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Social Media; Influence, Engagement and the Elusive ROI

‘It’s funny.  All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to’.  ~ Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye
 
 

So this tweet from John Lovett (@johnlovett) caught my attention last week:

John Lovett Tweets

Having been flooded with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales figures, my first thought was how small that $7M sounded compared to the $1.25B that was spent online that day. How small? Well .56% small. I thought it was curious that John would trumpet a number that frankly was about equal to the Cyber Monday sales that were influenced by my Mom’s bridge league. Being the sumbitch I am I responded:

Dean's Response to John Lovett

(Note: I'm patenting #WhoopDeeFrigginDo” so don’t get any wise ideas about stealing it)


 
The rest of the conversation went something like this…

A Twitter debate between Dean and John Lovett
A Twitter debate between Dean and John Lovett
 
The response this seemingly benign tweet started, prompted this blog post from John: Counting ROI in Pennies with Social Media, which deferred to the tired explanation that has always been given regarding social media and revenue – “It’s a method to engage with people on a meaningful level and to allow them to engage with one another.” Swear to God if I hear another “It’s not about the money. It’s about engagement”, I’m gonna stab myself in the ear with a fork. To me this explanation roughly translates to “Revenue? Oh this social media shit doesn’t drive revenue, but it’s a lot more fun than that other Marketing bullshit we do, and it’s the best explanation we got to keep doing it.”
 
Listen, I get it, social media is about connecting and engaging “on a meaningful level” (whatever the Hell that means). I’ve been at the Marketing rodeo long enough to understand and appreciate that there are many arrows in the Marketing quiver and each serves its own purpose, but I take you back to the tweet that started this whole thing…

John Lovett Tweets
 
It didn’t start with a debate about the role of social media; it started with a statement about its contribution to sales, I.E. $$$$. My less than enthusiastic response spoke to a fairly pitiful contribution.
 
But here’s my point (and it echoes John’s when he speaks about outcomes). If social media is going to be accepted as a legitimate business tool, it will eventually have to measure its value to the organization. If it’s not through revenue (assisted or direct) then it has to be by some other measurable criteria. Give me something a little more concrete that “It’s about engagement”, you know, something I can put on an excel spreadsheet.
 
It was John’s own colleague, Jim Sterne (@JimSterne), who wrote in ‘Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment’ that there are only three true business goals: Increasing revenue, lowering costs, and increasing customer satisfaction. At the risk of putting words in Jim’s mouth, everything else is bullshit. Interestingly, each one of those business goals can be measured and some of those metrics have nothing to do with dollars.
 
So Social Media folks, what’s it gonna be? Are you gonna hang on to this ‘engagement’ rouse you been feeding the boss, or are you going to put your analytic mouth where your engagement money is and identify some measurable outcomes that deliver true (and measurable) value to the organization.
 
I’d suggest the latter, because as a marketing guy with a few miles on his tires, I can tell you that when times get tough, the people shown the door first are the ones delivering ‘engagement’ not the ones delivering Benjamins. Be brave, identify some outcomes for your Social Media efforts, and measure the crap out of it. You might find that you can deliver more than just engagement.
 
There, I said it, I’m glad.

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