Paul Sutton is a PR “bloke” in the U.K. I’m a communication pro in the U.S. We never would have met if not for social media. So when he asked me, “Why social media?”, I wanted to say, duh! We wouldn’t have met without it!

This blog post first appeared on his site – The Social Web – so if you read it there a couple of weeks ago, there is nothing new to see. Move along.

When he asked me “why social media,” I really began to think about it … and to take his question seriously. Is it too much to admit I love social media because of its addictive water cooler effect? Or because I’ve been able to meet people around the world (like Paul) I’d never have had the chance to meet? Or because I am FINALLY POPULAR (which I was not in high school)?!?

I’d be lying if I said it was none of those things. But it’s also because social media has been huge for the growth of Arment Dietrich through word-of-mouth and referrals and, honestly, for the credibility and awareness of this blog. It also has helped us define real measurement standards for the work we do with clients.

When we began using social media for business reasons, I was immediately drawn to it because it is so much easier to measure than traditional communication, which is my background.

I like to tell the story of working on the Ocean Spray business. It was a great account to work on – we had a super fun client, I was young and loved traveling the States working with cranberry growers, and the media loved to write about their juices. The last year I worked on the business, we sat in the conference room and showed our results (clip books) to the client. They patiently sat through our dog and pony show and then the chief marketing officer said, “All of these stories are great, but our sales are down.”

You could have heard a pin drop. All that work for nothing?  Sure, you can talk about media impressions and advertising equivalencies and the value of brand equity and awareness, but their sales were down and not only were they cutting our budget, they were letting us go. I can still feel that knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat from that meeting…and it was more than 10 years ago.

Enter social media. With Twitter unique URLs and Facebook specials and mobile text campaigns, PR and marketing no longer are an expense. They are revenue generators. Not that they weren’t before but now we can prove it!

I had a conversation with a client the other day about unique visitors. You see, we have a program with some clients where we are paid based not only on how many unique visitors go to their websites, but how many of them buy. And, because of social media, we know exactly how many of those paying customers came from our efforts vs. direct sales vs. advertising vs. search vs. pay-per-click. And we are rewarded for it.

So now, instead of showing a client five six-inch binders full of stories and media impressions and advertising equivalencies and being shocked that sales are down, we know exactly how their sales are doing and how much of that revenue we are responsible for generating.

Sure social media is about popularity contests and global reach and water cooler talk, but it’s also about driving real business results. Every day.

* Thanks to Conversation Marketing for the image – it made me laugh!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich