This week it was the Social Media & Web Analytics Innovation Enterprise Summit (a title that was clearly designed for SEO) where as usual there was debate about the ROI of social media.
What everyone seems to cheerfully ignore is that no CMO or CEO in their right name is going to fire the sales staff and replace it with a social media campaign. Just as no CMO or CEO would replace their sales staff with PR team. The function of a sales staff and a PR or Social Media program are different as different as sales and marketing. Social media can help you evangelize and educate and prepare the market for sales to close the deal. Therefore the metrics and ROI should be totally different calculations.
If the goal is to increase awareness, the measurement should be the % increase in awareness as measured by a survey. You may want to compare the relative cost of social media to a display ad campaign or a broadcast campaign and the ROI would be greater efficiency. That is a very different equation than calculating the ROI of new business compared to the cost of a new sales person, plus training, plus expenses.
So as much as I am delighted that measurement is such a big topic these days, I can't help but wonder when these fantasy CMOs and CEOs that everyone talks about, will finally wake up and demand real ROI -- or more likely their analysts will hit them up the side of their heads with real numbers.