Must Companies Assess ROI from Social Media Marketing? It Depends.

Do you think it is okay for companies to not assess their ROI from social media marketing? Take a firm stance on the issue and look for examples to support your point.

My answer to the above question is: It depends! Big companies and conglomerates should assess their ROI from social media marketing (SMM) while small companies including non-profits don’t really need to do this assessment.

Social Media Marketing is all about relationships and interactions

It is my belief that the ultimate purpose of SMM should be to get to know your customers better: learn about and directly hear from them their wants, needs and preferences. Yes, you can use SMM as a vehicle for increased brand awareness by constantly pitching and pushing products and/or services to them BUT if that is all you do, they will soon tire of you (and by you, I mean your company or what you sell) and perhaps stop being in a relationship with you because they feel like you aren’t listening. Who wants to be pestered by someone who does nothing but hawk items all day?! If you annoy them enough, your clients would go elsewhere, likely to a competitor who has better SMM skills  who knows how to engage them properly: asking them the right questions, responding to their needs and offering them services that they want and/or are interested in (based on updated information received from that client).

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Who should say Yes to ROI assessment for SMM?

If you are a large company or a conglomerate, I hope you use your financial resources to hire a social media marketing expert (or team of experts) to assess your ROI for you. I am a proponent of having the right people (note: smarter than you) analyzing your presence, target audience(s) and interactions on your pages while also giving you a full report on how you are doing with your investment AND what you can do to perform better. It’s about the insights gleaned from your data. Here, I refer to the word investment as your Facebook Page, Linkedin Company Profile, official Twitter account and/or Google+ page. For e.g. A.P. Moller a.k.a. the Maersk Group, the world’s largest container ship operator and supply vessel operator in the world (since 1996), and having profitable  businesses in a variety of sectors such as transportation and energy, would benefit immensely from having a social media marketing investment. Maersk has subsidiaries and offices in 135 countries globally and they use SMM strategically. In the article Maersk Line sets B2B social media example by Silvia Cambie, Maersk’s Director of Communication Klavs Valskov says:

Google+ Hangouts are used to hold smaller press briefings when the company is launching new initiatives. Three to four journalists can log on and have a live video conference with some of our executives.

From a Public Relations (PR) perspective, they are doing it right! Journalists (in my humble opinion) appreciate exclusive scoops like this. Maersk gets free (3rd-party), credible publicity from reporters because they used Google+ Hangouts the smart way. From a Media Relations (MR) perspective, Maersk is also doing well with how they use SMM. According to Valskov:

We have a lot of journalists following us and we can see that they download our press releases from Twitter. The Danish trade press has been quite intrigued by the fact that a traditional shipping company has embraced social media with such conviction. Maersk Line has ten official tweeters, which include the chief commercial officer, the head of anti-piracy and business managers.

On LinkedIn, Valskov created a discussion group for the Daily Maersk service (cargo shipments from Asia to Europe) where customers can have direct communication and open conversation with Maersk. Valskov says:

We know which customers are using that, we have their email addresses. We have invited them to be part of this group because we want to be able to monitor what they say and spot trends. A vibrant conversation with our customers can tell us much more than a survey.

According to Cambie, “Maersk Line also uses LinkedIn to bring together shipping experts to discuss issues like piracy, trends affecting the container industry and innovation. This is how the company came across the idea of a container that can be folded when empty to take up only one tenth of the space of conventional containers.”

Maersk on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook

Valskov talks about container spotters, these are people who post pictures of Maersk containers for sharing with others. Can you say free publicity? According to Valskov:

They love Maersk containers. They take photos of them and upload them on the internet. We knew this phenomenon existed … so we thought ‘why don’t we do it ourselves?’

This gave Maersk the idea to release online content from the company archives. Cambie says “the same applies to images of old Maersk ships from the 1930’s. She quotes Valskov as saying “our Facebook fans love them. We get many ‘likes’ .”

Maersk also uses the power of their employee population to do publicity on Facebook. Valskov says:

Seven thousand of Maersk Line’s 25,000 employees are seafarers and Facebook has become an important channel for them to connect with colleagues, people at home, and follow what the company is up to. They are very proud to be sailing on our big blue ships and love to tell people about it. They publish tons of pictures from their every day work including pirates coming close in the Bay of Aden or dramatic pictures from the bridge in heavy weather at deep sea.

Takeaway: Maersk is a huge conglomerate and they are a business i.e. they cannot afford (emphasis mine) to ignore SMM. This would be tantamount to losing existing customers or not getting profitable shipping contracts because they ignored part of their market segment.

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Katie’s Place online banner

Who should say No to ROI assessment for SMM?

Small companies like Katie’s Place (a volunteer-run, non-profit, no-kill shelter in Maple Ridge) can afford not to do ROI assessments for SMM. I believe they don’t have to: for one, they don’t have the manpower or financial resources to undertake this. Katie’s Place mandate is to save lives and help cats get adopted. The only product their online shop sells is a book about cats; sale proceeds go back directly to the shelter for covering operating costs or are used to buy supplies for the cats. They receive funding from donors, fundraising and community events like Pictures with Santa (pet-edition); they also get back some funds by charging an adoption fee for people when they adopt their cats.

Looking at their Facebook page, you can see that Katie’s Place has “871 Likes, 9 Were Here and 8 Talking About” them. I have been to Katie’s Place (this is where I adopted my cat Styx, who I named my blog Styx Communications for) but back then, they didn’t have an organized Facebook page so I couldn’t really “check-in.” I have promoted Katie’s Place (in my BCIT Public Speaking class as a topic), published links to their Facebook page and website numerous times to my friends, family and contacts throughout the years because I stand behind what great work Katie’s Place does. There are others like me who’ve left testimonials and written them emails on the work they are doing. In essence, we have done viral marketing and free publicity for Katie’s Place.

Honestly, I’m not sure if Katie’s Place would find ROI assessment data useful or what they would do with this level of information. What I do know is that Katie’s Place’s position in the community, their animal-loving supporters and shelter volunteers are what make them work well in their job: saving the lives of cats they rescue and ensuring they find the right homes to be placed in.

Take-away: Small organizations don’t have to do ROI assessment for their SMM campaigns.

In Summary

The size and the needs of the organization determine who would benefit from ROI assessment. The financial resources and manpower that a company/conglomerate has will affect if they can afford to do the required research on their target audiences and respond accordingly to the needs of their customers.

References:

http://www.simply-communicate.com/case-studies/company-profile/maersk-line-sets-b2b-social-media-example

http://katiesplaceshelter.com/

http://www.facebook.com/katiesplaceshelter

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