Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thrashing About for Social Media ROI

Last Friday I was reminded that even the most innovative and creative companies are thrashing about when it comes to obtaining measurable ROI from social media marketing programs.

At an event hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), Amber Harris of Discovery Communications and Brian Dresher of participated in a panel discussion about the state of social media adoption. Both had an interesting perspective to share.

As Discovery’s manager of digital communications, Harris is charged with the development and implementation of social media tactics across the company’s portfolio of media properties. She utilizes a mix of Web 2.0 platforms, yet in her comments she emphasized the value Discovery has received through micro-blogging and community building with Twitter. This value is predominantly brand-focused.

Dresher, who works as’s online marketing manager, shares Harris’ emphasis on brand building via social media. He defined their value benchmark as “ROIII.” The three Is representing investment, interaction and influence.

Harris and Dresher each work for organizations with top-down buy-in to the impact social media can potentially have across multiple segments of the business. Yet, when I queried them about the executive suite’s evaluation criteria for social media, they both quickly slipped back to a brand-oriented ROI.

“We do look more at buzz,” Harris acknowledged. “(Social media) is about exposing affinity for the brand.”

I have repeatedly argued in this blog that while brand awareness and positioning are essential for an organization to succeed, these benchmarks should merely serve as an added value outcome of social media marketing.

Aligning social media engagement with sales benchmarks related to lead generation, prospect cultivation and deal capture is paramount for an organization to realize the true impact of this emerging channel.

Is that possible for media companies like Discovery and that derive a significant portion of their revenue from advertising sales?

I believe so. Consider that corporate marketing decision-makers who own or greatly influence the ad spend are already well entrenched in online communities. They have formed groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as organized and self-identified in niche communities like the CMO Executive Network, Agency Scoop and

In no way do I propose a blatant pitch to prospective advertisers in their social media homes. Rather, Discovery and could more closely integrate social media marketing with revenue generation by:

1. Establishing a close bond between social media practitioners and sales reps to craft and distribute content specifically geared to a prospective account. At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we have employed this methodology on behalf of British Telecom (BT) with great success.

2. Promoting through social networks special offers on remnant ad space, as well as thought leadership and best practices content.

3. Organizing in-person meet-ups at industry conferences and events to foster community, and to create an environment where sales reps and prospects can interact.


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Patrick Murphy said...

I agree with “We do look more at buzz,” Harris acknowledged. “(Social media) is about exposing affinity for the brand.”

Well done. People have to move away from the traditional ROI for Social Media

Dale Underwood said...

Interesting post that makes sense for consumer based companies like Discovery and USAToday. Brand affinity has lots of value and certainly social media can be a big part of that.

However, I'm not sure I would agree 100% for B2B companies. If money (or time as is the case with many social "campaigns") is being spent, most C-suites want to understand if their capital is being put to good use.

Thoughtful article as always.

Dale - EchoQuote