Catchy title, right? Let me explain.

I received an email the other day from a good friend and associate that was passing on an article titled ‘Doubts remain for social ROI‘ and I thought I would dig in a little bit on this topic. First of all, I thought I might find some interesting statistics on how social programs were faring for different industries, brands, etc. Instead, the article singled out activity on Facebook Pages as the source of data to prove the lagging ROI on ‘Social Media.’

What’s the big deal? After all, Facebook is Social Media, right?

Facebook LogoYes, Facebook does indeed represent a significant amount of the social media landscape. However, it’s by no means the entire social ecosystem, and to elude to such a claim is misleading and can cause a lot of fear mongering amongst decision makers that are not well-versed in the nuances of this still emerging field of Marketing.

I’ve always had problems with the notion that Social Media equals Facebook and Twitter. As if a brand can create a Facebook Page and Twitter account and check ‘social media’ off the list. Of course, this is ridiculous, but I think articles like the one above run the risk of painting the picture that if one channel doesn’t work, then the entire field of social media is questionable.

The article leads off talking about social media investment and ROI, but quickly zeroes in on Facebook Fan pages for the rest of the data. It’s sort of subtle to an untrained eye. After all, there are some compelling statistics and anecdotal evidence of what makes content interesting to the end users. But the way this has been presented, it could easily be misconstrued as a harbinger of the demise of social media.

This isn’t the only article to come out recently casting doubts on social media. Another article on AdAge uses examples of Pepsi and Burger King’s failure to rebound from lagging sales, despite high-profile social media campaigns that got a lot of press for their boldness. Just like with any other case study, how can you possibly isolate one element of a brand’s communications strategy and blame (or credit) it for the entire trajectory of the brand?

These case studies get debated ad nauseum in the various trade publications, so I won’t waste your time or mine going down that road here. I do want to highlight the importance however of being very clear on what constitutes ‘social media’ and how its effectiveness is not as easy to determine as some articles might suggest.

Social media is shared content, not a specific channel of sharing.

It’s conversation.

It’s questions and answers.

It’s interesting and helpful information that people send to their friends.

It’s connections between people, brands, and other organizations.

It’s a way to listen.

It’s a way to respond.

It’s a way to help customers get to know you.

It provides occasions to promote relevant offerings.

And finally, I believe social media presents opportunities for a new way of conducting business.

Social media is more than Facebook pages.

Can you imagine a headline like ‘Doubts remain on Advertising ROI’ followed by statistics on local newspaper ads only? Seems silly, doesn’t it? As if the entire field of Advertising can be summed up by the effectiveness of one channel.

We need to be more responsible for how we talk about the dynamic field of social media. Not every tactic will prove itself with positive ROI, but tactics come and go. Strategic planning takes this into account, and ensures that brands can be nimble in the ever-changing landscape of marketing in social media.

What to you think? Should we give this much weight to statistics on Facebook Pages?

If you need help making sense out of your own social media programs, email me so we can talk.