Webinar Recap: How to Prove Social Media ROI to the C-Suite

Communicators can perform what looks like magic when they win approval from the C-suite. But what looks like magic starts with reading and understanding data, and presenting it in a comprehensive way.

During our May 30 PRNEWS webinar, "How to Prove Social Media ROI to the C-suite," Jenny McCoy, senior digital marketing consultant and founder of GoodHelp, Co., Emily Patterson, social media manager at the ACLU, and Liz Hull, head of social + branded experiences at Mozilla, the parent company for brands like Firefox and Pocket, explained how to build a metrics strategy to best showcase social media success.

McCoy, Patterson and Hull have different backgrounds—entertainment and consulting, nonprofit, and tech, respectively—so they illustrated various approaches to present outcomes to the top brass. 

Metrics Matter

Communicators need to make metrics reporting a priority and clear their schedule to do it. If you don’t understand what you are reading, how are you going to be able to convince the top brass of social media’s worth?

McCoy uses real-time dashboards, like Google Data Studio, to stay on top of content, social media posts and performance.

She emphasized the importance of cadence in reporting to the C-suite. Weekly reports allow communicators to identify emerging trends as well as to track goal pacing. Monthly reports work best for deeper dives into demographic shifts and long-tail trends. It's important to suggest changes to a communications effort when the data indicates it.

When marketing pros are well-versed in data, the story becomes much easier to tell and sell upstairs. “Avoid anecdotes in lieu of data,” McCoy told attendees. “Social-only metrics are most meaningful when presented in addition to social’s core impact on the business." Such metrics "can be maddening (to the C-suite) when presented without that initial context.”

Get a Seat at the Goals Table

PR pros can create beautiful reports, but if communicators and the C-suite don't agree on what defines success at the outset, it can be all for naught.

The first step for any measuring program is to set goals. Ask, “What do we want to achieve?” Perhaps it's greater reach and more followers. Do you want visitors to download an app? Is your goal to increase sales? “Agreeing with your C-suite on KPI’s is a bargaining process that begins with goals and ends with resources,” Patterson said. If communicators and the C-suite can begin with the same goals, then a content strategy and need for resources will be better understood.

Patterson, who works for a nonprofit, finds this especially important, because social can be a large partner for fundraising efforts, if followers notice the right content.

“We literally go to our C-suite with plans A, B and C, from a ‘pie in the sky, if you approved anything I asked from you right now…’ all the way through ‘if I have to be able to work with absolutely nothing more than what we’ve got now’ when talking about goals or planning specific campaigns,'" she said.

What a Good Report Looks Like

To gain the C-suite's attention, communicators need to tell a story in a way that captures senior executives' goals and interests. When Hull arrived at her organization, she noticed many charts and graphs floating around, but no one paying attention to them. Her task was to contextualize the charts' data for the C-suite. It proved to be the difference.

“Metrics and data alone aren’t enough—it’s what we do with the data that matters,” she said. “The insights that inform our strategy can help us make the most impact.”

McCoy believes in keeping things simple. C-suiters are busy, and need actionable goals and outcomes digested into easily readable steps. She believes a good report includes a summary with four to five bullets that summarize the most important insights for the C-suite. Data examples can include a concise grid, showing the numbers in one place. Breakout views can depend on the channel or campaign that will vary by goal and company. Next steps about how to act on these learnings should always be included.

Hull noted that what means success for your C-suite also means success for your team. This may mean abandoning personal or team wins that aren’t going to matter up top, and that’s ok.

“If my C-suite wants to know about how we’re using our platform to convert people into active users, they’re not likely going to care about the amazing engagement rate I got on a tweet that referenced a Sonic the Hedgehog meme,” she said.

Remember data is but one piece of the story to explain the success of your work. Keeping an eye on mutual goals can make those ROI conversations much easier.

See our website for a download of this full webinar.