Social Media ROI

This week I have been working with a new client on their social media strategy. More about them in future posts, but even though they are an educational non-profit, they are interested in their return on investment (ROI) from using social media.

Businesses have learned in the past five years that social networking is a powerful platform. Their market research shows that their customers are using social media and that it affects their buying. The problem has been showing the ROI from companies getting into the space. How does adding another 25,000 followers on twitter or Facebook impact sales? More importantly, DOES it impact sales at all? 

In phase one of the social media explosion, companies didn't really see why they needed to be in the space. It looked like a fad. In phase two, they saw their competitors moving into the space and figured they had better be there too or be seen as old-fashioned. In this phase there was (and still is for some companies) an “If we build it, they will come" attitude. But then they didn't come. Or the company wasn't sure if they had come because of the social media.

Once MySpace was big. Then Facebook overwhelmed it. Now, MySpace is trying to swim back up to the surface. They need to show people that they are something other than Facebook, not a replacement for it. Google Plus took that attitude too, saying "We're not Facebook and we don't want to be." Critics might say that's because neither of them can be Facebook at this point. Supporters would say that there is room for other networks as long as they serve different needs.

Yahoo was once Google, in that it was the place to search. But that was before google became Google. Now, with CEO Marissa Mayer calling the shots, they are looking at purchases like Tumblr which would add 107 million microblogs and another 15 billion pageviews a month to Yahoo. For companies like Yahoo, Google and Facebook (who are media and advertising companies now), that means a lot to ROI. But Yahoo is also looking at being cool again.   The marketing folks will look at the numbers and see that users stay longer on Tumblr than on Facebook and get excited. They will tell you that Yahoo users are an aging audience. That's not good for advertisers. It was said that Tumblr would cost a billion dollars. Facebook bought Instagram last year for about $715 million. Not chump change, so you better get some ROI from that.

Then there is the ROI of your personal social media. What do you get from being on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Connecting with old friends, keeping up with casual acquaintances, finding out what people are talking about, making professional connections, self-promotion, jobs, staying up on new things, trends, and just trying to stay cool as you age? 

I use a site called SlideShare to post presentations that I create and give. It's a way to archive them, share them (via links and embeds) with people at an event and with people who didn't attend the event, and it has social tools so that people can follow your work and you can follow people who interest you. There is a lot of backslapping and hat tipping in social media. You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

Slideshare sends me weekly stats about my uploads. It tells me that my slides have had 133,00 views. 150 have favorited them and 1000 people have downloaded them.  Several presentations on Moodle (that are now out of date) keep getting views and are up to almost 60,000. One on open textbooks had 40 views this past week added to its 2000 earlier ones. My most recent upload on engagement has almost 400 views. The site links to my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and I get followers and make contacts by way of those presentations.

So what is my return on this little social investment? As with companies, it's about building reputation, community and attention. Those are tough things to put a $ on, even though we know thay have value that is at least partially monetary.


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