Much has been written about social media ROI. Some strategists argue that strong social media engagement directly leads to sales. Others claim there is absolutely no financial benefit to maintaining a social presence. In his recent Can Social Media Sell Soap, Stephen Baker takes a close look at this debate. He suggests that social media is not the advertising and marketing tool that many hoped it would be, but cautions against discounting it.article,
While we do not believe socialT-Mobile and @AmericanAir are great examples of how companies can leverage social media to care for consumers and engage them in positive, lasting ways. Still, while social media has many merits, it is only one piece of the puzzle.media is the end-all be-all of marketing, we maintain that it is a valuable weapon in a brand’s arsenal. Sites like Facebook and Twitter provide brands a platform to build direct, mutually beneficial relationships with customers. Using these channels, companies can solicit feedback and reward loyal followers with special offers or exclusives. Perhaps more importantly, social media lets brand advocates wield power. Fans and critics alike can use social platforms to share opinions with brands and receive prompt, personalized responses. Accounts such as
Why? Social media alone does not offer the supporting data needed to confirm or discount its effectiveness as a marketing tool. When people talk about social media marketing, the conversation inevitably turns to ROI: “How can I measure the value of it?” Too often, social media “strategists” focus on Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers as the sole metrics of importance. But Stephen Baker points out that there is no precise way to measure the value of a Like or a Follower. And he is correct. One area where social media needs refinement is in the development of an ROI that relates to business goals. With B2B, we can do a better job of measuring social interactions that drive potentials leads to a CRM. It’s not as easy on the consumer side, but many have tried. Kapitall and Wired, for example, recently produced the Wired Social Index, a financial index that tracks the stock price of the largest brands on Facebook. While time will tell if this model has legs, the fact remains that social media’s value cannot be measured in a one-to-one comparison with business goals.
For that reason, building a (profitable) community of fans goes far beyond social media alone. It involves using small, incremental asks to move supporters up the ladder of engagement, in time converting them from fans into brand evangelists. A successful digital campaign involves engaging your fans on all platforms: search, social media, owned website and advertising. Each platform serves a specific purpose in developing fan engagement. Social media, in this instance, provides a cost-effective, low-ask channel for acquiring and engaging supporters. In this way, social is the front line, not the point of sale – brands should not post on Facebook asking consumers to buy soap; instead, they should use the platform to build a community of shoppers who are interested in what the company’s product represents.
So can social media alone sell soap? Probably not. What can? The answer is a coordinated campaign that uses the appropriate combination of channels to recruit followers and encourage them to act. So when brands set out to improve reputation and, more importantly, boost sales, a concerted, multi-channel campaign is their most effective weapon.
Murali is the Global Director of Digital Operations; Rachel Ressner is an Account Executive; Andrew Bleeker is the Global Digital Practice Leader.