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The ROI of social media

June 20, 2008

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Image by Aristocrat via Flickr

Question: “How many ‘widgets’ will my Facebook page sell?”

Answer: “Why do you want your Facebook page to sell Widgets?”

For this question, one can interchange Facebook with all of those social tools you keep reading about. MySpace. YouTube. Hulu. Twitter. Plurk. RSS. FriendFeed. Tumblr. Hi5. LinkedIn. Blogs.

The list could go on for a long time. And the product (or brand) that represents widget can go on for even longer.

But this is very often where the conversations stop. Because an answer is an impossible to generate. Just think about it from a Facebook Page perspective. If the metric is fans to the site, then what does a fan mean? If the metric is clicks from Facebook to a commerce or brand site, then Facebook has to try to drive those clicks. Meaning the language on the social media site Facebook, won’t be very social. It will be marketing speak that asks for the order.

The social grammar will be all wrong.

So it’s back to the initial question: “How will this social media thing sell widgets?”

The answer is simple yet complicated. If done right, social media will enhance the brand. When a brand is enhanced, it has a better chance of percolating up to the top during purchase consideration. When it comes time to buy something, we humans use input from all around. That’s the core marketing principle that advertising is built on: the building of strong brands through TV and Print (and other brand building mechanisms). Because the brands that resonate are the brands people are more attracted to.

Brands have a really good chance at resonating on social networks. Especially the really popular ones. But that metric is hard to sell to the client. Client’s expect clicks (or other measurable actions) from their internet initiatives — because the internet is so damn measurable.

And yet, there’s no way to measure the impact of building a community on a brand because all this stuff just started. At least not yet.

But that’s not stopping some people from doing it. They get it. And they could be the winners in Social media. Because they aren’t letting the lack of answers to that first question stopping them from engaging people.

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