Should ROI be the only measure of social media?

Some have heralded 2012 as the year that social media will move from infatuation akin to dating in an early relationship, and mature to something more of a permanent partnership, but one that is assessed objectively for attributes and value.

Along with that move to partnership it is said will come demands for ROI (return on investment), and in particular a more sophisticated approach to measuring engagement and ultimately sales conversion. Sounds like it’s all about the money honey. But should it be?

Is it really time to assess this partner only on the nuts and bolts results that it can deliver to the cash register? Sort of feels like assessing that prospective partner for their ability to be a stable provider only, rather than considering all other facets of the relationship. Surely in the era of engagement and consumer brand influence, there is more at stake. Building brand equity takes time. It can be hard to measure. It’s kind of like trying to attach a value to a conversation. You can’t do it. You can’t buy a conversation, but you can surely provoke, engage or respond to one online. Arguably that conversation over time adds value to your brand. But does it generate immediate sales? Not necessarily, and that’s the point.

ROI and celebrating sales figures is an activity done quarterly and annually. Brand equity, share of mind and share of heart are not so tidily and timely delivered. But where there is share of heart, share of pocket book is bound to follow.

Mary Charleson

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