(Republished from BrandRepublic.com)

For years, those of us who specialise in corporate social media pushed and prodded our organisations to embrace social as a powerful tool for engagement, influence and activation. We marvelled at the opportunity for authentic customer storytelling. For real connections with consumers. And for feedback and input into all parts of the value chain. Social presented us with all sorts of opportunities to turn consumers into brilliant extensions of our marketing teams.

As our social empires grew, so did the need for investment. We’d ask for one more community manager. Maybe a Shoutlet license. Or a paid budget to get to the 500,000-fan mark. The CFO would ask for a business case – we’d either come up with some (maaaaybe slightly sketchy) ROI formulae, or we would state it was just a cost of doing business – of being a “social brand.”

Then December 2013 rolled up and popped a cap into our collective social fantasy. Facebook adjusted its EdgeRank algorithm, and organic reach – what we perceived as “free marketing” – had dropped into the single digits.

Some content teams have ploughed forward undaunted, chasing opportunistic content opportunities or dialling up the volume of their efforts. But Content is the problem. With every refresh of their newsfeed, consumers are being exposed to an average of 1,500 new posts (!). The epic explosion of brand content is the very reason Reach is plummeting.

Today, angry clients are phoning their agencies. That pricey content, often backed by little financial justification, is reaching very, very few fans. The salaries of the community team, the software licences, the ad budgets – all are coming into question, and those old metrics of Retweets and Shares no longer cut it.

Today, I’m absolutely thrilled (UK version: “dead chuffed”) to announce the launch of a Mediabrands software solution that brings accountability to the marketing channel that we love. Performly is a new dashboard and reporting suite that programmatically reads social activity, KPIs, acquisition and engagement through Facebook and Twitter APIs, calculates their earned media value based on our clients’ own media pricing, tests that value against industry benchmarks, and aggregates a total Earned Media Value for all of your social efforts. It proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, what our social marketing efforts are worth, in hard currency.

For the first time, our clients know what their social media programmes are really worth. We can see the content, conversations and approaches that resonate with fans, and those that don’t. And by plugging that data into our Matrix media-mix software, we can compare social performance to other media – apples to apples.

No more need to ask CFOs to “just trust us.” We can now stride proudly into their office or into an annual budget meeting – this time, being able to share the real financial impact of our social efforts.

Social media may no longer have a free ride – but it finally got a haircut, a job and has moved out of the house.

For more information about Performly, visit http://performly.social

Eric Weaver is Chief Social Officer, G-14 Region, for Mediabrands Worldwide.

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