Video Marketing

Inbound Marketing: Ignore Social Media ROI

Shawn 07.07.2014

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Marketing is a utility to facilitate action. Conversion is simply the completion of a presented action. Whether it’s buy now, call today, share socially or watch the video, all marketing content needs a purposeful call to action. If you’re not helping the user get to the next step in their decision-making process, what’s the point?

– Angie Schottmuller 

Inbound marketing is a tricky thing to measure. I’ve written about aspects of it lately, especially how video effects it:


…and I’m going to continue in the weeks to come. However, this post is a featured article about measuring inbound marketing…and how hard it is.

inbound marketing

Every now and then I come across a piece that’s so well researched and written, that further research or retargeting on my part won’t add anything new to the conversation, and simply retweeting the article (which I’ll do), just isn’t enough.

So I urge you to read, Kevan Lee’s article, (and my review below), and let me know in the comments what you think you should measure in your social media strategy:

Why We Stopped Focusing on Direct Social Media ROI: A New Way of Viewing Conversions

In the article, Buffer’sKevan Lee, talks not just what inbound marketing should accomplish and how to measure success (email signups in their case), but what marketing…actually is.

Marketing is conversions.

Marketing exists to make people take the next step in the decision making process. Measuring how that happens is important to repeat the formula for success, but what happens when you measure data that doesn’t matter, or miss out on the real story of how people convert?

That’s the problem with inbound marketing – especially when your strategy employs social media.

Social media is almost impossible to measure.

But wait,” you say. “I can see how many people saw my post, or liked it, or linked, etc. That’s valuable information.”

Is it?

I’m actually asking. Sure, it’s great to know that 305 people retweeted you, or that your latest video got 1,000 views, but what does that information do for you? Does it help you strategize how to best move those viewers or sharers (or the people they’ve shared with) further down your conversion funnel? If so, then well done.

But I have a feeling it’s just a nice ego boost. When someone “swipes right” on your post, you feel like your marketing is working, even if you never, ever interact with that person again. And that’s not what marketing exists to do.

inbound marketing funnel

Every time I hear the word “impressions,” I cringe a little for it’s lack of specificity. Yes, it’s hard to show how tweets and shares effect the bottom-line, but we need to show something to the boss to justify our marketing budget.

Well, Buffer – a social media automation tool – is telling you to stop it. Because not even they measure their social media “conversions.”

Why not? Because you can’t.

In today’s media landscape, people come into contact with your brand in a number of ways, but rarely does one piece of content convert directly.

Social media is becoming a large part of how to raise brand awareness and foster relationships – and it’s a touchstone for a lot of first-impressions (haha) that people have with brands, but it’s not an A + B = C kind of metric.

Not all content converts equally, but all content is part of the funnel.

inbound marketingIn the article, Kevan himself admits that he first came across Buffer via a Facebook post that lead to a Buffer blog post. Subsequent contact with similar guest posts from Buffer founder and CEO, Leo Widrich, provided social proof, but it took several more interactions (notice that I didn’t use impressions?) from Feedly, more blog posts, IFTTT recipes, Google searches, and a snazzy landing page for Kevan to convert and sign up for the tool.

So in his example, which inbound marketing channel gets the credit?

  1. Should Buffer pump all their energy into Facebook ads to boost their blog posts? Of course not.
  2. Was the clean, well-designed landing page responsible for Kevan’s conversion? Sort of, but she would have never seen it if not for the blogs and guest posts.
  3. Is guest blogging the answer? Not entirely.

The piece of content responsible for the conversion is – all of it. Every bit of content – from link-building strategies, to a strong social media presence (remember this is for a social media publishing tool) – attract attention, and moved Kevan further down the funnel.

It all works together, and it’s all important, but it’s not all measurable. Content marketing is a concerted effort on multiple fronts over an extended period of time. If that sounds exhausting – good – because, it is.

If inbound marketing were fast and easy, everyone would do it. So stop wasting what little time you have measuring data that doesn’t convert, and keep creating the content that does.



Born in Southern California, Shawn grew up surfing, eating In-N-Out, and growing his hair long. After graduating with a Liberal Arts degree from CSU Long Beach in 2005 he left the crowded freeways behind and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world living for stretches in Rome, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Brooklyn. He writes novels as well as copy, loves learning keyboard shortcuts, and plays his grandpa’s old lap steel guitar. You can hear his band at

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