Social Media Impact vs ROI

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

If you're not measuring your use of social media as a company, you're wasting your time. Would you spend thousands of dollars on a glossy magazine ad without knowing if it yielded the return you need? The same goes for time invested in social media. Unfortunately, many have jumped on the bandwagon without knowing where the wagon is even going or if it's on a road at all.  The party may be fun for a while, but parties only pay the bills if you are charging enough to plan, shoot, cater or design some aspect of them.

Social Media Impact: How many people read your site? What percentage of your readers leave comments? How many page views does your blog generate? How many of those readers are loyal to you and how many check in only when they remember to? Which posts attract the most attention? In which ways? How many people follow you on Twitter? What percentage of your Tweets are retweeted and by whom? How many Facebook fans do you have? How many do you know in real life? How many simply accepted your friend request so as not to offend? How many people have subscribed to your email newsletter as a result of the trust you've built? How many people are signed up for your newsletter because you held other content hostage to their readership by forcing a squeeze page enrollment? How many "high-profile" circles (publication editors, media producers, etc) are now aware of your company because of your participation in social media? How has being involved in social media affected your SEO?

These are just a few examples of the impact your company has in the social media space. They are NOT a measure of the ROI (return on investment) of your time and/or money spent on social media.

There are also other intangible benefits that social media can bring: deeper relationships with other industry colleagues, a creative outlet which breeds greater levels of creativity, and an ability to solidify your thoughts on a matter (nothing clarifies the thought process better than having to write out what's in your head), to name a few.

Social Media ROI: How many career-enhancing opportunities has social media provided? How much revenue has it generated for your company, both directly and indirectly? (example: I once had a bride hire me because she trusted me from reading my wedding blog; she then later referred a friend to hire me who doesn't read blogs at all).

Quite simply, a return on investment in social media needs to be measured in dollars. If it isn't making you money, why are you spending valuable business time doing it?

That said, the importance of impact can't be ignored. Valuable ROI will only result because of the impact your efforts generate. If you don't put the time in, you can expect to get nothing out of it. Many of the people who proclaim that online media doesn't work for business have given up too soon, have a poor social media strategy (or none at all), and/or are focusing their efforts in places that will not benefit them over the long haul (only posting updates and photos on Facebook to a very limited group of eyes instead of making the content - and their brand's claim to it - available to the broader public).

Social media is not a quick fix nor a get-rich-quick solution. While results may happen more quickly than through more traditional or established means, the long-term investment of time and patience is critical to success in the social media space.  

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