Ad agencies join to measure social media ads

Social media advertising spend should hit $1.8 billion in 2009 according to eMarketer. (Sure, that’s a small percentage of overall Web advertising, which stood at about $20 billion last year, but give it time.)

So it’s no surprise that yesterday, a group of ad agencies and their social media buddies announced that they’d form a trade group focused on defining metrics for measuring social media advertising. (Heck, it was probably overdue.)

The group, the Social Media Ad Council, is backed by Tom Gerace, CEO of social network Gather, and includes reps from Edelman, Universal McCann, e-publishing firm Zinio, Quantcast and a grab bag of i-marketing organizations. The group hopes to find ways to measure “engagement,” the term some use to describe what they’re buying when they place ads on a social networking site.

How does a bundle of x number of Tweets compare with ten PPC ads on Facebook or countless impressions through Friend Feed?  No one has figured that out yet. But it’s critical that someone does. After all, you can’t build an advertising market unless you have some basic units of measurement in place.

Other than Gather, none of the other founders are social media sites. In announcing the group, Gerace noted that he’d invited Facebook and MySpace to participate, but it seems that haven’t gotten involved as of yet.

The fact that they aren’t taking part makes you wonder whether they prefer social media ad buying to remain a bit mysterious. After all, the more the buyers know, the more they can squeeze ad sellers. Maybe that’s what they have in mind? — Anne

P.S. SMAC member UniversalMcCann, not surprisingly, has some thoughts of its own to offer on social media. Its new report on influence in social media, “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers?” is definitely worth a look. Or if you just want a summary check out the review in Marketing Pilgrim.

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5 responses to “Ad agencies join to measure social media ads

  1. I thought you might find this interesting:

    Dear PR People: How to Pitch to Bloggers

  2. Finally! Someone is talking about metrics when it comes to social media. I have stayed away from this medium as a marketer (mostly a sales person) because I can’t track how it brings my company revenue in relation to the time it takes to get this thing going. Yes, it is certainly overdue and my hat is off to those that have decided to take on the challenge. I would be interested in the findings and results.

    If any marketing effort does not bring in revenue in the form of hard, solid signed contracts from targeted customers for products or services, then it should not be invested in or pursued.


  3. Debbie:

    I agree completely that at some point, social media will have to pull its weight as a sales/marketing medium if people like you and me are to take it seriously.

    But here’s a question that’s been bugging me. Aren’t sales people already tracking leads that come through social media (including, say, Facebook’s PPC ads) in and related vehicles?

    And if they do so, doesn’t that mean that social media is as trackable as other Internet media, i.e. just as effective, at least in theory?

    What do you (or other visitors)?

    -Anne Z.

  4. Anne,

    I think most quantifiable tracking at the moment are limited to ads on or leads from social network sites. That really is no different from tracking clickthrough or traffic on any web 1.0 entity.

    The 1 million dollar question here is tracking the influence, the buzz factor, the WOM…then put that into numbers and build a business case.

    There are various companies, people and tools out there trying to do SM measurements. Personally I think this will be a huge 2009-2010 movement.

    Off to read more of your posts. Loving them!

  5. First, glad you’re enjoying the blog! Yes, current tracking is limited to PPC in social networking, but companies like @Lotame (and I think Radian6) are making progress there.

    I completely agree that the next 18-24 months will be the era when social media companies and their vendors knuckle under and figure out how to provide hard ROI data.

    Thanks for your post. Any feedback on topics you’d like to see covered?

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