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August 08, 2008



Very intriguing post, thanks. I was in the same session at SMC, and may have even been the first to bring up the subject of ROI. I'm a "maverick" hoping to be an "optimizer"

A lot of attention is paid to the idea of the "fear" of losing control of the message. I don't believe that's always what's holding companies back. I think there are many companies that are willing to try various things, but not willing to shift headcount and other resources away from marketing and sales activities that are the norm. So they experiment in small ways. One could argue whether that experimentation gives enough data to extrapolate to a larger corporate strategy. And that's where the measurement and ROI comes in. Because if I can say that x sales resulted from these efforts, that's great. But because most of our products are not purchased online direct through the corporation, there's no convincing case that says my blog/forum/video is driving the sales of those products -- when the ads and other traditional marketing are still in place.

I think it's perhaps and industry model and not a size model -- companies with online goods and services where purchases are easily tracked through clicks will likely find more measurable and attributable results.

(sorry, I think I made up a few new words in the post. It's lunchtime).

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary.

Shawn Morton

Adam, thanks for the mention. I appreciate it. Hopefully I'll be able to better address your question once I've been here a bit longer. I am on day 15 right now :)

Albert Maruggi

the broader question raised by this excellent post is about fear and risk in American business. Is the need for predictability sapping creativity from companies?

I've been in politics and government so I know you can make numbers justify just about anything. It is funny though how some people will cling to the numbers they are comfortable with e.g. Direct mail, print advertising versus the unknown of social media.

One last point, social media is about relationships the softer stuff that many corporations can't stand. Some corporate hallway whispers might be, "Why can't I just make stuff, put it on the shelf and people buy it? You mean I have to talk to them?! Yeah I miss the old days," I can hear them execs grumbling.

Keep up the faith

Adam Cohen

@Ann - thanks for your comments. I agree it is a careful balance. In terms of ROI there is an interesting paradox: big companies can afford to experiment more, yet they are more likely to seek ROI for approval of efforts in social media before embarking on them. You also planted a great seed for a future post: social media for online vs. traditional companies and whether the benefits of social media can apply equally.

@Shawn don't sell yourself short ;) Many folks will be watching for the impact a social media team can have for a company like Nationwide. Have fun and I look forward to hearing more down the road.

@Albert Absolutely agree about the "fear factor" sapping creativity...and that the companies who get past that have experiments that are more impactful. A great example is Panasonic's shaveeverywhere.com (which has since been toned down from it's initial launch). Agree also about the hallway whispers. Even products that should sell themselves need one to one customer engagement. Thanks for your comments!

Dean F. Skinner

Quite honestly, I've flipped my POV on this at least twice, but I'm going to throw my hat in the ring for "easier" based on two primary factors and putting all internal/corporate obstacles aside:

1) Big brands have an established brand awareness (and hopefully it's positive)
2) Big brands have an established audience/consumer base (and hopefully they're loyal and even somewhat of an advocate for the brand)

I go back a couple of careers from now when I was fortunate enough to work with the nation's leading frozen food brand. We had a database of well into the millions that frequently informed us that they loved us and wanted more from us. A tremendous scenario and advantage, ripe for the picking for a social marketing/media initiative. Although I believe all consumers (particularly online) enjoy "the hunt and thrill" of finding the unknown/underdog brand and spreading the word amongst their peers, these brands are still starting with virtually no awareness, audience, history and success.

So again...my vote is easier. Good topic, Adam. Thanks!

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