Why Social Media is More Measurable Than Traditional Media

We all keep hearing about the ROI from social media and how difficult it is to actually measure the results from social media campaigns.  It’s true, tracking the overall ROI from social media is not entirely possible since there is a large qualitative and not quantitative aspect involved.  However, there is a lot that we can measure in social media.  In fact, I’m arguing that social media is actually more measurable then traditional media.

Traditional media campaigns rely on eyeballs, meaning the amount of people who actually see the ad.  Think about the companies that buy a full page spread in The Wall Street Journal or N.Y. Times.  How much do you think that costs?  According the information I found, a full page ad in The Wall Street Journal costs around $175,000A 30 second commercial costs around $350,000, Billboards are around $25,000/year and Radio ads run around $5,000/week.  Of course, these are just a few of the prices I found and these are just a few of the examples of different types of traditional media.  So how do you measure the success of these massive costs?  Well, you try to figure out how many people saw the ad, it’s like measuring the success of your Adsense campaigns strictly by impressions, not very effective.  Companies also conduct surveys, ask questions, etc. to judge the success of these campaigns, but overall they’re really not THAT measurable.  Traditional media relies on one way communication with as many people as possible, but then what?  Our attention is decreasing, now more then ever it’s easy for us to ignore ads.  All we have to do is click the back button, change the channel or the station, or turn our heads; which in most cases is exactly what we do.

Now let’s take a look at social media and some of the things we can measure.  As you know most of the platforms and tools are free and the majority of the cost falls under “time” (unless of course you are building a micro-site or some sort of customized social media platform/game/etc.).  I’m just going to make a quick bulleted list of some of the things we can measure:

  • traffic to a site, there are many ways to measure this i.e. referral sites, organic listings, etc.
  • amount of conversation/number of comments that you receive
  • overall brand image, if one month ago people were slamming your brand and are now singing praises about it, that’s a success
  • amount of times something is shared with other people
  • the number of sales or increase in revenue, you can track this by using analytics programs and setting up funnels/goals to track conversion paths
  • number of rss subscribers/followers/people that want to engage and interact with you or your brand
  • number of inbound links to a page or site, which can subsequently affect the search rankings

These are quite a few things we can measure from social media campaigns; far more then what we can measure through traditional media campaigns.  Now, one of the most important things we can’t measure through social media is the overall ROI due to quality of conversation/interaction.  You can look at the quantity of comments as a possible metric but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture.  If you only receive one comment that changes the direction of your business for the better, but you’re using the number of comments as a success metric, does that mean you fail?  No.

The key to understanding social media success and ROI is not to look at individual metrics because you will completely misrepresent and misunderstand its effect.  You need to look at many variables as a whole to see the big picture and overall social media impact.

Social media success is also tough to predict.  With traditional media you can have a very good idea of how many people will see the ad(s) before you launch a campaign.  With social media you cannot predict many of the variables mentioned above but once you get involved you can understand its impact and you can make it grow.  It’s an interesting concept to grasp but it’s one of those things you can’t measure or predict, unless you get involved.

Do you agree or disagree?  What’s more measurable social media or traditional media, and why?

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