Yesterday 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.
- 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