Surprisingly (at least to me) this debate is going strong in some very influential places. Chris Brogan, for one, may harbor some doubts, at least as it pertains to selling Ford Fiestas. His post, “The Real Meat of the Question” was spurred by the post, “Can Social Media Make Us Buy More Cars?,” in which Pete Cashmore discusses Ford’s experiment: the automaker has given 100 active web citizens free use of a Ford Fiesta for six months. The participants agree to post about their experience to Twitter and Facebook and Flickr and YouTube. It’s clearly a blatant grab for buzz (and it’s working – look at all these blog posts!), but will this new campaign generate new sales?
In the meantime, Chris asks his readers to weigh in on the ability of social media to drive sales. I jumped to comment last night, and put a firm stake in the ground, saying that social media participation (in Twitter and LinkedIn, in particular) by BurrellesLuce folks has resulted in sales. Is it a “paid” program, like Ford’s? No. (We blog and tweet as individuals and participate in the conversions at large.) Has our participation in the PR community resulted in a boatload of sales? Not yet, but it’s growing. Is the cost per sale reasonable? It’s hard to say. We haven’t tracked and valued the time of all who monitor, participate and respond to prospects and customers on social networks. But we do know it’s been an effective final touch point in a number of cases. And we are pleased to be able to put personal faces on the brand we’ve spent years to build.
So, what do you think? Will a “paid” social media buzz creation campaign sell cars, or would only a more organic effort move the needle? And If you decided to ramp up your participation in social media – whether or not you “seed” the conversation the way Ford is – would you have the systems in place – both monitoring and measurement – to be able to answer the question, “Does social media have a payday?”