Measurement and “Return on Investment” is often the first question asked by marketers trying to introduce social media strategies. So when 93% of CEO’s in a recent media measurement and analysis survey said they were unhappy with their with the way their marketing managers were measuring their results you have to wonder what benchmarks they were using, what they knew about their audiences and what tools they are using and how this forms part of their overall marketing strategy.
The problem in most cases still s that people want to measure the same way they did for direct mail campaigns (”how many business reply cards did we get”).But this doesn’t work online. Traditional media people and investors, for example, are happy to spend cash on TV ads, or interruptive online ads, or print ads. Because they get them. They understand that they are to be broadcast and consumed by audiences. And they are part of the audiences that do the consuming. Those that you want to part with their cash are not part of those communities.
Social media on the other hand is an emerging and labour intensive skill and it’s unlikely to drive the same numbers as an SEO campaign. ROI can't come down to increased traffic. Traffic is just eyeballs - it's just the page impression number. ROI has to get closer to and be more comfortable with the smaller, but more important numbers, of engagement.
Engagement with a community means you contribute something to it. Youtube's audience is valuable in a page impresssion sense. Youtube's contributors (particularly those forming groups, commenting and uploading video) have a much higher per capita value for youtube. Engagement should be measured by actions. All the rest is passive consumption.
As Katie Paine points out “‘In order to truly measure ROI in social media you don’t need a computer that approximates how a human thinks — that’s not listening. There You need real humans, members of your audience, listening. You need people who can integrate the various monitoring and research tools, do the correlations, draw conclusions and make recommendations.’
For example she goes onto point out in her excellent downloadable paper “Measuring the ROI of social media” that measurement of your own social media program can be gauged in terms of
The no’s of unique visitors returning V new readers, links from other sites, page rank, Time spent on site, Popularity of content, traffic to site & sales.
However real value can be delivered when you analyse the bigger picture and realise social media engagement is just part of a inbound marketing strategy with a whole host of content that can be measured on its own merits that when analysed together highlights trends to help shape your company’s online marleting strategy as a whole.
Maybe social media will do away with the cold term ROI, and it will become ROE—return on engagement
In the meantime perhaps we can leave the traditional advertisers to Gary Vey Ner Chuck to sort out in these difficult economic times?