I recently enjoyed both the content and format of a Webby Debate titled, “Social Media is Overrated.” In the passionate discussion, well-known social media personalities Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of WineLibraryTV.com, and Techcrunch columnist, Paul Carr, unpacked the following question:

Is social media a waste of time OR has social media (and social networks by default) changed the way the world works socially, politically, and economically?

If you are an executive reading this post and think that you’ll find validation for your point of view in this debate, you may be disappointed. Those looking for these thought-leaders to reinforce the views that either marketing teams should abandon any other strategy for a 24×7 Twitter stream or that they should continue to dismiss the urging of their Generation Y staff for more Facebook and LinkedIn activity will find that the outcome is nuanced.

If you are doing it right…..if you are testing, measuring, and adjusting…..if you are adding value to your market or community…..if you are using social media to drive conversions through your marketing funnel, you will find success over time (not overnight).

Unfortunately, most of the marketers and “experts” on the social web are wasting their time.

They are often confused or in denial about the marketing strategy and business skills needed to utilize social media and social networks to impact business performance. Don’t let your marketing team confuse activity for effectiveness (in any marketing channel). Look around. You may have ineffective social media evangelists in your organization.

Testing Your Social Media Effectiveness

Here are three simple tests to ensure your organization is employing social media effectively:

  1. Is you social media marketing adding value to your market?
    Important indicators of whether your community finds your content and participation in conversations valuable are:
    • Number of subscribers to your blog
    • Inbound links to your web site and blog
    • Sharing of your content
    • Responses to comments on blogs and forums
  1. Is your team executing consistently?
    Measure the frequency that your organization is creating social objects, promoting your ideas, and facilitating conversations online. The only way your community can reap the value that your organization provides is to produce and promote content on a regular basis.

  2. Is your reach growing?
    There are many ways to monitor reach and engagement online, including followers, subscribers, email lists, webinar attendees, downloads a whitepaper, etc. Track the size of the audience that is engaged with your organization in some way and the frequency in which this audience engages you.

These metrics are also useful in experimenting with social marketing. If you launch a three or six month test of a social media plan, plot these metrics monthly and adjust your tactics along the way. You and your team will learn a lot about your market, your customers, and what works in social media. Then, you can answer the question…

Is social media a waste of time?

What do you think? Add your thoughts in the comments below.