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Is social marketing intangible?

“Half my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker

I once had dinner with a group of friends and one—a successful British property manager—talked all night about how critical measurement was to his business’s operation. Everything accounted for, nothing wasted. And a member of our party, a traditional marketing exec, asked, “But how do you value intangible assets, like your brand?”

The property manager’s quick reply:

“We make sure we only invest in intangible assets with intangible dollars.”

Don’t you just love British wit?

Despite the many strides we’ve made in measuring the effects of our marketing, we continue to find new and improved “intangibles” every year. Take, for instance, social marketing. Please. We all “know” it works. Yet we can’t seem to prove it.

Or can we?

Recent research from SEOmoz shows that social signals—in particular shares and “Likes” on Facebook—influence search engine rankings. A lot.

Social is a valuable tool. We can measure the money flowing towards it. We can measure the time people spend with it. We may not know its exact contribution to our overall marketing success. But, there’s no question it matters. We’re only just beginning to know why.

The problem isn’t with the marketing or the channel, Mr. Wanamaker; it’s with the measurement.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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