Three reasons why the “experts” are wrong about social media measurement

There is an argument around the blogosphere that is DRIVING ME CRAZY.

When it turns to the topic of measurement and social media marketing, many “authorities” flippantly rely on the “double standard” argument — If you’re trying to measure the value of SM, you might as well measure the value of a cell phone, the company car and the receptionist.    One popular blogger and author recently said if your manager asks for the ROI of your social media initiative, you should ask him for the ROI of his pants.  Their point is that you just need to accept the social web as something ubiquitous and necessary, so why worry about it?

This is lunacy.  Here are three reasons why this “no need to measure” view is an irresponsible position:

1) Never get caught with your stats down

Let’s examine the argument that you don’t measure the value of a company car, or email so insisting that we measure social media is a double standard.

Even if you don’t directly account for the on-going value of these items on a spreadsheet, there is an implied economic value to cars and cell phones and all this everyday stuff.

At some point in the life of every company, there will be a financial imperative to slash overhead costs.  On that day, everything will be evaluated — do we cut or not cut?  This is the point of reckoning that defines the “implied economic value” of any effort.  Yes, that company car  may be cut.  Probably the receptionst too …  along with many initiatives that have no measurement attached to them.  Which is EXACTLY why you MUST measure.

If you have measurable value attached to your social media initiative, if you can demonstrate how your projects align with strategy and contribute to shareholder value, your implied value goes up and you have a shot at surviving the cuts.  No stats = No chance.

2) The fallacy of free

One argument is that this stuff is free any way, why spend time measuring it?  By now, I’d hope we could put aside the argument that a corporate social media effort is “free.”  Right?

But just how much money are we talking about?

Let’s assume you have one person working full-time on social media marketing. We’ll assign that person a salary of $60,000. In a typical company, standard health, 401(k) and other benefit costs equal another 50% of the base salary, or in this case, $30,000.

We’ll assign another 20% of base salary for overhead such as office space, shared services support and technology. That’s $12,000.  We won’t even address travel, training, or bonuses.

So, our minimal full-up cost for one social media professional is $102,000.  As a business owner, are you willing to spend more  than $100,000 per year without requiring any accountability for a return?  What kind of a company are you running?

3) Measure what you treasure

As my teacher Peter Drucker used to say, you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it. Measurement is necessary to determine progress and opportunity.  How can you NOT measure a strategic imperative like marketing, especially when the metrics are flying at you for free?

I’m a practical guy. I know it may be cost-prohibitive or even impossible to determine the specific ROI of your efforts.  But there is no excuse for not tracking key non-financial measures that contribute to your company’s goals.  To support your credibility, your long-term viability,  and your personal career in social media marketing, you must measure.

This is an emotional topic for some, but it shouldn’t be.  This is basic business common sense. What do you think?

{grow} community alert: Frequent contributor Chris Bailey wrote a nice companion piece to this post and fleshes out some of these ideas. I recommend it!

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