Social ROI: Isn’t A Loyal Shopper Already Going To Buy From You?

Written by Evan Schuman
June 18th, 2013

The indirect nature of social media marketing for retail makes for a lot of frustration. IT execs are desperate for any concrete examples of ROI and pollsters (working for vendors) are only too happy to try and accommodate, even if those stats are meaningless. This unhappy thought bubbled up again this week when survey results were released that proclaimed in the headline: 31 percent of online Canadians are more likely to purchase after following a brand on Twitter.

Let’s start with the basics on this one. Setting aside for the moment the counter-conclusion (“Why is it that 69 percent of online Canadians are not apparently more likely to purchase after following a brand on Twitter?”), the implication of this stat is to suggest a connection between the Twitter efforts and an increase in purchases/conversions. But isn’t a shopper who chooses to follow a retail brand almost certainly already a fan of that brand and, as such, already someone who is quite likely to make purchases?

If true, is Twitter in this case acting as an influencer (something that makes the shopper much more open to making a specific purchase) or merely as a facilitator/enabler (something that makes it a lot easier for a shopper to do something that they already want to do). To be fair, that would suggest some level of ROI either way, but it’s a very different ROI that needs to be handled very differently.

Unlike the fictional chief marketing officer depicted in the TV commercials who slaps around a social media consultant until he says what the CMO wants to hear (the 30-second ad is really funny, but unrealistic. For realism, it should have been the retail CIO who was slapped around), it makes little sense to look at social media and try and extrapolate what impact it had as opposed to talking with shoppers to understand the why behind their actions. (Note: there is a nice companion commercial to the ROI slapping one, with a BS-detector and electric shocks. This is a good one for the sadists out there.)

One of the counter-intuitive realities of social media is that, as it’s become more popular, it has become much less effective at influencing (rather than facilitating) actions.


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