In today’s connected economy much buzz has been created about the importance of social media, causing many, if not most, marketers to move significant portions of their advertising budgets into social media platforms. Subsequently, they ask of those spends: “What is the return on investment?” Not only is this question one that marketers struggle to answer about their traditional media investments, but it is even more complicated to answer because of the newness of social media. Most marketers are calculating return on investment using historical models that project sales depending on how much spend they allocate to certain marketing vehicles. This is all well and good, but oftentimes this requires years of spend and sales data to provide acceptable accuracy. Given the short-term existence of many social media formats, historical models suggest that the spend on social media platforms is more productive than other more traditional media because of some deeper type of engagement. While that conversation rages, both sides of the argument miss the underlying effect that matters, which is the social network. Social media and social networks are different things. Social media pertains to the online channels used to create and share user-generated content. Social networks are much broader. Social networks refer to the social structure of individuals, their connections to one another, and how information is relayed across those connections. Yes -- online channels are a part of that, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. Get the full story at MediaPost Read also "2013: The Future of Social Media" at Heidi Cohen's blog