Tuesday, November 25

Questioning Measures: MarketingProfs

Odd. Very odd. Those are about the only words I can use to describe what it was like to read two different posts on ROI for social media at MarketingProfs.

Lewis Green, founder and managing principal of L&G Solutions, LLC, shares his post on The Real ROI of Blogging. A few minutes later, Beth Harte, a marketing, communications & social media consultant, posts Want to Figure Out Your Social Media ROI?.

One post points to specific objectives based on measures, such as client engagement, loyalty, referrals, and even sales. The other sets objectives too, but the objectives are all based on reach, such as the number of product mentions on Twitter and blogs. The difference? One sets its objectives to outcomes that represent tangible business returns and the other sets its objectives to measuring the reach of social media marketing.

While I appreciate what Harte is trying to do by asking questions and recommending a plan, communicators always have to be careful not to set the objective of a marketing campaign to be the exposure of a marketing campaign. That's as erroneous as public relations professionals counting column inches and media mentions and calling it a day.

The difference between conversations and outcomes.

When I spoke at G2E, the distinction was made clear by direct example. I had a brief Twitter conversation with Matt of CW Multimedia. But unless I visited his booth as I said I would, it was only a conversation. Simply put, visiting the booth was an outcome.

Since he was at a meeting with Zappos when I arrived, Kevin Stone, chief technical officer, had a conversation instead. His ability to explain their technology as it might pertain to my panel session on social media was an outcome. Mentioning how their mobile marketing technology might apply to social media during the session was a conversation. But whether any of those attendees choose to contact the company is the outcome. (Please note: none of this had anything to do with how many Twitter followers he had.)

The confusion between the two seems to be that various professionals are attempting to separate them. Obviously, assuming the conversation has a purpose (eg. inviting people to the booth), one cannot exist without the other if a company hopes to survive. As Amber Naslund points out: "You cannot calculate a return on anything unless you know whether or not your goals — and your definitions of both Return and Investment — are the right ones."

Or, maybe we can put it another way. If the number of conversations are the only measure, then Wal-Mart has the best communication program on the planet. As provable as that could be, the conversation is frequently skewed negative.


Web Success Diva on 11/29/08, 3:13 PM said...

Great post, I noticed the same thing. Unfortunately, I think both miss the mark on some points.

Rich on 12/1/08, 1:32 PM said...

Thank you Diva.

You might be right. More and more, I see this as two ends of the candle when working toward the middle might suffice. Social media, like all communication, is about reaching people.


Beth Harte on 7/2/09, 6:44 AM said...

Hi Rich, believe it or not, I just noticed that you wrote this post...a MAJOR delay on my part, I apologize.

I just wanted to clarify a few things and ask you a question.

The objectives that I wrote in my sample plan were "outcome" objectives and were properly written to be measurable.

Output, outtake and outcome objectives all serve a different purpose, but are all completely valid forms of measuring a plan or campaign.

Lewis mentions strategies, but nothing that is clearly measurable as defined by a properly written measurable objective to measure blogging success.

So, I guess my question is why do you feel that I missed the mark? How is it "strategies" are more valid than a measurable objective from a business perspective?

I think regardless of it being a PR, marketing or social media plan...it's all measurable with properly written objectives, which must include:

1. A specific desire communication or behavioral effect;
2. A designated public (or publics) among whom the effect is to be achieved;
3. The expected level of attainment; and
4. The timeframe in which those attainments are to occur.

I wrote more about it here: http://is.gd/1ltL1

Your insights are appreciated, thanks Rich!

Rich on 7/6/09, 7:48 AM said...


This was some time ago, sure.

The output, outtake, outcome concept is fine, I guess, even though I don't see outputs as objectives. Producing something is not not an objective, but rather a tactic that serves the strategy. Producing conversations for the sake of is not an objective, for example.

An outtake as you define it, might be an objective because it's directly related to changing behavior or attitude. You can set an objective to change public perception, for example, and there is nothing wrong with that. I'm not sure there is a need to delineate it.

Can you measure the total number of conversations? Sure. Is that important. Yes, as it would be a function of reach (how many people were touched by the communication). But the real communication work comes into play by measuring whether that conversation changed perception and/or produced some outcome).

You're right in that all portions are measurable; and they need to be. But where some new communicators go wrong is they place it in the wrong count column. Public relations is especially at risk, given the number of firms that count column inches as awareness on its own is not an objective.

It's a little clunky in parts, but I think my ROC Abstract might help clarify the difference.

I might add that overall, I do think your newer post is much closer in terms of strategic thinking and I'm glad to see the progression from the post I mentioned here vs. the new post you mentioned in June. I'll be certain to give it some more thought. :)

All my best,


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