This is an article I wrote for PointZero Magazine.  If you have a moment check it out here.  It’s a new magazine that offers a wealth of knowledge on the social media space.

In the last 18 months, Social Media Marketing has generated a lot of attention and buzz in most enterprises. From the innovative uses of social media during the US Presidential campaign of Barack Obama, to individuals creating a personal brand on blogs and microblogs, everyone seems interested in getting in on the social media hype. Mainstream media continues to point to unprecedented adoption rates of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn among others, leaving enterprises to move beyond the question of whether or not to adopt social media as part of the marketing mix, and into how they should adopt it.

Most enterprises have made attempts at dipping their toe in social media mostly by establishing a presence on what we will call the “free social web” – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.  While these social outposts are extremely important for branding and driving traffic to an enterprise’s web site or online community, they are difficult to measure and track and, most importantly, it’s difficult for the brand to own the conversations happening within the broader social web.  These sites own the explicit data (profile information, demographics data, etc) and implicit data (comments on other posts, details on connections, responses to polls, allegiance to fan pages, etc) making the information difficult or impossible to review, interpret and act on.

Leveraging and Launching Social Media
Enterprises that are at the point of expanding their social media initiatives by launching their own market facing community benefit by learning from the successes and failures of other brands. Three common mistakes Enterprises make are:

•    The “build-it-and-they-will-come” fallacy—This happens when a company focuses too single-mindedly on the tools and forgets to consider the marketing programs that are driving membership and participation in their community.  Too many brands believe once the community is launched it will result with hundreds of thousands of members out of the gate.  The truth is the launch of a community should go hand-in-hand with a well though marketing program and activities to drive membership and participation.
•    The “let’s-keep-it-small-so-it-does-not-move-the needle” phenomenon— Some enterprises seem to get into a permanent state of pilot when it comes to social media marketing programs. At some point you either need to move on and scale, or decide that social media marketing is not for you and shut it down.
•    The “not-invented-here” syndrome—This can happen when a very strong community already exists, and the company tries to create a new one and lure members to their own platform. In some cases it makes more sense for that company to engage where the community already hangs out and affiliate with them instead of trying to compete with them.

Measuring ROI – It’s both important, and possible
Earlier this year Chris Brogan (President of New Marketing Labs) and I conducted research on Corporate Trends in Social Media Marketing.  We learned that most enterprises that dipped their toes into social media were planning larger, more comprehensive strategies in the second half of 2009 that involved deploying their own customer or market facing online communities.  The primary motivation of the enterprises planning these initiatives were addressing standard marketing goals including promoting brand, increasing customer engagement and driving demand generation activities.  On the flip side, the biggest concerns of the same enterprises were around ensuring their brand image is not tarnished within a community and that they can generate high levels of participation among community members. An additional concern identified in the survey was the perceived inability to track an RIO with social programs.

Measuring ROI in social media is something everyone involved in the space is trying to capture. While there are many different opinions on the subject no one has established an industry standard. One of the primary reasons behind the lack of a standard ROI definition for social media is because, as we learned in the survey, there are many different objectives for social media programs. For example, while page views may be a compelling metric for a UCG campaign, it may indicate poor performance in a peer support community.

Without standard metrics, organizations need to know whether or not social media programs are making an impact. As companies adopt and enhance social programs they need to be sure that the vendors they select to support the technology component of the social program understand the differences in business objectives companies have and have the appropriate metrics in place to track an ROI. With the right platform and tools in place, measuring ROI is easily possible.