Beware: Not All Social Media Panels Are Equal

bewareYesterday I attended a session entitled the “ROI of Social Media” out here at the Search Engine Strategies conference.  Without naming names, I wanted to share some quick thoughts on the session.  Think of this as a public service announcement.

The panel focused entirely on online display advertising, in particular on Facebook.  The panel was moderated by a Facebook employee.  One of the panel members was from a Facebook application development company.

I have three problems with this panel.

First, Facebook is only one of many tools in social media. If companies think that advertising on Facebook, building a Facebook page, or enabling content to be shared on Facebook easily from a website constitutes “doing social media,” there is a lot more for everyone to learn and teach.

Second, I’m not so sure it was the right idea to have a platform provider moderate the session.  Aside from more obvious bias concerns, most moderators, through no fault of their own, default to driving questions they know something about to be able to challenge the panel.  At times they can push agendas that benefit them – if that’s the case than an industry analyst may be more appropriate.

Third, ROI means return on investment. It’s quite simply how much you put in (total costs) vs how much you get back.  There are many metrics you can use to calculate both the costs and returns, but they are a subset of all things you can measure.  (Want examples? Rachel Happe of the Community Roundtable says it all.)   There is no doubt you can calculate ROI from social media, and there are thousands of metrics you can apply to social media.  The panel, however, talked about using “metrics” interchangeably with “ROI” – that is just incorrect.  For example, measuring page views on your Facebook fan page is not likely going to factor directly in a calculation of ROI.  It’s an important metric to monitor, baseline, trend, etc, but tracking number of referrals from a Facebook page through to conversion on a retail commerce site actually can tie to revenue.  The panel also talked a lot about how to spend money on advertising on social networks, but not much mention about returns.

In summary:

  • Talking about Facebook advertising is NOT social media.
  • Having a presence on Facebook is NOT “doing social media.”
  • Metrics are NOT the same as ROI.
  • It’s a good idea to pick panel moderators and speakers than can provide a balanced viewpoint.

Sounds like we have a lot of work to do to educate folks about what social media is and how to make it into tangible, measureable programs.  Or to just come up with some more on-target panels at the next conference to talk about it.  Are you up for it? Who’s with me?

Photo credit: YaniG via flickr

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  • I’m in complete agreement. If it had been named “Why you should advertise on Facebook” it may have been clearer but it had very little to do with measurement or ROI. I tweeted at the end of the session that “Facebook is not the only example of social media”
    It was a disappointing session.

    Even the platform issue aside, all of the focus was on measuring ROI through ads and there is so much more to be considered. There were some good people on the panel, I don’t think they really had an opportunity to discuss the value their users got as much as they may had liked and that’s too bad. It was easy to see from the Q&A afterwords that people had come with big questions about ROI and not just metrics and those questions weren’t answered.

  • I’m in complete agreement. If it had been named “Why you should advertise on Facebook” it may have been clearer but it had very little to do with measurement or ROI. I tweeted at the end of the session that “Facebook is not the only example of social media”
    It was a disappointing session.

    Even the platform issue aside, all of the focus was on measuring ROI through ads and there is so much more to be considered. There were some good people on the panel, I don’t think they really had an opportunity to discuss the value their users got as much as they may had liked and that’s too bad. It was easy to see from the Q&A afterwords that people had come with big questions about ROI and not just metrics and those questions weren’t answered.

  • Sounds like a plan – count us in – we’d be happy to talk about social media ROI! Actually, what I’d REALLY love to talk about is how the ROI of social media compares to other online channels. If ROI is your primary concern, and you haven’t fully explored paid search, for example – chances are your total cost of acquisition is going to be much lower that way… We often find that social media is a great acquisition strategy for customers that you might not reach through other channels; but it’s rarely the first place we turn if high ROI is a concern.

  • Sounds like a plan – count us in – we’d be happy to talk about social media ROI! Actually, what I’d REALLY love to talk about is how the ROI of social media compares to other online channels. If ROI is your primary concern, and you haven’t fully explored paid search, for example – chances are your total cost of acquisition is going to be much lower that way… We often find that social media is a great acquisition strategy for customers that you might not reach through other channels; but it’s rarely the first place we turn if high ROI is a concern.

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  • I wasn’t there, so I totally don’t have experience with this specific panel. The audience is filled with advertisers and marketers alike who look for shortcuts, the next big “secret” in marketing. The truth is that only a few people out there actually has a plan, strategy or even goal in social media outside of lead-gen.

    I tend to associate social media strategy by actually shaping some of the services and processes in a company. I might be alone in this, but it’s the only way that will ‘move the needle’ for customers and prospects.

    Nice writeup but I wonder if there were some quality topics/takeaways from SESConf beyond loaded panels like this one?

    ~Joe

  • I wasn’t there, so I totally don’t have experience with this specific panel. The audience is filled with advertisers and marketers alike who look for shortcuts, the next big “secret” in marketing. The truth is that only a few people out there actually has a plan, strategy or even goal in social media outside of lead-gen.

    I tend to associate social media strategy by actually shaping some of the services and processes in a company. I might be alone in this, but it’s the only way that will ‘move the needle’ for customers and prospects.

    Nice writeup but I wonder if there were some quality topics/takeaways from SESConf beyond loaded panels like this one?

    ~Joe

  • This is the reason why I stay away from “sponsored panels” at SXSW.. Even if they are not intended to be biased, even the level of familiarity with one specific company has an impact on the presentation

  • This is the reason why I stay away from “sponsored panels” at SXSW.. Even if they are not intended to be biased, even the level of familiarity with one specific company has an impact on the presentation

  • Adam, a great recap and it seems like you experienced the same thing I did at that panel.

    I intentionally asked the panel “How are you measuring and presenting ROI to your clients?” The only person how gave a proper answer was Sean Heywood, Managing Partner, MR Barber Shop & Urban Lounge. My suspicion is because he’s the money guy…he knows exactly what he’s spending (even if it is on Facebook) and what his return is down to the new customer/membership increase each month.

    ROI is a specific calculation. If agencies/organizations aren’t there yet…just say “measurement.” There’s nothing wrong with that…just stay away from positioning experience with delivering ROI.

    I am with you for a panel on ROI! 😉

  • Adam, a great recap and it seems like you experienced the same thing I did at that panel.

    I intentionally asked the panel “How are you measuring and presenting ROI to your clients?” The only person how gave a proper answer was Sean Heywood, Managing Partner, MR Barber Shop & Urban Lounge. My suspicion is because he’s the money guy…he knows exactly what he’s spending (even if it is on Facebook) and what his return is down to the new customer/membership increase each month.

    ROI is a specific calculation. If agencies/organizations aren’t there yet…just say “measurement.” There’s nothing wrong with that…just stay away from positioning experience with delivering ROI.

    I am with you for a panel on ROI! 😉

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