Over my decade working in web marketing, I've spent a ton of time at various marketing conferences, and I've read countless books and blogs about new media. I've noticed a disturbing trend over the past few years in the social media end of the communications world. Much of the advice and strategy I hear boils down to little more than "unicorns and rainbows" superstitions like "engage in the conversation" and "be awesome." Not only has much of the industry ignored hard metrics and dollars-and-cents ROI math; there has actually been a vocal opposition to measurement and accountability.
Effective marketers expect to see clear cut, positive ROI for every other channel of online marketing including email, search, and display advertising. But for some reason, many seem to forget about return when it comes to channels like Facebook and Twitter.
At HubSpot, the inbound marketing software company where I work, we're obsessed with hard data and metrics for every inch of our business. So it seemed like a no-brainer to me that we should understand exactly what the value of each social networking connection is to our bottom line. It was out of that love of numbers that I began work on the value of a like (VOAL) formula.