The Future of Social is Action and ROI

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Nov 16, 2012

dan smith resized 600Throughout November we'll be sharing recaps, follow-ups and reflections on FutureM from our amazing event partners. This post is by Dan Smith. Dan is the Vice President of Marketing at Dailybreak, where he leads both B2B and B2C marketing efforts. Prior to joining Dailybreak, Dan led marketing, customer acquisition, loyalty, brand management, social media, and public relations at, the industry leading consumer electronics trade-in company.

Social media is a growing and important part of every marketer’s arsenal. The first phase of social media was largely about amassing an abundance of followers, as a shiny trophy to prove a brand’s reach and popularity. With these droves of fans we enter the next phase of social media, where the emphasis is placed on engagement and action, as marketers and brands are demanding more measurement and accountability from their efforts.

Dailybreak, a leading social engagement marketing platform for large brands, held a panel titled “The Future of Social is Action and ROI” to determine where the industry stands on the future of social media. A strong mix of agency, brand, traditional, and digital marketers represented each side of the spectrum, leading to an interesting debate with stark differences of opinions.

Sarah Fay, a former executive at Carat, Isobar, and Aegis, moderated the panel. Panelists from left to right:

  • Jason Kodish – SVP, Strategy & Analysis at Digitas
  • Sean Corcoran – SVP, Director of Digital Media & Social Influence at Mullen
  • Anthony van Dijk – Brand Manager, Global Gillette Venus Base Business
  • John Federman – CEO, Dailybreak

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The goal of the panel was to discover how brands and agencies feel about these industry-defining questions:

  • What are the primary goals of social media programs?
  • How do marketers measure social success?
  • Is it possible to attach ROI metrics to social media? 
  • Do concrete, measurable metrics need to be developed for social media budgets to survive in the future?
  • What does the future hold for social media marketing?

The opening section of the panel focused on a few interesting questions that the panelists were asked to answer before the event. Some of the highlights:

  • Brand Involvement in Social: Half of the panel feels that brands should use social media to engage with consumers, but not sell directly. The other half feels selling on social media is perfectly acceptable. 
    • Anthony relayed his experience from Gillette, where attempts at direct sales failed miserably. He believes engaging with consumers genuinely will ultimately lead to greater sales, but pushing the direct sale of products is not effective. 
    • John believes that as long as you give the consumer enjoyable content and a fun experience, weaving in a direct sales effort can work well. He argues that the experience must be genuine and consumer-initiated for an audience to respond positively, and he mentioned success with past Dailybreak social efforts. 
  • The majority of panelists believe they can track ROI from social efforts, which is important because they also believe engagement without ROI is useless. All panelists validated a need for an industry consistent measurement of ROI. 
    • John’s measurement of ROI focuses on consumer actions such as submitting photos/videos and opting in as sales leads. He believes there is a market value placed on these actions, and with Dailybreak’s platform, it is simple to measure the cost of acquisition for these actions vs. market value in order to determine ROI. 
    • Jason’s ROI measurement focuses on bottom line sales. His new system at Digitas tracks household level data and measures the impact of marketing campaigns, including social, on bottom line sales. 
  • Digital vs. Traditional Media: Despite the majority of dollars still being allocated to traditional media, every single panelist agreed that if they were forced to give up either digital or traditional marketing, they would give up traditional. The panelists agreed that the market is shifting to digital and mobile, and ignoring their importance would be reckless.

The discussion then shifted from these initial survey questions to general questions about the panelists’ professional experience with social, and what they see in the future. Highlights included:

  • Social as a Standalone: Social campaigns can exist as part of larger campaigns involving many channels, but they can also be effective as standalone campaigns. Sean talked about Mullen’s use of social media as both a “drumbeat” that keeps the conversation and engagement going every day, as well as a “guitar solo” that becomes the primary campaign for a limited period of time. Sean discussed the extremely successful “JetBlue Getaways Get Away With It” campaign, which earned over 42 million impressions, 13,000 signups, an average viewing time of 10 minutes:
  • Content: Genuine content and engagement is paramount to success in the social world. While brands are perfecting their methods of creating content, the next step of social is asking customers to create content on their behalf. Panelists agree that only after building a relationship can marketers ask consumers to take the next step of interacting and contributing to their brand. John believes that for a brand’s request to be effective, they must consistently provide valuable content to their users, whether educational, entertaining, or other, in order to prime consumers to engage.
  • KPIs: Although the key performance indicators vary from campaign to campaign, the process of upfront definition and back end measurement remains key to analyzing social media success. With the landscape changing so quickly, testing and measuring is necessary to keep on top of what works and what does not.

Each panelist represented a different side of the marketing industry, making for a lively and educational discussion. It is clear from the panelists’ answers and the interest of the large audience that social performance and measurement will continue to be a hot topic for a long time to come. Although there is no clear-cut answer or social ROI standard, the industry has agreed that there is value attached to consumer engagement and digital actions.

Check out the last post in this series, by Amy Rosenthal.