Please. If that grocery separator at Mariano’s with your face on it landed you a sale, I want to hear about it. And exactly how you knew it did. Truly, I want to know!

Obviously all business owners care about ROI. Since the introduction of social media as a marketing platform, the biggest and most elusive question remains: “What is the ROI of social media?”

The ability to answer this question depends on the level at which a business has implemented URLs for lead tracking, Google Analytics, eCommerce tracking, pixels, and supporting customer service processes with real live humans. Otherwise, the ROI may only be gauged from a seemingly unexplained but correlative increase in business.

When speaking to groups or working individually with clients, I find that many businesses are still parting with thousands upon thousands of dollars monthly on traditional marketing tactics supported by the highly cited “because we always have” strategy. Yet, they have no statistics around results.

Reflecting upon these traditionally “successful” tactics, it’s very clear that social media is not the first “ROI elusive” marketing program. It is simply the first to be challenged so heavily in our time because it was new, unknown, and seemed to be buried in pictures of food and cats.  I always like to turn the tables on the ROI question…

1. What is the ROI of the yellow pages ad you’ve been running for the last 15 years?

2. What is the ROI of that billboard on the side of the building that is now half covered by the green house they built atop the neighboring building?

3. How many people listening to that radio spot during rush hour stopped on their way home and purchased from you today?

4. How many homes did you sell because of that bus bench that beautifully shows off your sharpie mustache?

5. How many cases have you landed from the side of that CTA bus that people wait for with their eyes glued to their mobile devices until the doors open before them?

In establishing tracking procedures with businesses I consult with on social media, I typically find that they’ve never fully set up a process to identify where an unknown prospect comes from. Without that, you would never be able to answer the above questions.

I once presented to a group of attorneys where 90% of the room admitted they still spent over $15,000 dollars a year to advertise in the yellow pages. When I asked who could specifically identify business generated from it, one gentleman raised his hand. I said “you have the back cover, don’t you?. The room chuckled knowingly as he confirmed his elite position.

I recently convinced a brick & mortar client, who couldn’t answer how much foot traffic they got from $2000 a month in radio ads, to convert 25% of that budget to Facebook ads. Why? Because they were thrilled when I told them I could make sure we didn’t waste any of it advertising to people who didn’t fit their target audience. I told them to give it some time to see a strong result, and that they would need to track at the door. Within 12 hours of setting up the ad, they were able to confirm 20 new customers coming through the door and over 16,000 unique brand views from people in their indicated radius that met their store profile.

I’m not suggesting you give up on traditional tactics, but you absolutely must implement a tracking mechanism. If you’re already in the unknown zone, why not allocate some of that budget to social media and see what changes!

So I challenge you… take even just 25% of your currently elusive marketing budget and apply it to developing and implementing a LinkedIn connection strategy, a sophisticated Facebook ad campaign, a YouTube video series. Whatever makes sense for you.

Imagine what shifting that money into connecting with people who already hold loyalty and trust for you, and refer business to other live human beings, could do for your business…

Don’t fear change. Show up where your clients are. They’ll be happy to see you!