Social Media Strategies: Calculating the ROI on a Social Networking Saturday

the online social network

The major skepticism about Social Media revolves around calculating ROI. While that is a fine metric there are other intangibles that are not easily added to an excel chart. Several Saturdays ago I made a notes during a single day to see if I could apply ROI concepts to the worth of “networking.”

First I would like to share that I find Online Social Media networking is the same a offline social networking. You go to events, you talk to people, you find out what they are doing. You run into old friends and make new ones. And more than likely the center of your engagement is something other that “networking.” And I would propose that the Value of the networking is something other than simply ROI or WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

Online Social Networks for business: LinkedIN, inSocialMedia, Posterous, myBlog Network, Digg, Technorati, Facebook.

Offline Social Networking Saturday: local club tennis tournament, elementary school Carnival day.

Business Connections: ebooks, lead gen, search engine optimization, social media training and consulting, re-introductions into Dell, Global Services, technology discussions “the force” platform.

Employment Connections: recruiter with an opportunity, former colleague at Dell with insights into the current situation in RR.

Resources: two attorneys with IP and tech experience, one high-level executive recruiter.

Immediate ROI:

  1. Recruiter pitched me for a position.
  2. Online Marketing expert and I exchanged ideas about publishing ebooks and offering consulting services for hire as a Social Media Braintrust.
  3. Dell friend was reactivated about my search to rejoin Dell. Just the conversation was encouraging. He is always encouraging.
  4. One of my tennis opponents is interested in following up about my Social Media training sessions.
  5. Both attorneys expressed an interest in discussing the IP patent filings for Clear Green Technologies.
  6. One of the attorneys invited me to be his guest at a class on entrepreneurship at the Acton MBA school.
  7. The Technology lead for Eanes ISD and I continued our ongoing discussion about brain training and video editing.
  8. I made one connection that I was going to send as a referral to a former colleague for possible work.

So, like Brian Solis says, Social Media is like a cocktail party, you already have the skills you need to be successful.

One large difference is it is much easier to make a “connection” in Online Social Media. In the offline world you have to set dates, locations and then everything has to go right for 3 – 5 days, you have to remember to show up, and you usually have to get out of your comfy chair and drive somewhere.

The value for me of the offline meeting is in the energy and passion you can transmit, resonate with and mine, in a face-to-face with someone who has a similar path. It is also easy to tell when there is not a lively connection, and you can make educated decisions based on that information as well.

Online, the connections, groupings and affinities are too easy. There is very little commitment. Even within groups, causes and linkedIN networks, the “value of the relationship” while tangible, is less than a 15 minute chat at a local coffee shop.

The Online Affinity Group takes 2 minutes of investment to “join” and very little else. I would estimate the “participants” on Facebook groups hovers at around 3%. Everyone else is lurking. Or adding the group as a piece of flair, or merit badge, to show their support. They are not willing to buy you a cup of coffee on speculation, how ever. And usually are not willing to pitch in the price of a cup of coffee for the “cause” they are supposedly supportive of. But it does feel nice to have Bono and his RED campaign on your page. And nobody can argue with the support of Darfur. Warm fuzzies all around. (Actually I bet folks can argue about Darfur.)

At the coffee shop however, if you run into a traffic jam on the way to the meeting… And you forgot your cellphone a home… And your connection is impatient and leaves after 15 minutes so you MISS… That may be unrecoverable. Offers of paying for the next coffee, propositions for the next meeting, might just become more chatter on the social net. Even with people you know, sometimes the “gathering” does not go off as planned. Regardless of which party had the breakdown, you can quickly tell the value of the connection by the follow up and repair that does or does not take place.

So again, I propose we look at WIIFY, pronounced wiffy. What’s In It For You.

If I am not providing enough WIIFY, either online or offline, then perhaps the value and ROI on the exchange are low. However, when we are able to exchange sparks either online or offline, the glow from that meeting can fuel the next 20 connections, ideas, posts, phone calls.

So if we want to examine the ROI of social media we need to look at the sparks and the momentum being generated.

Both as individuals and companies we need to see the growth of our ideas and brands and pronouncements. Putting those directly on a excel spreadsheet can be difficult. But seeing the disciplines of PR and Advertising in the social media age, we can see that there is no other way. We MUST participate. Both offline and online social networking have amazing potential to build momentum behind a brand or a business plan.

Missing the face-to-face meeting or missing the chance to interact online are much the same. The value is where you find it.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
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