Recent annual Forrester research on Interactive Marketing conducted among 333 marketers reveals that 68% of companies are willing to try social media strategy only after it’s proved that it works. Indeed, the effect of marketing and figures for ROI on most of the social media platforms, including mobile phones, is hard to measure. The number of clicks on digital advertisements (which a couple of years ago led to the temporary eithoria among advocates of mobile marketing, yet still to be seen) has not showed direct correlation with actual sales. Interactive marketing via social platforms and corporate blogging have not yet produced enough evidence for companies to widely invest in it either.
In this post, I would like to turn this issue around and ask: do we need to measure the effect of social media in order to make a decision to employ it?
The marketing/PR measurement figures have traditionally been used for decisions to lay out future promotional strategy (we know that it works, so we’ll try it again), and to attract sponsors/clients to invest in us rather than our competitors. Unquestionable numbers of newspapers with certain PR-content being sold, and advertisements being seen, were alike unquestionably linked to the increased awareness and sales. This measurement strategy gave marketing- and PR departments legitimacy to exist, and consume a respectable part of corporate budget. Evidence for success is in many ways comforting sign for marketers that they are on the right track. However, there are also downfalls. Measuring the effect of one campaign doesn’t give enough reasons to believe that the same strategy will work well next time. Perceptions change, and so does media use. Furthermore, how does one easily measure the attitude change? And how do we accurately assess what exactly worked, and what didn’t?
But my main argument is that the culture also changes. In the last 10 years, companies on the global scale became forced to invest big in something they couldn’t get the immediate gratification from: corporate social responsibility. CSR is now an indubitable part of any respectable organisation’s corporate strategy. Nobody bothers any longer to question or measure its effect: it has been proved not so much by the success of the companies who pioneered it, as by the crisis of the corporations (Nike, Shell, Enron, Nestle, Microsoft, ExxonMobil and many others) who neglected it.
I believe that just like CSR, which today is a requisite for any company to engage in a sustainable business and have ‘license to operate’, social media presence will become a natural part of communication strategy. It will become essential to give businesses necessary authenticity and transparency not to only to compete, but also to exist in the future business environment. In the future, we will only deal with companies that we trust and have relationships with. Why, because we have a choice.
Eagerness to measure the effect of social media presence in order to make a decision to employ it is an echo of corporate philanthropy, characteristic for the 20th century and unacceptable in the 21st.