Your social media campaign is always on -- like it or not. The only question is whether you are paying attention or not. Marketing Daily's Sarah Mahoney does a great job of highlighting the key findings of a study by OneUpWeb in her piece "Social Media Marketing's Disease: No Follow-Through." The finding that social media efforts positively influenced sales, while vastly underappreciated, is not the study's most interesting finding. I would instead direct marketers' attention to the rapid loss of return on social media efforts as those efforts lose support.
I know it doesn't sound surprising (please hold your calls to the Harvard Business Review). But what if someone told you that you might NEVER see a positive return on social media efforts without consistent monitoring and management, forgetting the traditional notion of campaign start and end dates. Effective social media campaigns incorporate community creation and communication. They incorporate various forms of B2C communication and dialogue, as well as enablement and monitoring of C2C communication. All this means that the creation of social media campaigns can require a significantly larger outlay of resources and patience upfront, while not returning in the typical time frame (re: in time to see how these efforts impacted this quarter's results).
This is because you don't "launch" a social media campaign. You begin a social media effort. You don't just create a campaign message for social media distribution; you test various messages and enable a dialogue with those people who will carry your message. This adds up to a greater upfront cost without seeing the typical returns associated with marketing spend. You never had to test messages so that they would get media distribution, you just bought media distribution and your message of choice reached its intended audience (but then again you've never been able to watch media distribution to determine message effectiveness or find a product enhancement -- these required separate efforts).
What this means is that abandoning a social media effort that has any traction is like rolling a gigantic bolder up a hill, then, once you get to (almost) flat land, giving up and letting the bolder roll back down the hill. Looking back on the exercise, it is easy to conclude that you did not see the return on the effort it took to get the bolder up the hill, because it's the ongoing return on maintaining the social media effort that shows far greater return on effort. But once you have found the mix that gets your social media momentum going, it's much easier to recognize a positive ROI on social media efforts, even if you are considering marketing objectives in a vacuum and ignore the potential for social media to provide brand and product feedback.
I could highlight exact examples from the study to support each of these ideas, but Mahoney does a better job in her article. The question to marketers is, how can do you manage a social media effort that requires ongoing maintenance, when budgets have to be assigned, spent and analyzed quarterly? How can you get the proper resource dedication and collaboration to account for the full value of effective social media efforts beyond traditional marketing objectives? How can you ensure that you reap the benefits of getting the bolder up the hill?