When it comes to ROI, why is social media different?

How many times have you heard or read that companies should just forge ahead with a social media program even though the return on investment is hard to quantify? I’m not going to point fingers, but it’s been repeated so often it’s become the mantra of so-called social media experts.

This is really bad advice.

Social media is no different than any other type of marketing activity. It takes time and resources to write blogs and record podcasts, build followers on Twitter or create decent videos for YouTube. If you’re going to suck up those resources they had better bring demonstrable value that advances critical business goals. Without that grounding, you’re just wasting your time.

Every solid PR or marketing plan I worked on over the last decade or so began with a SWOT analysis linked back to business objectives, like establish a foothold in market X with this demographic, or protect our flanks in this segment Y from low-cost competitors.  From there we worked out strategies and tactics – that could involve a social media component –  and thought through a set of metrics to determine if the programs were successful.

SWOT Chart

A major advantage with social media compared to traditional PR is the abundance of tracking tools. You can see the number of re-tweets or Facebook Like button clicks and then drill down to better understand the type of traction you’re getting. Ideally these efforts generate more website traffic which leads to more business.

Social media is ultimately a tool, another arrow in the marketing quiver. If you combine it with solid business and marketing practices, the ROI is sure to follow.

Brian Edwards

Author: Brian Edwards

Brian Edwards is a talented business and technology communications expert with more than 25 years of experience in high-tech public relations and marketing.