Social Media Is Not A Revolution…It’s Still About Dollars

October 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

Social media: influence or revenue? A question of growing popularity and heated debate, with compelling arguments for both sides.

This particular post is part of a coordinated blogosphere debate between myself, Mike Abrams, Cindy Kim and Amanda Vega.

For me, social media success, as a component of a marketing strategy, is best measured by its ability to generate revenue.

I know…it sounds a bit cold…maybe I’ve been lapping up a little too much of the ‘ROMI’ Kool-aid. I once thought, however, that social media was different. I thought social media had a ‘higher purpose’; to enlighten each and every one of us in marketing to create something better and to triumphantly carry forth a new era of a ‘softer sell’…making the world a better place.

The reality is however, that our marketing efforts carry a serious responsibility to generate real results. We are accountable to our Board, boss, teams, and colleagues; that responsibility becomes even more serious for small businesses and individuals when those key stakeholders are ourselves and our families.

The key to generating direct revenue is relevance and value; social media is another tool for us to take the right message and bring it to the right audience.

Almost every message has a relevant audience. This is especially true in our highly customizable, highly portable digital word; a trend Chris Anderson highlighted in his book The Long Tail. Do you find those multi-level marketing Tweets annoying; blocking and ignoring the follows from Twitter users that can make you $300 a day for doing nothing? Well it’s not that their message is wrong…it’s just that they reached the wrong audience.

This is why social media is such a powerful tool for generating revenue; people have segmented themselves. It is now our responsibility to reach them with the right message, offer, etc. and constructively engage them in dialog. There is no reason why we cannot tie our efforts directly to revenue generation.

Additionally, we have to consider the fact that ‘social media’, as an Internet marketing strategy, is in its infancy. And while many of us social media ‘insiders’ are being to ask hard questions about sustainability and business value, the vast majority of the population is still wondering how these tools, this whole concept, really applies to their life/job/goal. As a result, it’s easy to lean on metrics like ‘influence’.

A little bit of an industry secret ‘return on influence’ is the kind of nebulous metric that we, as marketers, cozy up to at night; our comfortable, loving teddy bear that lets us know we returned value today. Me? Sure I have a Teddy. Hey, don’t judge, the late 90s were especially rough…I may have wound up on a few email ‘blacklists’, angered email recipients around the word, and generated little to no direct revenue, but Teddy and I always shared in the success of our ‘impressions’ and ‘open rates’.

All stuffed animal metaphors aside, ‘influence’ is a valid measurement of marketing activity…and, in certain circumstances, success. I believe, however, that the actionable nature of social media requires us to apply hard metrics to our efforts and track them back to dollars. We can’t accurately track the influence of a well planned and authentic charity event on an organization’s revenue. We can, however, track our links, activity, referrers, etc. in our social media efforts.

So yes, for now, focus hard on using social media to drive revenue. Let’s get back to our roots of sales and marketing; create dialog with your message and leverage social media to find the appropriate audience. Track your efforts (‘cash for clicks’ and ‘clicks to cash’), continue to enhance your message, and return value. In doing so, maybe you will use social media to make the world a better place…well…maybe for your happy, newly acquired customers anyway.

How Wrong am I? Give Us Your Opinion.
In the spirit of promoting open discussion, the members of this coordinated debate have created a community to discuss this, and other, social media throwdown topics: socialmediadebate.ning.com. Amanda, Cindy, Mike and I welcome your thoughts comments and ideas (and, I’m sure, criticism)…join in on the conversation.

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Entry filed under: Social Media Marketing. Tags: , , , .

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