Measuring social media ROI

I have a confession to make.  I’m a bit undecided when it comes to the social media ROI question.  Now before you judge me, let me break down both sides of the internal argument.

The analytical side of me says “Of course you can measure it!”  And probably better than most traditional marketing avenues.  For starters it is digital and cookies and other online analytics can show the web traffic’s path through the marketing funnel to become a customer.  This requires careful planning, mapping and constant tweaking of the marketing funnel to properly show a lead to client conversion.

This comes from a web/eCommerce perspective.  If someone is walking into your store or calling on the phone, asking how they heard about you can answer that question as well.  In this case, some sort of tally should be kept, compiled and analyzed.

On the other hand, the emotional side of me asks how does one measure the value of a relationship?  The analytical side can only be measured once the web traffic becomes a lead and then a customer.  But what about before?  So your traffic comes from Facebook.  Great.  What on Facebook made them interested in you enough to sign up for your e-newsletter, subscribe to your YouTube channel, etc?  And how do you measure that?

Not all relationships convert to business clients.

Take for example the real estate industry.  All of us knows at least three Realtors.  When it comes to buying or selling a house what decides which one we go with?  Some would argue content, others reviews/recommendations and still others authenticity in online social connections – all of which are hard to measure, especially over an extended time.

In the end, Facebook and other social networks have demonstrated that people value social connections when making business decisions.   Whether or not a concrete ROI number can be reached should make no difference to the business.  This is the new rules of marketing and it would behoove the business world – both small and big – to learn the language while we are still relevant in a traditional sense.

Image credit: Social Strategy1