Limited Time Offer: Save 30% on PRO with code WOOHOO »

Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

The Next Giant Leap for Social Media Marketing

by Jason Falls  |  
March 21, 2012

We blog, we tweet, we post. Our measurement systems tell us how many people read, click, and retweet. If we’re smart, we can tell how many people are seeing our messages and how many people are responding to them in some relevant way. We know how many people clicked through and downloaded whitepapers. We know how many people may have clicked through and purchased something we sell online.

But for all the measures and analytics we have with social media marketing, we still don’t have a full understanding of what it really does for our business.

I had the honor of sitting on a panel at South by Southwest recently with Katie Paine, Lisa Joy Rosner, Jeremiah Owyang, and Dave Evans. We talked about social media coming of age and how businesses are beginning to reach a maturation with social marketing.

Owyang brought up an interesting point that I see as the next generation of business measures we focus on in social media. He said we’ve become really good at monitoring and analyzing what people are saying, but we still haven’t connected those dots to what people are doing. We have to start analyzing consumer behavior, not just conversations, to get a true peek into how effective our social marketing can be.

Evans chimed in that once we begin to see the behavior and ladder that information to the overall operations of a company, then we really begin to see what a social business really looks like.

While some of us can argue we know what social media marketing can make our customers do, the only ones who can really report those metrics are the ones who only sell things online. If you have a brick and mortar store, a B2B business with a long buying cycle, or a professional service as your primary product, you don’t know for sure where that customer came from.

Did your tweets produce leads that led to business? A Facebook promotion? Photos pinned on Pinterest? What about your email marketing?

Even the most sophisticated measurement systems have trouble delineating where customers really came from unless the websitevisitor came from a social channel and purchased something right away. If website visitors downloaded a white paper or signed up for a webinar in a standard, digital marketing lead-generation mechanism, some companies will track that lead through the process and credit it back to the inbound channel.

But honestly, many companies don’t try hard enough to provide that level of accountability.

The next great leap for us as social marketers is to develop systems that do. We’ve got to begin taking social media metrics and turning them into business metrics. We have to be able to say, within some level of reason, that Facebook or LinkedIn means X or Y amount in business to us.

If we don’t continue to push for those systems, we’ll soon find ourselves trying to convince someone else that counting followers and fans is a good way to measure social media. And that someone else will be people interviewing us for our next jobs.

Jason Falls is an author, speaker, and CEO of Social Media Explorer. He is hosting Explore Nashville, a one-day, intensive social media and digital marketing workshop on April 13 in Nashville, Tenn., along with a who’s who of digital marketing expert speakers. MarketingProfs readers are entitled to a 50% discount for the event. Go to and use the Promotional Code MPROFS to get half off your ticket to Explore Nashville on April 13.

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Skydiver)

P.S. Want to attend Explore Nashville for FREE? Zero? Zilch? Nada? You could win a free ticket if you share this post on Twitter AND include the hashtag #ExploreMarketingProfs. Doing so puts you in the running to be one of four lucky folks who will win a free pass to Explore Nashville! We’ll draw the names randomly on Wednesday, April 4, and will notify you via Twitter.

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:

Jason Falls has led a national advertising agency's interactive and social media efforts, worked with Fortune 100 brands as a social media strategist, and served as an independent consultant in the social media industry. He has advised major, regional, and niche brands including Humana, The Envelope Manufacturers of America, Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbons, Louisville Slugger, and The National Center for Family Literacy. He is also the co-founder of the Social Media Club Louisville.

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Angie Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Jason: I agree, and I've been saying this for a while. Far too many people count number of followers or subscribers as proof of their social media success.

    Proof can only really be provided by measuring how many people put their hands in their pocket and buy from your business. Thousands of followers mean nothing unless some of them are buying from you due to your social media efforts.

    Unfortunately, for the businesses who use many channels to market, it's quite hard to measure each one individually: I'm sure we've all completed forms online that have asked the question 'where did you first hear of us' and struggled to answer it truthfully, because we really can't remember; and without accurate data it is difficult to measure the true effectiveness between channels.

  • by wyatt Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Which is exactly why Google is moving towards more tracking capability within Google Analytics for search.

  • by Margo Schlossberg Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    I agree with the above. Social media is a great place for people to "hang out" to kill time but how much of the social media traffic converts? In a down economy perhaps virtual "window shopping" is taking place and it is hard to be profitable if that is the case.

  • by Mark Schmulen Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Great post Jason. I agree that the billion dollar data solution is around tracking how online interactions translate into offline business transactions. This is much easier said than done because of restrictions that most social networks put on data portability and user identification. Have you found a sCRM that has overcome that challenge?

  • by Jason Falls Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Agreed, Angie. Thanks for chiming in.

  • by Jason Falls Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    How will that help us track off-line behavior, Wyatt? Curious.

  • by Jason Falls Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Fair point, Margo, but I don't think we live in a world with such extremes. I think there are plenty of companies out there that are converting leads and customers through social media and are tracking those metrics. And there are lots of social media connections that do convert or even seek out coupons, deals and offers from companies. Sure, we've got a long way to go before it's standard operating procedure for social media traffic to convert for everyone, but I don't think social media is just a place where people kill time.

  • by Jason Falls Wed Mar 21, 2012 via blog

    Not really, Mark. Other than offering up coupons, tracking codes, etc., exclusively through social, you're not going to find any platform that can rest assuredly connected the online connection with the offline behavior. While some businesses will have a tough time making the connection, many are, though. Or are at least trying. Here's hoping the evolution of data portability and mobile platforms will help us better move toward a more full understanding of where our business comes from.

  • by Hanim Thu Mar 22, 2012 via blog

    Thanks so much for highlighting this matter. It's been quite an uphill battle for me to convince my clients that having thousands of fans or followers is not a metric that they should be focused on. I prefer to work on a more attached engagement with the fans/followers to the point that they continue to be with the company/brand on an engaged journey. Talking about conversions, I've had some minor achievements in tracking the leads and eventual conversions through a few social media metrics. Obviously it wouldn't be the overall actual figure but it was certainly a morale booster.

  • by John Refford (@iamreff) Thu Mar 22, 2012 via blog

    Jason, I agree that it's a huge opportunity, but is it a fools errand? In many cases, such as those you list, the effort to attribute revenue to marketing via social media is GARGANTUAN. You have to collect tons of data (outbound marketing, customer response, field sales meetings, outbound sales calls, etc). And even if you have all the data some of it will be suspect. For example, some of the site visits might not have cookied. Once all the data is assembled and cleaned you need to do some major league analytics to tease out of the data the actual impact of social media on the sale - and I sense that is much easier said than done.

    If I consider the cost to do all that work, which is all good stuff, the resources spent probably ate through any potential profitability that social media gained.

    *sigh* So while I agree on the opportunity, for now I'm content knowing that I don't have a quantitative measure of the impact of social media to sales revenue. There are real opportunities for measuring social media efforts, such as customer service, but sales attribution seems insurmountable today.


  • by Jason Falls Thu Mar 22, 2012 via blog

    So was Everest at one point. ;-)

  • by @Marketing_Matt Fri Mar 23, 2012 via blog

    There's no 'giant leap' here, one of the issues all marketers face is trying to showing ROI and untangible benefits through a mix of channels which includes social. One customer could have interacted directly and indirectly with a brand multiple times - but knowing what the tipping point is will always have an element of ambiguity - especially when there are so many elements to the marketing mix.

  • by Mark at Magicbuz Sat Mar 24, 2012 via blog

    Jason, you are quite correct. Social media is more of a PR function that a direct sales function. With traditional advertising, no one could really tell how effective TV, Radio, Print and billboards were in relation to each other. It is a cumulative effect that you are after.

  • by Cathy Dunham Tue Apr 3, 2012 via blog

    After reading everyone's comments, it's like we're all still faced with the same tracking problems: proving ROI and level of impact due to social media marketing.

    In the real world, when listening to social media panelists who rave about their SMM successes, there seem to be several common threads:

    #1. They are business owners who spend a lot of time in social media.
    #2. They listen and respond to customers - in a very timely fashion.
    #3. They KNOW they are connecting with qualified visitors/customers.
    #4. They KNOW that it's making a difference. They cannot show me a chart or numbers, but they all seem to report similar results, "since I started social media, my business has increased XXX%."

    If you're connecting and networking effectively in social media, it's gonna bring value one way or another. It's just hard to illustrate "gut feeling" in a "bar chart"... LOL

  • by Sushant V Tue Apr 17, 2012 via blog

    Jason: Agree with you. I think we have a problem of plenty at hands. Too many channels generating too much data that can not be integrated into a "whole" picture. In absence of such integration we are reduced to feeling great about the no. of comments, tweets, retweets etc. These of course are important but its the time now to move towards more tangible business benefits of social media. I feel marketers more than the agencies are in a better position to define metrics and linkages with business outcomes. Another are I see has a great merit is the use of technology to integrate the consumer data from various marketing campaigns in a single locations and use anlaytics to make sense of it. Till then, let the no. of posts and tweets rule!

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!