Digital Marketing Blog

Tony Ahn's digital marketing blog, bringing you tips and tactics on content marketing, social media marketing, industry news and trends.

Surveys Do Not Prove Social Media ROI

- by , in Internet Marketing, Social Media Marketing, with 0 -

While digital marketers are anxious to prove social media ROI to their bosses or clients, the fact remains that proving something of this nature requires carefully controlled studies, which are expensive to produce. Often, “proof” is presented in the form of survey data from marketers reporting their opinions. Case in point, this Twitter conversation I had with someone presenting a study Mark W. Schaefer claimed proves social media ROI.

The reason that surveys provide poor proof is because they go through a subjective (and fallible) human layer: the survey respondent, in this case 3000 marketing managers. What don’t we know from their answers? 1) The methodology they used to determine ROI, 2) whether the ROI was insubstantial or very substantial, 3) whether the marketer had any reason to exaggerate (for example, if their job is tied heavily to digital marketing, saying that social media marketing yielded positive ROI could be a self-preservation measure), and many other things.

This is not to say that social media marketing does not drive sales. I think in many situations that it does. It is a part of my job as well, so I’d love to finally point to studies that proved its effectiveness. However, the grad school research assistant inside of me cannot accept poor metrics as indicators, and a marketer’s reported opinion is a poor metric.

As Mr. Dempsey points out, multi-touch attribution (tracking all the different places that digital marketing “touched” someone, such as the first time they saw it in a Google display ad, then the second time they saw it when a friend Liked it, then visited the website, and then finally when they saw it again a week later in a tweet, clicked the link, and made a purchase) will help us get a better handle on how social media plays into the awareness and decision matrix, but you’d have to conduct very controlled experiments to determine EXACTLY what role social media plays in ROI. And if that’s done, it will be expressed in a quantitative fashion (i.e. 22% on average), not a qualitative fashion (62% of marketers agree that it contributes to ROI).

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