As Adam Broitman, MasterCard’s global VP of digital marketing, once said, social media is like air, and brands at this point have no other choice but to breathe it.
Unfortunately, plenty of marketers still lament social media’s lack of ROI. And those who are having that discussion still don’t get social media. To prove it, CMO.com reached out to marketers and asked whether ROI is an issue in social media. Here’s what they said.
Kyle Sherwin, SVP of Media at Sony Music Entertainment’s Arcade Creative Group
It's a multidimensional and not a one-size-fits-all challenge. Yes, as far as standardization and an industry consensus on the short- and long-term business value for such actions as likes or shares or views, I think there are issues. Some social media technology companies, brands, and agencies have built impressive predictive and behavioral models to derive specific value for nearly every action they take, while others spray and pray.
I believe the larger issue is identifying your short-term and long-term reason for being on social platforms, and building a strategy and infrastructure to get there and measure your journey. Whether you are distributing content, providing functional product information, customer servicing, or even selling, every touchpoint on these platforms is an opportunity to deepen customer experience and relationships and ought to be treated as such. Naturally, you have to stay true to yourself, understand through behavioral insights what your customers want out of these channels, and build that into your mission. So I believe the issues start further upstream and are solvable, but social media does not have to be the direct profit savior of every brand. There are multiple ways to gain real success from it.
Linda Boff, Executive Director of Global Digital Marketing, General Electric
Social media does not have a unique ROI problem. In fact, because social, like all digital, is easier to track, we're already seeing ROI and expect to see even more ROI going forward. The key to social ROI is investing in the people, skills, and infrastructure to track, measure, and optimize your campaigns. If you do that, and you're patient, you'll deliver ROI.
Anne-Marie Kline, SVP/Co-Managing Director for BrandLIVE, DigitasLBi
Social media doesn’t have an ROI problem. It has a perception problem. Smart marketers are measuring the effects of social media on their businesses every day. But you wouldn’t know it based on the angst in the market chatter around the lack of real ways to measure social media. While the way consumers communicate and the way brands can participate in consumers’ lives has changed, the use of fundamental business objectives to keep a brand team on track is still relevant today.
Brand managers still need to drive awareness, transform into thought leaders, manage brand reputations, and generate sales, among other things. The KPIs need to be developed within a robust learning agenda. The questions are plentiful and lead to a plan where measuring the actions of social media leads to success. Creative teams must focus on what is going to guide the content creation and distribution. What do consumer audiences actually want? What do they value enough to share? What will get them to sing your praises?
The other perception problem is that brand participation in social media is free. Many articles have been written on this topic, but I still find myself in conversations justifying paid social media. Social media is the first step brands take to becoming social businesses. Being a “social business” means transforming social media from just another arm of your marketing department into a guide for how your entire company interacts, internally and externally.
Colin Nagy, Executive Director of Media, The Barbarian Group
The answer is an unequivocal "no." In the early days, social media was more of an advocacy medium, driving word-of-mouth in the blogosphere and nascent social platforms. Now, as these platforms have become more sophisticated, social media can drive direct sales through providing qualified referral traffic and through new methods of retargeting that take place in the stream (Twitter and Facebook).
But social sales performance varies greatly by industry/category and can also have a greater degree of latency as opposed to forms of paid direct marketing. Also, the attribution models on social channels are still being developed. For example if someone was made aware of a product via a friend's Facebook share and then Googled to find a place to purchase, search engines still get credit.
Finally, social can influence potential customers, engage them conversationally in between purchases, and help them become advocates post-purchase. Social is also an effective tool of "soft diplomacy" in terms of customer service, talking about provenance, etc.
Maria Poveromo, Senior Director of AR, PR and Social Media, Adobe
I don’t think social media marketing has an ROI problem–marketing, in general, has an ROI problem. For years, we marketers have struggled to prove our worth and that our efforts actually deliver bottom line impact. Today, with the advent of big data and (increasingly) the tools/technology to measure and use this data, marketing’s business impact is becoming demystified.
This is true for social media as well, but marketers are often more confused on how to measure social ROI because it’s a relatively recent development, and the space and players change so rapidly. Added to this, social media value will vary across companies depending on what their business model is.
Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction
Social media only has an ROI problem with marketers who have an ROI problem. The fact that we can measure the impact of our much of our marketing efforts today is a wonderful thing. We've gone from saying, "Half my advertising is a waste of money. I just don't know which half," to one where many say, "I know how 100 percent of my advertising is performing. I'm just not doing half the things I should be doing." Those are the marketers who have an ROI problem.
Can you tie your PR efforts directly to sales? Can you tie your customer service efforts directly to sales? No, but these aren't held to the same standard, perhaps because they're not the new kid on the block, perhaps because they're not "digital." Marketers should define thoughtful metrics and measure the work they do in social, but not necessarily in terms of ROI.