Will unicorns really die? A debate on the role of ROI in social media at Social Media Breakfast Waterloo Region

This morning I attended a monthly breakfast meeting of professionals using social media to market their product, service, or ideas in Waterloo Region. This month’s topic was a debate on the role of Return on Investment (ROI) in social media decisions. Arguing the position that every business needs to consider ROI in every marketing decision was Chris Eh Young, a business consultant and strategist, and arguing that a unicorn dies every time we talk about ROI in social media, and that there are other equally important benefits, was Alan Quarry, CEO of Quarry Integrated Communications.

Both sides made excellent points, and indeed were not far apart in their positions. The debate seemed more like fun than anything else. But there were some differences. Chris argued that social media use must start and end with analytics, meaning that you know your baseline before you run a campaign, you monitor the clicks, and the transfer of clicks to an increase in sales. You must figure in the time spent by yourself or employees as a value and be looking for a return on that value. Alan, on the other hand, sees value in increased exposure and an increased awareness by the public/market of your company and/or product. Marketing is dead, says he. Nonsense, says Chris. Social media builds on traditional marketing.

One extremely valuable point that Chris raised was about knowing who your customers are and not straying too far from your base. Chasing after smaller markets and neglecting your base will only lead to trouble. He also said that if your customer demographic is not using social media, it’s not smart to try and reach them that way. Lots to think about.

For his part, Alan Quarry believes the roles have changed. No longer is there a place for top-down marketing in which a company makes a product and sells it to the consumer without including the consumer in that experience. By which he means more than ever the consumer is a participant in the process, a partner, a member of the team. Involving your customers and forging relationships with them on social media platforms is crucial to success in today’s world, he says. Equally important is internal branding, team-building within companies rather than a traditional hierarchical approach.

Questions raised over breakfast and on Twitter centred around social media use for organizations that don’t necessarily sell a product, such as not-for-profits, municipal services, charities, and so on. How can we apply these tenets to our audiences? One answer is that you need to know your audience, of course, and to clearly articulate your goals. And next month’s Social Media Breakfast will focus on not-for-profit organizations and expand on their particular issues. Watch their website for details.

As a member of the academic community and also engaged in selling a product, we as an academic publisher also need to think about who our core audience is and use our time appropriately. As more and more academics move to a social media platform and use twitter, blogs, and personal pages to disseminate research to their audience, we need to be in that space as well. The trick of course is to balance that with tried and true methods of reaching people in ways they have come to expect. We thank the organizers and speakers this morning for providing some tools to explore these channels further.

Team Unicorn (Alan Quarry) won the debate, by the way, but it was a narrow victory. There was certainly value on both sides of the floor.

3 Responses to “Will unicorns really die? A debate on the role of ROI in social media at Social Media Breakfast Waterloo Region”

  1. Nic Boshart Says:

    I certainly don’t think marketing is dead, social media is marketing, in a lot of ways. It’s another facet of engagement. TV ads, print, billboards, these all still work to draw attention to a product.
    That said, there’s definitely a measurable ROI on social media. I think you can measure it, and can be clinical about the value it brings, depending on what you use it for. But it’s a weird bird, as it’s got to be both marketing and customer service. It’s like having your copy writer making house calls to fix customer’s cars. But that’s the way it is, now!

  2. Clare Says:

    “It’s like having your copy writer making house calls to fix customer’s cars.” — I like that, Nic! Exactly how it feels.

  3. Sarah Says:

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the most useful websites on the net.
    I am going to recommend this website!

Leave a Reply