Bottom Line: Social Media Counts

sm logosIs social media actually helping your company’s bottom line?

That’s the question Frank V. Cespedes asks in the headline of his latest article for the Harvard Business Review.

His resounding answer is made clear by the loud graphic sitting atop his argument…

MAR15_03_socialdailyAnd the lead sentence that highlights his not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feelings about social media’s place in business:

When it comes to business, we talk too much about social media and expect too little.

Cespedes goes on to talk about all of those tried-and-true biz concepts: metrics, data, ROI, logic, investments, consumer behavior, tangible results… And when it comes to social media, his conclusions are, well, very Jerry Maguire.

445616_show_me_the_moneyHe cites a statistic that people are more likely to complete a Navy Seal training program or climb Mount Everest than click on a banner ad. He talks about the unproven value of likes and shares, pointing out these can even be bought. He touts the value of offline surveys and e-mail, which he thinks may be getting overlooked during the “overhype” of social media.

It’s clear the author of this piece is a spreadsheet, crunch-the-numbers kinda guy.  But his lumping of banner ads with the concept of social media as a whole had me raising huge red flags. Social media strategy is about building relationships, having a conversation, and looking at the interaction between customer and brand more holistically. BUT WAIT… I think he’s going to redeem himself:

It’s now common to say that social media is “really” about awareness, not sales. Companies that “get” social media should be “relentless givers [who] connect instead of promote.” In fact, forget “traditional” ROI (that lovely qualifier), focus on consumer use of social media…

Yes!  I’m feelin’ ya, Frank.

Err, hold on a second. He adds:

How convenient: to be evaluated with a metric without tangible marketplace outcomes. But it’s wrong, a circular argument, and smart companies should not follow this flawed business logic.

I get where this author (and other annoyed-with-social-media business folks) are coming from. A lot of time and energy and resources are being spent on social media  and it’s a new landscape that we’re just learning to navigate. This landscape can sometimes be muddled with buzz words, and hype, and entirely new departments of 20-somethings wearing over-sized glasses and drinking organic soy lattes. I get it.

But my thoughts on social media are much more, well, warm-and-fuzzy. Social media is not the equivalent of a roadside billboard.  It is not a flat area for promotion. It is not just about the number of clicks. Social media is about creating and nurturing engaged relationships. The power of its reach is undeniable and invaluable.  (Us fluff-loving creative types even have the data to prove it!) Can this higher-level of genuine engagement really be measured on a spreadsheet? Probably not. Does that mean we should ignore its importance in the future of business?  #NOPE. Einstein

Social media, done right, is a game changer. There may not always be directly correlating numbers to prove results, but that doesn’t mean the impact doesn’t exist.

There are a lot of lines appearing above that bottom one… And social media isn’t one that should be written off.

This entry was posted in Social Business, Social Media ROI, Strategy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bottom Line: Social Media Counts

  1. sydhavely says:

    Absolutely great post and spot on. Social media is only beginning to glimpse its potential and those who use it well. Thanks, Colleen.

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