In for a penny: the value of social media exposure

The social media space has changed into a commercially driven channel for brands, almost doing away with any notion of “social” when we examine the spirit of some approaches to audience engagement.

Whatever you may or may not make of this statement, the investment that brands put into their social media presence is often substantial: there are usually agency retainers or in-house social media salaries to pay, competitions to be run and design assets to be produced and refreshed.

It follows, then, that brand managers might be inclined to ask for ROI figures to be stacked against their level of financial investment. This is not to be confused with the endless KPIs that are set, in the world of marketing jargon: likes, shares, comments and retweets are all relatively easy to forecast and achieve—but defining the value of these interactions is a very different question.

What is that tweet worth? How much reach does a share achieve? Is a comment more valuable than a like?
Here at Brazen, we are, as a company, flexible with and sensitive to the reporting needs of our clients, and we ascribe researched monetary values to certain social interactions, upon request. For example, our extensive collaboration with the most significant players in the media buying space has unlocked data that allows us to put a confident value on a YouTube view, dependant upon its vertical.

As a pay-per-click and search engine optimisation practitioner by trade, I used to balk at any discourse around the monetary value of a social interaction, given the paradoxical nature of its transient yet potentially far-reaching nature. For example, a single post (be it textual, audio, image or video) has the power to be shared across multiple profiles, embedded on multiple channels and situated on multiple sites.
At this point, it becomes impossible to confidently say that this one interaction has a single value. On the flipside, when we consider the rate at which content can bury itself on a fast-moving wall such as Twitter, the discussion becomes more complicated.

We might choose to define social media value by the sales that a given account drives, which, with the requisite analytics tracking in place to the overall brand website, is an easy enough job to count—at first glance.

What conventional tracking cannot tell us is whether or not the view of a social media post sparked a thought that a customer later returned to, via a search on a search engine or via a direct search, i.e. via directly typing the website address. There are tracking pixels that work on an impression attribution basis, but these are costly to implement and are unlikely to suit the wallets of many brands.

As social media has evolved from an emergent, “nice-to-have” channel into the digital channel, I have had to evolve my own resistance to ascribing a monetary value to social interactions.

I have also had to reprioritise social media, since the strength of a brand’s social signals are proven parts of the overall algorithmic mix that will improve a brand’s overall visibility within the search engine results pages (SERPs) of Google. Most recently, for example, Facebook engagement rate metrics and Google Plus1s have been confirmed as concrete ranking factors.

On this note, a conclusion can be reached: the effort of your social media planning, scheduling, monitoring and reporting can be defined as absolutely crucial to the preservation of your brand. From delivering search engine equity to improving user trust signals and reinforcing other online and offline activity, can you afford to ignore the value of social media?

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