The ROI of Social Media: Is Valuation of a Like, Tweet or Pin Possible?

Genesis Neumann

Genesis Neumann

Genesis, a self-described ‘national treasure,’ wears many hats at DLC and prides herself on being a purveyor of each and every request, whether the team needs research, media relations or any other slew of projects completed. When she’s not hard at work with client development […]

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PR people have always been tasked with the complicated charge of proving the ROI of media relations, but as the average PR practitioner’s toolbox continues to grow, we are now trying to ascertain value in the ever-changing world of social media. As we scramble to keep up with the latest, greatest measurement tool, we often stop, and find ourselves wondering: Is there really any measureable value in social media?

This may sound ridiculous coming from a marketer – as in someone who makes a living using social media – but it’s more complicated than it may seem. There is intrinsic value in utilizing social media for a communications campaign, but there is no measureable value. We know that ‘Likes’ on Facebook equal awareness, but can we prove how much? What is the measureable value in a Like?

According to a complicated survey by Syncapse Corp., the value of one Facebook fan is $136.00. However, there are too many variable factors for anyone to guarantee that value in every Fan – it is an estimate, at best. A number of research reports have come up with different, vague descriptions of how to quantify the value of a Fan, but none have really shown absolute proof. The dollar amounts all are still based on arbitrary numbers and estimated equations. Even the more measureable Facebook advertising application has been called into question recently.

This week, General Motors decided to discontinue utilizing Facebook ads to the tune of $10M. Coming on the eve of Facebook’s IPO, the behemoth social network likely wasn’t too happy to have this news damper the excitement around a public offering that has been a long time coming. But, can you really blame GM? They were not able to find any measureable value in Facebook ads, so they stopped – sounds like the mark of a smart company.

In addition to Facebook, many communications professionals have struggled to assign value to Twitter. We knew we needed to be there – the audience is too large to ignore – but we then find ourselves with the impossible task of trying to assign value to a Tweet. Thankfully, applications like TwitterCounter, and the other myriad social media trackers online came along and eventually allowed us to at least show clients a less flimsy ROI, but that took time and it is still more or less a crapshoot.

Now, the latest and greatest social media tool is Pinterest. Almost immediately after its adoption as the must-try website of the day, marketers were scrambling to be there – because that’s where the consumers were. And so it begins, the next wave of snake oil salesman trying to carpetbag their way into our measurement plans by offering us advice, apps and charts on how to ‘measure’ the value of a pin. And you know what? We will listen to them. Not because we think every one of them has something worthwhile to say, but because it’s our job to try to figure this out, no matter how complicated.

Is social media impossible to quantify? Yes. Is it also absolutely necessary? Yes. Social media is the best frenemy of every communications professional: We love to hate it, but we know we need it.