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Social Media Measurement Is Still In Infant Stage of Growth

I see a lot of research on a daily basis. The ‘research as PR’ industry is alive and well (at least in its own eyes, I suppose, since there is SO much of it).

As with most vast wastelands there is usually that one nugget that really stands out and gives insight that can help someone move the needle. Well, this week’s research gem comes from Adobe and Econsultancy and their ‘Managing and Measuring Social‘ report. (Please note that Marketing Pilgrim receives NO money from the sale of this report).

One of the many things that jumped out at me was the following chart looking at the top roles that social plays in organizations.

This is how I read this chart. The harder it becomes to pinpoint exactly how social delivers the farther down the totem pole of corporate importance the activity falls. This is an indication that marketers and companies in general are taking the easiest route possible to measure their social media efforts.

When you see brand awareness as the overwhelmingly dominant top role for social in an organization it simply says that they are not looking to dig deep enough to find out what social adds or doesn’t add to the bottom line. It is the social media equivalent to the ‘number of eyeballs’ approach to selling broadcast TV spots. Sure it reaches a lot of people and there is value for being out there in the fray but unless you can get more detailed information you are still spending money based on the ‘warm fuzzies’ v. facts and figures that lead to profits.

That same message is even coming from the agency side but they spin it better.

“The ROI of social media is defined differently based on what you are looking to accomplish. Some of our clients are looking to raise awareness of their brand which would be measured by engagement, shares, and brand mentions. For some clients, social media is used as a lead generator measured by contact inquiries. In short, social media ROI is the campaign’s ability to deliver the specific purpose of the campaign itself.”

No doubt there is some truth here but statements like this are cop outs. A specific purpose of most campaigns, whether spoken or unspoken, is to move the sales needle. Quantifiable results that are of substance, in other words more than just likes and followers, are critical but not so easy to come by. If the agency allows the client to drive this then the easy road that can justify spend will win out. That’s not progress, that’s simply a CYA tactic.

So what’s the solution? Unfortunately none was really offered but the tone of the report is that marketers simply need to fight through these early stages and get beyond the ‘Like and follow’ approach to measuring social media.

When asked what is one of the biggest myths that marketers have created around social media, one set of responses had to do specifically with the measurability of social. Some people can’t believe that marketers still say

“That it’s still (somehow) not measurable. Work out KPIs, work out what you want to report back on, and do it!”

“That there isn’t any measurable financial impact.”

“It’s not measurable and it should be kept separate from your other marketing campaigns.”

That ‘social is not measurable’ mantra is certainly becoming a much less acceptable stance these days.

I have heard it said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Based on these and other findings in this report, we are getting close to some changes. It is necessary to tie social to bottom line results r else why do it?

What would like to see change with regard to measuring the effectiveness of social media? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!