Jun 302011

I’m a regular reader of Fast Company, and find it useful in keeping up with current business trends. Often the tools and trends I read about aren’t immediately applicable to the B2B and B2G worlds my agency lives in, but it’s good to keep an eye out.

Last week I read a story that definitely doesn’t apply for my clients. It was an article that basically said it’s really hard to quantify the ROI of social media, so it’s a good thing a lot of B2C companies don’t care. What!? Here’s the link.

The poster company of the story is Audi, which hired the startup firm Klout to help them run a Twitter campaign. Klout promises to find influencers online by examining their Twitter and Facebook profiles and assigning them a number, their “Klout score.” It sounds like Audi put real resources behind this effort, identifying 1,100 online all stars to tweet their hashtag #ProgressIs over 12,000 times.

So, did that translate into sales success? Doug Clark of Audi told Fast Company they just don’t know:

Clark concedes that, so far, he doesn’t have any numbers to prove that all this engagement has resulted in, you know, selling more cars. Amazingly, the company isn’t too interested in finding out, either. For Audi, Facebook and Twitter “are places where we know tech-minded consumers are active, where they’re seeking to engage with the brand,” Clark says. “But can I say that a fan is more likely to buy an Audi? No.”

I have a really hard time imagining any of my clients being so blase. They expect that the social media tactics I design and execute for them actually support business objectives like deal capture, lead identification/generation and improved SEO. As a former client myself, that makes total sense to me and I’d expect nothing less.

Here’s a tongue in cheek reference guide for social media marketing terms in the consumer world, graphic courtesy of Fast Company. I especially like the comment about how a nice looking social media dashboard gives the CMO an illusion of control:

I’ve talked often on this blog about how I prefer B2B and B2G social media to consumer. The objectives are usually clearer, the target audiences well defined and the goal is quality over quantity. Of course, you do need to define the ROI of the engagement if you hope to secure funding.

But apparently that’s not necessary in consumer work. You can design some pretty UIs and try some fun, creative stuff. And if you can’t quantify the benefit well, who cares? Apparently not the clients.

Sounds great — how can I sign up?!  (note to my clients — also said tongue in cheek)

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