Online to Offline: The ROI of Social Marketing

Measuring the real ROI of social marketing has been a priority since my first full day leading Fullscreen Measurement and Insights. It took less than two weeks for one of our fearless Sales leaders to cut past the office pleasantries and tell me we needed a sales lift solution, yesterday.

The urgency was real, as he had eager CPG clients that needed to prove the effectiveness of their campaigns to secure funding for follow-ons. Of course! That seems logical, and there must be a solution to provide to our brand partners. Then came a series of frustrating discoveries. We can’t tag anything. We can’t extract exposure files from the social platforms. Existing sales ROI solutions are not accepted vendors on said social platforms. There are no cross-social solutions that can holistically measure our campaigns. Our campaign doesn’t meet impressions requirements. ????‍♀️

Measurement of social content marketing is as complex as the ecosystem where the content lives. For starters, it faces many of the same challenges that cross-platform measurement does more broadly.  Instead of “how do I create metrics and techniques that flow across television, digital and print”; in social it becomes an issue of “how do I measure across Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.” The lack of data is not a problem in social — but because of the abundance of performance data, there becomes the over-reliance on behavioral metrics and the common pitfall of focusing on metrics that do not matter. This over-reliance has further distracted the industry from focusing on harder-to-measure areas such as brand and sales lift, that are tied to brand health.

These challenges are echoed in the sentiment of major marketers. According to an August 2018 edition of the CMO survey, businesses are investing more than ever in social media, yet they still struggle to prove its value.


We knew we had all the right indicators of highly-effective, brand-driving campaigns:

  • An audience that immerses and engages with our content ahead of industry benchmarks1
  • +52% purchase intent lift on average across 2 years of measured branded content campaigns2
  • Content that evokes an intense connection with young audiences, even stronger than a TV ad3

While all these metrics are great, we realized they were not a replacement for a direct link to cash register sales. We could talk around it all day and reference one-off studies that correlated online metrics to offline sales, or we could do it!

Last year we audited a variety of sales lift products with the potential to measure social branded content. We decided to partner with Shareablee, which has created a large panel of social engagers, and IRI, which has the largest source of CPG point of sales data, to pilot their collaborative Social Lift product. We measured our three biggest CPG campaigns from the first half of 2018 which included market-leading brands, were built to drive awareness, featured Influencers, and ran across multiple social platforms. An important note is that these campaigns focused on higher funnel objectives, so while we are excited by our results, we’re equally anxious to test lower funnel campaigns, as we expect to see an even stronger performance.  


Across the board, we found each of our campaigns was able to drive sales lift in a positive direction (1.5% to 3.8%). As we mentioned above given the opportunity to incorporate specific tactics such as calls to action or purchase we believe these figures can grow. Additionally, we saw that a campaign with a flight of two weeks was able to generate lift proving that even short flights can impact sales.

One of the exciting capabilities of this study is the ability to break out specific campaign diagnostics such as creative types, social platforms, or type of engagement. In our beverage campaign we were able to illustrate that social engagers are more valuable than individuals who view, but do not engage with the content. This data helps to substantiate something we’ve always intuitively thought – when a consumer feels compelled enough to take action on a piece of social content that indicates a more valuable connection with both the content and the associated brands.

Source: $/HH = Average dollar spend on the product per household. *Engagements = likes, comments, shares, reactions


As an industry, we need to invest and take chances, or else we won’t advance to including sales lift metrics as standard practice. The benefit of testing and learning with innovative solutions far outweighs being stuck in our comfort zone and an un-trackable marketplace. Brands should know that there are research partners that are taking progressive steps toward these solutions. We must capitalize on this progress.

Our early results indicate that while social branded content is mostly built and evaluated on higher funnel KPIs, brands should feel confident that these efforts are also generating incremental product sales. And this can happen in as little as two weeks! Furthermore, we are excited to have data validating the value of an engagement. Brands focused on the bottom line can optimize towards engagements with reasonable confidence that it will more effectively drive sales.

Lastly, while we feel great about our initial findings, we recognize that with each additional campaign we measure, we will be contributing a new piece to a larger puzzle. This commitment will ultimately allow us to make smarter, more informed business decisions.

For more information on this study and additional results, please contact

1. FSVN v. All Digital Video; Comscore Video Metrix November 2018; Youtube Analytics and Tubular – FSVN v. All of Youtube, RY data as of 12/20/18
2. Benchmarks of 24 custom ad effectiveness studies from 2016-18 and Benchmarks of 17 creative testing studies from 2017-18 in Fullscreen’s TBH Panel; Top 2 Box
3. Fullscreen Intensity Study with Media Science, Fall 2018