Trying to measure something in a state of flux is like trying to contain rushing water on a hill. Water moves around things and trying to contain it can be a useless effort.
Water and Social Media are Fluid
When you try and contain rushing water you can spend a lot of money and time downstream when the force of its current is upstream. Downstream is what gets people’s attention but the source of the force is upstream. Businesses have a tendency to try and “jump into a current trend” without understanding the force behind a trend. Social media is a trend but like water there is a force upstream that makes it move.
According to DMNews: Chief marketing officers will increase their spending on social media marketing next year and more often tie that spend to their revenue expectations and overall business goals. However, many are unsure about their return from marketing on social networking Web sites, according to a survey from industry group The CMO Club and Bazaarvoice, a social commerce vendor.
The research found that more than eight in 10 respondents (81%) expect to link up to 10% of their annual revenues to social media investment next year. Last year, only 44% expected to do so in 2009. Nearly three-fourths of respondents (72%) who did not attach revenue to social media spending this year said they will do so next year. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of CMOs surveyed said that they plan to increase their social media budgets next year.
Measuring ROI From Results or Root Causes?
My neighbor‘s driveway was flooding every time it rained. They added drainage pipes on the side of their driveway thinking that would solve the problem. The next time it rained the water pushed debris into the pipes preventing the water to drain. Then they hired a firm (more money and time) to install bigger “pipes” and they dug up the entire front yard to route the drainage pipes to the road. That didn’t work either. The next rain storm flooded their driveway yet again.
My neighbors problem wasn’t on the ground rather it was on their roof. Their cutters were clogged and simply too small to handle massive run off from major rain storms. In other words the cutters were incapable of catching the rain and routing it to the proper channels. My neighbor was measuring the problem on the ground and their ROI on solving the problem would have been much higher if they simply looked up instead of down. The root cause was on the roof and not the ground.
ROI from Social Media Comes from Looking Upstream
While the marketplace is consumed with creating metrics to measure social media ROI the root cause of ROI is IOR (Intent of Return). Intent of return is how you or your organizations engages with the marketplace and returns value. Your intent ought to be focused on serving and providing value rather than trying to “catch people” in a conversation or a marketing campaign using tricks of the old trade.
Like water social media is fluid and to try and control it downstream may be a fruitless effort. To influence it upstream you need to focus on your intent. Measuring ROI downstream is like trying to contain a flood by focusing on things you can’t see or understand, a force upstream beyond your line of sight. Real ROI is created by IOR, intent of return, and IOR comes from your mind and heart if it is centered on serving people’s intent. Get it?
Lets stop the Social Media ROI madness!