Over the past week, the Digerati has been all up in arms about a recent article in which a Coca-Cola executive publicly announced that social media has very little direct impact on short-term sales. Not 24 hours later, Coke’s senior VP of integrated marketing communications & capabilities passionately rebutted the claim by posting a response on their company website stating that social media is absolutely crucial to driving in-store sales. You can imagine the impact this had for marketers on either side of the equation.
If only this were a unique situation. Unfortunately, we see it all too often — executives in the same company on opposite sides of the social media debate — and we all suffer from the political fall-out.
First, it’s confession time: We did this to ourselves. We’ve worked in an industry where every click could be tracked and every conversion and dollar attributed to its originating source. We finally had it figured out. The C-Suite loved us because they had verifiable “proof” that these digital efforts made money. For a while, we were the darlings of the marketing department. Then, the game changed on us. Our customers became more than just our customers, they became their own media channels. And, guess what? Our customers started listening to and believing other people like themselves, more so than brands.
So how did we retaliate? We started lying…mostly to ourselves. But we started telling the same lies so many times that we actually started to believe they were actually true. I think it’s time for an intervention. But it won’t be easy. First we have to try to distinguish the lies from the truth. And once we realize those lies for what they are, we can finally start moving our industry forward.
Lie #1: My boss just doesn’t get it
OK, I have to be frank here. Our industry is one where we commonly call people out for not “getting it”. Is it possible that WE are the ones who don’t get it? If you haven’t done the work to put the value of social media into proper business context, then your boss is right to question its relevance to your business.
It’s time to come clean: Position the role of social media and advocates in a business context. What’s the value of your best customers leaving positive reviews about your brand online? How can activating people that love you translate into more revenue?
Lie #2: Social media is like any other digital channel and should be measured the same way
If you actually believe that, you may not know your customer as much as you think you do. Social media plays multiple roles in the consideration process — from discovery to purchase intent and ultimately to brand loyalty and advocacy. As Coke found out the hard way, you can’t measure social by the same standards that you’ve been used to across other channels. Human conversations are far more complex than a series of clicks might suggest.
It’s time to come clean: Applying traditional metrics to social media is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Instead of focusing your efforts there, first look outside of the numbers and try to understand the role that social plays in the entire marketing ecosystem. Most likely, you’ll find that the most successful strategies are those that integrate their messaging across channels. If you’re still attributing success solely to the last-click before a sale, you’re missing the bigger picture.
Lie #3: Social is about engagement, not driving revenue
This is the one we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night. And then we get frustrated when our programs can’t get the funding they need to be successful. The hard reality is that projects that show ROI get funded. Pure and simple. Social media is conversation with a purpose: To bring business value to your organization.
It’s time to come clean:Find the value in your social media efforts and quantify it. ROI can be determined many different ways — revenue and sales growth, cost savings, referrals, etc. Find the business value in your industry for your company and create a plan to help get you there. Integrate your efforts across traditional and digital channels, then measure the combined impact on overall sales.
Truth: You CAN measure the ROI of social media
The complexity of the customer journey has made our jobs undeniably more difficult. Gone are the days when a single conversion tracking code could solve all our attribution problems. The simple fact is that things have gotten much more complicated. And we need to adapt as new practices become standard. There isn’t a single formula for success in social media. But we can guarantee that if you don’t clearly articulate the business value within your organization, you could find yourself in a similar situation to Coca-Cola.
Did you find yourself guilty of telling any of those lies? You probably didn’t even know you were doing it at the time. But now that we know, let’s commit to ourselves and to each other that we will learn from our mistakes. Who’s with me?