What Everybody Misunderstands about the ROI of Social Media

Posted by | June 09, 2014 | Uncategorized | 31 Comments

I’ve waited, and waited, and waited, and waited and waited.

For 7 years, I’ve waited. I thought that eventually people would get it. That they’d look at it like starting a website, or opening a retail store, or painting, or anything else in life.

I waited for people to realize that social media, like absolutely everything else in the world, is only as valuable as the person who uses it. I just assumed that it would happen, but here we are, mid-way through 2014, and we continue to have the argument. So I decided to make this Slideshare to really drive home this point once and for all.

For all of you who understand that nothing has really changed, that this is simply the current state of the internet, and that the best users will see the best results, I present you this deck. Please, please, please share it with all of the people you’ve been arguing with for the last 7 years.

  • Kevin Gilpin

    Another great lesson from the godfather of social! He keeps it real! Thanks Gary

  • illoh ifeoma

    My Goodness! this is awesome.

  • http://www.aspnradio.com Kevin Pakos


  • Mulyadi

    Thank you for tell me this is awesome fact! :)

  • Eric

    Nice, except for slide 25 of course ! Now I can’t share it :)

  • jreither

    LOL: “Patriots Suck. #hustle” Great deck, thanks for putting this together.

  • David Adams

    It is all about knowing where to make the “X”. Good job Gary!

  • http://internet-marketing-muscle.com/ Bill Davis

    What is the ROI on a roadside billboard? You may think you know, but you don’t. You can’t, 100%. You may be able to get to 100% on the good side (revenue) by using tracking info, but you don’t know how many people you pissed off by putting up that sign in front of the beautiful [insert object here].

    ROI is almost totally worthless and immeasurable.

  • creman4u

    Excellent Gary!

  • bomber54

    Got it. But please explain the counterpoint. It seems that you’re saying Social Media channels are just another medium to sell your expertise in other forms (your own books) or on your clients’ behalf (as an agency selling whatever). OK. Hard to argue with that. Put simply, Crazy Eddie really knew how to sell electronics because he was “good” at TV as a medium to grow his own business. Television ad cost + his own talent = sales. So what is the ROI, exactly? We know the cost of producing an ad and buying space (TV, a social media post, a digital ad) and we know a sales number on the other end. But It’s the age-old conundrum. We can’t A. Put a number value on your talent because we B. Can’t figure out exactly what influenced every purchase and attribute it all back to the particular social media strategy or post to determine that fraction. Which all leads me to a bit of a cul-de-sac here and makes me wonder what your clients and colleagues who would argue this point are exactly expecting out of Social Media, other than magic.

  • Brandon

    It’s all about the mechanic.

    So what are the tools this mechanic needs to improve? Love the deck, but it’s missing some real practicality

    • bomber54

      None – you need Gary. He’s the mechanic. I think that’s the point.

    • Not listening

      Did you miss the bit at the end where he mentions his books?

      • Brandon

        Gotcha… So why do I care about what he writes on his blog or decks then? Shouldn’t we all be out buying the book and not wasting our time here?

        What’s the point of following this if there won’t be anything practical? …if what you say is true and it’s all just a sales pitch.

        • IdiocyAbounds

          It had Nothing to do with a sales pitch. This is NOT that hard people.

          The Mechanic is the person behind the account (as Brian Fanzo said) and the book shown was NOT a sales pitch it was
          the ROI for Gary’s social media over the last few years.

          You SHOULD read all 3 of Gary’s books- they are chocked full of the great information that explains the tools you asked about,
          and then follow his butt ALL OVER THE INTERNET, as you will learn from almost everything he does or says.

          It’s that simple. Nothing more. Nothing less. Period.

          • Brandon

            That’s a curt response without saying very much useful info.

            I believe he’s smart – I’m reading Crush It now – and I now believe you’re a fan of his as I am turning out to be as well. However my simple point and in your words “nothing more, nothing less” is that there was no direct or practical info in this slideshare.

            Thus leading one to believe it’s a teaser to get you to buy a book perhaps. That’s fair. He wouldn’t be the first to use that tactic. Or perhaps he often likes to post in generalities without “how to’s”.

            I like a little more practical meat on the bone I suppose.

          • Not Listening

            If you could fit 3 books worth of info into one slideshow, there would be no need for books. This is just a passing comment on a question Gary gets asked a lot, and the answer he gives is that social media, done the right way is invaluable. It’s not a step by step guide of how to correctly use every social media platform on the ‘net.

          • Not Listening

            Also, once you have finished reading Crush It, you might understand why some peoples responses are a little ‘curt’ about questions like yours. His whole ethos is that people want the quick fix, the simple answer, the fast track way to flick a switch to covert social media into sales. There isn’t a quick fix, there is a way of treating and thinking about social media which, if applied and worked on relentlessly, can pay off massively.

          • Brandon

            Fair enough, I could understand that. But I’m not looking for a quick fix (my apologies if I eluded to that).

            Again, just looking for a snippet of “here’s how you can apply this to reality.”

            A passing comment on a big issue, sure, I buy that as well. But it’s about getting somewhere not just idly making passing comments. Seems to me that Gary isn’t the idle type.

            Anywho, no continued great criticism to Gary. Just a good post that coulda been great for me with a practical tip I could try and implement.

          • Not Listening

            I think the only tip on offer here is that it’s impossible to gauge the ROI of social media as it completely depends what you put into it – that’s all he’s saying here, nothing more, nothing less. After all that he says across three brilliant books, plus all the talks he gives (which you can find on YouTube, and are excellent), people STILL ask him what this same, simplistic question because they clearly haven’t listened to a word he’s said.

            As he shows here, the ROI on a piano is nothing to him as he has never put the time into learning to play. To someone who has committed their life to learning to play expertly, the ROI can be through the roof. Social media is the same.

    • http://about.me/Brian.Fanzo Brian Fanzo

      The mechanic is the person behind the account… the practicality is focusing on storytelling and being yourself and finding ways to bring value to your community using social media… if social media isn’t working for you social media isn’t broken you just aren’t using social media to create conversations, share value and develop relationships!

  • ZombiesAllDay

    I think the post. People still miss is this – there is no ROI on social media. And yet it’s all ROI. People expect that if they have 1000 followers, and tell them there’s a special on cat food, they will get 1000 sales. If they don’t – no ROI. But what you don’t see is that if that 1000 customers are following you because you present them with an honest, fun persona, one that is the voice of a cool brand that has expertise in the field, that the sales you get from people you’ve never heard of who are 12 degrees removed from your original customer, who heard of you via a friend of a friend and who become follower number 1001 who also stick with you for the life of you brand – THAT’S you ROI. It’s ridiculously simple, but it is just too much time and effort for most people to put in. Their loss. I’m an owner of a business being run by 3 people with almost 40,000 followers in a micro niche. It works.

  • http://about.me/Brian.Fanzo Brian Fanzo

    THANK YOU… couldn’t agree more… change is happening and it doesn’t matter if you use the word digital which can mean just about anything or innovation or whatever… when it comes down to it the return has to do with the person or people using it and the value they provide… It’s about people and social is the best example as you are only as good as the person or story that you’re telling and the value it provides the people reading it…

  • http://www.FredyRomero.com FredyRomero

    This was so helpful Gary. Really appreciate the value here.

  • Anushree

    Why aren’t the other presentations on the last slide clickable?

  • http://olyvia.co/ Erika Madden


  • http://sociallyacceptable.me/ Vincent Orleck

    There’s a spot on the local radio station here that keeps running (which I’m sure its filler for airtime not sold, which in itself is an interesting commentary)
    about how radio ads (!!!) have the most accurate targeting and reach, and are the most effective type of advertising.

    I’ll just leave that statement there for everyone lol.

    Love this post Gary.

  • Jamie Voorhies

    I showed this to my CMO when they demanded to know about the ROI of our social programs – I got fired :( (ok, this didn’t really happen)

  • Irene Turner

    Gary, Gary, Gary….I went to pin this to my Web Savvy, Social Media board over 62,000 followers, 4.5 on my pinterest profile and there are no images to be able to pin? All in all, I do agree with you! I love Social Media

  • luisgdelafuente

    Seems to me you are trying to differeciate between VALUE and PRICE in this slides. Social Media is valuable for one reason or the other, but businesses (specially SMBs) do need to put a price to that value because they can´t get tons of money at 0 interest rates like big companies or governments do.

    Therefore its legitimate for a small business owner to ask what´s the return of the investment he makes both in dollars and time, his most precious resources.

    And if its right that ‘There´s no social media ROI’ like many are saying, then there´s something terribly wrong about social media marketing for most businesses.

  • maag

    I totally like how Gary swim against the current, however when businesses are investing millions they want to see where the money trail goes they are not just flushing it down the toilet.

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