Social Media ROI: ROI Doesn’t Stand for Return on Ignorance

My good friend Olivier Blanchard recently released his new book, Social Media ROI, Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. As he was nearing its completion, he asked if I would write the foreword and to be honest, I was flattered. I agreed to do so under one condition, that I get the opportunity to share the foreword with you here. Long story short, here we are. The book is extremely helpful and carries the endorsements of those I also respect including Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Geoff Livingston, and Kyle Lacy.

ROI Doesn’t Stand for Return on Ignorance

I’m often asked, what’s the ROI of social media? To which I answer, you can’t measure what it is you do not value or know to value.

Sounds simple enough. But, the truth is, determining value is not an easy process. But then again, whoever said using social media effectively in business was easy…is wrong.

As in anything in business, the ability to tie activity to the business values is critical. If we are to commit time, resources, and budget to social networks our investments must be justified. Indeed, social media strategies must prove long-term value and contribution to the bottom line in order to evolve into a pillar of business success. But, how do you measure something when best practices, case studies, and answers in general are elusive? We are struggling to prove the merit of an important ingredient in the future success of business because precedents have yet to be written or tested.

While many companies are already investing in social media, the reality is that most are done without the ability to demonstrate any return on investment. The truth is that you cannot succeed in anything if success is never defined. The good news is that success is definable and attainable. It just takes a little work…well, honestly, a lot of work to tie intended outcomes to the “R” (return) in ROI. And, even though social media, as a platform and series of channels, is inexpensive or free to host a presence, time and resources still carry fixed costs. To that end, if we enhance our presences or apply greater resources, the investment goes up exponentially. It comes down to the old adage, “time is money.”

Everything starts with the end in mind.

Success is not a prescription. There isn’t one way to excel or measure progress. But, that’s the point. We must first design outcomes into the equation. What do we want to accomplish? What’s the return we seek? Are we trying to sell, change, drive, cause, or inspire something specific? Are we reducing customer problems as measured by inbound volume, open tickets, public discourse? Are we trying to shift sentiment to a more positive state that increases referrals as a result?

Success requires definition based on intentions, goals, and mutual value…across the organization from the top down, bottom up, inside out and outside in. Success is defined departmentally and also at the brand level. And, success is tied to desirable actions and outcomes. And, as we’ve already established, it’s impossible to measure the ROI for something if we haven’t first established the R (Return) or the I (Investment). No amount of new acronyms will change this yet we see new terms introduced as if we’ve already given up on defining ROI; Return on Engagement (ROE), Return on Participation (ROP), Return on Listening (ROL), Return on Fluid Listening (ROFL – yes it’s a joke), Return on ignorance (The new ROI). In the end, everything carries cost and effect.

The debate over ROI is only going to gain in importance. But, that’s where we need to go in order to gain the support we need to expand our investment in social media. You’re in good hands though. Olivier Blanchard is indeed one of the few who can help. Here, he has written a comprehensive guide that will help you at every step from planning to program integration to management to measurement.

Thanks to Olivier, you’ll find the answers to your questions and also answers to the questions that you didn’t know to ask.

As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. The success of all things social media is up to you to define, quite literally.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook


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    Great points.

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  • http://twitter.com/DanielleLatta Danielle Latta

    Great article (or should I say Forward)! Social Media initiatives are an investment, regardless of
    the size of the company involved. Marketers who are new to social, should keep
    in mind that the biggest part of this investment is measuring its return.
    Within a social strategy, attainable goals should be set and a plan for
    monitoring the progress and measuring the outcome should be implemented. While
    it’s true that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” formula for doing
    so, there are a few key rules of thumb that can be applied to nearly any
    industry. For a comprehensive look at the challenges involved in measuring
    ROI of social media, reviews on the thought leadership about the topic and
    practical recommendations on how to achieve stronger ROI from your social
    initiatives, check out the latest white paper released by MutualMind: http://bit.ly/mmproi

    Socially charmed,

    Danielle

    Brand Evangelist @MutualMind

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    Very good article. I think social media metrics do not have to be complicated even if it is still a bit controversial. You are already doing many forms of measurement with your traditional media projects. Where social media is involved, you know that measurement is constantly evolving as existing platforms change and new ones enter the social space.

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    Nice post and i can’t wait to have a copy of that book.. 

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    I like this content.As in anything in business, the ability to tie activity to the business values is critical.I am very impressed to this content.This is an amazing.The written skill is so good.Thanks to share this blog with us keep sharing.

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    Some people may believe it does stand for return on ignorance. lol

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    Yeah absolutely ROI stands for Return on Investment, and that is way this is so important for marketers to take this thing under consider every time…

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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