Social Media ROI – it takes a village

Last year, I wrote an article for Jaffe–the legal industry’s full-service PR and marketing agency, entitled Come Out from Behind the Brand. I guess you can call me a traditionalist; I am a huge proponent of staying true to what social media actually means, and how it was originally developed toconnect people with people.  If you recall (or recall hearing), “the Facebook” was developed by a Harvard student (most of us know who he is) to help students connect with students about the happenings around the university. People connecting with people and, as we all know, the rest is history. My back to basics mantra: “Social media works best when people, not the brand entities that they work for, communicate with people about what and who they like and know of, the latest news and incredible stories, etc.”

Here’s the key: the more people in “the village” (i.e. company, or really any organization of any sort) who are “talking about” various things in the social media channels that either pertain or relate directly to their organization or company (brand), in representation of that organization or company, the more likely others (people) will follow, engage and talk about these people and more importantly, about the brand (company/organization) that person and their “village” represents or leads. In doing so , all of this can and will lead to increased online visibility (digital PR and publicity!) for the brand/organization which will naturally lead to or provide new opportunities (namely new business, sales, leads, further mainstream publicity, and so forth).

>>>Read my guest post on the Jaffe Blog.


Social Media and ROI: What Should You Expect? It depends.

Gaining ground within social media and digital/Web channels has to do with content and thought leadership. The more quality content you can generate, the more you (or your company) will be seen, heard, and followed. Add to this a high “engagement factor” (the amount of responding, sharing, that you and your followers engage in) then you are most likely on your way to a good Return on Investment (“ROI”).

That said, if you were to outright ask me, “What’s my return on investment going to look like?” I would be hard pressed to give you a number. Every client and every situation is different, from the industry or niche you operate in, to your reasons for wanting to engage in social media, to how involved and active you can or want to be.

Many of my clients come to me because they . . .

• Have little experience in social media, other than the occasional Facebook post or like, and simply don’t know where or how to start
• Don’t feel they have the time necessary to dedicate to beefing up their social media and digital presence
• Don’t know what’s reasonable to expect in return for their efforts.

Getting started and making the time are easy to address. Social media (at least how we know it as today) has been around in a big way since 2007. There’s history, there’s precedent, and there are clear do’s and don’ts. As for what’s reasonable to expect for a return on your investment . . . it depends.

With Social Media, ROI doesn’t show up as easily it does with direct marketing or advertising, where there’s a clear target and a beginning, middle, and end to a campaign. Measuring Social Media ROI is more complex, especially when Social Media is done in concert with other, more-traditional marketing efforts.

While I can clearly measure the exposure my clients get through various Social Media and Web channels—such as the number of tweets, LinkedIn shares, or Facebook posts; the number of new followers or connections; or an uptick in likes, Web traffic, and new subscribes—I can’t for certain quantify if Social Media alone is generating more sales. It’s simply impossible for me to link every client’s sale/new client acquisition to what ultimately influenced a customer to buy (unless I do a customer survey, of course, but that’s a whole other topic!). Most likely, there is no one thing that made it happen. Most likely, it’s a combination of various efforts made by my clients, including Social Media.

Social Media can go a long way to getting customers interested and to the “table,” but sealing the deal also relies on your customer/prospect’s emotional connection to your product or service, together with pricing and delivery. Is your product or service what the prospect wants? Is it what the prospect thinks he or she needs? And are you the one to provide it?

Ultimately, TV, Radio, Print, Social Media, the Web, and what you get out of your efforts with each of these mediums, is all about communication and approach. Just as most people wouldn’t produce their own TV or radio spots to sell a product or service, Social Media really should be viewed no differently—especially by busy executives and business owners who are running their companies and don’t have the time, the inclination, or the experience to optimize Social Media as a branding and messaging tool.


Corporate executives want a quick ROI in social media; they should look at it as long-term “best investment!”

Corporate executives are still bent on getting a quick ROI out of social media…a legitimate request yes …also a stalling tactic?  Great read via the PR News Blog (August 19, 2011): http://ow.ly/69Fp2.

According to Pepsi Co’s global head of digital Bonin Bough, being gripped by fear of adapting to social media can be fatal (for organizations): “Failure to adapt to the digital evolution is written on the balance sheets of companies.”

Staying away from social media due to fear of failure or spending the time or money that needs to be dedicated to a long-term investment is not the way to get along with a new media channel that is certainly here to stay.  There is no doubt that social media and the web in general will create a shorter term investment as it settles into the norm.

For now, we must invest with patience–and it’s a very small long-term investment to make for what is sure to be a huge ROI in the very near future.  To that end, this is not about “waiting for the best time” –when social media is “well-developed” for immediate ROI.  What form of media DOES provide immediate ROI anyway?  Print ads, news stories etc. — sure, but also fleeting if you don’t keep the advertising going or the PR machine pumping.  Social media is and will be no different than other media channels– it will eventually give way to long-term, consistent return on investment.  Social media, as Bonin Bough says, is here to stay and it is NOT a fad.

Therefore, I believe that every company should now at least have the social media/online persona basics in place.  And the focus should not only be on the main company brand, but also on executive leadership as well as employees.  It will soon be a must for the CEO, CMO, COO etc. (company leadership) to engage with online followers/audience on a regular basis–and having employees engage for the benefit of the company brand is certain to become another key ingredient for all company brands looking for success in the social media space. This will soon be the new reality of marketing and business development.