Show me the Value – Hunting for ROI in the Social Media Maze

social-media-maze with youtube, flickr, linkedin, facebook, and twitter logosValue is a relative term – right? What means something to me might not mean the same for you. But, we all understand that when we spend time or money to achieve a goal or solve a problem, we want to see some progress to that end. In order to realize value from time spent engaging in social media, you have to be clear on why you are “engaging” in the first place.

You need to know what you want from social media – are you looking for customers, clients, franchise prospects, channel partners or collaborators, newsletter or blog subscribers, web site traffic in general, colleagues, media opportunities, or members? Maybe you want a combo — I’ll take # 8 and supersize that!

Get your expectations out of the way would be my first bit of advice. Clear reasons are good, but expectations, not so much. The reason why, is that you may or may not be a natural or skilled networker offline – if you aren’t – don’t expect that your personality will click in when you click the keys. I see plenty of people get disappointed or frustrated after working social media for a few weeks and don’t quickly sense “anything happening.”

You might be a better writer than talker – that’s cool, but unless you like networking for business and know (this is big) how to make inquiries, you might be better off hiring a pro to manage your Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Not long ago, I was called to the office of a local community leader. He wanted me to “prove” to him that social media “works” – wanted to know the value. I had to smile. My initial thought – “he does know this is free, right?” My second thought – nobody needs to prove social media or push it on anyone. You either get it or you don’t. There are plenty of players in the field. And, the funny thing is that social media is just allowing you to do over the “net” the same thing you could do and have been doing in person for years. It’s networking. Faster…and, on a bigger playground, but it’s still networking. If it has worked for you in the past, with a little learnin’ it should continue working for you.

Final thought for the community leader that I’ll share here is that you should not approach social media concerned first with what value you’ll receive. You should be concerned with what value you can bring to others. If you nail that – then the value will be returned. Simple as that.

Still confused, visit me, Mary Kurek, at http://www.marykurek.com
http:/www.twitter.com/marylkurek
Visibility Consulting that focuses on using social media to secure professional introductions on behalf of clients.

Many thanks to my new Twitter friend, Doug Greathouse of Superhero Marketing for allowing me this big of space to deliver a few thoughts. He’s a pro marketer and networker and killer at working social media.

Working social media for business gain may surprise you. Doors may open to interesting opportunities that you couldn’t have guessed.

  • I strongly disagree with this post. I work social media for a Fortune 500 record label. If I went back to my boss and gave him any of these answers I'd be fired. In marketing, there are CLEAR expectations of performance. Here's a fact – social media represents 8% (that's a real stat from Hubspot and the AMA) of where a company's leads are generated therefore less than 8% of a marketing budget is devoted to it. That means, a real company investing dollars in social media expects RETURN on the investment. Any marketer that comes to me and says don't have clear expectations for a campaign does NOT belong in the field.

    • I hear your point, but you clearly misunderstood mine regarding expectations. First, if a company has paid someone like you to manage social media for them – yeah – they should have some expectations…of YOU. The social media isn’t going to return anything that YOU don’t manage to that end. I think the ROI on social media, if worked by someone who knows what they are doing, can be amazing…unlike anything you can achieve otherwise. However, my experience is that most organizations don’t have the resources to allocate to hiring a pro for social media — they make a stab at it themselves, and, if it doesn’t seem to produce what they expect (because they’ve been reading and hearing how great it is) then they throw up their hands and blow it off. Take another look at the post – I do say they should get clear on what they want from social media – absolutely. But, there is a different between wants and expectations. Wants relate to what a person is aiming for, expectations are out of line if talent and appropriate action isn’t applied to the want. Gotta remember, the pool of business users is quite diverse, with a heavy helping of those who are not Fortune 500 types.

  • I hear your point, but you clearly misunderstood mine regarding expectations. First, if a company has paid someone like you to manage social media for them – yeah – they should have some expectations…of YOU. The social media isn't going to return anything that YOU don't manage to that end. I think the ROI on social media, if worked by someone who knows what they are doing, can be amazing…unlike anything you can achieve otherwise. However, my experience is that most organizations don't have the resources to allocate to hiring a pro for social media — they make a stab at it themselves, and, if it doesn't seem to produce what they expect (because they've been reading and hearing how great it is) then they throw up their hands and blow it off. Take another look at the post – I do say they should get clear on what they want from social media – absolutely. But, there is a different between wants and expectations. Wants relate to what a person is aiming for, expectations are out of line if talent and appropriate action isn't applied to the want. Gotta remember, the pool of business users is quite diverse, with a heavy helping of those who are not Fortune 500 types.

  • I still don't get what you are saying here. 1. social media is not free – it takes time and resources. Yes, some tools and channels may be free but if you want to implement social media correctly, you pay for real analytics tools like SM2 or twitalyzer. 2. only 8% of leads come from social media according to studies therefore, the the results from social media alone aren't going to blow up someone's skirt or save a failing business. Using hyperbole to describe what social media can do is setting an unrealistic expectation. Everyone using it should set a goal and an expectation for their campaign based on real metrics and the allocation of resources and follow through with measuring results with real analytics tools like the social media plugin for Google analytics or even Trackur. And yes, anyone serious about their social campaign – uses conversion pages, bit.ly and paid services for metrics and listening. As for small businesses using social media – if they want to use it effectively they must have a plan, a goal and an expectation of performance as they would with a direct mail or advertising campaign. Not having those things sets the campaign up for failure.

  • Mary, Great Article.. I get asked that very question about how is this going to bring me more business. Now I have something great to say back to them..

  • Guest

    Absolutely agree with REBlogGirl! If I went into any campaigns, be it e-mail, social or an advertising campaign with no goals as to what the end results should be, I'd be out of a job. Don't think my clients would be happy either. Every move in marketing has a goal….every move. Campaigns are thought out, developed and launched with those goals in mind. Social media use is no different.

  • Guest

    Absolutely agree with REBlogGirl! If I went into any campaigns, be it e-mail, social or an advertising campaign with no goals as to what the end results should be, I'd be out of a job. Don't think my clients would be happy either. Every move in marketing has a goal….every move. Campaigns are thought out, developed and launched with those goals in mind. Social media use is no different.