On the ROI for social media editors

NetNewsCheck has an interesting article about the ROI (return on investment) for social media editors. It’s great that people are talking about measuring impact for social media work, and with analytics constantly improving its getting easier to establish the connection between social media journalism and an editor’s overall goals.

There was much written about this subject back in 2013 after a Buzzfeed story proclaimed “The Social Media Editor is Dead.” While I won’t rehash an old debate, I will say that I believe my role as a “social media producer” is temporary — if I do my job right. My role in the newsroom is to teach our journalists how to use social media as a tool for journalism. Hopefully, in the next few years social media will be a part of every reporter and producer’s workflow, and I will be able to officially become just a “journalist” instead of a “social media journalist.”

Here’s my experience on measuring the ROI of my job. The digital and social team at PRI.org evaluates its goals and projects on a weekly basis, factoring in time investment and “BFB,” or bang for buck (a term our managing editor prefers to ROI). Determining the ROI for social media editors is easy if there is a clearly articulated goal for the position, like converting readers to social fans or followers. In my case, I function under three goals: to grow reach, to grow loyalty, and to grow engagement. On Thursdays, I look at all the projects I’m working on (newsroom social media skill building, platform-specific projects, community building, influencer research, etc), and force myself to justify these efforts in terms of the larger goals. If something is not measuring up to the larger goals, we end the experiment or initiative and move on.

That my job deals almost exclusively on the platform of social media does not make the experiment of evaluation any different than that of our website’s editor. In fact, advanced analytics might make it easier. I take a look at our weekly referral traffic from Reddit, for example, to see the impact that social platform is making on our content’s overall reach, and how it stacks up to the sub-metric I’ve assigned to it to hit an overall referral goal. As the platform drives tens of thousands of visitors on a weekly basis, I know that it is worth the time invested to hold AMAs with guests, participate in comment threads and become a trusted content provider in certain sub-Reddits. If, however, the time I’m pouring into community-building on Reddit does not result in the increased growth rate, we will tweak our strategy or move on altogether.

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