NEW YORK: Save-A-Lot, the US supermarket chain, believes that "return on engagement" is one of the most important metrics in measuring the success of blogger outreach programs.

Carlos Gil, Save-A-Lot's head/digital and social media, discussed the company's efforts to work with bloggers on a recent webinar sponsored by Social Media Today.

He reported that the firm has distributed giftcards to selected influential bloggers, asking them to shop in its stores, make a recipe and write about their experience. (For more, including further detail on achieving return on engagement, read Warc's exclusive report: Building advocacy programs: Five tips from Save-A-Lot.)

In determining the efficacy of such initiatives, Gil asserted that providing hard numbers which satisfy the C-suite is vital for today's marketers.

Two figures he recommended tracking closely are mentions and impressions on social media. When combined, these totals constitute what could be termed "return on engagement".

Said Gil, "I know all the executives want to talk about return on investment, but really keep the focus around return on engagement.

"There's value behind that. Otherwise, you would have had to spend, in some cases, thousands of dollars just to generate [that value] through traditional and paid-media channels."

While connecting social media activity with sales is still a challenge for many brands, Gil suggested there are strong correlational factors at work to serve as a useful proxy for marketers to draw upon.

"Shares, retweets, 'likes', etc.: that has implied value that creates brand awareness and loyalty over time, which leads to incremental sales dollars."

On a similar theme, he argued that marketers must be careful not to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter simply as an extension of their flyers and advertising.

"Social media is not sales; it's relationship building. And it's this fundamental belief that I have that really makes an advocate program come to life," said Gil.

Data sourced from Warc