Return on investment from social media?
Step forward, please, the social media alchemist who has struck gold…
The leading voices in social media practice and debate are certainly giving it their best shot: Brian Solis’ recent guest post on Mashable paints a daunting picture of senior executives’ views on ROI from social media, including the bar chart below lifted from a study by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club.
In short, the marketing decision makers remain unconvinced; so, if selling social media is the way you’re aiming to pay for dinner tonight, be prepared for a light salad rather than roast beef.
Solis suggests that measuring social media ROI in 2010 will hinge on real business metrics, such as revenue, rather than the nebulous numbers offered by volumes of followers on Twitter.
Though it’s been around for a while, Oliver Blanchard’s take on the ROI question (presentation below) still hits the spot, although the influence of other elements in the marketing mix make it difficult to evaluate the effect of social media in isolation.
In our experience as a business using social media for our own purposes, as well as advising clients on theirs, there is a significant investment of time in order to make it work. Equally, the definition of a “return” has not been limited to pounds and pence, though that is the ultimate objective.
So what has been our return from social media? In its purest, measurable form of generating income, we have developed an ongoing relationship with a blue chip company that began with an exchange of views on this blog. But there have been other returns too, that oil the wheels towards our destination.
This has included using social networks to develop new contacts in a range of fields whose knowledge we have been able to call upon when pitching for new business. Through listening to networks such as LinkedIn, we’ve been asked to quote for work, opened doors with decision makers where they otherwise may have remained shut and we’ve fostered true partnerships with our suppliers by providing recommendations and referring them to opportunities spotted online. Monitoring Twitter has helped us to protect and enhance client reputation, especially when influential people on the network have a grievance.
Granted, none of this is a guarantee of instant, financial success. But would we rather have it or not have it? In tough times (and, let’s face it, one measly tenth of a percentage point growth doesn’t make for a recovery) every tool in the new business box has to be sharpened, and social media is now one of them.
To borrow from Solis again, “Defining the “R” in ROI is where we need to focus, as it relates to our business goals and performance indicators specifically”.
In business, the “R” is beefing up the bottom line. But there’s more than one way of getting there and building a presence within social media can mean you leveraging a little help from your friends.