At the risk of exposing some of my own confusion about how to measure ROI, here are some ideas knocking around in my head as we lead up to Buzz2010 this Wednesday with Olivier Blanchard. There are a lot of different lenses to view ROI through. Typically, the most talked about (rose-colored) lens puts a PR slant on social media ROI. (Click on that last link…it’s got some golden nuggets from Don Bartholomew, VP, Digital Research at Fleishman Hillard.) For associations, our lenses might be a different hue.
Membership recruitment — did social media help us sell new memberships?
Membership retention — did social media help us renew current members?
Public awareness — is social media a cost-effective means of building buzz?
Government relations — is social media making our lobbying efforts more effective?
Magazine publishing — is social media helping us drive ad revenue? Is it helping us reduce print costs? Is it helping us expand circulation?
Book publishing — is social media driving book sales?
Volunteer relations — is social media making it more cost-effective to manage volunteer groups?
Local chapter administration — is social media making it more cost-effective to manage chapters?
Continuing education and certification programs — is social media selling courses? Is it selling certifications?
Conferences and trade shows — is social media selling registration? sponsorship? exhibits? Is it building buzz more cost-effectively around these events?
It’s complicated. That’s why it’s so important to collaborate, too. If you’re sitting in the membership department, focusing on ROI in terms of membership, you may miss an opportunity to showcase ROI in terms of all of these other lenses. Olivier will help us distill all of this to its simplest parts on Wednesday. We may even get to learn some calculations to back up our claims. Remember to register, and see you Wednesday.
“I have to say the whole ROI question sort of baffles me in the context of associations because there are so many associations doing so many OTHER things badly for which they aren’t questioning the ROI–why only do it for social media? Yes, I get it–it’s new. You have to build a business case for it. Etc. But what about stuff you built a business case for once upon a time but has outlived its usefulness yet nobody questions it and it continues–”it” being either staff positions, products, services, membership categories–you name it? And what’s the cost of NOT doing stuff that has become mainstream to the point where people expect it?”
I think this is another question we can ask Olivier in the context of his presentation on August 18. When there are so many aspects to our business that no one questions, why is the burden on social media managers to prove ROI? And when that burden is on us, how do we earn a little leeway to build out a social media program to the point where there is ROI? And what happens when the people who have the measurement chops to help us prove ROI are not on our side? Does it come down to education–training enough people in enough areas of the organization to learn how to use social tools as a means to an end? Is it experience? Case studies? Anecdotes? Is it just a leap of faith?
I present a lot. And sometimes, when I hear someone ask about social media ROI with that skeptical tone, I feel like they haven’t been listening to me at all. Like they’re looking for me to say, “Yes, I can prove that you will have a 2.75% return on every dollar you spend on social media–based on that return, you should plan to begin by investing 10% of your organization’s total income into Facebook by the end of the third quarter.” (Hmmm, that sounds pretty good. Maybe I should start using that as my answer. LOL.)
Is questioning social media ROI simply a way to avoid changing the way we work? Sometimes. And won’t it be cool when we can answer with enough confidence to take away that excuse? Just a few days left to register, folks. See you next Wednesday.
We’ve been playing around in the tool, and plan to do much more with it over the next few months. I see some really useful applications for associations who have multiple departments running separate social media initiatives, but need a single tool where a team can collaborate on content, monitoring, and measurement. Remember Olivier’s ideas about teamwork? Once you’ve got the people and the roles in place, you’ll need an engine to run it.
The gang at Spredfast is based in Austin, and they’ve been working to really understand the needs of organizations who are integrating social media programs into their work. The Spredfast blog is pretty great, if you want a better idea of the thinking that goes on there. We’re really happy to have their support for Buzz2010, and we’re excited to introduce you all to the company and the tool.
That’s my big question for Olivier Blanchard. When we talk social media ROI, is engagement enough? I think it’s easy for us as association executives to say, “Yes, it’s enough. That’s why we exist.” But at the end of the day, every association has specific, measurable business goals. Is the money and time you’re investing in social media advancing those business goals, or are those resources best used elsewhere?
My friend and colleague, Andy Steggles, frequently speaks and writes about “Return on Engagement,” and the argument is compelling, especially in light of the research that shows that engagement is the key to member retention. But when budgets tighten and you need to justify the money you’re putting into your online community, ROE is not much of a safety net in my opinion. We can do better. We can figure out how to measure and prove true ROI if we focus on it now, while we still have the leeway to experiment.
I guess that’s the takeaway here. Olivier is going to show us how to think in terms of ROI. It’s not a natural way of thinking for most community managers. And for the association leaders who already think in terms of ROI, Olivier will show us how to communicate with the folks managing your social media programs to align their work with your business goals. If you haven’t registered yet, here’s the link. If you can’t make it on August 18, send a colleague–it’s worth it.
Buzz2010 wouldn’t have happened this year without the support of our sponsors. ThePort Network signed on right in the beginning to sponsor the August 18 Buzz breakfast on ROI with Olivier Blanchard. ThePort is a mainstay around association events, and they’ll be at the ASAE Annual meeting this month as exhibitors. We’d like to take this post to say thank you to the gang over at ThePort for a) being a part of Buzz2010, and b) recognizing the importance of this unique event. You guys rock!
We’ve written about ThePort before in our whitepaper on online community vendors. Maddie Grant and I have visited their offices in Atlanta and DC, and they have a really impressive team to go along with their strong social networking platform. You’ll hear more about what they do at the breakfast. In the meantime, be sure to register if you haven’t already. Space is filling up, and you won’t want to miss what Olivier has to say about measuring the impact of your social media work.
We’ve definitely seen the importance of team work for associations and non-profits who are using social media. And we’ve seen how staff structure and organizational culture can help or hinder a social media program. What happens when some of the building blocks live in a department that has cross-purposes to the rest of the building blocks? What happens when one of the building blocks is missing altogether?
And when it comes to ROI, Olivier makes this point:
“Community managers and customer service representatives probably don’t need to worry about silly things like R.O.I. What they need is an environment that allows them to engage with the public without having to worry about measurement and strategy and integration. Some things just don’t go well together. If everyone can just focus on what they do best, everything will flow much more smoothly. Specialization isn’t a bad thing.”
Lots to think about and learn. Looking forward to having Olivier to ourselves for a few hours–aren’t you?
As we begin gearing up for the final Buzz2010 Breakfast on ROI, let’s peek back at what happened last Tuesday at the session on managing risk. Today, I’m blatantly stealing content from Maddie’s post over on SocialFish–but it’s OK, because I’m complying with our social media policies by reusing content only with the author’s permission. (Maddie told me I could.)
That was a risk joke, in case you missed it. It’s OK to snicker.
This coming Tuesday, July 20, Buzz2010 participants will spend part of their time together at Clyde’s of Gallery Place solving a risk scenario for a fictional association. The idea being, if you can solve for someone else’s risk, you can solve for your own. Just to keep it interesting, the association we’ve made up represents the extreme action sports retailers and manufacturers. Love X Games? Is Shaun White your hero? Then you might just get an extra kick out of the exercise.
Here’s a little snippet from the scenario–I’m still finalizing it. I think it’s going to be good. But if you have any suggestions for me, let me know.
“About a third of the 35 staff members are extreme action sports enthusiasts themselves. Several have been actively sharing video and photos of themselves enjoying their favorite sport on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube, and those posts have been very popular among members—especially the manufacturers of the equipment that the staff members are using. One manufacturer even commented to a staff member that he’d send him their latest model snowboard to demo so he could ‘learn what a real board feels like.’”
So…you spot any juicy risks in there? Got any ideas for the steps you’d take to manage that risk? Wait till you see the rest of the scenario…
I had to laugh the other day–I was on the phone with a mentor, and I mentioned that we were having our Buzz2010 “Social Media Risk” edition, and he said, “Oooh–you make it sound so scary!”
Fear. It’s the pull to our push. And you can’t really talk about managing risk without talking about working through fear. The program next Tuesday will talk about those dynamics, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the success stories you hear. It can be done! And it doesn’t have to be scary!
We’re finalizing the program details for Buzz2010 - Managing Risk on July 20 at 8:30am, and after a few calls with Mark, Wendy, and Alex, I can’t wait. They’ll start off the program with 30 minutes of panel discussion. We’ll get a chance to pick the panelists brains. (Not literally, for you zombie fans out there. That would be scary, and we’re avoiding scary.) Then there will be a scenario for us to work through together in groups. We’ll talk about the strategy, process, and people in play for specific risks that the scenario will describe. Then we’ll come back together for the last half hour or so to discuss our a-ha moments from the program. You’ll get a chance to think about the risks your own organization is working through, and how you might tackle them moving forward. See…that’s not too scary!
Next Tuesday at Noon, you can catch the rebroadcast (and hold on to the recording and materials) from the Buzz2010 Breakfast on Open Leadership with Charlene Li, author of Groundswell and the newly released Open Leadership.
This is one of those things that you should set aside a conference room and get the whole team involved to watch and discuss. Seriously…it was that good. Here’s a short clip from Charlene to give you an idea of what you’ll see. She covers a lot of ground during her presentation. And through the rebroadcast format, we’ll be able to discuss the content amongst ourselves as a group. That’s the part I’m looking forward to the most. Enjoy!