Measuring Social Media vs. Traditional Media

The one advantage social media marketing has over traditional marketing is accurate measurement.

With tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmasters, SEOMoz, and even bit.ly, you can see how well your corporate social media campaigns are working. (Doug Karr has a great post, Your Analytics is Missing the Mark, on the different social media tools you can use.) I can use these tools to measure my social media performance, down to the visitor, the second, and the penny. Photo of an old tape measure

But you can’t do that with traditional marketing.

Why Can’t You Predict the ROI of Social Media?

Last week, I talked about why it’s important that — at least in early discussions — you ignore the question of “what’s the ROI of social media?”. That’s because, as Scott Stratten said, you can substitute words like “Twitter” with “talking.” Then you’re asking questions like “what’s the ROI of ‘talking?'” “why should we be ‘talking’ with our customers?”

Part of the reason is that social media is so new, it’s difficult to say what your ROI is going to be. For example, we have one client that has $20 million in sales each year, and we helped him grow his sales by 6% through social media. We have another client whose business is big enough to employ four people, and she tripled her sales — that’s 300% growth — through social media.

So, our range of success is 6% to 300%. That’s a pretty big range. We could split the two and say “on average, you can expect 153% growth,” but that wouldn’t be accurate or honest. And we could say “you can expect anywhere from 6% – 300% growth,” but that would also be misleading.

However, what we can tell you is that we can accurately measure every step of your social media efforts, from the number of people who visit your blog, how they got there, which stories they read, how long they read it, whether they read another story, and did they follow your sales funnel?

But you can’t do that with traditional marketing.

Traditional marketing can’t do that

The reason the ROI question for social media is rather silly is because traditional marketing can’t measure those same numbers with the same amount of accuracy. To be fair, traditional marketing has a long history of measurement, and they can give you basic numbers, like “the industry ROI on direct mail is 2%,” or “100,000 people usually watch this station locally on Sunday nights.” But they’re still missing a big piece of the pie.

  • Cable TV stations like to tell you how many homes get their channel, not how many people watch it. The Golf Channel boasts their channel is received by 110 million homes, but they don’t tell people that their daily viewership averages around 77,000.
  • Magazines and newspapers will tout their readership, but they can’t tell you how many people read a particular story on a particular day, or how many people saw your ad.
  • Billboard companies can give you an approximation of how many people drive by, but they can’t tell you whether they actually looked at the billboard, or how many times people have seen it.

And bottom line, none of these marketing channels can tell you which of your ads compelled people to buy, or which one contributed to increased sales.

The closest you can come to measuring these channels is by putting channel-specific phone numbers and websites on the ads. If someone calls that number or visits that website, you can assume they responded to your ad. But you still don’t know how many people saw it or how many times they saw it, and you can’t monitor overall traffic.

Profit is the most important measurement

Of course, the only thing that really ultimately matters is your profit. It’s not just increased sales (although that’s important), it’s also reduced costs in customer service, travel, and even printing. If social media can help you answer customer questions while reducing phone hours, improve networking to help grow relationships without traveling, and disseminate marketing information without printing out brochures.

The analytics tools that exist can show you all of these things. And by tying those figures in with your customer service, sales, and marketing departments, you can easily figure out how social media is making or saving you money.

But you can’t do that with traditional marketing.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

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