I think my comment on Matt Stigliano’s FourSquare post deserves a bit more explanation.
First, I want to say that I am not a FourSquare fan. It’s partially because I think geolocation will be better served inside a larger social network, like Facebook. It’s partially because my wife hates geolocation and sees it as potentially dangerous. But it’s also because Foursquare allows anyone to input anything they wish. And since it’s a game, it allows people to cheat, easily. And a few people I know cheat, openly. They know who they are. So, I’m not even going to begin to argue the merit or lack of merit in investing time playing Foursquare.
The Quesiton of ROI
It’s not surprising that the conversation in the comments on Matt’s post quickly turned to ROI. Bob Wilson rightly questioned the value of spending any time at all on Foursquare under the assumption that it would “bring you business” and said, “I guess I’m growing weary of all those who keep pushing sm as a biz model for selling real estate who are unable or unwilling to provide real numbers that demonstrate the value or ROI.” He then quickly added, “Oh, wait. I forgot that you are not supposed to ask about ROI when it comes to SM”
I always find it humorous when someone says that. I’m not sure who made this “don’t talk about ROI with social media” rule, but I’m thinking it was somebody who doesn’t understand the nuances of analyzing return on investment in marketing or what can or should be measured in the first place.
The Problem With Most Social Media ROI Discussions
The problem I see with most of the discussions around social media ROI in the real estate industry is that the product real estate agents sell, a house, is not an impulse buy and the decision to use one agent over another, a completely different kind of conversion, is not a simple decision. If they were, we could focus on conversion alone and be done. But they’re not. So, the focus on conversion to the exclusion of all other sales or marketing objectives is simply wrong. It fails to address the big picture. In real estate, the “conversion” is proceeded by multiple touch points of exposure. Those touch points can include print advertising, direct mail, email, a phone call and yes, social media. Each exposure, each touch, each conversation, plays a significant role in helping the customer move from awareness of the “product”, whether that’s a house or an agent, to the intention to “buy.”
The key to evaluating the merit of any tool, social media or otherwise, is understanding where that tool (and the behaviors it facilitates) fits in the acquisition, persuasion and conversion cycle. Focusing on conversion alone will simply result in a lack of investment in acquisition- or persuasion-oriented initiatives. Just as an unbalanced focus on acquisition initiatives will result in a lack of investment in conversion tools and behaviors.
Marry that with the absence of a clear marketing goal (even the simplest of goals) and poor to no analytics and you have a recipe for disaster. In the business environment, engaging in any activity without an understanding of what you hope to achieve as a result of that activity makes it impossible to measure the success of that activity. The goal can be as simple as “lead people to my blog post.” That’s measurable. Did my efforts lead people to my blog post or not? Did my advertising bring more visitors, did organic search bring more visitors or did my tweets bring more visitors? How do I make sure I can measure the impact of each effort? And that can’t be the end. There has to be some understanding of a path to conversion. After they came, who stayed longer? Which channel moved more visitors to the next step in my conversion process? Do I know what that next step is? Subscribe to my blog? Search my IDX? What is it?
Tools Are Just Tools
Tools aren’t strategy. Tools aren’t behavior. Tools don’t do anything without someone using them. Some use them well. Some don’t. Some tools probably shouldn’t be used for business at all. And in a business context all tools are worthless without a plan. Where do the different tools and behaviors fit for you? Where does Twitter fit into the cycle? What about Facebook? Where does advertising fit? Where does your phone fit into the cycle?
And, by the way, do you know the ROI of your phone?