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ROI of Social Media is Unknowable and Other Wisdom from Fashion140


Do you ever wonder why no one every asks you the ROI for print or TV? That’s because they learned a long time ago that you couldn’t measure the direct response from consumers through either one of the channels. And yet, when we talk about digital marketing, ROI is all anyone wants to know. What’s my ROI for Twitter, Facebook, video advertising. . . ?

Those statements (paraphrased a tad) came from David Sulute, the VP of Technology for 9 Threads. Sulute was one of the speakers at today’s Fashion140 Conference in New York and thanks to the miracle of live streaming, I got to listen in.

The conference was all about fashion and social media, but as you can imagine, much of what was discussed can be applied to any business. Sulute’s overall point was this, ROI is unknowable in social media, so you might as well do what you can do reasonably, then sit back and let it happen. Basically, if you build it right, they will come. . .

I Can’t Hear You When You’re Shouting

. . .but they won’t stay if you don’t treat them right. Andy Dunn, co-founder of online men’s clothier Bonobos, had the best quote of the afternoon. He said, “Social media is not a chance to shout at your customers.”

His company started off selling only their special cut of trousers, but at some point they got smart enough to ask their customers what else they wanted. They wanted shirts with the same great fit, so Bonobos started selling shirts, which led to sweaters, shoes, belts and the rest. And they offer free shipping, even on returns and you can return anything, anytime — forever. Customer service is what sets them apart. Talk to your customers, he says, don’t talk at them.

Another great quote: “Use social media to create brands that otherwise wouldn’t exist.” People told Dunn he was crazy trying to sell pants online, lucky for him, he didn’t listen.

The Tweens Shall Inherit the Earth

The last person I listened to was Nancy Ganz from FashionFantasyGame.com (full disclosure, I help with the social media for the site). Nancy brought a group of tween girls on stage to talk about internet buying habits.

All of the girls said they had their own computers and cell phones with the internet. They all shop online and half of them shop with their own credit cards. When asked how they decide what to buy, they said recommendations from friends and family and they all said they click on online ads. After they buy, or when deciding to buy, they contact friends by phone or text to talk about it.

The older girls had Facebook pages and they follow at least one brand. All of them said they liked email as a way of getting brand messaging because they could get it on the computer or their phone. Marketing messages sent as texts were frowned upon.

Savvy shoppers, the girls said they look for coupons for stores they frequent and they look for free shipping online. This fall, collectively they expected to buy between 25 and 50% of their back-to-school items online.

Fashion, beauty, games, toys — these girls are your customers and they have the smarts and the money to help make your business a success.

If you’re even remotely connected to the fashion business, check out the replay of this morning’s presentations at Fashion Lincoln Center. For everyone else, watch for the afternoon session replay for great speakers talking about humanizing brands, blogging for a living and ROI in social media.

  • http://samirbalwani.com/ Samir Balwani

    Thanks for the awesome wrap-up Cynthia. I just can’t believe people are still talking about not being able to measure social media. Sure it’s not a perfect science, it requires some statistics and a few leaps of faith, but to think that having no idea is ok – that’s a huge problem.

    I think the true root of the problem is that most social media marketers are not web analytics savvy. We’ve created this distinction between SEO’s, Social Media Guru’s, and Analytics People. The truth of the matter is that unless you know your way around Google Analytics, know what UTM code is, or understand how to value a fan or follower – you’re not a social media marketing… you’re just a marketer that uses Facebook and Twitter.

    Here’s a good place to start for those that can’t measure ROI:
    http://samirbalwani.com/marketing-metrics/measuring-social-media-roi/

    • http://9Threads.com David Sutula

      Samir – you missed the point a little. I was not / am not saying not knowing is OK. I’m saying that a focus on ROI at the moment of inception is a focus on the wrong things. ROI is descriptive, not predictive. That is, when a marketer enters the arena with the thought ‘what is my ROI on the money I’m spending on social media?’ they are asking for a predictive formula. They want to know how much cash they are going to get for their investment before they’ve made an investment.

      Our methodology is an ongoing, fluid evaluation that starts with a focus at the onset on defining what success looks like for the overall campaign and each platform individually, choosing performance indicators that support the vision of success and then creating a formulae to establish an index for each platform / goal.

      ROI is knowable to a certain extend, but only after a commitment for a long-term play has been made, goals established and a thoughtful measurement methodology developed.

  • http://hausmanmarketresearch.org Angela Hausman, PhD

    Measuring ROI in social media isn’t an exact science (not to say there aren’t important metrics to see how you’re doing). I think the point was that you shouldn’t measure ROI in social media. Social media should be focused on the consumers, as shown in Andy Dunn’s example. Focusing on ROI crowds out concerns for the customer and listening to them. It also leads to very bad decision-making, as you focus on short term behaviors resulting in long term damage to your online business and reputation. It’s like the insurance salesman who can’t turn it off at a party and keeps trying to sell everyone he meets there.

    Here’s a link to a deeper discussion on this topic: http://hausmanmarketresearch.org/why-its-stupid-to-measure-roi#axzz1LU5aVi9s.

    • Cynthia Boris

      Angela,
      I love your insurance salesman thought. This is very true and connects to that quote about not using social media to shout at your customers.

      I think that prior to social media, we were all in the mode of making every inch count. Every banner, every email had to be exactly on message. But social media has shown us that being off message can be as effective, if not more effective than being on.

  • http://9threads.com David Sutula

    Cynthia:

    Thanks for the shout out and thanks for watching! One thing, though… The online listing t fashion 140 got my name and title wrong: it’s David SUTULA and VP of Digital Strategy. The VP of Technology is a guy on another job.

  • FrederickStreetResident

    My name is spelled Sutula, not Sulute. Thanks.