Vitrue Facebook ROI Calculator = Social Media Snake Oil

Ever seen those apps that show you “how much your website is worth?”  They’re sort of fun, except no one actually takes them seriously.  What if you applied that same concept to a Facebook page?  It would make just as little sense and be equally as silly.

You see where this is going.  Remember that company Vitrue who attempted to create a valuation of a “fan on social media” at $3.60 each? They actually put together an app – named “The Evaluator” that calculates the “value” of your Facebook page.

At first I thought it was a joke, but they’re taking it rather seriously, adding the tagline: “measuring facebook return on investment.”  Except – it’s total snake oil and makes me take their real product and team that much less serious.  They continue to propagate flawed notions of how the social web provides value to brands.

The way the app calculates is as follows:

The Vitrue Social Page Evaluator (SPE) uses a calculation that factors in fan count, customer activity, brand activity, and a proprietary engagement multiplier.

Yes folks, it’s that simple to calculate the ROI of your Facebook fans.  Take one part number of fans, throw in some consumer activity, brand activity and a “propriety engagement multiplier” and there you have it.  Why not add a dash of fairy dust?  In fact, they don’t even need to know anything else about your brand, your industry or any other details – just the public information from Facebook.  It’s that easy.

The data represents a monetary valuation of a single Facebook page based on standard digital marketing metrics, impressions, and fan exposure. The score includes a configurable cost per thousand impressions (Earned Media Value) measurement that defaults to $5.

You heard it from Vitrue – it’s based on “standard digital marketing metrics” – so it must be true.  And yet again just as they did previously, the measurement defaults to their random choosing of $5 without any real rationale.

In a blog post interview, Reggie Bradford, Vitrue CEO makes some statements about the app:

The Evaluator shows an actual media value, truly putting an ROI on social media efforts. It’s beneficial in many ways, especially showing people in your company that social media is important, valuable and that they should pay attention. We’ve had several marketers try out the Evaluator and thank us for finally providing a tool that actually shows an ROI, proving social media’s importance.

Sorry to say this, but if you are a marketer and you’re proving the value of social media through “The Evaluator” you’ve already killed your credibility with anyone at your company with a shred of digital marketing chops.  If you have none, congrats, you’re officially a huckster.

We developed the Evaluator to help provide a marketer directional and quantifiable information. But increasingly marketers can and should derive their strategies based on solid data, which is what we do here at Vitrue.

You can see the irony here, and the fact their own CEOs talking point kills their brand’s credibility.  He says in the same sentence that:

  • Their tool helps provide quantifiable information for marketers
  • At Vitrue, they base their  strategies on solid data

Either their CEO is lying and knows their tool is merely linkbait to attract attention for their company, or they actually believe their tool is accurate.  Either way to anyone that sees through what they’re doing, he comes off looking poorly.

In response to a question regarding if the “The Evaluator” is accurate at calculating value for small and large brands, Vitrue’s CEO responds:

Absolutely, every business — big or small — has an audience or customer base. And Facebook provides a tremendous platform to communicate to your audience, albeit if you do it the correct way.  In fact, we’ve found that smaller brands with smaller fan bases can be just as valuable because of their engagement elements.

How often a brand posts or engages their audience depends on that brand. For example, fans of CNN expect more posts than say a local yogurt shop simply because the nature of CNN’s business — 24/7 news. But for that local yogurt shop, two posts a day is best and can be more valuable in terms of engaging and bringing that user to your store with timely placed coupons or special events.

Sure – that’s the beauty of creating something as absurd as a “calculate how much my website is worth” tool, you can just apply it blindly to anything you want.  Large or small, industry x or y, the tool applies.    Also you heard it first, Vitrue’s CEO is advising  CNN to post frequently – and the local Yogurt Shop that two posts a day is best.  You see the logic of this right?  They want to apply normalizations across social media not just in valuation, but in frequency of content.  In both cases it makes no sense.

One more quote:

First, I truly believe that Facebook is becoming the operating system of the Internet. But no, I don’t think they have gone too far. They definitely keep pushing their business and the social media space forward, as they should as leaders in this new communications world.  This space evolves everyday and the leaders in our industry must keep looking forward. Facebook has smart folks at their helm and will continue to push to innovate, but I believe they’ll tread cautiously with their user base in mind.

Of course he would propagate the value of Facebook, it’s in his interest to.  Their business growth is tied to the success of Facebook.  You need to realize his talking points are written to inflate the value of Facebook and not grounded in reality, just his business objectives.

Hopefully I don’t need to go through all the reasons this idea is illogical again.  Let’s just call this for what it is:  an application as linkbait and pure entertainment.  There is not a shred of value here, and Vitrue does a disservice to real social media marketers by propagating such nonsense.

I wouldn’t have posted this, except they are taking it seriously and think what they have done is even a little bit grounded in reality.  It’s not, and I have a hard time believing any digital marketer worth their salt finds value in what they’re doing.

What are your thoughts?