By adaptive - May 2nd, 2012

[T]he old age social media enigma of seeing social media deliver revenue is still a contentious issue, even in 2012. With 73.8% of companies saying they are not confident in attributing the right R...

The old age social media enigma of seeing social media deliver revenue is still a contentious issue, even in 2012. With 73.8% of companies saying they are not confident in attributing the right ROI to their social efforts, the same questions still exist.

Last year I took part in some presentations for Adobe when it was launching its Social Analytics products (or rather relaunching it after acquiring it by buying Omniture). Clearly the presentations from the corporate guys were slanted at stressing the importance of how their product could get a return on investment but one of the anecdotes was quite telling.

A jeans company had been using the system and Adobe had ascertained that one blogger/tweeter in particular was responsible for several thousands of dollars worth of business because of the attention he or she was attracting for the company’s products.

This was presented as a call to action; the company, surely, needed to engage with this person. “OK,” came the client’s reply. “Does he get many likes on Facebook?” Yes, said Adobe, and he brings in thousands of dollars a month. “OK,” came the reply again. “How about Twitter followers, does he have many? Is he influential?”

The story illustrates how far apart social media and its traditional analytics – if something so new can be called traditional – can drift from any sensible business objective.


The question often asked is whether social media can really be linked directly to sales and therefore whether there can ever be a direct return on investment (ROI). It’s a fair comment. In my book “This Is Social Commerce” I talk to Penderyn, the Welsh whisky company. They have a lively Facebook presence but no way of ascertaining whether a customer is buying their brand in Sainsbury’s because they engaged on social media, because it has a nice bottle or because they’re a returning customer. If the figures are heading in the right direction they assume it’s all working OK and it’s actually not possible for them to do otherwise.

There are instances in which ROI is more directly trackable. Privately held removal company Bishop’s Move believes it has turned every £1 spent on social media through its agency, SiteVisibility, into £53 revenue for its business. It used an integrated mix of pay per click (PPC), search engine optimisation (SEO), Social Media and online PR. Specific techniques included keyword analysis, theme based SEO campaigns, Adword management and the creation and optimisation of targeted landing pages.

Chris Marshall, Sales and Marketing Director for Bishops Move comments: “SiteVisibility are proactive, flexible and responsive to our needs. They have been so successful we’ve had to employ a new customer service team to deal with all of the leads.” The actual figures were a 5,895% increase in traffic for keyword “removal companies”; 4,200% increase for “removal companies UK”; and 2076% increase for “removal company”.

It’s notable and very important that the company had a definite aim in mind in the first place. Companies that “do social media” because they think they ought to rarely if ever get this sort of result – or if they do they’re not certain that they have the result they needed, as they hadn’t set a target in the first place.

Other organisations try specific campaigns that are easy to track. Milton Keynes-based PR and marketing agency Interdirect put an Easter Egg hunt across its website and Facebook pages this year – note the integration of social media and ‘ordinary’ web there – engaging smartp hone users with QR codes and clues to build its profile. The idea was to find Easter Eggs on the website, which would have a QR code, and scan it using a phone. 1000 people took part and there was a 1,381% increase in activity in the Facebook page plus a 720% increase in website visits in a single week.

Whether these results lead to actual money remains to be seen. A sale in this sort of world is a longer-term engagement than a quick “Yes please I’ll buy that model”. It is, however, a start. Meanwhile it will certainly have helped the company brand itself as an expert in engaging campaigns, building web traffic and being familiar with new technologies such as QR codes. This could well prove important as the company moves forward.

Soft benefits

A lot of companies and agencies talk about the softer benefits of social media. Likes, Google +1’s and other similar elements can be very important in building rankings in search engines and building a bit of buzz about a company or its products and services. But the pendulum may be swinging a little against this. There has been a lot of coverage in the blog world about return on investment.

There has been anger and there has been, frankly, a load of nonsense about how measuring warmth isn't comparable to measuring cash at the end of a campaign. Some people have suggested that social media ROI can’t actually be measured.

In some cases, such as the Penderyn example, it’s fair to say it has to be estimated rather than measured precisely. But the maturity of the market for social media, against a backdrop of a poor economy, means people are more eager than ever to know just what is being gained from their expenditure.

Back at the Adobe launch, the speaker asked how many people in the audience could see themselves on the phone as CEO of a multinational business saying “Buy my stock, I have lots of Likes!” – the answer, clearly, was none. And the examples in this article should I hope go some way to demonstrating that ROI is not only desirable but achievable.

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