The Value Myth of Social Media

I was reading the post 7 social media truths you can ignore this morning when I was struck by one of the last things mentioned in the post which said, Provide Value.

As soon as I saw that, I had to get this thought out.

Scene 1.

You’ve been dating your significant other for a few months now and have decided to end it. Why?

They’re not bringing enough value to the relationship. Of course that translates better into things like:

  • They were slobs
  • The snored
  • They couldn’t hold a job
  • They cheated

What does that look like in the online world of social media? I unfollow you on Twitter because all you do is tweet out links and you’re not giving me enough value in the relationship.

What did I expect? I’m not sure. A business relationship? Maybe.

I followed you based on what your bio said. Oh wait, I followed you because you followed me. Similar to picking someone up in a bar isn’t it? You looked hot, we didn’t really talk much, mainly because it was so loud and dark; but on the surface you looked promising. So I had no expectations in the first place.

Value or perceived value is so subjective and so hopeful isn’t it? It always is in the beginning.

Shouldn’t the value that we want or expect out of others be commensurate to what we are putting out there? I’m trying, shouldn’t you? Or is it one way, or one sided?

Scene 2.

If I’m on a basketball team and I bust my ass in practice and during games, I should expect that of my teammates right? What if they don’t? Should it bother me? Should I complain? Should I say something to someone? What if we still win? What if each component functioning on its own and in its own way contributes to the sum total of the parts?

Should I demand value from my teammates? If I don’t get it, do I quit? or do I focus on my own game and do what makes me who I am and let it go? Is that selfish? Is it up to me to tell them that they are not bringing enough value? What if that’s the best that they can do?

If I expect value from every relationship or scenario that involves other people and I don’t get it, what am I going to do? I can abide by that mantra in social media, or try to abide by it, but to honestly and genuinely expect it from every relationship that I engage in in social media, is going to render us all sorely disappointed. no two relationships are going to render the same results. That doesn’t mean that it has to suck. Or that you end it.  You can cultivate the good relationships. Just treat the rest of the relationships for what they are. Just people being people.

I am wont to say from time to time that the value you take in social media should be equal to the value that you make. I still believe that and I still tell others that. It’s a good cornerstone. But sometimes I think we focus too much on the Utopian way things need to be in social media instead of the way things just are or will be.

If it moves…measure it!

measure

Beth Kanter was writing about measuring engagement and return on relationships recently and there was a line that struck me. It was as simple as it was complex for a lot of people to understand and it’s this:

Money was the only one metric for success…

But as I read further, I couldn’t help but nod my head at this sentence:

Whatever the tool we’re using, the right metrics are those that can help us understand engagement and relationships.

So yea, for social media marketers and companies alike, if it makes money, or saves money or builds equity, that’s a good thing. But we can still and should measure engagement and its positive or negative impact as well, which can and will affect the bottom line.

ROI vs. ROE -I did not do a good enough job selling social media.

I had my biggest challenge of trying to sell ROI for a social media project this past week and I lost. Passion lost. Clarity of message lost, and the power of the conversation lost out to the following unspoken sentiment, “I can’t pay for something where I can not see a clear 1:1 ratio of money spent and money earned.

I’ll be honest, my my own private little thought cloud right then and there was,”Oh yea? What did I spend? Hours of work, sweat equity if you will, on learning everything I could on why social media would make sense for you, mister client, and the irrefutable argument that went with it, and you can’t see it?”

On a side note: There is not a social media practitioner, marketer or evangelist out there, who would not agree that this person and their current business model would not have benefited from a solid injection of web 2.0 sensibilities.

Not only did I do my homework but I also spent hours on the phone with the conduit/project manager, who not only had bought my vision, but had also in the same process, drank the social media Kool-ade. I educated him to the extent that he totally got what I was saying. He GOT IT. Which to a lesser degree is a huge win. Why? Because we met through a 140 character conversation on Twitter. That’s right, this whole process and opportunity came about because of Twitter. The conduit in Austin, me in Naples, and the client in Phoenix.

At the end of the day though, after the nearly 2 hour Saturday conference call with the prospect, it became painfully obvious that he was not willing to spend what it would take to transform his personal brand and what he does for a living, into something more viable, accessible, and transparent- he wanted solid ROI. Not the hope of notion or perceived ROI. His thing was, “lets sell something that makes money, and I’ll pay you if I make money”.

All was not lost. First, I made a friend in Austin, who has passion, vision, and Get’s it. And whenever you meet someone who gets it- the potential for more opportunities like the one mentioned above will always exist.

Second, I learned some more lessons. I say more because I’ve been learning a lot of them lately. Failing forward if you will. I’ve been given some great indirect lessons from my peers through blog comments and tweets, individuals like Jim Storer, Paul Chaney, Valeria Maltoni and Jason Breed. Some lessons that are human and tangible. Lessons learned on the client side and lessons learned from the community. A win win..

So here’s the thing- Ultimately, I have to ask myself, did I do a good enough job of presenting tangible proof on why social media makes sense? I don’t know. I may be too close to the subject to answer that objectively. But The question does arise and will arise again; and this was a concern Friday night when I had completed the proposal and had attached a dollar value to it. Did I show enough proof? A proof of concept to justify the cost that would eventually increase ROI through engagement?

The bottom line is I guess not. Because the bottom line right now is very prominent, very front and center. Managers want to see ROI. They need ROI. I think what they don’t understand, is that if I’m going to embark on a social media campaign for a client, it involves a time suck and a commitment from the client and the person rolling out the project- the cost is labor and time, both of which I think are measurable and ultimately can be charged for. I’m sorry but I value my knowledge and my time and I’m going to charge for it. Ok… I’m starting to get a little fired up again so I’m going to stop here. But here are my parting words-

When you pitch the social media project of any scope and scale, Be thorough, and understand that all managers are going to really, really focus on the investment and the return, no matter how well YOU get the big picture. But you know what? One loss does not define a season. They’ll be more and I’ll do better.