Charting the Industry: Orgs Wrestle With Social Media ROI

While social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are now recognized as essential digital communications channels, a survey last month conducted at the digital marketing conference ad:tech shows that in 2010, 60% of the respondents realized the highest ROI from e-mail and the company Web site, and those same channels top the list for future investment among 46% of those responding.

“The survey results illustrate what many in the communications world already suspect: While marketers and PR execs are experimenting with social media, they are also struggling with the practicality and ROI of these channels, and driving the bulk of investment to more traditional digital channels,” says Bob Egner, VP of global marketing at EPiServer, which fielded the survey among CEOs, VPs, directors and digital communicators.

“The reality is that as communicators, we’re still early in our understanding of how to best use social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, and that more work needs to be done to effectively connect social and mobile marketing to lead generation and revenue growth.”


That’s a thought that Joel Frey, senior PR manager at Travelocity concurs with. “While social media has become an important conversation tool with customers and we’ve used it to help quickly change the perception of our brand when problems arise, the big ROI challenge for social media in 2011 and beyond is conversion,” says Frey. “We’ve taken some initial steps by adding more trip planning features into our social networks, but there’s still work to do in turning friends/fans/followers of our brand into loyal bookers.”

That’s not to say social media ROI is downplayed at Travelocity. The company uses social media as an additional channel to support integrated marketing and target certain consumer groups. “Here, specifically, we’ve had success integrating the adventures of the Roaming Gnome into our social media campaigns, and the ROI we’ve seen from a publicity standpoint has been terrific,” says Frey.


Yet social media ROI depends on the eye of the beholder. Laura Kane, VP of external communications at financial services company Aflac, says the Facebook effort she’s most involved with, the Aflac Cancer Center causes page, counts traffic generated to the page and engagement with the Aflac Cancer Center as positive ROI. As well she should: The Facebook destination has helped raise more than $1.2 million for the center. This should come as no surprise, as the survey finds that Facebook is the highest generator of ROI among social media platforms.

“The value I see in social media is that it is a way to inform and engage consumers about your products and services in a way that is relevant to them,” says Kane.

Due to competitive considerations, Frey won’t reveal specific social media plans for this year, but says social media will continue to be an “important part” of the overall communications plan. PRN

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Bob Egner,; Joe Frey,; Laura Kane,