A post today at Mashable.com has got me in a bit of a tizzy. The post discusses results of an August 2009 survey by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education. There’s good news and bad news on the social media front. First, the good news:
86% of professionals in a variety fields said that they have adopted social media in some way.
Social media’s uptake as part of a complete marketing strategy is heartening and reflects estimates early this year that a larger portion of dwindling marketing budgets were being allocated to the social media sphere.
But now, the bad (and in my opinion, it’s really quite bad):
In fact, 84% of respondents said they don’t currently measure the ROI (return on investment) of their social media programs. Even less encouraging, more than 40% of respondents said they didn’t even know whether they could track ROI from their social tools.
I’ve already heard several arguments to explain the phenomenon.
- Companies are allocating so little to social media that it’s cheaper not to track results.
- You can’t measure the quality of the interactions, so it’s irrelevant to track social media ROI.
- You can’t measure the impact of branding and thought leadership.
In my opinion, these arguments just don’t hold water. And I think it’s downright scary that companies are investing in tools that they can’t (or, more accurately, don’t think they can) track. Social media marketing ROI breaks down into two basic categories: concrete financial outcome complete with hard numbers and softer trending that may or may not have stats to back it up.
What’s really behind this issue? In my opinion, it’s that most companies, consultants and non-profits don’t have concrete goals that can be measured within a social media campaign. It never ceases to amaze me how many clients we’ve had that can’t specify a goal for their SMM efforts. Common responses include:
- Getting the name out there. (Out where? What’s the target market? What number of new site visitors is considered a success?)
- Driving web traffic. (Unless you make your money off of page views that you sell to advertisers, Web traffic alone won’t make you any money.)
- Engaging our users. (Let’s be specific – is launching a blog and getting readers and subscribers enough? Are comments critical to you? What about how often your users share your links?)
Without concrete goals, there is no way to track your strategy’s ROI. I understand that it takes more time and costs more, but if your strategy is a success, don’t you need to know that? If your traffic comes entirely from LinkedIn, do you need to keep posting in Facebook? If your PowerPoint presentations on SlideShare.net go viral, but your YouTube videos are a flop, do you really want to keep putting time and money into producing video?
Our intial consultations include working through what might appear to be a simple worksheet. After a lot of experience, we’ve found it to be an extremely useful technique that encourages our clients to quantify (or at least qualify) their goals. We cover:
- Campaign goals that can be measured
- Target market(s)
- Other influential sites
- Competition – both direct competitors and others vying for your audience’s attention
- Media to be generated in house
- Media to be crowdsourced from users
- Networks to be used for distribution
- Resources available for this campaign – financial, people power and time to build a buzz
Are you getting ready to launch a social media marketing campaign? What tools do you have in place to track the effects? What benchmarks will you use to evaluate the outcome? I’d love to hear your thoughts on SMM strategy and the importance of tracking ROI in the comments below.