Is social media marketing successful?
That was the question posed by a new infographic shared on Mashable yesterday. And, it continues the debate on whether social media marketing works on a single dimension — ROI. While the title questions the success of social media marketing efforts, the data inside seem to show marketing folks have a positive outlook on social media marketing. But, you be the judge. Here’s the infographic from PageModo:
Social media marketing successful; despite unmeasurable ROI
Those of you who regularly read my posts (thank you VERY MUCH) know I take a dim view on using ROI as the arbiter of social media marketing success. While ROI is a good metric for judging sales, production, investment, and other business functions, it’s pretty poor for judging marketing efforts unless you’re talking about couponing, discounting, some B2B marketing activities, or other pricing-related marketing functions.
That’s because the goal of most other marketing efforts is to affect consumer attitudes, not DIRECTLY affect their behavior. That’s because we can more effectively drive sales by creating positive attitudes about the brand than actually changing behaviors — the only way to DIRECTLY change behavior is to make it easier for someone to buy your brand. To directly affect behavior, you’re talking about making it cheaper or offering financing to make it easier to afford the product, or making it more readily available so consumers don’t have to exert much effort to buy the product. These things are VERY expensive and WON’T work unless the consumer already likes the brand.
Therefore, it’s more effective and cheaper to work on changing consumer attitudes (albeit with some efforts toward making it easier to buy the brand). That’s because we know positive attitudes affect behavior and we know these attitudes are a function of what your friends think about your brand as well as your own beliefs about the brand. Marketing researchers have shown this concept, originally developed by Fishbein and Ajzen in the mid 1970′s, works in almost every context.
While we KNOW attitudes drive consumer behaviors (especially buying behavior), we also know there’s a lag between changing the attitude and increasing the behavior. The length of that lag is based on a large number of factors including product features, such as durability, and consumer features, such as need and money. So, calculating an exact ROI for branding and other marketing efforts whose main purpose is to change attitudes is not very accurate. And, making decisions based on inaccurate measures of ROI leads firms to make bad decisions.
This is especially true in social media marketing, where we’re changing consumer attitudes using a media where transmission is slow — moving from one consumer to their social network and being shared again by members of that network. But, using social media rather than traditional media to transmit the firms message increases social media marketing success because