The Fallacy of ROI and Social Networking

There’s a lot of scrambling and grumbling among businesses about how—or if—social networking should be used in a marketing strategy. One of the most often questions uttered by executives is, “What’s the ROI on Social Networking?” This is immediately followed by, “How do you measure that metric?”

While I’m not in the habit of directly challenging my clients, I can get away with this on my blog. My challenge is, “What’s the ROI on a $10 million ad during the Super Bowl?” “How do you track that metric?” There. Ha!

Seriously, though, basing your Internet marketing strategy solely on things that can supply a guaranteed, measurable return on investment is playing it safe, and business do not grow on “safe.” Being in business at all is risky. Prior to the Internet and the ability to track traffic and click-throughs, businesses took risks by paying for advertising in magazines, radio, television, and print directories. Companies also put out signs and sponsored events. They still do. The only way they ever knew how well their marketing was working was by increased sales and by asking people where they heard about the company.

The Internet is extremely inexpensive and broader ranging than any other method of advertising, and yet it’s held to a higher standard of metrics than any other method. I’m not saying that tracking metrics is a bad thing. All advertising should be measured as best possible, but the problem is that companies are far too quick to discount Internet strategies, and Social Networking is one of those.

Think of Social Networking as a cheap way of sponsoring an athlete in a non-profit competition. A well-executed Social Networking effort increases visibility and promotes good will and brand recognition. As an added benefit, Social Networking can be completely targeted and adjusted on the fly in a way no other marketing campaign can. The metrics are in the viral buzz, and increased traffic on the company’s website—all measured the same way as any other ad campaign.

Now closing the sale is another story.

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This entry was posted by on Thursday, November 5, 2009.
Filed under: Articles, Marketing
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