Measuring ROI in social media is a challenge for many businesses. While the textbook definition of ROI is the exact dollar profit netted for every dollar spent connecting the precise benefits of social media can sometimes be difficult to connect to precise dollars in profit.

That’s why some of companies have turned to tactics like social coupons and contests, to help them correlate directly to measurable ROI and engagement. Other companies have gone more the e-commerce route, and have used Twitter as a vehicle for their customers to share their purchases with their social networks.

Recently, Coca-Cola and Starbucks encouraged people to tweet a beverage to their friends or family. You could sign into an e-commerce site, purchase a beverage, and then tweet a message to the person who you wanted to redeem it. It’s a little e-commerce. It’s a little social. It’s very consumer oriented.

The program has been relatively successful for Starbucks looking at press and sales. Starbucks used it to learn more about their customers and what their interests were.

Will it work for B2B?

There are some in the marketing world who have claimed that social coupons are the next big thing for B2B.

Yes, while some prospects may be attracted to the shiny things you promote, their interest needs to be deeper than the promise of a free phone or a free coffee to stay connected and invest in what many B2B companies are offering. B2B decisions are usually large purchases, which require lots of forethought.

Using social media to drive e-commerce doesn’t really work for B2B companies. You aren’t going to gift a new line of production equipment to anyone. Maybe smaller products may be gifted, but by whom to whom?

Gifting trials and demonstrations are already something many B2B companies offer through lunch and learns, site visits and thought leadership networking events.

How do you really derive ROI from social in the B2B sphere?

For B2B businesses, social media becomes another way to reach your audience. It gives you a chance to talk to your potential prospects: where they connect and where they do their initial research.

Measuring ROI in maintaining your social media profiles can be tied to a few metrics:

Click-throughs to conversions –The prospects that come to your site from company-specific social media content and other information you post. How long do those visitors stay on the site? What content do they consume? Do they convert from anonymous visitor to known prospect? If you could you would follow this from click to sales conversion.

Likes, shares and comments – These are not ROI metrics, but they show engagement with what you’ve got to say. They can help you decide what content your audience finds valuable, allowing you to plan your content calendar for increased engagement and drive ROI.

If you are a niche B2B business, you need to find and reach out to your very specific prospects with a relevant message. And your social media profiles can be a way to achieve this. Like we’ve said before you know where your clients go to talk shop on the internet and you need to have a strategy. For B2B, it’s not about couponing and shiny things.

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