How to Measure Social Analytics ROI

Niraj Sharma |
 02/10/20 |
7 min read

How to Measure Social Analytics ROI

Measuring social analytics ROI is typically a challenge for brands and agencies. Yet, it’s entirely necessary if you hope to make meaningful progress. How else will you know if you’re on track to achieve your goals, or in need of a course correction? Unless you’re benchmarking as you go, you just won’t. And, very importantly – how will stakeholders feel about investing in the social analytics tools you need if there’s no proof they’re worth it?

The next portion of our updated and expanded Complete How-To Guide: Social Analytics speaks to all of the above and more. Here are steps to have in mind when considering ROI expectations:

Let’s get to it!


ROI isn’t a singular thing all brands measure equally. It’s highly subjective, and entirely dependent on what you want to accomplish. So, before you can measure anything, you have to determine what you want to measure – and why. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Are you trying to increase social engagement– to drive sales?
  • Are you hoping to level up your customer experienceonline and off?
  • Or are you seeking to measure the results of a single campaign?
  • Do you want to improve brand healthby retooling customer service?
  • Or maybe you need ideas for new products?
  • Possibly more influencers to increase brand awareness?
  • Or just need to understand where your awareness is really coming from, as it can be an unexpected boon that you’ll want to take advantage of!

Gucci, for example, captured lots of love on our Brand Passion Index in our Social Media Industry Report 2019: Retail. This was due to its exclusivity and authenticity – but also, notably, thanks to its name becoming synonymous with luxury thanks to influential musicians. “That’s Gucci.”

And their inclusion of Kai Kim from Korean Pop band (K-pop) We are One EXO as a model in their #Guccicruise fashion show garnered tons of engagement from the bands’ fans. This resulted in a bump in potential impressions (eyeballs on their content) with the hashtag #gucci_kai trending.

measuring Gucci Kai as part of social analytics ROI

The takeaway: Whatever the goal or goals, pinpoint it very specifically and decide what success looks like for you. And be prepared to sort out the root of every significant fluctuation in mentions as you go. Assumptions are not your friend and do little to help you measure your efforts!

And the best way to track progress, of course, is by knowing where you started. So add “audit our baseline” to that “must do” list!


You have to establish baseline metrics to know where you’ve gained or lost down the road. With your goals in mind, record where you are now. You can do this with whatever organizational tools you use – or lay things out in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

For example, if your goal is to increase followers and mentions, note how many you have now – and perhaps how many you’ve gained over the past week, month, etc. If you want to increase holiday sales, you’ll need to look back at last year’s fourth quarter for those numbers.

You get the idea. Whatever you do, don’t skip this important step.

If you’re new to social analytics, you can start as simply as stated above. If you’ve been using social analytics tools for a while, you’d be wise to perform a social media audit to recalibrate your baseline for the more complex metrics you’ll have collected.

These include metrics like social sentiment and brand passion, influencers, engagement, content, channels, your audience, and competitors. Though growth in each of these areas can be goals in and of themselves, they also impact larger business goals – so this impact must also be measured.


Social analytics is all about furthering your entire business – not just your social profiles. For that reason, the question “Why?” is a major part of what you’re measuring as you assess ROI – as in “Why did this change occur?”

For example, if your goal is to identify more influencers, that metric is a simple numbers game. But how and why did those influencers impact your business? That’s what you really want to know – so you can keep that momentum going, or change what isn’t working.

And this happens in both the short and the long terms.

In the short term, look at real-time data to assess things like campaigns in progress. Brands like UMG Nashville have used real-time analytics to change tactics mid-campaign to completely alter the outcome for the better.

When you think about it – what’s better: Letting a campaign run its course and then looking back and wondering what you could have done differently? Or knowing in the moment what competitors are doing, changing strategies, and smashing your goals?

Hotwire Global uses real-time insight to look at trends happening now and to capture hints toward the future to help clients as they plan ahead. And social monitoring is particularly helpful when monitoring high stakes events where accurate understanding of a situation is a must.

Hotwire Global uses real-time insight to look at trends happening now and to capture hints toward the future to help clients as they plan ahead

When a crisis hits, brands typically get one chance to respond appropriately. And the fallout when they get it wrong is expensive in more ways than one!

And those “hints” toward future trends? Those are crucial as well, of course, so brands can head off challenges. But that’s not all. Today, brands will find predictive capabilities are stronger than ever as well – or, at least it is in NetBase!


Our latest offering (one of many heading your way) offers powerful next generation artificial intelligence, able to automatically identify semantically related themes for brands. It removes user bias and uncovers a variety of both known and unknown possibilities.

Imagine, for example, being first to uncover a trend that has very little vendor awareness but high consumer interest – an unmet need that could define or disrupt a category.

And then combine that with the ability to pivot, because you have that level of confidence in the story your social analytics insight is offering. Popeyes was able to do just that!

Popeyes originally planned to use a lot of TV advertising to help launch its chicken sandwich this summer, but once the “chicken sandwich war” took off on Twitter, Popeyes sat on the TV commercial.

Two weeks of runaway sales later, the chain had to stop selling the sandwich and replenish supplies.

How did this happen? And edgy, entirely in character response to competitor, Chik-fil-A throwing some light shade its way went viral:

social analytics ROI of Popeyes tweet about new chicken sandwich

The tweet drove over 323,400 likes and 86,000 retweets. The tone was a full reflection of Popeyes’ Southern roots, humanizing the brand in a way that sounds exactly how you’d expect the brand to sound!

It was followed by 3.3 billion tweets and turned the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich from a buzzy new product to an online and IRL phenomenon

So, when Popeyes prepared to bring the chicken sandwich back, TV wasn’t on the menu, said Fernando Machado, global CMO for Burger King and Popeyes. “Normally we do a lot of TV, a little bit of digital, and really push on launch—here we have the most successful product launch … and it involved zero TV advertising,”

“The chicken sandwich war unusual approach for us, which will help shape other launches in the future,” he said.

This is the power of sentiment analysis—find the love and get love in return, ten-fold.

These are specific cases you can cite as proof that understanding how to leverage social analytics makes a difference. The ROI is clear. 


Over the longer term, this is where your social media audit comes back into play. As you look at campaigns over longer periods – a quarter, six months, a year – look for patterns in approach as well as results. Did each campaign best the previous one? Or were your results up and down over time? Did you tweak based on social data each time, or were some campaigns left to run their course?

Look as well at what specifically impacted your results. Was your content on point? Are you clear on who your audience is? Are you trying to reach them on the right channels?

understanding top sources as part of ROI measurement

If you’re not sure of the answers to these questions, it’s time to put your social listening tools to the test. Combined with sentiment analysis, your social listening tools bust myths all the time, revealing what you need to know. All you have to do is listen.

The thing to remember is this can change at any time – that’s why real-time analytics are so important.

When you perform your social media audit, maybe it will show that Twitter was your best channel for holiday promos last year. But let’s say this past back-to-school season you saw a lot more interaction on Instagram. That’s a sign you need to switch things up – your audience has migrated.

exploring popular domains in social media audit as part of ROI analysis

So, you continue your social listening to understand who your audience is – maybe you have additional segments to speak to. Find them and figure out what they want from you. Offer up the perfect content on Instagram – or whatever channels your analytics deem best. Track results in real-time and tweak if necessary.

This time next year you’ll see that improvement in your social audit – a direct link between social listening and social success.

summary metrics that inform social analytics ROI measurement


Of course, social success isn’t always enough to sell social listening tools to higher-ups. This is why results like those of Popeyes, UMG Nashville and Hotwire matter. You don’t have to take it from us that social analytics work – take it from them, and the many other brands having similar success.

When you can demonstrate a clear correlation to profits and other aspects beyond just marketing – not that marketing isn’t important – that’s when you’ll win the hearts of the C-suite and other stakeholders.

Real-time is again your friend here. Though looking back over longer periods is critical to identifying patterns and trends in your business, being able to share a visual snapshot of what’s happening right now is also a great tool for those who aren’t data analysts.

dashboards available in NetBase Quid for real-time social analytics ROI understanding

Integration is also your friend – and it’s something you want to be sure your social analytics tools are capable of. Capturing a complete picture of the voice of the consumer means bringing all your data into one place so the relationship between social data and sales data – for instance – is clear.

There’s no area of your business social analytics can’t benefit. As long as your efforts are intentional, and you use benchmarks to drive future decision-making, ROI will never be a question.

Want to learn more about how to use social media analytics to keep your brand thriving? Check out the rest of The Complete How-To Guide: Social Media Analytics as well as its companion The Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics. Additional topics include how to:

Or reach out for an in-depth demo with a member of our team!


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