Corporate lingo drips with acronyms, one of the most notable being ROI, or Return on Investment – the business concept that any endeavor undertaken must garner a response at least equal to if not exponentially higher than what was invested. Whether time, money or both measuring success is an imperative.
This has proven a challenge in the realm of social media as it pertains to business. It proves a challenge for people using the stuff personally too, but I’ll get to that a bit later. From the chair at the conference table, the equation is simple – does the effort/cash expended map to exponential impact on the bottom line?
The simple truth is that most of this stuff carries a subjective, softer impact that may move product and increase revenue but largely it’s about relationships and connecting – the kind of thing that helps bigger picture image/perception. Of course brand awareness and perception also leads to growth, just not generally in the immediately measurable way most business school minded (and trained) folks are willing to grok.
At least that’s how it has been.
As with so many things in the world of communications and business this is changing. The egalitarian nature of social media overall has given rise to collective efforts from the open source community on how to best navigate the sometimes confusing pathways of this new world.
The sharing of wisdom and groupthink endeavors towards finding ways to measure and meter the success of social media’s use are great. You may hear a “but” coming, and you’re right; because at day’s end it’s not about the tools, it’s about the subjective side of things. It’s about how the people (and by extension businesses) use the stuff. It’s critical to remember that success in social media is not always about volume. What success in social media is about is individual behavior. Even if a business (large or small) is using these technologies, there is still a person whose voice is behind every Tweet, Facebook post, Flickr photo, YouTube video. While that person may be representing a business, it is still their voice that rings through.
To that end, while there are any number of social media experts who guide use, the best direction I think is to follow those whose own behavior represents the kind of on-line presence that rings true for you and your company.