The answers are no, maybe, and yes to the question “Is there return on investment (ROI) in social media?”
The answer is no, because “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.” — Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer
The answer is maybe, because there are tools, with not so good algorithms, which can be used, to measure social media engagement. However, they should come with a warning – “The figures generated should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
The answer may also be yes. Read Avinash Kaushik’s article Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value, in which he proposes a measurement framework that would indicate if business is participating in social media in an optimal fashion. He states that it is not how many friends, followers or subscribers that a business has, nor is it the amount of posts or tweets – it’s everything that happens after all of that, that is important.
For social media, the derived measures could equate to how many meaningful conversations a business is having with its audience, how far is their content spreading, does their audience like or dislike what the business is saying, and how many people come to the company website via social media and then stay to do business with them.
Social media is a revolutionary and quickly evolving technology that needs a new measuring method – not the same old ROI yardstick of TV and print media.