Has to be There
I find it really interesting that whenever there is a discussion of measuring the value of social media, there’s such a bias towards believing there is value in social beyond what can be properly measured. See the comments following this post by Avinash for a good example. Speculation is fine, but the confidence being expressed that a new tool or method will uncover a treasure trove of social media value seems un-scientific (as in scientific method) at best.
I don’t doubt there is some value in social media beyond what can be measured, as this has been the case for all marketing since marketing measurement began. These measurement problems are not new to social either: Marketing value created is often situational, it depends on the business model and environment. What works in one situation may not work in another.
To small local businesses who do no other form of advertising, there is a huge amount of relative value to using social media versus no advertising at all. Social advertising is much better than none, and since it’s free, the incremental value created by (properly) using social is huge. It’s also really easy to measure the impact and true value, since the baseline control is “no advertising”. Lift, or actual net marketing performance, can be pretty obvious in his case.
On the other hand, many companies are running lots of advertising designed to create awareness, and the incremental value of social as a “media” may be close to zero for these companies, or at least less than the cost to analyze the true value of it. Possible explanation: Social events such as “Likes” or comments are simply representations or affirmations of awareness already created by other media, so by themselves, create little value. In other words, events such as Likes might track the value of other media spending, but may not create much additional marketing value.