I was listening to this podcast by Francois Gossieaux with H&R Block CMO Paula Drum and the way in which Paula, a colleague on the Blog Council, answered the question on ROI caught my attention. The ROI of social media is not a one-time deal
What happens is that you sell it every day, because that is when it is important. Just like taxes, it's something you accrue every day and tally periodically. You take stock and regroup to plan the decisions you are going to make as a result of the feedback you receive - return is another word for feedback.
All of the things that people may be saying about you are going to happen anyway. How are you going to respond to it all? Do you need to? What can you do? Go online and find out how engagement works. You will discover that customers are not going to go away happy or buy more with a campaign, even a nice integrated program, unless you include engagement.
If customers are talking about you, why would you not want them to talk with you? H&R Block has created Digits as a place to share and entertain. Are you in a highly regulated industry? A few of the MIMA attendees I talked with yesterday are. This is a good example of what a company can do to open up to the community, even in a highly regulated industry. From the site:
Digits is your community, built with the latest technologies to help you share your thinking through text, images and video conversations. Digits highlights the connections between money, art, politics, the planet and people everywhere. You’ll get access to the tax and personal financial resources you’d expect from H&R Block ... but there’s much more here than that. Serious debate? Sure. A little light-hearted banter? Absolutely. Digits is about money. It’s about life. It’s about you. Come be entertained and join in the fun. [see the user guide]
There are two main kinds of measurements for social media. One is the micro measurement you use every day - how many community members, how many readers, how many visitors. This is akin to the strategy partially attached to Web sites. Web sites, newsletters, email copy are still important for conversion. Blogs and social media are important for conversation - there is also a viral component to them in addition to the community dynamic.
The longer term measurements are about engagement and impact on retention. These take up to two years. Is the company brand seen as relevant, for example? These are movements in awareness and they need to be tied back to the activities you have undertaken and the value of those activities to customers.
It's easy to get caught in the micro measurement and forget to trend the long term positive effect of engagement and impact on retention, especially when managing quarter by quarter. Perhaps there are some things we can do to keep our sight on the long term while we take the daily steps. Maybe the answer is not just in how we collect the data, but in what data and information we track. As well, do we take into consideration the context of those interactions?
Today we're all moving in relation to each other. What are the points of connection and what is their value? We will continue to explore ROI and social media. I agree with Paula's statement - it is not a one-time deal. With social media you have many (different) interactions, one time as opposed to the same interaction, many times that you have with traditional marketing.
The many interactions from different people, yet in a public forum, build many stories, not just the company-sanctioned story. Can you design interactions? Tomorrow we'll talk about someone who does. What's your take?