4 ways to solve the social media ROI riddle

celtra_logo_updated-black-(1)smallThis is the capstone to the series the “Social Retailer” series exploring how retailers are engaging with social platforms. This series is sponsored by Celtra, provider of the first cross-screen HTML5 technology for brand advertising. It is written by Greg Roth, vp of  social for Celtra.

In August of 2007, Facebook opened its doors to the general public and quickly emerged as the most popular social network on the planet. Despite Facebook’s massive growth, and the emergence of other social media powerhouses like Twitter and Pinterest, advertisers were initially wary of investing a portion of their digital budgets into an unproven commodity. The question on every marketer’s mind was “How do I measure my return on investment, if social media is focused on engagement?”

Seven years later, two questions remain. Why has social commerce been so problematic for advertisers? And how do we solve the social media ROI riddle?

Here are four ways marketers can overcome some of their challenges now.

Static images don’t drive sales
Despite highly interactive user experiences, social media feeds are populated with static content.  Leading e-commerce companies have countless SKUs, but static social media posts can only feature one item from a retailer’s inventory and drive to just one URL. This presents a problem of scale for a retailer, who can target ads to a highly qualified audience, but must rely on a single static image to lure consumers to their website.

The solution: Most advertisers create a variety of static ads that feature different products targeted to a user’s purchase cycle, then narrow to the ads that drive the most traffic to retailer’s site.  With rich media, social media ads can showcase an entire catalog and drive users to different product URLs for purchase. In addition, rich media gives advertisers the ability to feature multiple views/angles of a product along with product specs, price and where to buy in stores. Ultimately, a rich media post on a social network can treat a consumer to a full shopping experience within an ad unit and deliver them straight to the checkout line, eliminating several steps from the conversion funnel.

On message, but out of stock
Social media ads can be targeted to specific users or locations, but those same ads do not have the dynamic capabilities to alert consumers which products are available for purchase in-store or online.

The solution: Static ads on social networks are hyper-targeted, but they’re not very smart.  In fact, media plans created for social don’t often take into account the real-time nature of a social network.  A media plan created at the beginning of the month might still promote a product at the end of the month, even if it’s sold out.  Rich media posts can integrate with services like ShopLocal to direct online consumers to brick and mortar locations where the product is available.

One way video traffic
Video posts on social networks offer marketers an opportunity to leverage site, sound, and motion, but offer limited opportunity for audience interaction and engagement. A single link within the post can only drive consumers to one destination – typically the homepage – which requires the consumer to navigate the retailer’s website to find the items that appeal to them.

The solution: Video’s real value for retailers is its ability to showcase a variety of products.  Rich media increases that value, as layered video ads can feature URL hot-spots on all featured products to drive consumers to the point of purchase for the items that consumers like. Rich media video also allows advertisers to experiment with dynamic creative optimization of a variety of elements within the display frame.  In addition, when posting with native video ad products, marketers are constrained to the metrics provided by the social networks – while rich media provides the opportunity to measure custom events throughout the video play.

Native data doesn’t say much
Social networks provide data about the audience that interacts with a post, but native metrics offer little insight into consumer behavior. Without the data typically associated with website navigation and activity, marketers have little ammunition to inform the optimization of their social campaigns.

The solution: Rich media posts that feature multiple products generate a wealth of interaction data, which marketers can use to determine which products consumers like best.  For example, an athletic shoe retailer that features many items within a rich media unit can determine–via time spent per image, CTR from different images, etc.–which product imagery performs best with particular audience groups. Campaigns can then be adjusted to target future ads for those products at the locations or audiences, which have shown the highest historical interest.

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