What’s the ROI of a ‘like’?

I’m often asked to write reports or analyze metrics around various social media activities happening around EMC. By-and-large this is a very interesting task to do correctly. Aside from counting tweets or wall posts or blogs, metrics need a beginning point. More importantly they need context and strategy around the topic being discussed.

That sounds simple enough, right?

It’s not. I’ll explain why.

My 4th grade school teacher sister likes EMC on Facebook. She’s proud of her two brothers who work at EMC. Especially *this guy* who posts all the fun stuff on said Facebook wall. Sorry, Lee. Anyway, I’m pretty sure she ain’t buyin’ a VNX for her classroom.

Social media is so much more than the folks who like or follow you. It’s knowing the value of those follows. EMC needs (and should have) fans like my sister. That’s just general good practice for brand awareness and community outreach. But the ROI isn’t great. At best, sis might know the IT admin for her school district and ask if he (or she) knows one of the Paul boys at EMC. They won’t. But that type of interaction helps cement EMC in that IT admin’s memory. The value there is minimal. It can’t be measured.

A targeted activity becoming prevalent for Facebook is called “fan gating.” Fan Gating requires a Facebook user to “like” a page in order to access “exclusive” content. EMC has done this with its EMC Challenge tab. It’s been hugely successful. Through users “liking” EMC on Facebook, we earned over 6,000 qualified fans. Huge ROI. But how are they qualified? Good question. We dangled a huge tasty carrot across the web around a huge global product launch in January.

We aligned our strategy to grow our Facebook fan base with this “mega” launch goal to attract as many IT folk as possible to a simulcast microsite. From the outset, we had a highly reasonable expectation that most of these new fans hold some level of interest in EMC. Whether a customer, prospect or intern in some data center, we captured an audience predisposed to our message. As of today, we KNOW that roughly three-quarters of our Facebook audience is there because they want to hear what EMC has to say. We acheived similar success with another awareness campaign, where we featured a sweeps with iPads as the prize. The other 1/4 of our Facebook audience is roughly represented as organically earned fans, competitors, EMC employees and yes, my sister.

Expect to see more of this from EMC, and from every other brand on Facebook. It’s the new wave of marketing enabled by social: permission-based marketing.

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
– Seth Godin

So as you begin to include social metrics within your measures of success, stop and think of the value those metrics bring. If you increased your Twitter following by 50 people, great. Your message is reaching a few hundred more people through new networks of people. But who are those 50? The value in that social graph is knowing (with reasonable certainly) that your audience is *interested* in what you have to say. The payoff comes when those 50 retweet your message and influence others to follow.

Adapted from a blog post on EMC’s internal community and reprinted from keithpaul.net.