The “Life Stages” of Social Media ROI

As marketers, we’re often asked to evaluate ROI on a campaign against agreed on KPIs. Some clients focus on impressions delivered against a specific target while other clients are interested in branded engagements from a larger audience.  Both are important and are defined with the client based on the goals of the campaign.

When asked to define a campaign on consumer engagement, agencies often look to define a successful campaign by number of user-initiated actions: comments, ratings, sharing, notifications sent etc.  What we often forget however is that an individual goes through several engagement cycles and it is by each stage, not just by the campaign, that we should define ROI.

Alterian recently released a “Consumer Engagement Brochure” in which they defined the “life stages” of consumer engagement: unknown, aware, conversation, consumer and advocate. While every campaign hopes it will turn individuals into brand advocates, not every campaign is starting with individuals who have progressed to “consumers,” many start as “unknown.”

In defining Social Media ROI, we should first define in which of these “life stages” the target audience lives for a particular campaign.  Once an agency can agree on this with their client, they can proceed to define what the engagement points, or the ROI, are around that audience.

For example, in a campaign for a new product launch, users start as “unknown.”  Once a user hovers over the banner ad, clicks to “hear more” or watches a branded video, he is now aware.  Not every user will want to hear from the brand on Twitter or Facebook, some will just post a comment on the branded YouTube video they watched or send a friend a notification from a branded app they discovered. This is no less important than an individual reaching out to the brand on a website or fan site.

When speaking about social media specifically, a consumer should have a more open definition than just ‘an individual who buys a product.’  A consumer should be – someone who downloads a coupon, continuously engages in branded content, or even, someone who participates in polls or online samplings.

Once an individual begins a dialogue with the brand about the campaign or the product, they are becoming “advocates.”  Even those people who post negative comments on a brand’s Facebook Fan Page are advocates – they’re consumers who are expressing opinions about a brand campaign or product.  If a brand is able to listen to them and take action to calm these concerns, the brand may be able to convert the individual and will build a long term brand advocate.

In the end, ROIs and KPIs vary on the client and the campaign, but if we can define the engagement points within each stage, we’ll be successful is setting realistic, measurable expectations for Social Media ROI in future campaigns.

Tell us what you think? Do you have a different set of life cycles you believe social media audiences go through? What are some of the KPIs you focus on in each life cycle?



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  2. 02/1 2010

    It’s still tough measuring ROI, it’s getting easier though with some tools. The key is to set realistic goals, operate with a plan, and be able to change as things happen. Plus be responsive.

  3. 02/4 2010

    I don’t really have any other methods of describing what the social media audience goes through. We just have to put into consideration that our KPI’s play a vital role in determining our ROI.


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