New Study: Does Social Media Integration Come Down to Good Old ROI?

A new study by InSites Consulting on social media integration within organizations is making its rounds through the trades today. A 42-slide presentation by the researcher is up on SlideShare here, and there is a pretty comprehensive assessment over on MarketingProfs. InSite also published a short 1-page summary here. The study ends up being pretty relevant to almost any organization in the way it benchmarks social media adoption and integration across different vertical industries, B2B vs B2C, and company size. No matter who you are, you can see how you stack up to other companies like yours.

I find the report particularly interesting in the distinction it makes between social media “adoption” and “integration.” Lots of businesses already have Facebook pages (69%), corporate Twitter accounts (57%), LinkedIn pages (47%) and YouTube channels (43%). But far fewer are actively in the process of integrating social media (23%) or have already done so (14%).

The biggest obstacle cited between adoption and integration is that management sees “no clear financial benefits.” The study does point out that there is a clear correlation between organizations that are well down the social integration road and financial performance: the companies that integrate social better tend to make more money. What isn’t clear is the causality – do the companies that integrate social do better as a result of the integration, or is it that the more successful companies possess the organizational structure, culture or other attributes that make them more likely to move aggressively into social integration?

I think the answer lies in the perceived obstacle. A lot of companies – particularly in B2B – are interested in social media inasmuch as it makes the phone ring. If they can’t clearly see how Facebook generates leads, ie, they see “no clear financial benefits” to integrating social, they’re less likely channel resources away from what they know works (or at least know used to work and hope will work again one day). As we integrate Social Magnet into our internal email and social media channels, I’m particularly mindful of that perspective as it’s a question I hear pretty commonly. Why should I move money into social? What should I take it out of?

My hypothesis is that an organization that is active and successful in social media becomes more approachable, which makes prospects more likely to post a comment on Facebook, reply to a tweet, ask a question in the comments field of a blog, or even pick up the phone. I’m seeing if that hypothesis bears out in the analytics on Social Magnet. In addition to giving marketers a clear picture of their social activity, Social Magnet is unique in that its analytics compare productivity across all channels. For example, we’ll post a link to a blog post (maybe this one, in fact) on Facebook and Twitter, and also include it an an upcoming email newsletter. We’ll then be able to see which channel drove the most links, which helps paint a picture of how productive your social channels are compared to email. As a marketer, I find data like that – the kind that gives you clear conviction in your marketing decisions – pretty irresistible.

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