If you learned that scientists spend a significant portion of their day carrying out experiments but never bothered to measure the results, you’d think they were wasting their time, right? When marketers spend million of dollars on social marketing programs and don’t track their results, we tend to think the same thing.

Are You the 30%?

That’s what a new study by Pardot showed us -- nearly 30% of B2B marketers are not tracking the impact of social media programs on lead generation and sales. The survey, which aimed to learn how social media marketing is evolving within companies found that while social media use among B2B marketers is on the rise, not all of them are measuring its impact, reach or outcomes.

Among those surveyed, 95% indicated they use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or corporate blogs to reach prospects. Seventy percent said that they are actively monitoring the return on spend for these programs. At first glimpse, 70% seems to be a great indication that marketers are examining their efforts to optimize effectiveness. When we take a closer look, however, we find that of those that monitor ROI, 42% reveal that “zero or an uncertain number of sales leads” resulted from their social media programs. 

Additionally, for those monitoring their campaigns, over 64% are doing it using “internal, free tools” to manage social media campaigns, which may or may not be ideal for effective program management. Only nine percent rely on an outside agency or social media expert for help with social media marketing.

Really? After spending millions, only a handful of sales convert via social media? And yet, you keep doing it, without much tweaking or tailoring or using comprehensive tools?

Is Social Media Marketing a Junk Science?

Pardot attributes the gap between cost and return for social marketing to companies social media protocols, which are still evolving. The survey showed that only 11% of marketers said their companies have a formal social media policy; and that 55% of B2B marketers still deem it appropriate to contact a social media-generated sales lead by phone or email, even if the prospect had not invited the vendor to do so. If that wasn’t enough to make your eyes roll, 31% said it is acceptable to critique a competitor via social media.

This survey doesn’t just show that marketers have a lot to learn about using social media to enhance their marketing efforts. It shows that until they start taking social media seriously enough to measure effectively so that they can maximize ROI, while providing an enjoyable customer experience for their audience, social media marketing will continue to be treated like a junk science.

Yes, the beauty of social media is that it’s flexible and adaptable, and marketers can use it capitalize on real-time information. That doesn’t mean, however, that its use shouldn’t be strategic. Companies are investing millions of dollars in a platform that might not be working for their company. That doesn’t mean social media marketing doesn’t work. It may mean that it might not be right tool for every company.

Social media has evolved considerably over the past few years. There are so many ways that you can measure its reach and impact, that simply choosing not to is ignorant and unacceptable. While there may not be a magic metric or formula to follow, social media allows companies the freedom to explore new opportunities. Yet, all of it can be deemed futile if you don’t know what it all means or how it affects the big picture. Social media is not a destination. It’s one piece of a very big marketing journey. If it’s not working for you, it’s okay to bypass social media, until you figure out what you need to do to make it a quality experience for both you and your customer.