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Is tracking ROI a social media requirement?

3 min read

Brands & Campaigns

This poll analysis was written by Jeremy Victor, editor-in-chief of For more of his writing, visit and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues. This week, we asked:

Do you feel pressure from your company’s management to demonstrate a return on investment for your social media efforts?

  • Yes: 61.24%
  • No: 29.46%
  • Not using social media for work: 9.30%

The response to this poll is music to my ears. You should feel pressure. We live in tough economic times, and with that comes the shared responsibility of ensuring long-term survivability of our companies. If you are not being asked to measure and track the effectiveness of social media investment, you should be doing it on your own. Every dollar matters, and ROI as a measurement is vital for directing future activities and decisions.

I’m not quite sure how anyone can justify not tracking ROI. And even worse, some are claiming that executives who do ask for it are hypocrites, as David Meerman Scott did this week in a blog post titled “Social Media ROI Hypocrisy.” An excerpt:

It’s ridiculous that executives require marketers to calculate ROI (Return on Investment) on one form of real-time communications: Social media like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Yet they happily pay for other real-time communications devices for employees like [BlackBerrys], iPhones, and iPads without a proven ROI.

Wait, what? Did he just compare devices used for a 20-year-old, established, universally adopted form of communication — e-mail — with a technology and communication medium that’s about 3 years old (from a business perspective)? That would be like asking, “Why aren’t you tracking the ROI of stamps?” when e-mail first hit the business world. It’s all communication, right? Wrong.

Any new investment is going to come under much higher scrutiny and skepticism than something long established. These executives are not hypocrites. They are smart business leaders. They are simply asking that when an investment in social is made, “Track its value to our company; understand its impact on our customers, stakeholders and bottom line.” You need effective measurements to know what is working, what isn’t and what’s necessary to justify further investment.

While I might agree that some executives are ignorant and use ROI as an excuse for not investing in social, I strongly believe a company’s management is doing the absolute right thing in asking for social media ROI.

What do you think? Are they hypocrites or good leaders?