Mapping return on social

Mapping return on social efforts

* Note: this model doesn’t measure or prove return on social media. It is a framework to map and explain different social efforts that directly or indirectly contribute to the bottomline.


What is return on social media? Some (notably Gary Vaynerchuck) argue that return on social is impossible and useless to define, while it’s about personal connections, relationships, value, appreciation, retention, love, integrity, service. Others calculate return with complicated conversion attribution models, excel sheets and metrics tools.

I really think they’re both right. And more. Return on social is about relationships, which can’t be directly linked to the bottomline of a company. Because, honestly, what is the value of a like? On the other hand, it is really really hard to explain top managers (more in this slidedeck) that those social media thingies won’t help the company to make more money. And there are actually quite some cases where social attributes directly to profit.


Furthermore, social has return both outside and inside the company. Do not underestimate the value of social for cost-efficiency and business improvement (direct) and employee ideas and employee satisfaction (indirect).


That’s why we map return on social on two axes: direct versus indirect return and client-side versus company-side. It usually helps convince this world’s Vaynerchuck’s there’s more than Whuffie and will help convince the Excel-hooligans there’s more beyond their sheets.

  • Indirect return externally. We know awareness, likes, views and brand campaigns eventually have impact on our bottomline, but it is hard to prove a direct correlation.
  • Direct return externally. Direct sales attribution (conversion attribution), new tools/products that help generate social sales and additional sales.
  • Direct return internally. Social helps to be more cost-efficient (e.g. webcare is 60-70% more cost-efficient than a callcenter). Consumer interactions lead to business improvement.
  • Indirect return internally. It is hard to measure directly, but social makes employees happy, makes it easier to recruit new personnel and changes the company to be more open and flexible.

Example mapping return on social

Mapping return on social efforts - Examples

  • Indirect return externally. Il Giglio d’Oro activated client to leave testimonials on Tripadvisor and thus (indirectly) generate more leads and sales.
  • Direct return externally. Accenture uses Slideshare to generate B2B leads.
  • Direct return internally. KLM Web relations is more cost-efficient than the KLM callcenter and collects user ideas (business improvements) from the over 20.000 interactions they have every week.
  • Indirect return internally. Akzo Nobel’s Let’s Colour campaign isn’t only a great way to prove a B2B can be relevant in social media, but it’s a huge driver for employee engagement and pride.
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