Social Draws Big Ad Dollars, but Does It Really Work?

Two new analytics tools hoping the answer is 'yes'

Social media has outgrown its experimental play-money stage. With marketers sinking up to $6 billion into social campaigns this year (according to eMarketer), the category has officially become a legitimate form of advertising. But with newfound legitimacy comes a whole new problem: How do we know it’s working?

Thus far, there’s no standardized best practice for measuring social media performance. And that’s not for a lack of options. The past year has seen a flood of new analytics tools hoping to definitively crack the social ROI code: Do customer conversions matter? What about cold, hard sales? Or maybe it skews more intangible with metrics like “buzz,” “engagement,” and “impressions.” Terminology notwithstanding, it’s in the industry’s best interest to prove its own effectiveness.

Today marks the launch of two new social analytics services.

DataXu, a three-year-old ad management platform, unveiled DX Social, its effectiveness tool for Facebook campaigns. The product applies insights gleaned from DataXu’s display and video ad platforms to Facebook campaigns. It’s part of the company’s goal to help marketers integrate their once-disparate silos of digital marketing.

Linking performance data from Facebook and display ads allows marketers to “decrease the randomness of throwing money at all of these things that are disconnected,” said Mike Baker, CEO of DataXu. Trial campaigns have produced some arbitrary, but useful facts. An insurance client found its most interested prospects were older, had higher household incomes, tended to own pets, and worked in the software and business services industries. Knowledge is power. Or something.

Meanwhile Merkle, a 20-year-old customer relationship management agency, launched its own social measurement product: Merkle Connect. It works by connecting the company’s existing trove of CRM data about a customer set with new engagement data from those customers’ Facebook activity (provided they opt to share it).

The result is a value for each Facebook fan, Facebook share, and Facebook like, much in the way a brand would assign values and segments to its customers based on purchasing behavior.

These values help marketers decide how to mold their social campaigns, says Rich Fleck, vp and general manager of Merkle Connect. “Without knowing what to do (with their Facebook pages), most marketers default to a mass media social strategy we call ‘Wall Talk,’ which is throwing something onto their wall and hoping people find it engaging,” he says.

And in the new, legit world of measurable Facebook marketing, that’s just antisocial.

Publish date: September 26, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT