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Social Media ROI and Ralph’s “ Accidental Car Sales” – the story as I see it.

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….

Views: 12

Tags: Media, ROI, Social

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Comment by Steven Moore on October 26, 2009 at 12:55pm
@ ralph just spent more time with your comment- the end is great ( sounds to me Human touch/intelligence and personalization thru Technology - Human voice thru Machines... Your marketing and competitive matrix is so so true- we can find a number to sell them on we will keep working on creating more impressive numbers and new positions... project creep etc... From BPO stand point and rss etc 120 can be handled in content it is that engagement area that is where it get good and fun- however can imagine a day where you have community managers as sales folks and each sales guy has 3-6 that they handle like today a chamber of commerce group, a local networking group, the local church program etc....That would be a social business wouldn't it...

The biggest takeaway is that customer (us) matrix - I am an early adopter so I do use my network for insight into my new gadgets all the time. I am social so my next car will be with a social dealer period- the BP's developed by the customer experience management area and the social ethnological folks is where the gold really is, however I think we are always at least me looking for the ultimate when right now it can just be 30/40% on target and it is a huge advantage to the dealer doing so....compared to those not or worse screwing it up...I am now going to be looking for the MR area of social behavior even more...enjoyed this greatly best wishes with the continued roll out of your programs...
Comment by Steven Moore on October 26, 2009 at 12:18pm
@ralph Wow thanks for such a commitment of your time in your comment. I will spend time really taking this info into the old chrome dome.. How large of a commitment is ADP making here in this area? It seems to me to be unbelievably huge. I am working on 6-8 outposts in a semi-total outsourced environment and the time involved to return is already an issue. My mind is blown thinking thru 120... I am going to DM you and give you my number and if you have time would love a few minutes of your time. Thanks again for a unreal comment here and info... Partners in Social Crime and Shenanigans Steve
Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 26, 2009 at 1:33am
@Steven - Great Post! Yes, this is a VERY important and critical issue for any of us trying to find ways to monetize the ability to reach car buyers as they spend an increasingly enormous amount of their time during waking hours online... Of course, the really important question is what are they all doing during those incredible amounts of time that only TV has ever come close to achieving... Let's hope social networking activities never achieve the brain debilitating effect that TV achieved during it's peak consumption years.

So, before we can get a handle on the whole ROI issue and how to measure it, we need to understand whatever it is we all (car guys are consumers too) seem to find so fascinating while using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, yes even MySpace too, and then there are the various communities like this one (ADMPC.com), and professional networking resources like LinkedIn... On top of all that time spent doing social "stuff", which is time not being spent somewhere else, probably places where MEDIA BUYING has traditionally been the way to deliver messages to those same people... There are over 100 new social community-Web 2.0-UGC type sites launched every day... Right now, the dealers my team at ADP work with on our development of a "Social Marketing and Reputation Management" solution (looking more like a BPO service every day), are enrolled, profiled, linked to, written about, friended, fan'd, connected and linked to OVER 120 Social/Web 2.0/UGC sites as part of our setup process... So, whatever it is that people are doing, because there will be an inevitable fragmentation that dilutes time away from today's biggies (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube), we will need to be able to not depend upon a particular individual web site's embedded ROI tools... Such as this Facebook report as an example: (click to open full size view)


I agree that saying car companies and dealers were always unable to quantify measurable ROI from Offline Media is not the right answer, but there are already means available to quantify the eyeballs that are exposed to online marketing, and then where the rest of each consumer goes throughout these online activities and engagements... If we know what messages are reaching our customers, whether by social or more commercial channels, and then we can see their movements... I sure hope we have not lost the wisdom to be able to review numbers, trends and the impact on those trends that our social activities visibly have, to then use good sound judgement to make decisions...

My own theory is that the obsession so many of us have with attribution models and post-purchase validation of impact our marketing has, really stems from suppliers all looking for ways to one-up each other. I know that when I am buying marketing and advertising services, I sure as heck do not need someone telling me EXACTLY what the results are going to be.... Because, if what we are seeking is some type of mathematical formula that works like a vending machine where we insert money in this spot and business comes out the other end... A lot of people are going to be buying pigs in a poke and Brooklyn Bridges... It just doesn't work that way in REAL LIFE! Heck, the same exact things that work for a Honda dealer, will crash and burn at a Buick, Pontiac, GMC dealer... What works for a Lexus dealer in Dallas, may not yield same results for a Lexus dealer in the Bay Area... MATHEMATICAL FORMULA AND COMPUTERIZED TRACKING MUST BE PAIRED WITH MARKETING WISDOM AND STREET LEVEL SAVVY if any of this social marketing stuff is going to yield ROI. And the dealers who are smart enough to "get it" will not be dumb enough to fall for false promises and chasing pots of gold at the end of rainbows.
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