There is another side of measurement that people are sometimes afraid to talk about. It can best be described as reverse benchmarking — what happens when companies experiment with social, over focus on numbers, and then prematurely cut programs?
Sometimes they find out months later that their decision was a bad one. And sometimes, not always, it's too late to recapture the momentum. Here are three case studies and some lessons associates of mine learned a few years ago. All that is missing are names to protect mostly those who mean well.
Three lessons learned the hard way.
• An engineering firm set out to position itself as a subject matter expert, employing social media as one of the tools. The owner understood it, but the team of engineers did not. Two months after the program was suspended, the firm was asked to bid a $1 million job because of something read on their undervalued marketing asset. The return could have paid for the program for years, even if they would have never seen another bid (but they would have).
• An nonprofit organization switched from a social media expert to a public relations firm that promised bigger network numbers. They received bigger numbers on social networks as promised, but their annual fundraiser earned 10 percent less than the year prior. The excuse was the economic climate, but the truth is switching from engagement to broadcast was the difference. Higher numbers did not translate into higher donations because the firm didn't consider the connections or communication.
• A restaurant decided to reduce its social media budget, one of the heftier cuts from an overall marketing budget while entering a traditionally slow season. The owner didn't think twice because they didn't consider their presence significant based on social network numbers. But what they missed was that the real order boost was coming from people who promoted them on one-off networks. Incidentally, they also didn't know social accounted for their fastest-growing revenue stream (four times the investment) because people would check in but not redeem discount codes.
When you focus on the wrong measurements, you will lose.
While pursuing direct response sales is often pointless in social media, marketers need to remember that all communication decisions can eventually impact revenue weeks and months and years after the decision is made. It's something to think about, especially because social media numbers tend to lie on the surface. You have to dig deeper to get at the truth.
Marketing, advertising and PR firms sell social media in a way that's almost unethical. I think about what it takes to truly go "viral" with a campaign... and it's not 140 character to a following of 15,000- 15% or less of whom actually stay current with any one format of social media.
I would like to know what the appropriate metrics are for social media and how we go about determining those. Does a $130,000 (actual quote) allocation of budget to subscribe to LinkedIn's feature set for recruiters/sourcing pay off in the end and how do we determine that? How many hires does it take? Say everyone who is hired based on a lead/source from LinkedIn is measured from a referral bonus standpoint - LinkedIn would need to provide 26 critical hires ($5k referral each), 43 senior hires ($3k referral each), 86 mid hires ($1.5k referral each, 173 entry/service hires ($750 referral each), or any combination of that.
Will LinkedIn provide those kinds of numbers just to break even? No. Will they make the life span of a requisition shorter - maybe, but not even a small percentage of the time.
Twitter is free. One hour a day, three days a week using Tweetdeck (free) or Sprout Social ($9/month) could provide one-two weeks of tweeting for any organization utilizing scheduled reoccurring tweet options. Those platforms aslo work with Facebook groups and profiles, and LinkedIn profiles (hopefully groups soon too). Soooo, you tell me... should marketing, advertising, and/or PR firms have their hands in the social media cookie jar? My answer is no way.
If social media is not done correctly, it certainly is a waste of time. And you are right that most companies do not do it right. Most agencies also do not know how to measure it, and based on your blanket statement, obviously you do not either.
But the evidence we have suggests the opposite. You can doubt it all you want, but the revenue made by companies we work with is real. That is the only reason we continue to work with them.
All my best,
Every social media program is different. For a professional doing what you are doing, it might make sense to do it alone. But not every professional is articulate. And not every program can be managed by an individual on their spare time. In some cases, an individual can also lose time, because they neglect a certain amount of core services the company offers.
The application of social media is really dependent on a strategic communication plan. And that speaks very well to your point. If social media is employed as a toll tactic, it almost never works. The real benefit comes from developing a strong strategic communication plan and then determining where social media might fit into the mix and which tools will be the most advantageous, specific to that business.
All my best,