Who Says There's No ROI in Social Media? Or How To Get A Loaner Car Via Twitter

Peering through the Now Lens at the ocean of conversation and engagement data created in the social streams can provide a valuable frame of reference for current and future outcomes. Reporting and tracking these outcomes in real-time can lead to extremely powerful results and is increasingly possible. This has given birth to an entirely new social media measurement layer that calculates sentiment, volume, activity, velocity, and influencer data.

But what about the CEO demanding ROI (return on investment) from the marketing department and asking, "Do your teams really "Tweet" all day? That's what we're paying you for?" Sound familiar?

Yes, social media is becoming more prevalent in organizations large and small, but we're still very early in a longer-term timeline. The real emerging consideration inside organizations is determining the best way to create a social layer in the enterprise architecture that lifts all internal priorities -- marketing, CRM, branding, lead generation, etc.

I wanted to share an unfolding situation in my own life to add a twist on the traditional hunt for ROI. Last week I was offered a loaner from a luxury car maker via Twitter, as well as a free sample of tire repair gunk, also via Twitter, all because I tweeted my dissatisfaction with the tire service from my car dealership.

The dialog with both companies took place in the public Tweet stream ... but my car's service team was clueless because they are not on Twitter. No, they sent out the automated email survey and logged in the obligatory voice mail to me, then left early for the weekend. Ho hum. P.S. -- it's a Mercedes dealership!

But wait -- It gets better. That evening I shared what happened with the Social Media Marketing class I teach for UCLA Extension. A participant in the class contacted the tire repair company, relayed the story, and may have a new ad client on a major radio station in the LA market.

So who says there's no ROI in social media? Would it be unconventional to win a new car customer via Twitter? Would it be unconventional for a radio station to receive a sales lead via a Twitter interaction of a third party? Maybe in April 2011.

But by the end 2011 and early into 2012, I predict this kind of market disruption will become more commonplace. And it will create measurable ROI that will come through skillful application of all the social media basics -- listening and engaging in real-time, being a savvy social media strategist, etc. That, and good old-fashioned sales and marketing basics -- find a need an fill it.

In fact, very shortly, a consumer's social footprint will be accessed in real-time, while they are on the phone or in communication with vendors, to determine the level of care a vendor will be willing provide ... those with broader influence will receive a different level of care than those not as connected.

This trend was highlighted by Simon Mainwaring, our guest lecturer that night at the UCLA class. He's right -- as social becomes an integral channel, and as insights on who matters and who doesn't become quantified, handling effective customer care will occur in real-time. The social footprint for both the vendor and the customer will be of paramount importance as the rules of engagement change.

Companies and organizations are quickly realizing that people are sharing more and more of their lives on social networks and it's critical to not just listen, but to understand what's being said in order to act accordingly. Real-time triaging, prioritization, automating, and routing customer conversations -- the tweets, status updates, and other information across the enterprise will be the new currency in the competition for customer and brand loyalty.

I encourage companies to look at what the combination of social tools and a solid CRM strategy can do to create these robust engagement strategies with their customers, partners, and other stakeholders. In the meantime I can't wait to drive the Audi A6 loaner and Tweet about my experience. Sounds like fun!

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc. the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing, published by Mc-Graw Hill in January, 2011. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension in Westwood, CA. Follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy; @PowerRTM; @GravitySummit or email her at beverlymacy@gmail.com