NEW YORK: Major brands, such as Nissan and MasterCard, have been unable to correlate their social media activity with business outcomes but are continuing to invest in the channel.

"If brands are losing sleep at night wondering about ROI on their social investment, they're investing too much in social," Adam Broitman, MasterCard vice president of global digital marketing, told Digiday.

Broitman also likened social media to air: "We have no choice but to breathe it."

His comments were echoed by Erich Marx, Nissan's director of digital marketing, who said: "We don't think about the ROI of social; we think about the cost of ignoring it."

"I'm not dismissing ROI, because it's always important, but we're not about to cut back or dismiss social media because we can't define it," he added.

Broitman didn't see the measurement of social media results as an exact science. "If people are talking about our brand in a favourable way, that's good enough," he said.

But Broitman also noted that social media had helped save costs on activities such as focus groups and research, so allowing marketing money to be redistributed to other initiatives.

These attitudes stand in stark contrast to a recent report from the IAB, which claimed that social media could be effective at driving brand sentiment, enhancing consumer engagement and increasing brand loyalty, as well as generating a potential ROI of more than 3:1.

And, writing in the July/August issue of Admap, Bryan Urbick of the Consumer Knowledge Centre, argued that social must shift product and that a tighter integration between social media and other marketing strategies and corporate objectives was needed.

The Digiday report suggested that one reason some brands were not particularly concerned with social ROI was because they were not currently spending a large part of their marketing budgets on it, but that could change.

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff