Measuring social media ROI in professional services firms

by Kirsten Hodgson

Here's a question I hear from lawyers, accountants and professional services marketers quite often:

"What should we measure in terms of our social media activity?"

The answer: measure what matters to you for a particular initiative or channel. 

Measuring social media ROI in professional services

Measure against the stated KPIs in your marketing or business development plan.

If you're running an event and your goal is to attract a certain number of attendees then you may want to measure how many people sign up via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other social network.

If your goal is to inform the audience about a topic or issue to try to generate additional work, then you might measure the number of people who signed up via social networks who subsequently gave you work.

Why you might need to measure in stages

In many cases you'll want to measure things in stages given the longer lead times in a professional services environment. It may take several steps to reach your ultimate goal – particularly if that goal is to generate new business.

For example,

Someone might sign up for your seminar via LinkedIn.

They attend and meet one of your Partners.

They fill out a form at the event saying they'd like to receive your news alerts.

Over the next few months, they receive these alerts.

The Partner they met at the event catches up with them for a coffee.

Six months later, you receive instructions.

You can't say that the work solely came through LinkedIn (in this instance) but promoting your event on LinkedIn was the catalyst for getting this new client. The reality is a number of steps probably contributed towards this.

Don't fall into the trap of measuring things that don't matter

It's easy to fall into the trap of measuring things that don't matter.

They might be important to someone else but, for what you're looking to achieve, they aren't priorities for you.

Such as number of Twitter followers. Sure, it would be nice to have thousands of Twitter followers but are they engaged – are they re-tweeting your content and are you re-tweeting theirs?

Are they the sorts of people you want to follow you?

How actively are you conversing with them?

How many of these followers have you built a relationship with? 

How many have you met in the real world? (I use this terminology in the loosest term – as you may have had an online meeting or Skype conversation).

Far better to have fewer followers with whom you have started to build a relationship than collecting numbers for numbers' sake.

Equally it's nice to have hundreds of LinkedIn contacts or Facebook friends but you can't measure the success of your efforts by this alone. Engagement is key.

Only measure those things that are important to you achieving your overall goals

If your objective is to position yourself as a specialist in your area you'll want to know what traction your blog posts are getting and from whom – are those people you want to position yourself amongst leaving comments, retweeting, or even seeing your posts? Are they viewing your LinkedIn profile? Are they asking to connect with you? Or are they following you on Twitter? Are journalists starting to ask you for commentary in your area? Are you getting any inbound leads?

The bottom line is you only need to measure a few key things. 

What you measure may change for different initiatives but these should be tied to your business development and marketing goals. 

Social media is a means to an end rather than an end in itself so measure your efforts in conjunction with your other online and offline initiatives and track trends over time.

Are you any closer to achieving your goals because of what you're doing? If your answer's yes, you're doing something right. If not, you may need more time or to tweak what you're doing.

I'm not sure we always measure the right things in professional services firms. We can start to put that right by measuring what matters to us.

I'd love to hear what you think those in professional services should measure and any tips you have. Please leave a comment below. 

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Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant