Beyond Likes: How Google and Adobe Aim to Measure Your True Social ROI
Measuring marketing spending used to be pretty easy, at least in theory: You’d run a big ad campaign and then see if your sales rose. If they did, great. If not, then you wasted your money.
Social media has muddied the waters. A campaign may not do much for sales, but it might add a million Facebook fans or garner an impressive number of retweets. Does that mean you spent your money effectively?
Over the past month, Google and Adobe have attempted to answer that question. Both companies have released tools that let marketers track their marketing spending through social media. Such data aims to provide some concrete ROI behind the touchy-feely world of Likes, retweets and +1s — data that, on its own, amount to what Phil Mui, group product manager for Google Analytics, dubs “vanity metrics.”
Adobe, best known for design software such as Photoshop, is attempting to boost its credibility as a marketing services provider with Adobe Social. The tool, which is part of the Adobe Online Digital Suite, offers data from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. The latest version of Social, which was introduced earlier this month at a conference in Salt Lake City (see picture above, featuring director Jeff Jordan, senior product manager or social media), is an update of Adobe SocialAnalytics, which was launched in March 2011. Since that time, Adobe has purchased Efficient Frontier, a firm best known as a buyer and seller of ads on Facebook. The company has tapped that expertise for the latest version.
Aseem Chandra, VP of marketing for the Adobe Digital Marketing Business, says SocialAnalytics lets you track activity on those social media platforms and then take note of users who wind up on your website. If you sell something on your site, it can connect that activity to sales. The product was just released to the public on March 9, but Adobe has been working with a handful of brands for the past few months in a pilot program.
Among those brands is Expedia, the online travel firm, which ran a promotion in April 2011 called FriendTrips. The promo dangled $1 million in prizes. Participants entered to win one of 13 luxury vacations. However, you were required to RSVP five friends for each entry. Chandra says the effort netted Expedia 1 million new Facebook fans. By calculating the money spent on the promotion, $1 million, and the 750% increase in fans, SocialAnalytics reckoned that the cost-per-fan fell 4.5 times compared to previous campaigns. Users can also get data like fan demographics, likes and shares via SocialAnalytics.
Such information will cost you. Chandra declined to get specific, but said access costs “tens of thousands” of dollars, meaning it’s an option for some small- to medium-size businesses, but not mom-and-pops.
A little more than a week after Adobe released SocialAnalytics, Google announced Social reports, an addition to Google Analytics that attempts to show a causal relationship between social media activity and sales.
There are three major differences between Adobe’s and Google’s solution:
- 1. Google’s is free.
- 2. Facebook and Twitter do not provide data.
- 3. The data completely revolves around your website.
If you’ve used Google Analytics, you know that you can already see if recent traffic has been referred from one of the social networks. Google has expanded on that. Now, you can also see if someone interacted with your site days, weeks or months ago and then returned — a conversion that Google calls “assisted.”
Google also lets you place a monetary value on such interactions, though that’s somewhat subjective. If your site allows for direct sales, then figuring out that figure is easy enough. Otherwise, Google suggests you quantify each conversion. That can get tricky if you sell, for instance, cars, since merely visiting your site doesn’t necessarily equal a sale.
The assisted conversions are also subjective. Chandra lets marketers set their time frame. If someone on Facebook clicked on a link six months ago and then went back and bought something today, is that old interaction valuable? Google says it is if you think it is.
The lack of Facebook and Twitter metrics may also be an issue, but maybe not as much as you think. Perhaps you don’t want to dive into all the Likes and People Talking About metrics and just see in broad brush strokes how many people came from your site via Facebook. However, Google’s wealth of data for participating networks (the company claims about 20, including, of course, Google+), may make you wish Facebook and Twitter were cooperating.
For instance, if you see a bump in traffic from Google+, now you can call up actual conversations behind it. You can dig even deeper and identify your most influential users as well.
Is This Helpful?
Such data is attractive to marketers. If nothing else, it provides an answer to company bean counters’ questions about social media ROI. But are they useful for creating new social media marketing campaigns? Brian Solis, principal of Altimeter Group, says better metrics don’t address the fact that most marketers launch social media campaigns without a clear goal in mind.
“If you want to optimize Facebook’s contribution to sales, you have to design that at the front end,” says Solis, who recently completed a study looking at how influencers actually spread social media messages. He recommends creating programs that provide some value to such influencers and people connected to them. He also suggests defining what success looks like before you launch your program.
Since social media is still relatively new, that may be a tough task for marketers. One alternative is to try various things in social media and then track the results. Given the dynamic nature of social media and the mind-boggling number of variables involved with each campaign, isolating the elements that made a campaign successful might be tough.
All of which is why Google’s and Adobe’s new metrics might provide greater visibility into marketing done via social media, yet still can’t offer straightforward results. When it comes to the question of social media marketing ROI, the answer is still that old Facebook standard: It’s complicated.
Adobe Social: Set Up
This slide shows how it might look at the beginning of a campaign, with various stated goals.
Fatal error: Call to undefined function is_syndicated() in /home2/gatherer/public_html/wp-content/themes/goodnews_techgatherer/single.php on line 238