame raked in over 20K likes and 4K new followers for my account. There is a good chance that you found me through that thread.
Clancy’s tapped into TikTok culture (aka made funny shit) and it got an insane amount of attention. The account generated 50M+ views and rocketed to 200K followers in the span of a week
Whenever I post a case study thread about a social media marketing success story, there’s always (without fail) some comment that goes like this:
“But how many sales were generated?”
“But was the business impact of this strategy?”
And you know what? It’s a valid question. And I’d entertain it.
But it’s always presented in the most passive-aggressive, condescending way by some old dude that’s been in advertising since before I was born and is jaded by the industry.
Take that energy somewhere else, Clint.
Today I want to walk you through the problem with the need to see an immediate, direct pipeline from organic social to the sale — and how to successfully convey the business benefit of a strong organic social presence.
The problem with the sales obsession
The type of content that ‘drives sales’ usually isn’t the type of content that ‘goes viral.
And you need an audience before you can drive sales via content (there are other ways, like outbound sales, to drive revenue while you are getting your content arm going).
Trying to use content to make sales with no attention is like giving a speech to an empty auditorium. Good luck.
Get attention first → then sprinkle in sales-focused stuff.
Expecting too much from a single piece of content will leave you frustrated and at a dead end.
Each piece of content has a job — just like each employee in your business has a job.
Every entrepreneur dreams of finding that ’10X’ employee who’s a grinder and can successfully crush multiple responsibilities at once.
They do exist. But expecting EVERY team member to be pretty much superhuman is silly. The same goes for your content.
The views and engagement on ‘sales’ content (or whatever you wanna call it) will be lower than the ‘viral’ content. And vice versa. Don’t let this discourage you.
Sure. The ‘dream’ scenario is to publish content that BOTH goes viral and makes sales, but that isn’t always possible.
And even at scale, publishing sales pitches disguised as content is an easy way to kill your reach and engagement.
I think the disconnect here comes from a lack of understanding of organic socials place in the marketing ecosystem — how it’s supposed to work with other channels.
Think about it like a basketball team.
There are 5 players on the court at any given time. 1 or 2 of those players will be the leading scorers.
Then you have the point guard. The point guard’s responsibility is to get the scorers in the best position to convert and feed them the ball. The point guard doesn’t need to average 30 points per game — he shouldn’t.
Social is the point guard. Not the leading scorer.
Social facilitates attention to the other channels that are more likely to convert — email, SMS, and even making paid advertising cost less.
My point? Social should be playing like prime Rajon Rondo… not like Russell Westbrook.
Your marketing channels don’t work in isolation. They work together to drive sales — just like a championship-winning basketball team.
Now that we’re clear on this, let me walk you through exactly how to explain social’s ROI to your boss using numbers (bosses like numbers).
‘Vanity metrics’ matter
The term ‘vanity metrics’ needs to go die in a ditch. I’m partially convinced it was made up as a cope for marketing teams that don’t know how to make engaging social content.
- Follower count
- Net new followers
- Engagement rate
Nah. All of these are the first metrics I look at when measuring social media success.
You can’t sell to an empty room. And assuming you are publishing content that is relevant to your target customer — getting more impressions and more followers means that you are getting in front of more potential customers.
Engagement rate means those followers actually like your brand. Again. More likely to buy in the future.
Especially early on, prioritize success ON the platform. Create content that is relevant to your consumer — but in alignment with platform best practices and what is most likely to perform well.
Here’s the nuance:
Don’t chase these ‘at all costs’ by putting out clickbait and content that will go viral with no substance.
But, assuming the content is business-relevant (or your product is super mass market), you should be monitoring and trying to improve these metrics first.
Build an engaged community FIRST, then work your product in. Not the other way around.
(If you have the patience to do this and can convey this narrative to your boss, you will actually sell more shit down the line)
Transfer to owned audiences
Once you’ve ‘filled the room’ on social and have an engaged community, some of that community will get curious about your brand — and they’ll want more.
They’ll click the link in your bio and sign up for your:
- Email list
- SMS list
- Private community (i.e. Discord or Slack)
(I would also put podcast or YouTube audience growth in this category. Those platforms are still ‘rented land’ but they are closer to a sale than true social channels.)
This is a perfect example of organic social playing the ‘point guard’ role.
These conversions to owned platforms (where algorithms don’t get in the way of serving content) are a step closer to the sale. Think about how many times you’ve bought from a well-timed email or SMS, versus a tweet or TikTok.
Social is ‘passing’ the audience member to the platforms that are most likely to score (aka convert to sales).
How I would keep track of this:
- Use trackable links in your social bios. You can set up UTMs, or just start by using a tracking tool like Bitly
- Track the overall # of link clicks from social (Sprout Social does this for you). More people clicking links means social is driving traffic
I keep track of this, but I don’t usually optimize for it.
The goal is to create such compelling and valuable social-native content that your community wants more from your brand anyway.
This is a result of the value provided — not a result of yelling at your followers to click this link now!!!
The organic → paid pipeline
You need to be working together with your paid media team.
If your brand is running ads on:
There is a good chance that your best-performing posts on organic social will also perform well on paid.
Every week, send your paid team a round-up of your best-performing graphics, memes, and videos so they can test them as paid ads.
Follow up and ask if those creatives lead to a lower CAC (customer acquisition cost), CTR, etc.
Again. There’s a good chance your organic content will outperform the stuff your paid team or agency is making (because we ‘get’ these platforms).
Boom. Now you, as a social media manager, can directly tie your work to revenue generated.
The holy grail.
The ‘direct sale’ generated from organic social.
It’s not a myth. It’s not a unicorn. It’s real.
But how do we know when it happens?
Lol. Still working on that. But there is one way that works well:
Literally, ask your customer after the purchase:
‘Where did you hear about us?’
To implement this:
- If you are a DTC brand selling a product, use KnoCommerce (not affiliated, just a great product and the founder is a great human) to add a survey after the customer has made a purchase
- If you’re a B2B brand selling via a sales process, just have your sales rep ask the customer the same question on a sales call
As you get your organic social presence off the ground, you should start to hear more people mention things like:
“Oh, I found y’all on Twitter!”
“I saw this TikTok from your founder”
Or something along those lines.
Again. Monitor this. Don’t ‘optimize for it.’
If you do your job as a social media team — you will see this trend up over time.
The common theme?
These metrics take care of themselves when you focus on creating great content with your target consumer in mind.
Your job as a social media manager is more about crafting a narrative around these metrics to your boss or higher-up leadership so they understand what your plan is building towards.
You should be able to explain that because impressions are going up, you’re bringing new customers into the marketing funnel.
You should be able to explain that the creative your team forwarded to the paid team led to a decrease in CAC.
See how that works?
That’s all I’ve got for you today.