Where is the money in social media?

There has been a thought running in my mind for quite some time which I have very infrequently mentioned in public.  Whenever the topic has come up it has been either informally between other colleagues here at LCG, or under semi-hushed voices at industry events with other partners and firms.



What we often say under hushed voices is some variance of, “We’re not seeing real money in social media…”



Why might so many professionals in digital marketing be saying the same thing and nodding to each other behind “closed doors?”  And what could it mean?



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Its important when making a statement as controversial as this that we take time to approach the question from as analytical a point of view as possible.  There are two possible things that could be happening.



A) There truly is limited value for a business to gain from investment in social media.



B) We do not know how to calculate the value, or ROI, or social media.



I will look to item B first, since calculation must be completed before we can assign any value to the topic.  Recently a great article in Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/08/28/3-reasons-why-theres-no-measuring-roi-on-social-media/2/ argued that there really was no way to calculate the ROI in social media.  I won’t go into the details of the argument made there, I encourage you to read the article yourselves, but overall I agree with the statements made there.



The most important of which is the fact that there are way too many variable data points to ever truly assign ROI to any specific social action.  Now this does not mean that there is no value in social media, at this point, its just worrying.  Especially considering that most budgets in social media are being driven by FUD instead of true marketing calculations.



C) We are looking for the wrong kind of value from social media.

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