Stuart Bruce of the very talented Wolfstar has dug up a very good blog post to the age old argument about social media ROI and included some pops at PR AVE. All of it is in response to an article by Cathy Wallace in PR Week.
And he’s right, but there’s a slight problem in that he’s also wrong…Stuart bemoans – and has for many a month – that AVE – Ad Value Equivalents – are a waste of space and time as a measurement (for those who don’t know what an AVE is: a page in a newspaper costs £10,000. If I get you the main coverage in that page, then the value – the AVE – of what I have done is £10,000).
He goes on to point that that when it comes to Social Media ROI it’s great that you can’t do AVE (though I know some idiot PR types who have asked bloggers and reporters ‘how much is an ad on your web page costing?’).
Now I don’t disagree with anything Stuart says. AVE’s are ridiculous as are many forms of ROI. Tracking links and conversions aren’t the only ROI for social media or digital PR activities. Heck, as anyone has seen me pitch, my opening line is normally “How many more sales will social media make you? None.” And from there we go to show you how you can improve sales and customer engagement (that line alone should show you what also matters as well as sales).
But numbers do matter. Yes, a good online campaign will last – potentially forever as it is on the web – but we live in a recessionary era where most people need some form of numbers to justify costs and investment. To that end, many need something that they can show to their bosses, something to justify a spend, numbers to justify winning an award (of which Wolfstar have won many):
It may not be about the numbers but they help in many cases. Even online, many things contain a number reference, we like numbers. And all of these numbers can be justified in way or another as a ROI or cost of social media or digital PR. But most of that still misses a point, which ties us into this blogpost’s free piece of advice (as of today, all blog pieces will contain a free piece of advice at the end)…
Free Social Media Digital PR Tip: Start at the end of your social media work. Define what you want to achieve – and what you don’t want to achieve – and then work out what matters, what the tools should be and so on.
In closing Stuart makes the very relevant point which not only starts a debate of its own, but also (depressingly) reminds us that AVE is probably here to stay for a while yet:
The PR industry has been trying to crack public relations measurement and evaluation for 100 years and still haven’t managed it. We’re not going to crack social media any easier.