I’ve been seeing a lot of reports from companies lately on the social media space. I just looked at the new Razorfish report “Fluent” in which they coin the new SIM score, Charlene Li just released a report recently on her Engagementdb site, Emarketer recently released reports on social media spend; and of course there are plenty of other reports from companies such as Forrester, IDC, PEW, Cone, etc. They all look pretty and they all have numbers and stats, but how much value are we really getting from them? Their numbers and projections are all different and oftentimes so are the methods they use to get their data. These reports also seem to fluctuate, one month marketing spend is expected to reach 5 billion by 2010 and the next month marketing spend is declining slightly. At this point in time social media is still so new that we’re going to see massive changes in short periods of time. Are these social media reports even being written by people that understand the social media space to begin with?
I’ve looked at so many reports already that my head is starting to spin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we are seeing these reports but I think we need to start putting less emphasis on them. For example, Charlene Li recently created the Engagement db report which correlates social media engagement with revenue generated by various companies. The conclusion? The more engaged the company is with the social media space, the more money it’s been able to generate. We’re talking about billion dollar companies here, and I find it very hard to believe that social media is really what’s driving these companies to succeed. I’m not saying the report is not valuable but it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Starbucks is making more money because they are involved in social media; aside from the fact that we know correlation doesn’t imply causation we also need to take a look at what else these large companies are doing to bring in more money. Again, using Starbucks as an example, here are just a few things they did recently:
- adjusted prices in their stores
- started creating local coffee shops with the Starbucks look and feel that ARE NOT called Starbucks
- offered free coffee for job hunters
- offered free pastries
- continuing a massive marketing campaign most of which is not social media related
- and much more
I mean isn’t it possible that the reason Starbucks is making money has nothing (or not much) to do with social media? Again, in the case of the Engagementdb report correlating the amount of money that a billion dollar company is making worldwide with their social media engagement is a pretty darn big stretch.
Sadly I don’t have all of these reports saved (I wish I did) but I have seen some pretty contradictory and vague stats from various reports out there. That and companies such as Razorfish are creating new terms/meanings for things such as their SIM score which is designed to measure a company’s social influence; do we need this?
If my influence score is lower than yours what the heck do I do? Talk more and get more facebook/twitter friends? Again, I’m not saying that these are bad reports but I think we need to focus on overcoming the challenges within social media; mainly:
- measuring/tracking ROI and impact
- budgeting for social media efforts
- time frames for social media engagement
- corporate culture
- and many others
We can create as many fancy reports as we want but at the end of the day what we really need are solutions to problems and real world examples of how companies are solving these problems. We get it, social media is important, it’s valuable, companies are starting to use it, and you know how to make pretty charts…now what? I think a lot of these reports are designed to get us excited about the space and to give us ammunition to go back to executives and say “see, our company should use social media.” Moving forward more ACTIONABLE reports are going to be a must.
How about the various acronyms that we are starting to create? It seems like every company, agency, and consultant is coining their own terms these days.
- Return on emotion
- Return on influence
- Risk of ignoring
- Social Return on influence
- Social return on investment
- (insert your term here)
If I were an executive at a large brand right now I’d be confused out of my mind.
At the end of the day you need to do what works for industry and your company. It’s good to pay attention to trends, but your organization is most likely NOT going to fit into those trends, so keep that in mind.
What sort of reports do I think are valuable? Here are a few ideas:
- A breakdown of social media spend by industry, company size, and location. I don’t care about what 70% of marketers from fortune 1000 companies are doing, I care about my space and my competition.
- How about a detailed breakdown of demographic/psycographic data for popular social networks such as twitter/linkedin/facebook released on a quarterly basis.
- A specific breakdown of where marketers are going to invest their money online. If social media marketing spend is going to increase by 45% next year where is that increase going to happen (i.e. what platforms are they targeting).
I realize that we may not have access to some of this data but as a marketer what’s the point of telling me “social media spending is going to increase by 4 billion dollars over the next 5 years” vs “social media spending is going up over the next 5 years.” Just some food for thought.
I’m going to talk about what I see some of the problems/solutions are in the social media space in upcoming posts, but for now think about all of the above and let me know what you think. How valuable do you find all of these social media marketing reports? What would you like to see in reports?