bless Joe Hall of Marketing Pilgrim for addressing the conversation we’re having all the time with both our clients and our prospects: bottom line ROI on social media engagement and the natural client desire for contextual ad equivalency when it comes to investing in social media. The following is excerpted from Cup of Joe: Social Media ROI? Think Again Genius! — wherein Mr. Hall comes down on the side of “you can’t put a number on making friends and influencing people.  Let me know what you think:

You can’t measure relationships. You can’t put on paper the depth and complexity of the human experience with a brand. Sure you can track web traffic, click through rates, and even your follower/following ratio. But none of that explains real influence.

So then why do CEOs, CMOs, and even brand managers insist on this pointless discussion? Because, too many of us have been enchanted by the tools. Too many of us have been caught up in the hype and glory of amazing technology to recognize that social media marketing is essentially the same old ball game using different tools.

Think about it this way, when was the last time you attended a networking event or trade show and had your boss ask you, “so what was your ROI?”. I am willing to bet never, because those types of events aren’t there to act as advertising channels they are there many times to create relationships.

If you utilize offline social events as advertising channels, two things happen. 1) You don’t make any friends. 2) You don’t create any customers. This happens because instead of coming across as the cool girl or guy that everyone wants to do business with, you come across as the annoying jerk passing out postcard adverts. So why is it that some of us think that social media is any different?

Calculating ROI for advertising is easy because it is based on definite variables that can be measured. How do you measure the emotion from a positive exchange with a favorite brand on Twitter? How do you calculate the feelings of community in some forums? You can’t, and you aren’t supposed to.

What do I think?  Like I always say whenever I meet anyone or speak to anyone on the phone, Mr. Hall is right, however, what I learned from Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is that you have to always be sure to give your client the gift he wants and not just the gift you want to give.

Your client is the one who is paying you so you need to find a way to offer whatever the ROI is that your client needs to prove to his boss and the board that spending money on you was indeed prudent and worthwhile — because, at least for us at Abraham Harrison, we’re always competing for budget with the contextual advertising team.

While what we do at Abraham Harrison is exactly what Joe is talking about — building brand, buzz, conversation, community, fellowship, relationship, reputation, recognition, attachment, and also touches towards the required seven touches — we still need to make sure they can also move some needles: traffic, visitors, email addresses, followers, friends, fans, donations, new business into the sales funnel, or more money — the ultimate ROI bottom line.

There is a huge requirement to compromise.  To gift the client based on their needs and then, through education, through experience, through general positive secondary effects — such as volume, tone, and sentiment of conversation — of buzz — and how that ubiquity of chatter can directly effect search ranking, reputation, search dominance, keyword dominance, and general increased trust of your client’s brand based on the general acceptance, quantity, and quality of brand focused conversation online.

Thanks, Mr. Joe Hall for your article Cup of Joe: Social Media ROI? Think Again Genius! — I am much obliged.  What do you all think?