Why You Shouldn’t Measure ROI With Social Media

There’s no denying that in today’s competitive environment, numbers matter. Using numbers to measure business decisions give quantitative data to the decision-maker data on the outcome of that choice. The most popular form of measurement is Return on Investment where the basic question goes as follows: “If we spend x amount of dollars on a plan, then what measurement can we use to determine a successful outcome and how long do we give the plan to determine its success level?”

Many businesses try to use the same question when implementing a social media plan. Big mistake. Let’s go with the basic premise that we can measure something pretty easily, like Twitter followers in this example.

You’re an owner opening up a store and you’re looking for a cheap way of promoting your business. Your friend advises that you promote your business via social media, but you’re clueless on how to use it strategically. How do you take care of the problem? Call your neighbor’s 20-year-old son studying at a local college and ask him to help you. He promises to get you 1,000 followers in two months. Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Assuming that all 1,000 of those followers are human (we’ll even say they live in the area), those followers mean nothing without a strategy to get them (and hopefully potential customers) talking.

Social media is an intangible tool. It’s meant to help companies have a conversation with their customers. In other words, companies no longer need to pray that their public relations professional can get a piece about them in a local paper in order to announce a new product or explain a controversial decision. The companies can do that themselves.

However, the best use of social media isn’t when the company is the one doing the talking. It’s when the customers are doing the talking on behalf of that company. According to Zocalo Group, 90 percent of purchasing decisions come from a recommendation by a trusted or well-known source.

No matter how honest you think you are, your company doesn’t fall under either category.

If the study by Zocalo holds true, then a company can’t count on its own message to convert an audience into dollars. Instead, it needs followers (or fans) to do something. In this case, that something is talking about the company.

There are several new tools in place (thanks Facebook) to push the level of engagement to another level. All of them have methods that can be quantified, simply by using analytics or doing research on how much revenue is coming in from customer engagement online.

Both methods are valid, but need to be used cautiously.

The deadly trap that many people fall into is obsessing over ROI and analytics rather than the content itself. Instead use these social platforms as an opportunity to integrate your brand platform with existing PR and marketing initiatives.  Social media should be considered a complementary piece that is cohesive to the overall message that a company tries to push.

Consider the following idea: You have a Public Relations specialist whose main objective is to increase the publicity of the company. If you’re the CEO of a company, would you rather see 20 clips about your company, all of which are blurbs buried in the middle of a newspaper or see five clips on the front page with 1,000 word stories.

You would choose the latter, right?

Same goes for social media. In this case, the decision comes down to having a big audience that doesn’t engage or making sure most of your customers are inspired to push your brand regardless of the size. The latter objective needs to be a company’s first priority with the understanding that if the mission is accomplished, the numbers will naturally increase as well.


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