Return of Investment

I was recently asked to quantify the results of a social marketing campaign… After all, how do we show clients their return of investment, how do we make it make “cents”?

I responded with a formal letter and I’m posting it here for everyone. hopefully this will help anyone trying to understand how we measure social media marketing, but more importantly I’m hoping to get some feedback on this one.

To address your question, quantifying the results of social media marketing is not an easy subject to tackle. More and more, people are demanding that the commercial entities with which they deal stop seeing them as numbers and see them as people; thus, when a company does not listen to consumers, or just blows them off as a fraction of a statistic, those consumers find a venue on the internet where others will listen, this happens through blogs, anti-corporate web sites, or even on consumer review sites. When others listen, reputations are effected; for better or for worse.

That is not to say that we don’t quantify certain actions, or that they can’t be. Several applications have built in quantifiers that can be used; Youtube keeps a running total of how many views a video has and of how many people embed that video on personal sites. When a thousand people have sought out the video that you posted for free, compared to the price of television advertisements, the return of investment can be considered immense. Facebook allows for the recording of comments and chatter, and the viewing of conversations between people. These comments can be quantified, though they should be qualified for content as well. In addition to this, daily statistics of how many times a Facebook Business Page has been viewed and how many of those views are original views (not the same person looking again) are in place to give business owners a general idea of how many people are showing interest. Forums and communities keep track of how many members there are, and with a little investigation one could learn how many active members there are, how active they are, and what it is they are saying about a brand.

But you have to remember that such quantification cannot be the goal of a social marketing campaign, because they’ll always come up short. Traditional marketing has always looked at the qualitative data; percentage of eyes balls; how many cars drive past the billboard; how many drivers that pass actually notice; and how many act. That kind of mass advertisement isn’t really what social marketing is about. Instead imagine that, where once you could hold a sign over a sea of eyes and just wait for the effect, now-a-days the eyes have learned that they are more than just eyes; they talk to each other, they give advice, and most of all they expect the commercial entity to be in the sea with them. And that is what social media marketing is all about, helping the client learn to navigate that sea, helping them learn to float and get their message, not to the most people… but to the right people; the people who will spread the message for you.