Thursday, 25 October 2012

Measuring social: Even Q couldn't do it.

I'm sure you've seen this video from Coke Zero. It's brilliant.

Best example of a marketing viral I've seen in ages and I'm sure the Coke Zero social marketing team are giving themselves well deserved pats on the back.

This one's going to turn up in every "how to do social" slide deck that gets produced in the next 12 months. It's a rare example of a social campaign where nobody's going to argue with the value. Any marketer would be proud to have it on his CV.

But what if finance got awkward?

What if they insisted you'd never be allowed to pull a stunt like this again, unless you could prove it sold some bottles of Cola?

Well then you'd have a problem.

I've posted before that for a variety of reasons you've got virtually no chance of linking social media activity to sales. Actually, let's rephrase that. There are hundreds of ways to imply a link, but it's virtually impossible to prove a link, mostly because it's hard to get good audience data on who saw the viral and when they saw it, plus any positive effects it has on sales are likely to build up slowly, so looking for an immediate spike won't work.

We've all seen loads of 'how to measure the ROI of social' articles, which then spend five hundred words avoiding the question, but for once, I'd like to hit that question head on. First of all, for ROI in terms of additional sales, forget it. Even if you've got sophisticated econometric models in place you'll be lucky to pick up the effect. So here's what I'd do.

Your answer is going to need a £ figure in it, because you're talking to finance. Loads of Facebook shares and positive Twitter sentiment isn't going to cut it.

That YouTube video's got 3.8m views, so line up your social campaign vs. the alternatives. How much would it cost to run a TV advertising spot that achieved 3.8m impacts?

Actually, not that much. In the UK, take an average adult cost per thousand impacts on TV of £5 (ish) and you're looking at an equivalent value of... £19,000.

Damn, that's not very impressive. Probably not enough.

Say you can show that the audience for the YouTube vid is a bit better than a blanket "adults" target. That it's younger and would be harder to reach with TV. That wouldn't be difficult; if nothing else, you could show that YouTube users in general are younger and so your viral audience probably is too.

Now you might be able to justify a cost per thousand of around £50, rather than £5 because hitting younger viewers with TV spots is expensive. Your equivalent media value is £190,000. Better.

But hang on, that video is two minutes long, not the standard 30" TV spot. Four times the spot length, gets us to a value of £760,000.

That's more like it.

It's also more good evidence for why you'll struggle to measure a social media effect on sales. A global TV campaign for Coke with a budget of £760,000? Don't make me laugh. It's a drop in the ocean.

Once you've got a nice solid financial number, you can layer on some softer metrics, always referring back to  what it would have cost you to expose that audience in a different way. Did you gain Facebook followers? Great. They're valuable because you can talk to them again, rather than spending money somewhere else.

Shares on Twitter? Careful, those people are already in the YouTube plays number.

New followers on Twitter? Lovely, just like the Facebook ones, they have a value because now you can show them more advertising messages.

The last step you might want to try is that direct link to sales. You won't be able to prove it (I might have mentioned that) but you can imply it. If there's a general ROI to TV circulating in the business then you've just put social in the same space as that media, so you can potentially borrow it. How many sales would a TV campaign of that value have generated?

You might also be tempted to make the case that somehow Facebook advertising messages, or YouTube video views are 'better' than TV spots - that they're more engaging and with higher impact - but be very, very careful. You're doing this exercise for finance and they're almost certainly starting from the viewpoint that an ad is an ad, no matter where it's shown. Do you have rock solid evidence that it's better (ROI better) to talk to people on a social network than on TV? I don't. In fact I have the opposite, because you're more likely to be talking to existing customers.

Do what you can with the real financial metrics and accept that sometimes, your equivalent ROI number isn't going to look very impressive. After all, we've just proved that the best viral we've seen this year is probably worth less than running £1m worth of the same creative on TV.

No comments: