That’s right. You shouldn’t use any. If the deciding factor of whether or not to spend your time on Facebook over Twitter or LinkedIn over Pinterest solely comes down to which will bring you the highest ROI, you need your hand slapped and your computer taken away from you. And maybe even a disapproving look.
You may hate this next part, but I’m going to say it anyway. There is no such thing as a return on investment for social media.
Of all things that keep your business running each day, why do you choose this one to measure in order to see the value that it brings? Do you calculate the ROI on your office phone system? Or how about that new leather couch in the waiting room? Or the art on the wall of the conference room? Or even the receptionist answering the phone?
All of these things play a roll in how your business runs, don’t they? Just because you can’t chart out their value does not mean that you should get rid of them.
This is the Part Where You Disagree and Call Me Names
The argument is often that without some type of measurement, how can you justify where you are spending your time to your boss, your clients and even yourself?
So instead of just being OK with the fact that we don’t have a specific measurement, we solve this little dilemma by creating fancy words like “engagement” in order to make us all feel like there is a tangible goal waiting for us at the end of this whole social media maze.
But there is not. Sorry.
There is no finish line. No goal post. No target.
Social media cannot be defined by action steps or to-dos. There is no formula or road-map. It is not something that you can schedule or measure. And you can’t buy it or fake it.
This is the Part Where Your Mind Gets Blown
Social media is not Facebook or Twitter. Pinterest or LinkedIn. YouTube or MySpace…it’s definitely not MySpace. These sites are not social media. These sites are a vehicle.
Social media is you. And me. And that annoying guy that’s always trying to sell you some piece of crap information product. And the woman who posts all of those cat videos. It’s your best friend. And that guy from your high school football team that never said a word to you back in the day but is now always commenting on your status. It’s the people that you have never met in person and yet you would offer them your couch if they needed a place to stay. And it’s your family that you have known your whole life and yet you would never think of offering them your couch if they needed a place to stay.
Social media is about relationships.
How do you quantify that? How do you create a pretty graph that shows the return on investment for your relationships? You don’t calculate the ROI of your marriage, do you? Because if you did you probably wouldn’t be married anymore. What is the ROI of your parents? Your friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? What is the return on investment of that stranger you are sitting next to on the subway?
You don’t calculate the ROI for relationships because there is none. And since social media is all about building relationships wouldn’t that mean that there is no return on investment for social media?
This is the Part Where I Cleverly Use an Example to Support My Position
When the lights went out the night of the Superbowl, the agency handling the Oreos social media campaign was on it. They posted a Tweet about dunking in the dark. It was awesome. The timing was perfect. And the idea was brilliant. They were carried off the field on the proverbial shoulders of marketing geeks like myself as this one little Tweet was shared over a hundred thousand times in what seemed like seconds.
And rightfully so.
Yet, do you know how many more Oreos they sold that night because of that Tweet? Around zero. Do you know how many more Oreos they were hoping to sell that night because of that Tweet? Around zero.
The purpose of that Tweet was not to get us to bum rush the store looking for Oreos during the game. It was to connect to us. To let us see Oreo as more than just a cookie. To show us that Oreos could actually be our cool friend.
Maybe someday someone will be standing in the cookie aisle stuck between choosing a box of Oreos and a box of Nutter Butters. And maybe that person will feel more of a connection to Oreos because of that Tweet or because they are connected on Twitter or Facebook. And maybe that will be the deciding factor that gets them to buy the Oreos.
Maybe. Maybe not.
It doesn’t matter. How would you even attribute that particular sale to that particular Tweet anyway? You can’t.
But just because you can’t doesn’t make social media a waste of time. Just because you can’t doesn’t make it meaningless. And just because you can’t doesn’t mean that you stop.
Instead, you should continue to connect with people and build relationships without some ulterior motive of “what’s in it for me?”
This is the Part Where I Tie This Whole Thing Up in a Pretty Little Bow
Social media is hard enough without the added pressure of charts and graphs. Or deadlines and milestones. It’s just as difficult if not more so than making real friends in real life.
And that can be tough!
Think back to high school. Imagine if someone was following you around monitoring your every move. Get turned down by a girl? Called a name while in the shower in gym? Stand in front of the class with your fly down? All converted into a nice little chart to display how ineffective you were at making new friends this week.
You would likely just give up. Study your butt off and get through school however you had to and then move on.
And this is what happens with social media. There are hundreds of thousands of people, brands and companies out there that want to get involved. They want to reach out. They want to connect. And they want to build relationships.
But they are scared.
Scared they are doing it wrong. Or it’s not worth the effort. Or they don’t know what they are doing. Or they just plain forgot how to be human beings when sitting in front of the computer.
So they don’t even try.
Or worse. In an effort to make their “engagement” chart look good, they buy followers. They spam their friends. Trick people into clicking their link. They use social media to sell, sell, sell.
They don’t even try to build relationships. And so they end up worse off than when they started. But at least the chart looks good.
And then there are those that get it. They build real relationships. They have friends that they care about even though they have never met. They help others. And they have no expectations of what they get in return.
Those are the ones that are doing it right. And if you ask them what their social media return on investment is, I bet they have no clue.