Guest Blog ~ Social Media and The Case of The Missing Assets

I connected with Jon Hardie through LinkedIn and we have discussed how the rise of social media has challenged organisations to embrace new ways of connecting and communicating, demanding greater openness, transparency and engagement. Jon has accepted my invitation to share his thoughts about the potential Return On Investment (ROI) of an approach to social media which develops real relationships with stakeholders.  

Recently, 60% of organizations using social media said that they did not find it helpful. Of course, this had nothing to do with the mercenary, manipulative social medi approach they used. They believed social media was yet another opportunistic marketing technique, to glom onto their marketing campaign, and quickly separate people from their money – the devil take the hindmost!

Institutional alignment & intentionality play a huge role in social media outcomes. Social media is about relationships, and customers have a zero tolerance for manipulation! So, how do I grow a social media program responsibly – and effectively? One question might be: “What is the best way to get more twitter followers? There are two likely responses. 1) “Do this” w/links to tools, techniques, and strategies; 2) Or, “Be careful what you ask for, quantity isn’t always quality.”

Let’s re-phrase these as core strategic social media questions: “What do we want for outcomes?” and “How do we measure success?” These are not trivial questions.The answers are not immediately obvious – we have to change the paradigm.

 A Qualitative, relationship and value driven social media metric: HP research on Influence and Passivity in Social Media makes a strong case that the sustained Quality and Value of each Relationship – not the number of followers – determines the amount of “influence” the twitterer has with followers … by orders of magnitude.

What is Influence in the social media world? Speaking for the organization, is anyone listening to what I say? Do people value and trust what I say? As a result of the perceived value of what I say, with authenticity, passion, and transparency; do I build trust and loyalty? If so, folks will (at my urging) take action; such as passionately RT (re-tweeting) my message to their networks of networks, donating to the cause, attending a concert, participating, mobilizing and volunteering etc?

If what I want for outcomes are responsive followers; with whom I have real relationships that are built on conversational transactions that deliver real value, and these loyal followers will passionately act on behalf of the organization in service to its mission … THEN, I had best focus on investing in responsive listening relationships and qualitative outcomes!

How do I measure success using this qualitative approach to social media? The ROI (Return On Investment) in these sustained passionate and loyal relationships, is reflected in an amazing referral conversion rate of 75%, plus a typical network multiplier of about 10-1 … from each of your loyal and passionate followers to their networks of networks … and they will make their referrals on your behalf – to their networks of networks – for free.

So, what about a Quantitative Social Media Metric: If , on the other hand, what I want is a quantitative outcome – i.e. humongous follower numbers – then I am instantly reminded of the problem of building effective NGO boards of directors or trustees.

There are two types of directors or trustees: (1) Folks who want their names and egos on the masthead and consume space at board meetings. Or, (2) committed, involved, passionate supporters of the community and your organization, who will donate an over-abundance of time, money, energy, and personal referrals to their networks – in service to your organizations mission.

If you want lots of names on the masthead, with no influence, w/no value-added contribution to your mission – then buy lists, and do blind direct mail, email or tweeting to get your message out.

How do we define success for a Quantitative approach of building follower numbers?

Blind list volume-driven direct mail, email or twitter – delivers a typical conversion rate of 2%. So, you are only wrong in guessing what recipients really need, want, and value, 98% of the time!

The Quantitative approach is also very expensive, in terms of the lost opportunity cost, and the actual cost – and worse: the cost of push-back from thousands of totally ticked off, irate, junk twitter, email and mail recipients who receive thousands of unwanted push marketing monologues that contaminate the marketplace, and fill our twitter, email and mail boxes with noise – not value – not only for your organization – but every other NGO.

How many times do you push DELETE each day?

What do I want for outcomes? I vote for investing in passionate loyal followers, with whom I incrementally build trust and sustained loyalty, by delivering real value responsively with every transaction – with authenticity, transparency and passion, and who in return, will passionately multiply the organizations message and their referrals, to their networks of networks … tenfold … for free.

How do I define success? I look at the bottom line, and compare a Qualitative 75% ROI vs. a Quantitative 2% ROI. By changing the paradigm – from quantitative to qualitative – I am recognizing, acknowledging, and investing in the real “asset value” of sustained relationships in driving social media.

A Caveat: We can’t take followers for granted. We need to turn the megaphone around, listen responsively, walk the talk, and deliver real value – with every conversational transaction. This is not a push monologue that builds noise; but a passionate, authentic, transparent and personal conversation … among friends.

So, trust the process, be real, and don’t manipulate it. And you will delight in your outcomes.

What do you think?

Jon Hardie believes that problems are just opportunities … looking for solutions. He lives in the Greater Boston and is Director of Relationship Marketing and a Partner at AudienceWorks 

AudienceWorks tools & services build and sustain relationships and networks that grow new arts audiences.  

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