Blowing our own cover…
You see the honest truth is that, as anyone who has been around advertising, direct marketing, experiential, public relations or “New PR” for any length of time knows that at some point the ROI figures that make or break client relationships were at some point or another made up. This is not a new point, and I do not wish to labor it here, but it is a good one to make, as it puts all of this debate around the measurement of social marketing in context. The fact is at some stage or another in the offices of professionals around the world men and women sat down and looked at their sums and made assumptions about how much what they were doing for their clients was worth. These assumptions were not fool proof by any means, but neither were they shots in the dark, but either way at some stage a leap of faith was taken and these professionals put down their tent pegs and said, “this is how we are going to do it”. At which point it became purely a matter of who could come closest.
If a man stands at a distance from a wall and then periodically halves that distance and halves it again, and then continues to repeat the process he will get to within a point that subatomic forces will not allow him to actually ever come in true contact with the wall, however he comes close enough that he rounds down to zero and concludes he has indeed reached the wall. (More on that here - it's called Zeno's Paradox) In much the same way with this kind of measurement was refined and refined by those who sought to answer the question until they came within what they deemed to be small enough measures of discrepancy that they rounded down and concluded they has indeed reached their wall – that all hallowed ROI figure.
However in an industry as young as my own, if is difficult to make such assumptions, as we currently still seem a great distance from that point in which can round down. This is for a a variety of reasons, although the traceability of online interaction is so clear, the way in which people interact is not such a tangible, and indeed measurable fact as it may at first seem. This is in part due to the ever changing ways in which people use the web, services like Second Life, Twitter and even the likes of the Disney owned Club Penguin (in which children can interact within one another by manipulating the life of their own Penguin on it’s own island) are changing the way that people use the web, meaning that in reality if we are to ever reach our rounding down point we must consistently and regularly reevaluate the criteria which we measure the social web with.
Having said this however, it is fair to say that even with the new and emerging platforms that the web has to offer, the task at hand has not changed from the three pillars that I outlines above, reach, perception change and call to action (CTA) are still the primary goals of our clients, and these goals have clear results in people, be they on the web or in the coffee shop.
If you missed part 1 of this article - find it here: PART 1