5 Facts on the ROI of Inbound Social Media

A couple of weeks ago, we published a post about measuring the value of inbound lead generation. Social media often sits at the middle of inbound and outbound marketing, and it is successful at both strategies, the ROI between the two can look very different.

When we talk about inbound social media, we’re talking about social media outreach: putting the customer in charge, by proactively reaching out to them and letting their engagement control how and when they interact with your business. It’s no secret that we’re pretty passionate about Twitter at Socedo, so we pulled some of our own findings around Twitter marketing and compared them with common statistics (sourced from ClickZ).

Cost Per Engagement

Traditional advertising on Twitter costs anywhere between $0.75 and $2.50 per engagement, including clicks, favorites, retweets, and replies. This can certainly beat many pay-per-click campaigns, especially in the B2B market, but is a “favorite” on Twitter worth the same as a banner ad click? In contrast, social media outreach, like Socedo, costs around $0.50 per engagement, depending on use. Unlike advertising, where the more you use it, the more expensive it becomes, social media outreach becomes less expensive the more you use it, as you can scale your efforts.

Cost Per Follow

Twitter advertising costs between $2.50 and $4.00 per follow. Social outreach, on the other hand, has about a 25% follow back rate, which averages to about $2.00 per follow. Furthermore, these are often targeted leads, based on bio keywords and real-time updates, with a higher lead quality than the wide net of advertising.

Cost Per Lead

Cost per lead depends a lot on your definition of a “lead,” but in social media outreach, we usually mean a prospective customer whose contact information you were able to capture, either from a landing page or a conversation. Social media has a click-through rate of about 30%, so businesses that have a landing page built to capture leads can see of cost per lead in the low $20’s or better. On average, inbound channels, including social media, SEO, and content, have a CPL around $27. Regardless of your lead definition, Hubspot reports that inbound marketing can be up to 61% cheaper than outbound techniques.

Track or Trust?

Almost any lead capture form includes a field similar to “How did you hear about us?” allowing users to self-report their referral channel. Unfortunately, as Jim Belosic explains in Inc, 25-50% just guess, trying to be helpful even when they don’t know the answer. However, that can still be valuable data alongside your own link tracking. At Socedo, we track our customer’s behavior on our landing page with Google Analytics, including the referral page from which they came, but we also have a self-reporting form field. For example, one customer last week looked like they came through our blog from a Google search, but the form field reported that they saw a tweet on that particular blog topic. That’s important information to know the ROI success of both our social media content and our SEO.

Qualitative ROI

In the article, Jim Belosic also points out that social media ROI isn’t all about number crunching: “Remember that social media is about branding, building loyalty and good will, and opening a channel of communication with your customers.” That last point, as a channel of communication, is why social media outreach is about a personalized workflow of progressive engagement. Even if you’re using social media for lead generation, it’s the first point in the conversation, not the last. Include positive conversations and trust with industry influencers as metrics for a successful social media strategy.

None of these facts should imply that outbound social media isn’t worthwhile. Quite the opposite! Advertising on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are great ways to expand your audience beyond your typical buyer persona, and pay-per-click campaigns are very effective for retargeting. In fact, we even use some paid social techniques at Socedo. However, it’s important to remember that the best marketing strategy will be a combination of outbound and inbound, and together, social media outreach can be a highly efficient form of lead generation.

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