For the last few months I have been engaged to fix ,modify ,rebuild a total outsourced solution for Executives and SmallBiz owners which has been meeting with mixed results. This program engages them into X number social outposts and then a team of smart folks dedicate 10-14 hrs of time per month moving their brands forward. While doing this and outlining the business processes and engagement, I am also entrusted to develop the ROI modeling it didn’t exist which causes the inconsistencies among other things. So, I have spent a great deal of time on developing the metrics to be able to do so and have engaged others smarter than me real detail ROI types. While doing this it keeps me thinking about the real issue at hand and then a combo 1-2 hits me today it was obvious but I will let smarter folks than me talk about it.
Below is a post by Tom Webster ,Vice President, Strategy and Marketing for Edison Research (you know us best as the company that did the exit polling for the networks in the 2008 National Election.) You can follow him on twitter at @webby2001 – if you read his past posts on ROI read the comments they are golden….
I’ve also heard it said in the social media space that the only metric that really matters is what rings the till. That is the language, ultimately, that the C-level speaks, so all we need to do is link a social media initiative directly to increased sales, and the effort is justified. True enough, I suppose, but pursing some kind of direct linkage metric may prove to be a bit of a rathole.
The path to a sale is something like a romance. Regardless of whether or not you subscribe to the classic AIDA continuum or the Cognition-Affect-Behavior model, consumers generally digest multiple messages at multiple touchpoints in the process of formulating their own want, need or desire for a product. Hearing about a product a few times on the radio might spark the initial “What?”, in-store marketing/trial might provide some kind of factual proof, online reviews social proof and so on. However you examine the process, most people become dimly aware of products, then dimly aware of how a product might fit into their lives (emotionally or logically) and then move into deeper levels of engagement with a product or service before they decide to buy. Social media undoubtedly belongs in that picture. In fact, social media might just be the most powerful variable in terms of changing a consumer’s willingness to consider a brand (there’s a metric!) or perception of brand fit (there’s another!). But if social media moves a potential buyer from apathy to engagement with a brand, but a Val-Pak coupon is the last step in the “sale,” social media will continue to sit at the kid’s table as far as “ringing the till” is concerned.
Social media initiatives cannot be allowed to devolve into direct sales efforts. The early adopters are right to point out that traditional media’s “audit” style metrics are falling off a cliff. But there are concerted efforts underway now to develop models for engagement and new metrics for all manner of non-traditional forms of marketing and advertising. Smart marketers use any and all tools at their disposal to engage consumers at multiple points along the consideration continuum. Do urinal ads lead to direct sales? I don’t know where you pee, but probably not. Are they measured? You betcha. A display in the mens’ room for a product changes perception of that brand, gives it personality and potentially increases the perception of brand fit for a given audience. With that change comes receptivity to other messages, in other media, until finally the sale is made. (N.B., we actually have measured advertising effectiveness for urinal ads, airport displays, interactive kiosks at malls and even truck stops–trust me, it’s going to be a long time before a social media enthusiast can spit out a form of non-traditional advertising as an example of an “unmeasured” media that isn’t actually being measured.)
Social media’s role in cross-marketing effectiveness measures has to be defined, measured and vigorously championed by social media consultants. We don’t yet have the metrics, perhaps (though I would suggest Brand Fit, Willingness to Consider and Net Promoter as promising candidates) but without rigorous, methodologically sound measures (not just audits!) of how social media affects consumer perception, social media will continue to be stuck in its silo instead of becoming a transformational force within the enterprise.
Finally, consider this. Twice in the past two weeks, I have heard the “social media ROI” question answered the same way: “well, medium ‘x’ isn’t measured very well either.” The answer is never to say “the other guys are just as bad.” The correct answer is always to innovate.
Then I am commenting on post in the ADM group which is one of the largest communities for the Auto Industry for the professionals that will be engaging this industry with this metric related issue and believe me they are working it over just like any other industry out there.
Then Ralph Pagilia Director –Digital Marketing @ ADP Dealer Services comments on my comment and this causes the “ Accidental car sale” moment.
The biggest challenge i see is social media and real-time live "buzz monitoring" and what it does to the chronic ADHD car guys when the whole community out there transforms into a target-rich environment and sales opportunities springing out of the ground (PC) as if all of a sudden we could read everyone's mind!
When I look at all the sales the dealers I am working with are making "by accident" when they simply listen, extend some kind or encouraging words and let people know that others, just like them, are actually selling cars somewhere... Well... I call it "Accidental Car Sales". I bought the domain and a few variations last night!
So what is the story here- 1. It is hard to measure ROI in traditional methods and that there are folks that are working on it because hey they can make some money with it. 2. Social Media- I am a Social Business guy –really tired and don’t think that media represents what is going on here, is going to broaden the ability to create more touch points and the points that Tom talks about.3. Need to innovate here for success or instead of breaking down the silo’s in organizations it will be placed in one and that would be a crime in terms of whole business ROI ‘s. 4. Sales are going to be made with the effort of SM but it will and could fall into the “accidental car sales” areas that Ralph spoke to.
Finally- This is real important stuff and now is the time to find all the folks that can help you get what you need to develop this budding industry that is being build and will be for the next years to come….