The Emporer's New Social Media ROI

Peter Kim has rewritten this fable for today's marketing department: both agency and CMO share the blame. CMO plays the role of the Emporer, with agency social media guru playing sycophantic expert. They all want awards and bonuses which are given for quick wins and even splashy, empty victories, as he points out. The incentives are all wrong.

Because no matter what, any time you are going to take a client's or company's cold hard cash and invest it in a marketing or product development program (whether social channels or traditional), ROI matters. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but somewhere along the line, someone very high up will want to know what came of that $50 or $100K or more she "invested" into that fledgling social program.

Barry Judge, CMO of socially adept Best Buy, stated at the Forrester Consumer Forum late last year in Chicago that social needs to begin with the customer, not the bottom line. And he is right. Social projects need more time to grow organically. And fail along the way without the plug getting pulled.

But marketers do need to show ROI. That's why social projects are just like any other, but need a bit more time to grow. Think of them as strategic, longer term investments with potentially much higher impact. You want some of those investments in any portfolio, right?

How do we reward CMOs and their agencies for these kinds of organic successes over time, and not just recognize big, empty wins?

I'd say a tight focus on tracking and reporting ROI is the only hope for documenting the success of long-term victories. Stick with it, even if the ROI picture isn't all that rosy for a few quarters. If you've set expectations properly, built a true strategy and started with a relatively modest investment as is typical of social, you should be setting yourselves up for a series of big wins. Have heart.


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