In The 2009 Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide, MarketingSherpa explains a conundrum marketers are facing in a web 2.0 world:
What do you do when the ability to measure your return on investment (ROI) is mutually exclusive to the effectiveness of a particular campaign?
In other words, how do you sell a tactic up the chain of command that you know will work but can't provide definite numbers? Or conversely, how do you dissuade a course of action that has proven ineffective, but which your executives embrace because they understand the number of impressions or "hits" or lives interrupted by the campaign?
It's a difficult predicament, to be sure. And it appears that's the situation most marketers are facing.
Known Badness vs. Unknown Goodness
Traditional PR and marketing has never had much measurability, but it is a known entity. What was the return on investment for your PR firm to make unsolicited calls on your behalf? How many sales resulted from your Times Square advertisement? Traditional marketing has always had terrible measurability.
But, it's what your boss knows. Now, we have new technologies that can show an amazing array of ROI statistics, but they're new. They're "untested." They might fail. (Because that never happens with old media!)
Yes, I Can Back That Up
Don't believe me? Take a look at the report.
The executive summary shows that most marketers think the ability to measure ROI (also reported the second most significant barrier to social media adoption) has "nothing to do with the effectiveness of the tactic" (page 6).
In fact, MarketingSherpa goes on to say that:
"Marketers obsessed with only tracking social media results quantitatively are missing the point and may find themselves employing much less effective social media tactics for the sake of measurability."
How about you? Would you rather fail than tell your boss she's wrong?
So, are marketers telling their bosses about social media? Quite possibly, yes. But marketers might not be educating their bosses as much as they need to.
MarketingSherpa reports that "social media and email are the only to tactics on which more companies are planning to increase spending than are planning to decrease spending" (page 4). This matches Forrester's recent report entitled Social Media Playtime Is Over. They report even higher numbers, saying that over 50% of marketers will increase their spending on social media in the coming year.
If you're a social media marketer and think this sounds great, think again. Just because marketers expect the amount they spend on social media to increase, that does not mean it'll be a lot. In fact, B.L. Ochman says that Forrester reports three-fourths of marketers expect to spend less than $100K on social media marketing tools.
Read the conversation B.L. includes at the end of a recent post. I think she correctly portrays a set-up for failure, where marketers are expected to spin social media gold from corporate hay, stymied by every other department in their company.
So What Do I Do?
As a social media marketer, you have the proverbial wind at your back. You must seize this opportunity, but don't forget to lobby for the resources and permission you will need later.
Personally, I recommend buying MarketingSherpa's Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Guide. Their research is among the best, their arguments are persuasive, and, to be honest, it's expensive enough for your boss to trust it. Or buy Forrester's report. Or another one like it. But, do something.
We have fought for so long to be taken seriously. Remember being scoffed at five years ago when you claimed Facebook would be huge and a decent marketing tool? Remember when Twitter was just a fad? You get it. You see further down the road than most people. (Strategy is part of your job, after all.)
Well, part of your job is also being an educational resource for your boss and her bosses, too. Buy them a report. Send them information from sources they trust. Hell, reserve time on their schedule and read the damn stuff to them. But make them listen.
Otherwise, you will be one of the poor marketers tasked with doing "something viral." If you hear "we need a Facebook page" and don't hear mention a strategy or goals, you are about to get screwed.
But this is your chance! We finally have the green light to participate in social media marketing in a responsible way! But leverage the resources you need (don't forget staff time!) and the backing to make it all possible.
Then, come back and let us know how it went!
(Note: I am a MarketingSherpa affiliate which means that I make a little beer money if you buy the report. But I'd tout their work even if I wasn't. It's great stuff, period.)