The Social Media ROI Quandary

Jonathan Salem Baskin wrote a solid post for iMedia Connection, 4 Ways to Fail at Social Media, that assumes that you can tout the benefits of Social Media all you want to CMOs, but it may do very little as so much is tied to the traditional ways of marketing and measuring campaign effectiveness.  What Baskin did was most interesting because he took three recent social media campaigns that are thought of as being extremely successful and poses the question,  “Could we make the case that the Pepsi Refresh Project, Ford Fiesta Movement, and Old Spice “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaigns were failures and, if so, what could we learn from them about doing better next time?”

Baskin looks at the relationship between social media campaigns and sales, and in these three cases, found the following:

While it makes holding social programs accountable for failures somewhat slippery, it’s easy to point out that all three brands suffered during them. Pepsi fell to third place behind Coke and Diet Coke. Ford’s Fiesta sold only as well in 2010 as the fourth place Chevy Aveo (which spent nothing on social media). Old Spice didn’t suffer during its campaign, per se, but its sales successes tracked far more closely to its paid media TV commercials and in-store promo coupons.

It isn’t really as cut-and-dried as that, but the conversation is compelling and much needed. Simply, the strongest part of Barkin’s post is the challenge to all marketers to go beyond the campaign (or mechanic) and think strategically about how the communication will continue with those who enter the fray beyond that initial flight. That is sometimes the tricky part as too many businesses are about the present quarter and not holding to the 5 and 10 year plans that used to be more prevalent over a decade ago. It all comes back to the quest for splash while not always considering substance or, unfortunately, connection with consumers.

The issue has been mentioned before in response to executives saying “we need a Facebook and a Twitter” – you really need a communication stream, a point of view, and support for the ongoing management of that. Its too bad that many miss that key element in building a long-lasting relationship…


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