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The Reality of Social Media ROI

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I’m going to level with you; there really isn’t some magic way to get the social media ROI you want (and think you need) as a dealer. Sure, all the data may be there in one form or another, but it can take one heck of a lot of merging and purging to attribute that one sale to that one click on Facebook. Truth is, it’s a process that requires everyone involved to be all in. Yes, I am pointing directly and squarely at you.

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And therein lies the problem. Most dealers want to slap down the money and see results. They like the hands-off approach, but in the social media world it doesn’t work that way. Even when I land that dream dealer who is totally tech savvy, flexible when campaigns don’t exactly pop, willing to work with us through trial and error, and committed to actually tracking all the way through to sale on the dealership floor, it takes time, energy, involved communication and a real budget to make it happen. When it does happen, it’s like magic. I find it absolutely thrilling to see when a dealer “gets it.” Thus far, it’s a rare occurrence, but I have my sights set high for 2013.

I am telling you this for my own sanity, but also for yours. Stop looking for something that doesn’t exist without your dedication to the marketing strategy and plan. Put your money where your mouth is and commit to doing what it takes to collect ROI stats for your business.

Afraid to experiment?

A look back at history is usually a good indicator of the future. Anytime a big, new phenomenon arrives on the advertising scene, it’s hard to know what to count as our success metric. Let’s take the dot-com bubble in the late ‘90s when investors insanely threw billions at Internet start-ups that promised to deliver targeted ads to millions of viewers. But eyeballs didn’t produce dollars, and the high flying Web world crashed and burned. Many naysayers gleefully concluded that the Internet itself had failed (which is as silly as saying now that social media is a fad). The infancy of the Web opened the door to many industries that are directly at the center of our universe, such as search engine marketing, and our all-encompassing social media crush that has us updating our Facebook status even before we crawl out of bed.

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Valuable influence
When it comes to social media, server farms are jam-packed with data, but it’s hard to determine what and how to measure that information. What’s the value of a Facebook “Like” or a Twitter follower? What ultimately is going to sell product?

IBM ran reports on Black Friday sales and concluded little to no sales were directly attributed to social media powerhouses such as Facebook and Twitter. The number indicated very few shoppers clicked directly from a social network to buy a specific product, but this conclusion did not take into account that some may have seen ads that later led to a purchase online or in retail stores. If so, “valuable influence” went unmeasured, according to Dan Neely, the chief executive of Networked Insights, a marketing analytics company. Neely’s team followed Macy’s Black Friday campaign on Twitter, which started weeks before the big day. They say the campaign generated a viral flurry on the network, and the flaw in IBM tracking is they just looked at a single point in time. This example captures the essence of why finding the ROI in that mountain of data we are sitting on is like finding a needle in a haystack.

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“It’s hard to measure influence,” says Steve Canepa, IBM’s general manager for media and entertainment, which is the entire point — the impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure with yardsticks from the past.

Whether you’re a fan of social media or not, the reality is these are communities of real people with real relationships who are quickly weaving an amazing web of personal connections far beyond anything that could be achieved in real life. Regardless of how this impacts marketing and advertising, this newfound human behavior, our natural new way of functioning with one eye on our tablet and another on the real world in front of us, will inevitably lead to new industries in market research, online products and services that have yet to be imagined. It’s time for you to dedicate some serious mind power to your social media strategy and ROI tracking, and I am convinced that once you take the dive, there will be no turning back.


Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a nationally-renowned speaker on social media marketing and a digital marketing veteran. Her company provides MPN monthly columns focused on best practices in Web marketing for powersports dealers.

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