Much of the conversation around around the Social Media Marketing business centers around two things – firstly, how big a piece of the total advertising spend is digital (and hence Social Media Marketing), and secondly, the return on investment (ROI) from that activity.

At the IndiaSocial 2010 conference last week* Santosh Desai, MD & CEO of Future Brands criticized such an approach, saying that “Social media is an address, it’s where you live. It’s a much deeper infrastructure. I can understand the need the metrics, but measurement implicitly assumes that there is equality. (On Social Media) There are things that die without a trace, and ads which remain alive for years. In TV, you have no choice, and you will listen. That isn’t the case here. Money isn’t a meaningful metric. Everything is about quality, and the fact that I managed to generate interest. So what if you spend money – it’s all about a powerful idea, and and idea that catches fire.”

“It’s their (the brands) problem if they’re looking for ROI,” he added, later in the panel discussion. “They have no choice. This is the current reality. There’s an illusion of control. People talk about metrics, is because of a desperate desire to control an idea that you can’t control. It’s an illusion. You can flow with it. It’s a way of saying that I must find a way to create interest in myself. Will you measure? Yes you will. I’m not arguing that people should not use television. Change is happening, and it is happening slowly. It is a mistake to mistake the inevitable for the imminent. If you’re using Social Media, the problem is not about not using TV or defining metrics, but you need to learn how to respond to Social Media.”

“We need a new mindset. The target audience, the way brands see them, that needs to be thought anew completely. It’s very difficult to trace the source, because information is reaching into you. Can you, with very certainty say that I’m only speaking to so and so? Those definitions are breaking down. It’s a huge new world, and it does cause for us to challenge our assumptions. Incremental thinking is not good enough.”

“What are my implications if I say that it (Social Media) is not generating any business? That’s the danger of the question. If you’re not wired to respond to users, then don’t be there. Showing up doesn’t count. If you’re not ready to be on social media, don’t be.”

Disclosure: MediaNama was a media partner for Indiasocial 2010. Editorial was not (and never is) a part of any such arrangement.