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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.

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76 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Social Media ROI: ROI Doesn’t Stand for Return on Ignorance”

  1. 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:

    Socially charmed,


    Brand Evangelist @MutualMind

  2. Anonymous says:

    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.
    mobile signal booster

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with this that the The debate over ROI is only going to gain in importance. This blog is sharing the good information  about the social media .
    mobile signal booster

  4. 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.

  5. Media Agency says:

    While insurers are still contemplating taking up the social media ranks to target consumers themselves, perhaps a better idea is to take up the challenge to cover businesses and professionals against the risks associated with social networking.

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

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  8. Judith says:

    You can also say Return of Idiot 🙂 The success of social media campaign is up to you depending on your strategy.

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  10. 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.

  11. Anonymous says:

    thanks a lot for sharing this information…

    it’s quite useful for me

  12. Anonymous says:

    The very first Crane Stand was crafted of powder-coated steel with the help of aeronautical engineer and designer Brandon Wilke. The mobile laptop stand was first released at Decibel Festival (An International Electronic Music Festival) in 2008 in Seattle and received an overwhelmingly positive response from the music community. Soon thereafter, hands were shook securing a deal with a large-scale distributor, and it wasn’t long until the Crane Stand was in full scale production.

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

  14. SEO Expert says:

    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…

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