Marketers measure but consumers aren’t buying social efforts

Jul 01, 2014

Marketers are taking to social media in a big way and 80 percent are measuring the effectiveness of those efforts, according to a study conducted for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) by Ipsos OTX. Another study, this conducted by Gallup, doesn’t dismiss social media’s effectiveness in reaching consumers, but it does question its value as a sales driver.

According to ANA, marketers’ measurement of the effectiveness of their social media content can be grouped into three buckets: social media metrics; usage statistics; and business ramifications.

Social media metrics are the most popular and include:

  • Likes: 89 percent
  • Click-throughs: 87 percent
  • Retweets: 81 percent

Usage statistics include:

  • Active users: 66 percent
  • Reach: 66 percent
  • Conversation volume: 52 percent

Business ramifications include:

  • Influence: 41 percent
  • Advocacy: 27 percent
  • Sales: 24 percent
  • ROI: 23 percent
  • Cost per conversation: 18 percent
  • Cost per sale: 5 percent

Interestingly, the recent State of the American Consumer report released by Gallup found that consumers think the $5.1 billion spent by U.S. companies on social media advertising has very little effect on them, at least when it comes to purchasing decisions.

According to Gallup, 62 percent said social media has no influence on their decisions, while 30 percent said it has some influence and only five percent said it has a great deal of influence. Half of Millennials said social media influenced their purchasing decisions although only seven percent said it greatly affected what they bought.

How effectively are marketers currently measuring their social media efforts? What must marketers do to more accurately measure and, thereby, improve the effectiveness of their content on social media channels?

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13 Comments on "Marketers measure but consumers aren’t buying social efforts"

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Max Goldberg

The difference seems to be what consumers do versus what they think they do. Consumers may say that social media has little influence on their buying habits, but the ANA research and other studies prove otherwise.

Social media is difficult to measure. The first question is what should be measured. Is it Facebook likes or re-tweets? I prefer to measure tangible actions: If a promotion is run using social media, how many people purchase? In other words, focus on what ANA calls “business ramifications.” As the ANA chart shows, too many brands and retailers are focusing on social media metrics, which don’t correlate directly with sales.

Social media is not the end-all and be-all for advertising and promotion. It’s one arrow in a marketer’s quiver. It can be easily used to test promotional concepts, but it is harder to measure brand awareness. The science behind social media will continue to evolve. While it is evolving, retailers should not be sitting on the sidelines. The cost of entry is minimal. Dive in and test the waters.

Ralph Jacobson

I was told by the CIO for one of the largest global brands, “we don’t have a social strategy.” If that’s the feeling of a prominent company, I find it hard to believe that most companies are executing effective social efforts with measurable results.

The good news is that tools are available that can help accurately measure the effectiveness of social media content and also suggest actions driven by quantifiable insights. Just posting random thoughts in social channels doesn’t guarantee any kind of following that will translate to increased revenue.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

While I’m a big proponent of measuring “results that count,” it is sometimes difficult to measure everything on the bottom line outcomes.

If we have learned anything from today’s omni-channel consumer it is that their journey is any time and everywhere, and far from a linear process. Social media is an integral part of a consumer’s circuitous route of acquiring and validating information.

The most interesting stat that keeps popping up in this new world of omni-channel is that consumers believe their friends and peers 12 times more than any ad or sales associate on the floor. So the ultimate value of effective social media right now is most probably peer advocacy for products and brands. Tough to measure, especially in terms of sales results.

Gib Bassett

I think the challenge for most companies is that they’ve approached social media tactically and that’s led to very siloed and disconnected efforts. Social media is a “channel” that needs to be managed and integrated with others that touch customers. As it relates to sales, social is probably not going to be a direct driver of sales, but it is undoubtedly today and into the future a major influencer along the purchase path. I’ve written about this here.

Ed Rosenbaum

The act of measuring the effects of social media is important, but what happens when the results are tabulated? My guess is very little. But then again, numbers can be tabulated to tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. Are retailers really listening to what consumers are saying on social media? Probably not, unless they finally see a drop in the bottom line.

Joan Treistman

There’s no doubt that the ability to evaluate content and impressions in social media have come a long way. At the same time marketers aren’t clear on what should be measured, what it can tell them and how to act on it. While there is a suggestion of contradiction between the two studies described, in reality they are measuring different things. A little bit of reverse-engineering could go far in overcoming the knowledge gaps and help plan for the future.

And by the way, consumers have traditionally said that advertising has no effect on their buying decisions. So why would we expect a different view of social media?

Tim Cote
3 years 3 months ago

For all the hype around social media, as far as a marketing tool it is little more than yet another way to discount product, and not even a good one at that. Generally, social media users expect the “coupons” distributed by social media sites to be more compelling than other deals or coupons they are offered via other marketing channels.

When these deep discounts are not offered, the consumer grows apathetic to the marketers social media efforts and moves on. People say they want to bond with a brand. What they really want is cheap stuff for minimal effort.

Dan Raftery

While it is tough to measure, with confidence, the effect that social media has on sales, one effect is unmistakable. Lack of participation, experimentation, investment, etc., is risky. Better to be using some of that cash stash while you can to play in this arena versus waking up one morning to find that you were sleeping through a rewrite of the rules.

Jonathan Marek

Not very effectively at all. Ultimately, no activity or investment with any significant dollars behind it can be considered to be measured unless a marketer knows the incremental impact of that investment on profit. Other measurements might be useful, but they don’t get at the heart of running a business. Only profit does.

So when I see that by their own admission (which is likely to be an overstatement) only 23 percent measure ROI, I think the gap to true measurement is very large. Then, I see that cost-per-sale is even lower, which ought to basically fall out of any real ROI calculation. That makes me think even the measurement of ROI is likely flawed.

We have a long, long way to go in social media measurement.

James Tenser

I suspect that brands tend to overstate the effectiveness of their social media efforts about as much as consumers understate the degree to which they are influenced.

Marketers measure the stuff that is measurable in social media settings (likes, clicks and other items on the list above), then hope the stats are reasonable proxies for ROI, sales and profits.

Unfortunately today’s social stats are not like mass media audience size in an earlier simpler time, where an impact on sales was observable from every campaign. There are way too many competing influences in play. Most content is created by others, including the target audience, and it pours in very fast, precluding micro-analysis. In that context, copy-testing own-created content seems too slow and too conservative.

Marketers need social media summary metrics they can act on. How about a “sentiment barometer”? I visualize something resembling a stock ticker that can be overlaid on the sales curve and tagged with campaign and event milestones. It would take Big Data analytics to pull this off.

To grasp the social media river, don’t count the molecules—learn to gauge the flow.

John Karolefski

An instant poll, currently live on the home page of, asks CPG and retail executives their opinion about the success of social media.

Here are the results so far:
It is very difficult to measure ROI at this time (57%)
It is too early to tell (21%)
There is not enough ROI so far to be a success (14%)
Social media is a success in CPG (7%)

gordon arnold
People take for granted many things in life. It is this kind of presupposition that perpetuates poor decisions. In the business world the continuing support for poor investments has in the not so distant past been the death of many promising careers. In our 21st century world economic crisis, it is causing the death of any and all sized companies. Internet social media is nothing more than a platform where like-minded individuals can communicate and observe information from other individuals. It is common knowledge what variations of communication are available to the different media platforms. What is largely misunderstood is the purpose and goals of the predominant participating visitors. It is this information only that should be used in determining the marketing value of a site by any and all corporations. Following a supportable selection process is the design and content of the interest stimulating information to be supplied through the chosen media. Initially the message should severely limit the scope of information to test for results accurately without the need for extrapolation and curves. In these times of instant gratification demanded from the crowd, one should test carefully what and where to say things that must generate results for… Read more »
Mark Price

Despite the fact that most marketers claim to be measuring their social media efforts, my experience has been that most companies conduct a measurement simply at the highest level—views and clicks. Little effort is given to identify the specific customers who are engaging with the company on social media, and determining their spending patterns over time.

In order to identify specific customers who are engaging in social media with the company, marketers must conduct surveys and use other value-added approaches to obtaining email addresses which they can use to link to transactional records. This effort cannot be done as a one time event; rather the effort to identify email addresses of social media customers must be an ongoing program to succeed.


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