Did you know that 73.6% of statistics are made up?

If you want to tell a lie, make it specific.
Don’t say that a Facebook fan is worth “a lot”. Say they’re worth $1.07 and have the Wall Street Journal cite you.

Image Courtesy of Emeric Ernoult, AgoraPulse

Show that your Facebook page’s reach went from 22% last year to only 6% at the beginning of this year.

What marketer doesn’t have the noble goal of seeking to measure the value of their social efforts?
Whether they need to engage in this exercise to protect their hide, because their boss wants to know, or because they want to be smarter about driving sales, it’s a hard thing to do.

Ted Rubin, author of Return on Relationships says that when people ask him about social ROI, he asks them for the ROI of trust or happy customers.

My friends, Dennis and Christine, were at Wells Fargo yesterday and were pleasantly surprised by a free lunch.


Sure, the Costco hot dogs, chips, and drinks might have cost $2, but the enthusiasm of the employees is what did it.
And this drove a couple dozen likes and who knows how many impressions (maybe a few thousand, but Facebook doesn’t show impressions for profiles).

Wells Fargo had their social media act together and even commented on the post.

2014-08-19 01_56_14-Dennis Yu

Was this truly social?

I’d argue that before the days of digital, the same word of mouth effect was always there.
In caveman days, people still talked about which merchant produced the best goods.
There were no social ROI tools or PR agencies.

And yet, Neanderthal marketers instinctively took care of their customers because they knew it paid dividends later.
Today, we know that word of mouth is actually the heart of marketing and tied to your product, service, and entire customer experience.

But is it measurable?

Though the initial two examples suggest otherwise, the answer is yes, but over the long run.

Gary Vaynerchuck told me his favorite answer to the social ROI question is to ask folks “What is the ROI of your mother?” (language warning):

In a cross-channel world, where there are many ways customers can interact with you and their friends, it’s both harder and easier to measure social ROI.

It’s easier to measure because we now have a digital of activity.
You can assume that perhaps 10% of what’s actually going on shows up in digital, so you have a rough proxy as to total volume.

It’s harder to measure because there are more channels.

You’ve probably seen the discussions about last click attribution, cross-device measurement, tag management systems, and all manner of trying to prove that a customer bought from you because of a Google search query.

So what’s the practical advice here?

Don’t let the data get in the way of what you’re trying to do.

The “smart” marketers sometimes hide behind the “If I can’t measure it, I won’t do it”, which creates a false sense of security.
Though I am a data-driven marketer who runs a company that also makes a social analytics product, I’m telling you this is only part of the picture.

The most important things in life can’t be measured.
And, by contrast, if it can be measured, it’s a sign it’s not that important.

So looking back at the initial Google Alert, which shows that the social analytics market will be worth either $2 billion or $273 billion in a few years: remember that these numbers are meaningless.

You are empowering the humans in your business to interact with the humans that are your customers.
Use the data you can gather to help serve them better– go ask them, run surveys, walk around your store, whatever.
But don’t use someone’s statistics to justify what you had already decided.

And then you’ll have the true ROI of social: lifetime customers that talk about you and do your marketing for you!