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Social Media ROI Primer

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The 80/20 On Social Media Tools

When someone asks me about social media tool trends and the effect on social media ROI, I sometimes get a little nervous wondering if I was looking the other way while the one app to rule them all was finally released. Then it passes. This year many apps have appeared that promise to do incrementally more than the last batch. But I keep going back to the basics: “what am I trying to do here?”.  And there has yet to be one app to do it all.

For me, what I’m trying to do, is sell more. So I work backwards from there. What do I need to do that? And what I end up with are the same basic tools that continue to faithfully do the job, with the odd new addition made when something really interesting comes along that promises a little more insight. Because I’m mostly concerned with startups, “free” rules the day. Let’s have a look:

Social Media ROI

The most important tool, starting from the left in the diagram above, is a marketing assistant – someone who is paid to pay attention to the minutia that is social media. Managing social media well is a world of work, and if someone isn’t dedicated to it, there’s not a management tool on earth that will save your bacon. (If you’re saying, “I can’t afford an assistant”, have a look at the bottom of this post.)

Next up is Hootsuite. The free version can only handle up to five social networks (and doesn’t track… grrrr), but if you’re a startup managing more than five social networks, it’s possible you’re spreading yourself out a bit thinly. Hootsuite has achieved grand daddy status at this point, but still does a better job than most of letting you keep an eye on multiple networks, and then post, reply, and schedule your pearls of wisdom.

Google Alerts and TweetBeep are kindred spirits – the first scouring the web for any mentions of your company or brand, the second doing the same, but focused only on Twitter. Between them, you are assured of being notified whenever something you’re involved in is trending (however loosely you want to define that word). TweetBeep is the newest addition to our arsenal, and filled a very specific gap for us. is an underrated tool that does a great job of helping you find new followers using keywords based on your area of interest/expertise. does a lot more than that too, but for our purposes, Hootsuite has’s extra capabilities covered.

We use ManageFlitter to find out who isn’t following us, and to zap them into cyber-oblivion (unless we really, really still want to follow them). This way, we can manage our follower/following ratio, ensuring we have the headroom to try and attract more entrepreneurs (our target) via In fairness to, it does offer an “unfollow” recommendation tool, but it doesn’t seem as robust as ManageFlitter’s.

We have very little time for Klout and Kred because, at the end of the day, sales are what count, not an interpreted social status. As a result, the main weapon in our social media arsenal is Google Analytics, which tells us which channel our website visitors are arriving from, with the ability to construct some pretty elaborate metrics against that.

Then finally, the final mile. All our social media work is intended to find, qualify, and engage the best prospects for our business. Once we’ve initiated that process, we make sure all roads lead back to our website where we have a very deliberate engagement path that moves prospects through to very specific content offers that require something of a value exchange: their contact information in exchange for our content. At this point, we convert unknown visitors into known prospects and begin a longer-term, nurtured relationship with them. For more on this topic, see this blog post.

We connect inbound social media channels to sales outcomes and, in this way, we’re able to assess social media ROI (because managing social media well is actually very expensive), and a much stronger sense of which channels are performing for us. This enables us to increase the resources dedicated to the more effective channels, thereby improving our overall performance over time.

But still, I sit here hoping for the one mythical app that will do it all – automatically, if possible. Strangely, it never appears. Is it possible that social media isn’t a shortcut to riches, after all? Hard work, it seems, is still rewarded. Curious.


Quick update: I just came across Twitonomy. Twitonomy promises incredible, consolidated reporting, most of it for free. Requires more exploration, but may make the “new additions” list.


About Drew Williams

My name is Drew Williams. I’m an author and marketing entrepreneur. “A what?”, you say. I call someone who’s passionate about building businesses a marketing entrepreneur. So that’s me. Full Profile | Google+