I've recently found myself in interesting discussions--one might call some of them debates--about ROI and Social Media. In recent weeks, Social Media ROI was the agenda for meetings with several clients, the focus of a panel on which I participated at Digiday Social, and a lively topic of discussion at a dinner of marketing leaders in town for the OMMA Global event. And today I read an article about Wal-Mart that got me to thinking about the dangers of too narrowly defining ROI.
It's interesting to hear the wide range of attitudes toward social media ROI. Some companies measure quite a bit about their social media activities but do not evaluate ROI in its most literal definition: The financial return generated by a specific monetary investment. Others go through a great deal of effort to measure ROI, creating complex models to calculate an approximation of financial return.
Some in the direct marketing space are beginning to value their social media efforts much as they do their PPC campaigns--assessing the cost of participation compared to the clicks, conversions and sales generated from trackable links seeded into tweets and Facebook posts. This sort of measurement is essential and inevitable for companies that sell direct to consumers, but it's important companies not become overly narrow and begin to assess social media as just another click-generating channel.
I was on client calls most of the day, and when I came up for air in the afternoon to check my RSS reader and Tweetdeck to see what what going on in the world I made a fascinating discovery. Like many of you I came across the following post from the Google Analytics Blog:
This was most unexpected, and my Thursday suddenly got alot more interesting.
Before we go any further let me state that I have not been briefed by Google on this news item. This post is purely based on my own initial thoughts on the matter.
The blog post announces Google's plans to release a browser plug-in that would allow consumers to opt-out of Google Analytics tracking. This offering is still in development, and the post offers no specifics on the release date, although it implies that this is only weeks away.
(Side note: It is also interesting to note the language used in the post. The post leads with "As an enterprise-class web analytics solution..." This isn't a surprising or entirely inappropriate assertion, but it strongly implies Google's aspirations for GA.)
There are many reasons why Google's course of action is counterintuitive. Naturally, the marketer in me recoils at the idea of voluntarily allowing measurable data to slip through our hands. Rationalizing web analytics data is already hard enough, and now this? And we can certainly debate the true privacy impact of web analytics on consumers.
Coming to you live this morning from the kick off keynote of the Adobe (nee Omniture) Summit in Salt Lake City. And I'm pleased to report that so far the event is as thumping and hued in neon green as in years past.
A nice change from past summits: Instead of discussing developments to Omniture's online marketig technology, today's Omniture keynote by Josh James is themed around "The New Principles Of A Successful CMO." These are Josh's principles for how marketing execs can succeed.