Socially Inept?

Two articles this week got me thinking about the challenge that we direct marketers continue to face within the ever-changing Social landscape. On the surface, Social provides an attractive platform by which to engage both customers and prospects. But we have been conditioned to assess value based on the return that our marketing dollars generate; that's tough to do with Social so where's its place within 'direct marketing' budgets? Is it direct marketing at all? As for the latter, Jim Gilbert thinks so as expressed in "12 Social Media Questions for a Real Direct Marketer". His answer to "How do you measure social media ROI?" stuck with me; "Call me a heretic, but ROI is not as important as engagement ratio." He has a point. For what seems like forever, direct marketers have tried to plug 'Social' into the ROI formula only to be frustrated by privacy roadblocks preventing full tracking through 'conversion'. Dan's point that Social is mostly valuable in its ability to effectively engage those who 'like' you, cannot be argued. The downside... how many brands are compelling enough to generate even modest engagement of this sort? Politicians, non-profits, publishers... sure. CPGs, retailers, restaurants ... besides coupons and other special deals, not so sure ("...'Like' us to learn about our new 1,000 thread count sheets!").

This point is expressed in "Big Brands Are Missing the 'Social' in Social Media". The first paragraph there is pretty telling; only 1/3 of Social marketers target their fans and/or friends of fans. As a direct marketing data provider, finding prospects to engage our clients is at the core of what we do; the fact that so few even attempt this very basic strategy within the Social media construct speaks volumes. And also perhaps why the conversation about measuring Social via ROI is now seeking different answers altogether.

I was struck by this comment following the 2nd article: " ... brand promotion is neither relevant nor remarkable in a social media context. Social media is an event not a marketing channel." And further, "... social media is interested in what has happened not what might happen." That makes sense as the reason why organizations with ongoing compelling content thrive with their Social engagement(s) while others oddly throw budget money into a channel where ROI is being nudged out of the conversation. A pretty slippery slope for a profession guided by the principle of responsible media spending based on measureable results, don't you think?