The debate regarding the value of social media to marketing is ongoing. On the one side we have the evangelists who preach that you just have to get in there and not worry about details like ROI. On the other, we have traditional marketers who are becoming more vocal in their demands for some kind of measurability. Somewhere in the middle of all this we have the question of how much a social media brand fan is actually worth.
According to a survey last year of social media marketers reported in eMarketer, it seems at least some marketers are moving away from the daunting task of attaching a hard dollar value to brand fans.
So, since that’s the case, what are marketers really valuing now with their Facebook fans for example? The three top responses ran neck and neck percentage-wise with a source of insight and increased loyalty being number one with 85% of respondents. Right behind those at 80% was the hope that these fans would be brand advocates (word-of-mouth).
There is indeed a lot of what you might call “soft value” in social media. I recall in the old days of radio when we would run a focus group on our playlists and shows. This wasn’t cheap! In order to keep the feedback reasonably non-biased we would hire an agency to recruit and screen the focus group members. We’d have to book a facility outside the office, pay for food and so on. Now many radio stations test their music via online listening sessions/surveys. It could be argued that now marketers have a readily available and real time focus group online via social. True, it’s not blind testing, but it’s not that hard to knock out the extreme feedback at either end of the scale and gain some insight.
The big advantage I see is that you have real time, constant feedback and potentially a legion of brand advocates who will promote your brand via word-of-mouth, amplified a thousand fold by the reach provided by social media. I personally think the more important word-of-mouth becomes, the better it is for consumers and brands. To me, it’s the most sincere type of advertising and the most effective. The quality of your customer experience is becoming more and more important because people talk and today a lot more people are listening to what they say.
Having said all that, half the respondents to the survey reported that they were uncertain how much value they were getting from their brand fans via social. Less than a quarter of those responding thought the ROI on social was good.
Social media has been something of a Yukon gold rush for marketers and the race now is to find a balance of effort and the tools to dig deeper before the gold is tapped out.