I have been really busy recently, with this launch and that, but in my spare time I have been reading quite a lot on the ROI of social media and scratching my head. As more and more of these amazing buzz monitoring tools spring up out of the woodwork providing us with this set of data and that, it seems the big question is still what is the return on investment from social media?

Sure data is all good and well but unless you have someone with half a brain who can process that data and tell you why this spike in conversation took place it’s pretty much useless – as useless as giving a caveman a microwave.

I am sure there are loads of brands out there monitoring social channels but not doing anything with the data they get and that’s the most important bit. If you are listening that’s great – now use that information to improve your product or service.

I was running a social media workshop with the marketing team of a well-known global brand the other day and they were saying that the most senior person in their business was regularly asking: “That’s great but where is the money?” Now for a start I do think that is a bit callous. However, let’s be honest here that’s what every business really wants – sales. Social media can be fun, help with traffic and it’s a great form of direct communication with your customers but at the end of the day the client wants to see an impact on their sales.

I have been working for another client for several months now writing and engaging on various social networks and they have regularly asked me about direct sales from social media and often I had to show them the data from the latest campaign but I did struggle to show direct sales from social media. To be honest I helped the client begin from a standing start and although they regularly acknowledged that their website’s traffic had increased by more than 300% and the most popular section of their website was their blog – the client still wanted to know the direct sales impact from running a social media campaign.

Personally, I think this is an education process for us all working in this industry. Social media is about helping the sales process but it’s far, far more than that. It has many more benefits than most other forms of marketing – don’t get me wrong I am not saying it’s not the holy grail to business success but if its executed beautifully and integrated properly with a media relations, advertising and direct mail campaign it can be hugely effective. Thankfully the client I am referring to got a £10,000 sales enquiry last week off the back of a blog post, and the client told me personally, which was nice to hear. I suppose I am saying it can take time to educate but we should all try to do our best.

So for one last time, social media isn’t about direct sales, it’s about building relationships. However, if you build strong relationships the money will eventually follow because people buy from people they like.

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About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.