Money & Business

Social Ad Spending Is Growing, but What's the ROI?

By / Feb 6, 2020 (VTT Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

While spending on social media is rising along with digital ad spend in general, social platforms can sometimes be a tough place to win conversions. One strategy might be to think of social as a venue for soft leads.

The trend line is clear: Social media remains the centerpiece for many organizations’ ad-spending strategies, and its role is growing.

In a 2019 report on digital ad spending, the research firm eMarketer predicted that total spending on digital advertising will grow to $151 billion in 2020, making up 58.5 percent of the media spending pie. And a recent report from the retail data firm Smartly.io [registration] found that 50 percent of marketers are devoting half their budget to social advertising, with 52 percent of respondents to their study saying they’ll spend more in 2020 than they did in 2019.

This is despite the fact that ROI for social advertising is difficult to track. In the Smartly.io study, most social advertisers said they have the most luck with Facebook ads, which tend to drive the best return on ad spend than any other channel.

But what if your goal is to market your brand, rather than a product? That’s where things get dicier.

One 2018 study from Sprout Social found that 80 percent of social marketers aimed to improve brand awareness, and 65 percent wanted to boost engagement. In those cases, 55 percent of social marketers said they struggled with ROI.

Sprout Social suggests that many marketers are thinking about ROI the wrong way. “True ROI isn’t based on marketers’ goals and best practices; it is defined by what consumers want and what they take action on,” the firm states. “When asked what they want from brands on social, consumers say they prefer content that aids in awareness and consideration, not the end sale.”

One practical strategy might be to generate soft leads in social, says Megan Marrs on the WordStream Blog—building a starting point by getting potential customers (or member prospects) to share basic information with you, such as an email address—perhaps by offering them something in return.

“The hope is that eventually, with the help of email marketing, soft leads will develop into hard leads, which are customers or very qualified prospects,” she writes.

To put it another way, social media may not be the end of the conversation, but the beginning.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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