Why social media measurement efforts seem empty

social media measurement efforts

Social media marketing is a pretty mature business by now. And yet, not one day goes by that I don’t see a headline about the dissatisfaction CMO’s have with their returns … or even the ability to prove they are realizing a return.

To understand the problem, I think you need to understand my grandfather,

My grandfather was a plumber for 50 years. He never took out an ad, never wrote a blog post, never approved a press release for immediate distribution.

He built his business by nurturing relationships with his neighbors in Pittsburgh over many years. All he had in terms of “marketing” was his reputation for honesty, quality, and reliability. In fact, that’s the way business was conducted for centuries — You do business with people who will not let you down, people you know and trust. Once you did business with my grandfather, you probably always did business with my grandfather.

With the advent of the social web, we have the opportunity once again to build these personal relationships that lead to loyalty, almost like my grandfather did. You might not be able to greet your “neighbors” at the local ball field, church, or pub, but you can shake their hand every now and then on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Creating relationships takes a long time. And there is no guarantee these relationships will result in business. What is the pay-off of these connections? It may be unknowable, at least for months or even years.

If you are in a culture tuned to making the quarterly numbers this is going to seem like a foreign world. But if you adapt to the opportunity and adopt a social media measurement mindset open to new types of indicators, you will have a better chance of success.

How do you measure the progress of relationships —  the financial return on relationships? In some respects, isn’t that what our businesses really need to capture? Isn’t that why so many measurement efforts feel like they are falling short?

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Alosh Bennett.

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  • Steve Woodruff

    Business ROI calculations are almost always short-term (e.g., how did this tactic move this needle this quarter). Relationship-driven business is long-term. And the magic it requires is something you just can’t capture by metrics, because what’s underneath it is FAITH. The conviction that steadily doing right by people will lead to good results in the short-, mid-, and long-term (even for generations). Here’s how I measure success, and it’s not tech-sexy: when people recommend me to others, and new business results, I’ve succeeded (social media CAN be a good enabler in the process). I’m with Grandfather the plumber on this one.

  • MaureenMonte

    AMEN! Relationships are human glue, which means they are business glue. I don’t mind getting dinged for not meeting my numbers as long as I am also rewarded for building absolutely fantastic relationships with customers and strategic partners. When you get one without the other, it is demoralizing.

  • An interesting observation Steve. I don’t know many companies run on faith but to some extent you do have to take a bit of a leap and look at the long term! Thanks for the great comment!

  • How do you measure that in a data-oriented company? How do you convince your boss you are doing the right thing and should remain employed?

  • MaureenMonte

    What the boss values most is critical (for better or for worse). I think that someone in this situation needs to make some difficult choices. Perhaps there is a balance, and that is worth considering, or perhaps one must pick a single horse and ride it. Of course, all this gets to the point of corporate culture, which includes what is valued most and “how” things get done (words vs action).

  • I got the feeling that your dad was building his brand from the ground up. Being a plumber for 50 years is not an easy gig, and I think his relationship-building skills proved to play in his favour. Relationships can’t be automated, and I always bank on the things that are non-scalable. They’re usually the most effective. Like talking to people one-on-one and helping out whenever possible. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Yes, that is key, even when we first open the doors through social media! Thanks Sanchit.

  • I liken social media marketing to running marathons…it takes grit, guts, and perseverance to see it through. but when you get to the finish line with astonishing results – well, nothing can replace that amazing feeling of camaraderie, community – and the humanity of it all.

  • Todd Lyden

    How is it any different than any other “channel” that has been used even SINCE your grandfather… we can all attest to “knowing” someone online that we have NEVER met in person that we trust more than someone we know IRL. There are STILL people doing business EXACTLY as your grandfather and they do not worry about wasting the time NECESSARILY to measure the relationship building… they could, they just don’t… cuz they are actually WORKING…

  • Mark,

    I like what Mars wrote about word of mouth advertising in yesterday’s post. WOM is a long-term, just be you methodology that has sure worked for me. Treat people right and don’t always expect a return on your investment.

    I also like what you had to say in your latest podcast regarding all the time you invested in answering comments (a full-time job with the Content Shock piece). It’s impossible to measure, but the effort almost always pays off in some way.

  • It’s hard to measure relationships, but they definitely pay off. Look at our relationship – how can you put a value on that? It’s been beneficial for both of us for sure.

    Another example – I just got a huge piece of business because someone I’m connected to on Twitter made a referral to someone looking for PR help in Tennessee. I don’t the person all that well, but just the fact that we’re connected on Twitter and we know each other a little bit made was enough to make a recommendation.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t measure, but you have to take both quantitative and qualitative data into account. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking the question “how did you hear about us?” Doing that, you might uncover some information and numbers that might help quantify your efforts.

  • Wow. What an awesome comment! Thanks.

  • The point you are making here explains why I think small businesses may have an advantage over big companies in this space.

  • Let’s hope so. Content Shock unexpectedly became a career for a few weeks!

  • GREAT example Laura! BTW ,,, I have more business for you!

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  • Ayelet Golz

    Right there with you. It can be so hard to explain why relationship building is important to the decision makers who are focused on specific ROI indicators. I’ve been thinking about this daily so your post was a nice reminder that it’s not all about how many followers or fans you have. It’s about the relationships you build.

  • Wow! Awesome. Just send it my way! Thanks! 🙂

  • Ira H. Harrison-Rubin

    Agreed, Honesty and Diigence is the best Medicine that can be given.
    this will result in Success.

  • Todd Lyden

    Mark, I don’t disagree in principle. SMB SHOULD have the advantage, but how many times have we heard from small biz that have fifty kajillion excuses why they CAN’T compete with big companies in this regard?

  • Well … they’re wrong : )

  • Awesome. Thanks Ayelet.

  • Thanks for adding your thoughts Ira.

  • Great answer Mark!
    I just finished reading “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell. It explores the idea of the underdog advantage.
    Have either of you guys read that one?

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