Can Social Media's ROI be measured ?

Marketing is a very large spending component of a company's budget. It's also one of the least accountable departments. Why ? It's a hard thing to get a hold of. The exact return, outcome and increase in purchases resulting from a given campaign is hard to compute to the quasi-impossibility of tracing every revenue dollar to the point (or marketing channel) where the customer actually encountered the brand. This becomes even more difficult in the case of social media. Marketing ROI has evolved these last years. Companies can actually figure out how effective a campaign was through targeted surveys ("How did you hear about us ?"). In the case of social media however, though surveys might be an answer, there is a qualitative component that might be too difficult for numbers to grasp. Hence the need for a solution.

Enter Foursquare

In one of its latest initiatives, showcased in a Fast company article, Foursquare bonded with American Express to link your Foursquare account to your Amex card. What happens is that, instead of showing a coupon on your phone, the discount or offer is accounted for on your card directly once you check-in in a given place. In other terms, whereas the old scenario was : "Hello, I have a coupon" / "Oh ! Well, it's $60 instead of $80 ". The new scenario is more like : " I'd like to buy this " / " Great ! $80 please ". Why ? Well, because the discount was already credited on your card when you checked in. So what ?

Well, coming back to our initial subject (i.e. social media marketing ROI), this means Foursquare can now provide hard data on sales made based on promotions and offers the clients make on its platform

So, so, so ?

So yes, there is a solution and it'll probably be app-based and necessitate a higher customer involvement. This means that companies offering social media marketing packages will need to find a way to make the customer's spending traceable (incentivizing that kind of data-giving through even more promotions) in order to measure the efficiency of their campaigns.

Hence, the days to come might not witness the rise of a "social media marketing accountability" industry but rather of "social media marketing accountability" features in existing social media marketing company's packages. Quite certain though is this : Accountability is the name of the coming game.