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David Meerman Scott and Social Media ROI Hypocrisy

Social media expert and author David Meerman Scott (whose content is syndicated through Newstex Authoritative Content) speaks about marketing and social media around the world. In a new video that he released this month, he tells the story of the number one question he’s asked at the vast majority of speaking engagement he attends — how do you calculate the ROI on social media marketing?

Instead of going into a detailed explanation of social media ROI, David asks his audiences three simple questions, and with a show of hands from audience members as they answer each question, he demonstrates what he calls social media ROI hypocrisy. You can see for yourself in the short video below which includes snippets from his actual audiences at events held in multiple cities across the globe.

What do you think of David’s method of explaining the hypocrisy of social media ROI?

As a 20-year marketing veteran, I’m in agreement with David in terms of the blind focus that many business people have in delivering ROI numbers for social media marketing initiatives. We live in a world of information paralysis where we can’t act unless the numbers tell us it’s okay to do so. Social media marketing is a long-term brand building strategy that includes short-term tactics, but it’s power comes from its ability to deliver long-term, sustainable, organic growth. There’s no place for “brand” on the company balance sheet, but there is no doubt that brand equity is a valuable business asset.

Social media conversations are similar in that there are currently few ways to accurately track ROI, but that doesn’t make social media any less valuable to an organization. It’s difficult to track ROI on many ads or on press releases, but companies still invest in them because they’ve been around for a long time. Social media is new and easy to question. It’s the organizations that don’t wait around for the numbers to act on the social media opportunity that will succeed in the long-term.

What do you think?


  • I think it’s a good idea to have measurable goals through tracking the quality of engagements over simple numbers for things that aren’t all that reflective of social activity. From what I’ve researched and interviewed, most companies today realize that they have to participate on some level of person-to-person engagement with social media platforms, and are starting to do better recruiting and fully flesh their own social media teams (externally and internally) around their own business playbook. The biggest challenge are the companies who’s business values don’t necessarily mesh with social behavior.

    • Grant, you’re absolutely right. I’ve delivered social media presentations to organizations that are tightly ruled by their legal and public affairs departments and their social media efforts are doomed to failure (or best case scenario, minimal results). Finding the right balance between controlling social conversations and behaviors and setting content and conversations free to drive word-of-mouth marketing is a frightening concept for many organizations! Building the right internal and external teams (including leadership) is particularly essential for these organizations that are far more likely to focus on numbers and quantity rather than quality of engagement and the long-term brand equity that comes from those social conversations and behaviors.

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