social networking

Let’s Figure out the Value / ROI (Return-on-Investment) of Social Media

social media ROI Return on Investment
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

social media ROI Return on InvestmentSocial media is all about branding, relationships, and engagement… until you have to justify your use of it.

Let’s get one thing straight: social media is not free.

Even if you’re not spending any money on it, it is costing you your most precious resource: time.

If you’ve got a boss, chances are at some point she’s going to ask you how much time you’re spending on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, and what you’re producing with that time. If you are the boss, you ought to be asking yourself…

With all the millions of things I could be doing right now, is social media the best use of my time?

When it comes to social media return on investment, or ROI, there are two schools of thought.

Relators. Relators say you can’t put a dollar value on relationships. You can’t put a dollar value on a happy customer who tweets good things about your organization worth. You can’t put a dollar value on a relationship with someone in a complimentary field that could lead to a partnership.

The problem with the relator’s perspective, though, is somebody has to pay the bills. Somebody has to decide how much time and money is going to be invested in social media. How are they to make that decision?

Bottom-liners. Bottom-liners say you can and must determine the dollar value of social media. They figure if you track the source of all sales and determine the dollar value of sales from people who came from social media, you’ve got a hard number you can use for making decisions.

There are lots of problems with the bottom-liner’s perspective though, including:

  • It’s nearly impossible to accurately track the source of all sales
  • A person often experiences multiple “touch points” (places where they experiences your brand) on the way to the sale. How do you track them all and determine the relative weight of each?
  • Social media and blogging affect search rankings. For those customers who find your organization through search, it’s hard to know how much of your search rankings to attribute to blogging and social media.
  • For churches and non-profits, it can be even more difficult since your bottom line may not be the bottom line.

The million dollar question

The best approach is probably some sort of hybrid approach, where you do your best to calculate the dollar value of social media and then recognize that there is some additional non-monetary value above that. How much, though is hard to say.

That’s where I am, and where I think a lot of both for-profit and non-profit organizations are.  We know there is value to social media, but we’re having the darnedest time figuring out how much.

POLL: Take a moment to answer the poll question about social media ROI in the right sidebar. –>


  1. Where are you in determining the ROI of your social media efforts? Just experimenting with social media and not worried about ROI? Working to determine ROI? Convinced social media is necessary regardless of ROI?
  2. Do you have any insights or good resources on social media ROI?


About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • I'm a VERY small business, just me and my home office for 15 successful years. I'm currently spending time–a lot of time, actually–jumping in the social media climate to see if it helps my type of business. I'm skeptical, but I guess time will tell. I'm interested in ROI but since I've just started I don't have anything formal set up to track it other than simply asking a new client or PC where they found me!

    • Pam, I think a lot of people are in the same boat as you are. Asking new clients isn't a bad way to go if you're able to get a response from most of your clients.

  • Social networking, in theory, seems like a easy win. If we can get our "product" to circulate in the hands of trusted "friends" then it would seem to be a no-brainer to have a good chance at a sell vs. say cold selling. But theories aren't necessarily the best tool set for measuring ROI. I imagine technology advancements will continue to come up with creative ways to track social media. With that said, being in mix and forward thinking is a must, else we'll be left behind or saturated if we join the game too late. I'm always looking for creative ways to track social media.

  • Developing relationships is a key for using social media in our lives. I have got to know cousins who are across the country, connected with childhood friends, learned about death of prior church members and watch kids I worked with turn into responsible adults.

  • If you are not good in social media you will not get good ROI. Study and Search for ideas on how you can receive good ROI in social media for the success of your business.

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