For some reason, the social media skeptic tends to be fixated on this factor. Not surprisingly, I’m often asked what my return is for tweeting. After years of answering this question, I’ve settled on this analogy.
I tell them about a billboard and 7-Eleven.
On the major corner by our office, there is a billboard. The freeway and two major streets can see this billboard.
Coca-Cola is always advertising one of their many product lines on said billboard. This billboard does not interact with you, it does not smile at you, it does not ask you questions. It’s simply a large rectangle, in a vehicle’s direct line of sight, wallpapered with a visual advertisement.
Now, Coca-Cola is by no means an unknown brand, yet they feel it is appropriate to spend a portion of their advertising budget on a static, non-interactive billboard.
On this same corner is a 7-Eleven store.
Every day when I drive to work, I see both the 7-Eleven and the billboard, simultaneously.
It is possible that I may subconsciously put the two ideas together, park, go inside, and buy a Diet Coke but in no way do I say to the cashier,
“Hey, I just bought a Diet Coke because of that billboard.”
Even if I did tell the cashier why I stopped in their store that day, they’d have no way to report it, since they’re neither owned by Coca-Cola nor do they have a connection with Clear Channel Communications who owns the billboard.
In many ways, social media is like that billboard. It drives sales in some second or third-hand fashion, but there is no way to totally represent it with a hard figure.
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