For the social media sphere ROI (return on investment) has been an elusive concept. Brands began to invest money and man-hours in this new medium. The exodus of users away from traditional media to new online media occurred so quickly that companies had to act first and evaluate later. The act phase was the honeymoon period for the marketing professionals given the task of guiding companies into the social media sphere. Companies engaged with customers, customers exchanged thoughts with each other and numerous communities were created. The evaluation phase is far more difficult to execute. Formerly, you could run an advertisement on the hottest prime time TV show, look up the ratings for the show that night and approximate the number of people who watched your ad. Social media is a vastly different forum that calls for engagement, transparency and qualitative results. The ability to convert the anecdotal data acquired from social media engagement into a measurement of return on investment has eluded even the most renowned social media experts.
Finally the old school and new school have come together to solve the social media world’s measurement problems. On Monday, Nielsen announced a partnership with Facebook to measure the impact of ads with a product they named Brand Lift (check out the Mashable post). Yesterday, Nielsen published a report showing that:
Americans have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend at social networking and blog sites such as Facebook and MySpace from a year ago, according to a new report from The Nielsen Company. In August 2009, 17 percent of all time spent on the Internet was at social networking sites, up from 6 percent in August 2008.
These advances in measurement will help the storytellers of the social media world prove to the accountants they answer to that their actions may just be paying off after all. For more about ROI check out this informative and funny presentation from Olivier Blanchard: