Social Media ROI

Photo courtesy of ell brown via Flickr

Can you measure a billboard's ROI?

First of let me preface this post with a disclaimer.  This is not your typical post on social media ROI – in fact it’s quite the opposite.  It’s a bit more of a personal rant, if anything, but one worth reading.

I am constantly reading tweets and blog posts about social media ROI and justifying it’s use with numbers.  A few weeks ago I was at the Internet Marketing Conference (IMC) in Calgary and there was a panel discussion about social media ROI. The presenters provided some great discussion points and examples, that’s not where my issues are.  In fact I think sharing case studies of successful social media implementation is critical.  Where my issue is with the doubters, the old-school marketers, or those who just don’t get – or care to get social media – and try have us justify social media’s worth by asking us to provide a return on investment.

During the social media ROI panel discussion at IMC, the thought popped into my head: “What’s the return on investment for a billboard?  Can you easily measure it?”  I would guess the answer to the first question is speculative and the answer to the second question is ‘no’.  Yet, here we are, years into social media, still trying to rationalize social media for business use.  Just Google ‘social media success stories‘ to find a bunch of great case studies showing the social media works.

If any of you have heard of Erik Qualman, or read his book, Socialnomics, you’ll appreciate this quote:

Why are we trying measure social media like a traditional channel anyway? Social media touches every facet of business and is more an extension of good business ethics.

I completely agree with Erik.  We should stop analyzing the potential ROI of social media, and begin participating – your customers expect it.

Erik has another quote, that I think is great:

When I’m asked about the ROI of social media sometimes an appropriate response is… What’s the ROI of your phone?

I understand the importance of putting value to your work in social media, but I think it’s time to stop the banter and discussion about the ROI of social media.  It’s been proven – it works!  So start using it.

  • gwizit

    “What’s the return on investment for a billboard? Can you easily measure it?” — Nope can't say that I can. However, apparently billboards must justify the means, or companies would relinquish there need for them. I myself feel no need for, or try too sell others junk through advertising mysite falls into the class of boring – But it's just a toss together hobby for myself – With No specific goals for _________________.

  • peterabzug

    Hi Mike:
    I tend to agree with everything you said because, as a corporate communications person, I too am asked to provide ROIs on just about everything on which I spend money. I think, though, if one gets away from the pure dollar ROI and provides other data such as website hits linked to an ad or various other “soft” information, I have found that it is sometimes effective. It all depends on how flexible the “boss” is concerning a key indicator.

    For social media, I often present Tweets and Facebook postings that have supported customer satisfaction when a two-way discussion takes place and revenue acquisition through promotions (“For Our Facebook Fans Only”). One can always try to link a Tweet or other type of social media event to specific revenue, but as many marketers frequently hear: “If the deal closes, it's due to the genius of the salesperson. But if it doesn't, it's because Marketing didn't do what was needed to be done.” So usually we don't receive much credit.

    My philosophy is to keep on providing any data that is quantifiable, whether that be views for a press release, hits on a particular page on a website, or just the quantity of interactions on social media platforms.

  • Mike McCready

    I think quite often billboards are justified because they are tangible. You can seem them. Its almost a status symbol to be on a billboard. Granted I think they are good for brand recognition, but suck to promote call to actions. The failure occurs when billboards are used and digital marketing neglected.

  • Nancy Murray

    Good perspective on this topic.  I guess in a way it’s like measuring the ROI on answering the phone and answering the questions of the person on the other end. You just have to know that it all adds up to happier, better informed customers at the end of the day.  Thanks for the reminder! (although I still think I’ll keep a few metrics in my back pocket, just in case the CEO asks)

  • Mike McCready

    Thanks Nancy for the comment.  While I think proving social media has a positive ROI is a moot issue, it is important to be able to provide evidence.  I think its a good idea to keep some metrics in your back pocket.  Good luck with your social media efforts.