No ROI on Social Media? Here’s Why

Banks and credit unions seem to feel such tremendous pressure to “do something” in social media that they often launch Facebook pages and Twitter accounts before they know why or what they hope to accomplish.

Why did you create that Facebook fan page?

Why did you launch a Twitter account?

What were you out to accomplish?

People often talk about using social media to “join the conversation,” “create engagement,” “foster dialogue,” “connect with people,” “reveal real personalities behind the brand,” and “show their authenticity and transparency.”

Reality Check: Besides being nearly impossible to quantify, these aren’t real business goals. They may be viable marketing strategies to achieve something else — something greater — but they aren’t business objectives by themselves.

You never hear any CEOs, CFOs or shareholders demanding their company be “more engaging” or “conversational.” They want growth. They want sales. They want ROI. And yet financial marketers keep diving into social media without attempting to create any deliberate or direct link to their organizations’ bottom lines.

Social media authorities frequently talk about monitoring the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, retweets, @replies, blog comments, video views, etc. You may be able to calculate engagement by measuring these things (in reality, these stats are usually dismal for most financial institutions), but what does this engagement lead to? What are the results? What about sales? Revenue? Customer acquisition? Even if you claim “customer retention” is the goal, how are you measuring and quantifying it?

Social media is cool. It’s in. It’s sexy. Financial marketing, on the other hand, can be somewhat dull.  Bank and credit union marketers are bombarded with articles and blog posts reminding them how awesome financial institutions that use social media are. Financial marketers see their peers celebrated and respected for being innovative, so it’s no wonder they feel the temptation to “do something” (anything!) with social media too.

Unfortunately, this means most financial marketers start with the tool, then look for some way to use it. “We’ve got to incorporate social media into our next campaign.” Why??? Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse? Or like the tail wagging the dog? Or a dozen other corporate cliches?

Reality Check: You don’t walk into your garage, pick up a hammer and then roam through your house looking for something to fix. You only use certain tools in your toolbox when you need to accomplish very specific tasks and solve very specific problems.

Bottom Line: If you don’t know what problem you’re trying to solve, you can’t measure success, hence, there can be no ROI. Without clearly defined, measurable business objectives, you’re just spinning your wheels and wasting your time.

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