For the media-savvy, social media is old hat; Facebook is seven years old and Twitter just turned five. But as a viable segment of a digital advertising strategy, social is still struggling to gain credibility, and with it, ad dollars.
“We’re still proving ourselves,” said Victoria Harres of PR Newswire, in comments made at Internet Week’s Realtime NY 11 conference. The discussion, which focused heavily on methods of calculating returns on investments for real time and social marketing spend, nearly devolved into a whine session that nobody takes the category seriously. “I wish we didn’t have to spend 10 hours creating a report every month to show (advertisers) that what we’re doing is worthwhile,” Harres said.
Later in the day, Pepsico’s Head of Digital Shiv Singh went so far as to recommend advertisers dedicate half of their marketing budgets to real time.
Adrian Parker, head of social media at RadioShack, said he’s worked hard to tie social campaign dollars directly to the company’s revenues in order to get "C-suite approval" (from the CEO, COO, or CFO) for social and real time marketing investments. Social ticketing company Eventbrite has taken to quantifying the value of a shared item on Facebook in the simplest terms: Each shared event on Facebook leads to, on average, $2.52 in ticket sales, according to the company’s marketing director Tamara Mendelsohn.
In an all-too-perfect twist of irony, the social elements of the conference itself were full of technological failures. Held in the dim basement of BB King’s in Times Square, the conference was a black hole for cell phone reception and the WiFi worked only rarely. A giant stage-side display featuring real time tweets was full of complaints about the lack of Internet. During a panel featuring Siobahn Quinn of Foursquare, the check-in app was so overwhelmed by check-ins to the Realtime NY conference that Foursquare’s spam filter was activated, prompting another stream of disgruntled tweets.
The largely prescriptive conference featured four authors of For Dummies books related to social media, real time, and marketing.