Fast Company Magazine wrote a great article on the virus of “unaccountability” in marketing today. This is our summary of that article.

“We aren’t saying, does every dollar we spend turn into revenue? No one here is hounding me for the ROI”.

That’s a quote from Bridget Dolan, the VP of interactive media at Sephora. Surprisingly, she is not alone. It seems that the social media revolution has brought in an age of unaccountability in marketing departments around the world.

3 types of tools that should be creating more accounability, but aren’t (yet).

1. Influentials. Tools like Klout and Peerindex measure how popular and authoritative people are on the Internet. The rationale is that if you can find out who is influential in your space, you’ll be able to connect with them and get them to talk about you. A quote from Joe Fernandez (the CEO of Klout) about how his clients are holding him to account is telling:

“No brand is challenging us on this. We challenge ourselves way harder than any brand does.”

2. Campaigns. Companies like Wildfire and Mr. Youth create campaign experiences for brands using social media. Wildfire, for instance, allows people to create contests that drive people to websites and/or physical locations to participate. Of course, nobody can tell which campaigns will work well and which will flop. David Scobie, the VP of business development at HauteLook, says that

“we’re often surprised – things that we didn’t think were going to take off have been incredibly successful. And others, where all the metrics suggested that something should have been successful, have turned out not to be.”

3. Dashboards. Companies like Sysomos and Actionly allow brands to track what people are saying about them online. Of course, this only creates the illusion of control for brands, and allows CMOs to be transported back to a time where they still had control over their messages.

What the hell is going on?

On the one side of the equation, we have the most trackable medium of all time – the Internet. The amount of data being tracked on you right now (on this site, and every other one you visit) is staggering.

On the other side of the equation, we have a tool (social media) that almost nobody understands how to leverage directly into revenues yet.

Marketers, fearing for their livelihood, seem content to put their heads in the sand rather than admit that they don’t have all the answers yet. So rather than measuring the impact on the bottom line, they come up with quite catch phrases like “it’s about the conversation”.

Where do we go from here

The smart marketers – the ones that I have my money on – are the ones that are measuring the impact on the bottom line every single day. The article stops short of talking about a solution, but I can guarantee you that the companies that come out on top are the ones that are experimenting with social media in different ways daily, but are asking this question at the same time:

“What’s the ROI?”

What do you think? Is it about the ROI?

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