Just a thought, but I'm making a wild guess that those that use it understand its value in spades - and don't require the numbers. It's those that don't, who fret over each micro response - failing to see the bigger picture.
So your best strategy for getting someone to buy social media is to get them to buy-in to social media with a little DIY. I often recommend that everyone should blog, join a social network and build their own widget, for precisely that reason. Don't just witness the network. Be part of it. (image by burnblue via flickr)
Traditional media people and investors, for example, are happy to spend cash on TV ads, or interruptive online ads, or print ads. Because they get them. They understand that they are to be broadcast and consumed by audiences. And they are part of the audiences that do the consuming.
The other stuff - the clever, engaging (and we'll come back to that word in a bit) stuff is co-created within communities. And those that you want to part with their cash are not part of those communities.
Is it any surprise that Fred Wilson's outfit (Union Square Ventures) invests in socially engaging projects from twitter to disqus, del.icio.us, etsy, feedburner, tumblr and beyond. He lives in the social digital realm. He is therefore at an advantaged position to see the value. And Fred is famous for his hit rate. Maybe others could learn?
If you can't actually convince your would-be meal-ticket that they should blog, widgetise and generally get themselves connected before you pitch them, you face a tough gig. You'll have to play by their rules.
Luckily, we're finding a way to meet them halfway.
I tweeted yesterday: "Consumers value brands. Engaged people are valuable to brands".
ROI can't come down to increased traffic. Traffic is just eyeballs - it's just the page impression number. ROI has to get closer to and be more comfortable with the smaller, but more important numbers, of engagement.
For me, engagement with a community means you contribute something to it. Youtube's audience is valuable in a page impresssion sense. Youtube's contributors (particularly those forming groups, commenting and uploading video) have a much higher per capita value for youtube. (Total communities are ones in which to take part you must create part).
Enagagement should be measured by actions. All the rest is passive consumption.
Both have value of course. But what is the relative value? We feel engagement has higher value. Fred Wilson feels it well enough.
But where are the spreadsheets to convince the disconnected? SociallyMinded.co.uk colleague Matthew Brazil is working on exactly this with Radion6. I'm hoping to help him along the journey as is Dan and the organisers of Measurement Camp are striving for similar.
Matt is carefully testing the impact of using social media on actual business done for his consultancy.
That's exactly the kind of clincher the disconnected needs. And filling this hole may be just the blue touch paper required for more companies to get and use social media.
And as they do, they will become better - more fit for the networked world. More human. And that will be great for all of us - and for them..
So, if you have thoughts, any methodologies... post away!
And to try to get this rolling along and even more brains set workign on it, let's try it as a meme: Measures of Engagement.
John Carson has added his take.
I'll tag a first five to join in please: Alan, Dan, Joseph, Matt and Will