If there’s one topic in social media that is at the same time discussed extensively and yet barely understood, it’s effectively measuring ROI. However, a new primer is available for free that sheds some light on this most challenging of topics. 

Radian6’s new eBook, ROI of Social Media: Myths, Truths and How to Measure by Dr. Natalie L. Petouhoff (available as a free download here; embedded below), is worth your time for a few reasons I’d like to share.

Dissecting the ROI Zeitgeist

The eBook kicks off by unpacking the varying opinions we all hear on social media ROI from “what’s the ROI of the phone?” to immovable bosses who won’t budge an inch without a detailed business case. At the end of the day, you need to be able to show the value of social in some way to “budget for people, process, and technology.”

Surprise, Surprise: Most Marketers Have No Clue on ROI

One of the chapters in this mini-report breaks down the varying opinions of marketers on social ROI with less than 20% feeling that they can measure it. (Cue ‘infomercial music’) There’s got to be a better way …

ROI Value Depends on Experience; Defined Metrics

The research also highlights that those that have ROI as a priority have higher stakes internally and specific metrics they need to improve. Those under less pressure to show ROI are largely still experimenting with social media. These are two very different groups of marketers in two very different places.

Why ROI Now? The Big ‘Ah-Ha’

Perhaps the biggest insight from the Radian6 report is an answer to the curious question of why ROI talk has ramped up recently. The answer lies in Roger’s Diffusion Theory (I always call this the ‘Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve’) as applied to social media marketing adoption. Remember that bell curve of Innovators, Early Adopters, Early/Late Majority, and Laggards? As we’ve burned through the eager-to-try Innovators and Early Adopters (this crowd doesn’t need proof — they jump straight to the new thing) we’re now creeping toward the BIG middle of the curve. As history tells us, the majority always has lots of questions. These are the “wait and see” folk. Trust me — this section is the juicy center of this eBook.

How This Helps Your Pitch

Beyond providing wonky data and trend insight, the report reminds us that understanding where your boss sits on the curve can help you tailor your social media pitch to them and ultimately earn a greater chance at budget approval, conceptual agreement on metrics, and long-term success.

An ROI Formula You Can Steal

That’s right. If you aren’t doing anything with social ROI this 16-page eBook can get you started. First, it can help you nail down your business goals for social media so you have something you can measure. This sounds so simple and yet is often missed by many. From here, it offers different metrics you encounter based on the roles of internal marketers, customer service professionals, and PR/agency types. Then you get a breakdown on applying B-school ROI principles to social media measurement. On top of all of that, you get a real-world example complete with calculations from Sea World on a blogger VIP program. (If there’s any shortcoming of the eBook it’s a lack of a couple additional ROI case study models but that is a minor gripe for an eBook of this size.)

In Short …

More than taking a ‘Social ROI for Dummies’ approach, Radian6’s eBook helps us understand the sociology driving the increased demand for social media ROI and the various waves that these trends represent. This more cultural understanding of ROI helps us as marketers and agency professionals tailor effective and meaningful answers to the tough questions we’re sure to encounter as we approach the early majority ahead.

While it’s fun to make the “what’s the ROI of the phone” quips, ultimately we’re professionals answering to other professionals with serious questions that drive organizational buy-in and budget allocations. We not only need better answers, we need to create more effectively structured conversations around social ROI. Radian6’s ROI of Social Media gets this ball rolling.

Again, you can download this free eBook from Radian6 here.

Where’s your organization at on social ROI? Do you see yourself (and your boss or client) on the bell curve?