Mark Evans made an entry on the Sysomos blog last week entitled: Prove Social Media’s Business Value that starts with the statement “social media is a lot of things to a lot of people, but at the end of the day it needs to impact your bottom line.” He had me at “bottom line.”
Now, before you go pulling out your Kleenex and popcorn, this budding love affair was short lived. He made a quick turnabout by suggesting that, while it must impact the business’ bottom line, it doesn’t necessarily have to make money. Huh?
He ended the post with “…and you must teach those around you the new way to measure business success and failure.” When did business success and failure be anything but revenue and profit? Essentially, he presented the case that social media is important and that the related relationship building, community engagement and branding will eventually lead to a positive impact on the bottom line. This is true. It’s possible but it’s not an absolute!
Social Media Engagement Does Not Guarantee Business Success!
Social media does have a long-term impact on the business’ profitability but a growing list of marketers and bloggers are doing a disservice to their audience by suggesting that it doesn’t need to – or can’t – be held directly accountable to the business’ bottom line. In his post, Mr. Evans suggests that it’s up to the marketer to “convince [the] organization that social media is the most worthy of investments when it comes to time and money.” Yes, a great deal of convincing is still required. Why? Because too few have attempted to show the direct impact it has on the bottom line.
Mr. Evan’s own words: “when done right, [social media] positively impacts the bottom line” suggests that its impact is being measured directly. If it’s not, how does one know it’s done right? Positive business growth that aligns with active social media engagement is not proof that social media is done right. Why customers are purchasing your product instead of another could have more to do with what the competition is not doing, market trends, the quality of your product, or a slew of other factors. Take a look at Apple’s success over the past 10 years; have you seen their team actively engaged in relationship building through social media? In fact their social media presence has been virtually non-existent and yet they’ve been very successful.
A business cannot rely on generalizations and anecdotal evidence to make decisions on what marketing strategies it will or will not deploy. The onus is on marketers to show a direct link between strategy and revenue. If not, we’ll continue to struggle for budget allocation and approval.
At the end of the day, business executives – and the shareholders they report to – see “success and failure” as a measure of revenue or contributing factors to profit. If we’re going to prove social media ROI, marketers need to align their goals and measurement with that of the business and unless they work for a non-profit, that goal is revenue growth and profit.
Is it easy? No.
Can it be done? Yes.
What are your thoughts? Should social media be held accountable to revenue? Or should we continue to argue that the “warm and fuzzy” generated will eventually guarantee business success. Join the debate below.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
Image by Jorge Frananillo, licenced via Creative Commons