SROI: Strategies for success in the digital age

Social return on investment (SROI), a way to measure extra-financial value, has been a legitimised concept since 2006. However, in the age of Instagram, Twitter, and Internet virality, SROI has only grown in importance – and has become increasingly hard to achieve. 

So how can you run a campaign measured by SROI in the digital age? And how, in general, do you measure it? Here are three methods to success. 


Selecting the right cause: demographics and brand DNA must be considered.

The social issues people care about the most can differ based on age, location, and other quantitative measurements. To consider over-arching generational priorities, Millennials can perhaps be reached through sustainability initiatives. Whilst Gen Z may also be reached in this way, they’ll also be interested in gender neutral and fluid messages. On the other hand, Boomers will be sold on age-inclusive operations. 

Of course, authenticity comes into play. The DNA of your brand must be considered, too, to ensure that any causes championed truly reflect it. For instance, Dawn dishwashing liquid can talk about work on oil spills, as their product is used to help clean wildlife affected. It wouldn’t work, however, for an oil company who have had major spills in recent years – not unless it was an attempt at claiming responsibility publicly and making amends.

Likewise, a car company has to be careful navigating messages of sustainability, as consumers are no longer placated by wide sweeping claims of better mileage or small hybrid vehicles.

Creating the campaign: Implementing the right types of efforts.

Once you have a cause aligned with your brand, the next step is deciding the best channels to push the efforts on.

As far as demographics go, look to consumer behavior data to see what channels are used most by your target audience. Take it a step further by seeing what types of messages (educational, promotional, entertainment), resonate most with your audience, and adjust the tone accordingly. 

Location-based marketing has also proven successful by brands like Spotify, recently named the first Cannes Lions Media Brand of the Year, opting for localised references in copy to further their connection with their consumer. Consider this for channels such as OOH placements. 


Analysing results: Measuring the success of a non-monetary return.

There are three main components to an SROI effort that you’ll use to measure its success. The first is input– the physical things put into the campaign, from money, time and resources, through to employees utilised. Keeping track of how much or little input there is can help determine the value of return, and can demonstrate success to stakeholders.

The outcome and impact are two related measurements. The output is self explanatory – simply, what happens because of your efforts. This can include anything from a rise in social media followers and PR coverage, to the more tangible (say, jobs created or oil spills cleaned up, depending on the cause or mission). This gets compared to the impact, which is the  the outcome but considering results that would have happened regardless.

For instance,  if you gained 100k followers on social over a campaign, but you typically gained an average of 5,000 followers per month anyway, the actual impact is then 95k. This takes into account general growth in the company, which may lower your numbers, but increased transparency is worth it in these efforts. 


Key takeaways

An SROI may be less tangible than a traditional ROI, but often, a high social return on investment can help lead to a financial one, long term. 

Gaining the support and following of the public is key, and though it may be less tangible of a success than the product you sold based on a coupon code, or other trackable efforts, this doesn’t mean that the power of corporate social responsibility should be ignored. Especially in a time where it matters to many consumers, and well implemented effort get higher praise on a a larger scale than ever before.

Want to see how SROI is being reflected in new retail efforts? Download out our latest report, The Future of Retail Space 2020, here.

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