Book review: “Social Media ROI” (by Olivier Blanchard)

Taking advantage of an intense travel schedule, I finished reading “Social Media ROI” by Olivier Blanchard.

One of the criteria I use to determine if an essay for for me worthy the time I spent reading it is the number of highlights or notes I make to it – purely subjective, of course, but on that score this book fared very well, perhaps better than any I read recently.

However, I must also admit I was hoping to learn more than I did, so on that score I am a little disappointed; at its very essence, Blanchard’s message is to get the social media program’ metric as close as possible to a measurable marketing metric – like units sold – but that assumes I can track sales to a single activity, which is only rarely the case.

My overall impression is that Social Media ROI is still rather elusive, a little bit like Public Relations ROI: this fact should not however discourage us from continuing to try to agree with our customers reasonable metrics and put measurability discussions in high priority.

I found myslf in complete agreement with Blanchard, even though I think he’s a tad light on what I believe is the fundamental concept around modern social media, i.e. “relevance”, leading me to think that he may come from a background slightly different from my own.

But all of the praise is concentrated on the first 12 chapters, which are snappy, intelligent and rich on inspiration. Then you move to where the meat is, chapters 13 and onwards, except the meat… is really a light salad.

#13 treats organisational considerations FAR TOO lightly. I happen to have done my share of Change Management programs, and I just wish things were so easy: steering the big supertanker that most organisations are takes far more process and method than a couple of good ideas! Not to mention the nonsense about the role allocation between agencies and internal management: yes, of course you need to keep customer relationship as close to yourself as possible, but who is “yourself”? An employee is, well, just anoher form of salaried help, right? He or she has no magic spiritual allegiance to the company’s customers, so I don’t really think the stark, black-and-white difference is appropriate. But I, of course, am an agency guy, so maybe biased…

#14 has some good concepts, even though the whole Measurement Practce concept seems overengineered, and #15 is really, really, really superficial. The trivial ROI calculation formulas are a sad disappointment.

#16 is the best of that last lot, F.R.Y. is truly intriguing, and I will try to use it going forward.

#17 starts off well, but then despite the scientific looking charts, feels like padding.

In conclusion, would I advise to read this book? Yes, The first 12 chapters are definitely worth reading as a good, intelligent introduction to Social Media.

But I would stop there.

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