About quarterly, we host a group of about 15 marketing and communications professionals at our Weber Shandwick Minneapolis office to discuss issues related to B2B digital and social media issues. We held our most recent one a couple weeks ago, “Social Media and ROI: Dare We Talk About It.” Yes, I’m just getting around to blogging about it now, but it’s worth highlighting.
Prior to the roundtable discussion, we asked them all to fill out a short, rather unscientific online survey just to give a sense of where they were at collectively regarding measurement – especially the ROI kind – and social media. Most of them participated.
For the record, the group represented a variety of industries – high-tech, executive education, advertising, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. Most of them are now employing social media of one kind or another – often with blogs or LinkedIn, with Twitter emerging. And the number one challenge they’re having with measurement? Where to start.
Nobody should feel bad about this. For most B2B companies – especially those who don’t use the Web as their primary sales channel (i.e. e-commerce) – the last year or so has been a period of experimentation and cultural adaptation to social media mores. It’s been very much about reassuring senior executives, corporate counsel, IT executives and many others that this transparent, two-way, personal and highly responsive way of communicating with stakeholders need not put brand equity at risk, threaten the company with lawsuits, destroy productivity or endanger intellectual property. Whew, with all that to worry about, it’s tough to focus on what social media CAN do!
So our message to our attendees, and to you, is this: When you are in test and trial mode, you are generally investing few resources – whether people or hard costs. If there’s insignificant Investment, we don’t need to work very hard to justify Return. But that party is over. The saying goes that you should “measure what you treasure,” and realizing significant results from adding sophisticated digital and social media programs to the communications mix will cost money. It’s not fair to expect the company to just hand it over.
And I wouldn’t be satisfied with the “You don’t ask for ROI on the phone system, do you?” argument. That might fly in boom years, but it’s an invitation to get your budget slashed in a tough one. How many of you were installing sophisticated new phone systems in the last recession? Not many. And we know how damaging it can be to stop a social media program once we start one.
Up Next From Me: “Getting Started.” (hint: social media measurement isn’t fundamentally different than measuring outcomes for any other communications program)
The slides from our discussion are posted here.