Be a Connectrepreneur: Advertising, ROI, and all that it should mean…

I was thinking about this on the way in to the office this morning. First off, I’m no advertiser and I’m hardly a marketer. I’m simply a communicator, a connector, and an entrepreneur. I have been bothered for some time by the business society’s need to lump Social Media activity in with traditional advertising and marketing. Even PR is a different game than building, maintaining, and growing customer loyalty and recognition through effective use of online social networks. When did Social Media as a whole become a series of campaigns with the design to just make a buck?

The conversation around advertising never used to revolve around ROI because advertising is not designed to sell. It never was, not directly. Businesses used to understand that. I have never been sold by an advertisement. They simply communicate that there’s a solution to my need, and nothing more. Fact is, many advertisements have sent me to the intended ad’s competition because of pre-existing loyalty to the competitor’s professional brand. Assuming that there is a guaranteed return on any ad expense is naive at best.

Advertisements were always measured by impressions. Billboards were sold based on the number of vehicles that passed underneath (impressions). Advertisers never made promises of the number of purchases from the individuals exposed to the messages passing overhead. Direct mail was based on the size of the list (impressions) and print ads, distribution of the periodical (impressions).

Let’s go back to billboards. Advertising firms, with no way of confirming the true amount of potential impressions, often inflated that number, and were unable to assure any driver or passenger would even look up and see the ad. Even if they did see the billboard, there’s a high probability that they would forget they saw it once they reached their destination. So many barriers just for purchased impressions.

Of course, the Internet has changed all this. Now, we can measure clicks (and click through), and this has changed our perception that advertising does more than just communicate. It somehow assumes influence and response. Executive staff, who never would have asked the ROI questions fifteen years ago on an ad campaign, are now asking to see the whole execution from content calendar creation to client-lifetime-retention models based on a single tweet.

This is getting out of hand. I’m not saying you shouldn’t advertise on social media, just know that you are still getting what you paid for all along, impressions—and that should still be good enough.

If your goal is to manage exposure and turn that exposure into brand loyalty, then you are on the right track. If you’re smart, you’re measuring every step of the way—impressions, engagement, exposure, and follow-thru. If something does not produce the result you want, then use the data to make adjustments. I get so disappointed when I hear people say they paid to advertise on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn (ONCE) and it did not produce the profits they were looking for. What they need to do is change the message and try again!

Assuming that you’re going to “hit the ball out of the park” the first time is absurd. Test, play, change, adjust, continue, and remember that social is not the place to sell. It can be a tremendous place for communicating a solution to a need…and then get back to being friends. They buy when they are good and ready. In this space, the consumer is in control. Never forget that.