My views on people (and agencies) posing as social media ‘experts’ are well known. I’m not about to go on another rant about ‘gurus’ I promise. Bear with me on this one.
Social Media Week has just wrapped up in Glasgow. It was a great week, with a really diverse range of events (massive respect to the organisers for running it so well). During the week I attended an event that focussed on ROI from social media and how you can measure it. It was held by a ‘full-service’ digital agency based in Glasgow and London. I always enjoy hearing other people’s perspective on social media as a marketing channel and the ROI debate is one that appears to have some serious mileage left in the tank. The speaker from the agency in question took the stage and ran the audience through a typical intro to social media (cliché after cliché). After this, the topic changed to measurement and trying to prove ROI…
We were taken through a talk on some very basic metrics that can be accounted for. That was about it. No insight in to how these are used to prove value, assess effectiveness and shape the way a business uses the channel. The speaker used the old ‘social media is not about sales’ line which we all know is accurate to a certain extent, although I believe there has to be business actions coming from social media activity or serious questions will be asked. I think this speaker and the agency the speaker works for are likely hiding behind this excuse. I judge this on what I saw in front me and nothing else, to me, I think if you are given the opportunity to speak to an audience about such a well-versed topic, you need to get up there and really go for it, get people thinking and give solid advice and examples.
After the show was over, questions were invited from the floor. There was a barrage and not in a good way. The type of question that was being asked pointed to an audience that felt severely un-enlightened by what had unfolded before them. One person asked ‘are you guys tracking clicks through to websites and the outcome of those?’ The answer – ‘no that’s not possible at this time, it’s in beta with Google’. Really? Dear lord. Oh and did you know that Brandwatch is exactly the same as socialmention.com?
I’m not attacking the speaker here. The agency should never have put the individual on the stage. At one point the boss of the agency asked the speaker two questions that the speaker really struggled to answer. It was painful. The whole thing got me thinking, how many agencies are delivering true value to the clients that decide to spend their no doubt tight budgets on their services? If an agency is happy to work on a basis that ROI is ‘very difficult to prove’ and the client is happy to pay on that basis, then good luck to them. For me, this approach just devalues the work of people and agencies that are really pushing to de-mystify the social media channel, ensuring they are on the cutting edge of the game and ultimately delivering value that not only does all the nice fluffy engagement and brand building stuff that all and sundry preach about, but also actual bottom line results.
Will the wheat eventually be separated from the chaff? Or will businesses continue to be blinded by the ‘ROI is so hard to prove’ line? Thoughts would be appreciated…