One of the most com­mon ques­tions we hear from brand mar­keters is, “How do we mea­sure the ROI of our social invest­ment?” To which we reply, “What’s your ‘R’?”

Social ROI isn’t all that com­pli­cated. The con­fu­sion seen in the mar­ket­place stems from a lack of ask­ing the right ques­tions at the out­set. With­out know­ing what one is try­ing to mea­sure it’s near impos­si­ble to deter­mine ROI. Yes, for most com­pa­nies the “return” ulti­mately comes down to rev­enue, but many brands aren’t using social to directly prompt pur­chases. And those that are also need to take into account other exter­nal­i­ties, such as changes in brand loy­alty and life­time cus­tomer value.

Unlike tra­di­tional adver­tis­ing, which is directly focused on brand per­cep­tion and sales, social is a hybrid; it has com­po­nents of email, TV, word-of-mouth and media. Social can be effec­tive for cus­tomer reten­tion, sales gen­er­a­tion, brand per­cep­tion shift and even aware­ness. Which means that the ROI of social is a topic impor­tant to all inter­nal stake­hold­ers. For some, this might be the rein­forced brand loy­alty and affin­ity sparked by resolv­ing a cus­tomer ser­vice on the “wall” or in the Twit­ter stream. For oth­ers, it’s procur­ing the ideal employee from a job post­ing on the com­pany Face­book page. And for another group­ing, it’s impres­sions earned by suc­cess­fully imple­ment­ing a viral sweep­stakes. Depend­ing on one’s goals and expec­ta­tions, the “return” on a social invest­ment can be vastly dif­fer­ent, illus­trat­ing why there are so many diver­gent opin­ions on social’s value. Nonethe­less, this “return,” and the invest­ment for that mat­ter, are clearly impor­tant to all, despite the uniquely held goals.

With social media mir­ror­ing the effects of more tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing chan­nels, start­ing with the right def­i­n­i­tion of “return” is crit­i­cal to demon­strat­ing suc­cess in the medium. So, when you’re next ques­tioned about social ROI, start by ask­ing, “What’s my ‘R’?”


This is a direct, simple and powerful answer to a key question posed by every potential customer for Context Optional's SAS Enterprise Solution. One of the most vexing elements of selling this solution into a company is not establishing rapport, quantifying the prospect's needs, or any of the benchmarks required to close a deal. There is a rarely expressed, complex and oft ignored aspect of the equation. Insuring that the message (as to what the solution provides) can be communicated and evangelized for by the person who has made the decision to utilize it. Senior executives tend to have a short attention span. They require information presented to them in easily digested bytes, executive summaries and the like. The challenge is avoiding the use of lingo and vernacular which inside a corporation is required to indicate one's cultural affinity. Thus, the specific terms used to communicate in one setting lose their power in another. The challenge for a successful Business Develoment person is to be certain that the prospect not only agrees that the solution offered is desirable, but that he is able to communicate its features and benefits in another setting. The simple answer would appear to be a concisely crafted one sheet which can be used to define and express the solution. Creating such a one sheet and having it used as an effective tool is more complex than it would appear at first glance. No matter what is written on the piece of paper or in an email, many senior staff will not read it. A few years ago a valuable piece of information was shared with me by a colleague trying to help resolve an intra-office conflict. My co-worker told me that roughly 10% of conversations are recalled accurately. The figures for written communication are so small that knowing them might prevent any of us from choosing the written word again. Such is the dilemma. Personally I find short (1 minute max) You-Tube videos to be the preferred method to solve this predicament. I write this in the hope that someone, somewhere will read it in the course of trying to bring an innovation to market. If we remind ourselves that the language we use to communicate can become a barrier to communication, we will collectively save ourselves much frustration. The sale itself is absolutely not the end of the story.