Friday, May 8, 2009

Does Community lead to Commerce?

Cash MoneyImage by jtyerse via Flickr

Before Arik departed for turquoise waters, he posted “Is Social Media Really About Me?” Consensus from comments to that post in my rough observation revolved around sharing, collaboration and making connections. We can all agree that some ego is likely involved. Right?

For me, it is affirming when I get retweeted, @replies, or blog comments. It feels great to think that a post I have written compels someone to take time to respond – even in disagreement. I like feeling the connection. I am uplifted by feeling I participated in a conversation that taught me and others something new.

Unfortunately, most businesses need to believe something more valuable than an ego boost or “good collaboration” is on the other side of a journey into social media participation. The famous ROI question keeps getting raised one way or another. I usually run in to this question from business leaders who are still trying to understand online social spaces and their place, if any, within the operations of their organization. I heard it this week:

How do we monetize Twitter?”

How can we make money using social media? Nobody seems able to answer that.”

This feels like one of the most frequent questions asked with the widest range of answers. What is the ROI in social media? To me, the answer is in the verbiage. “How can we make money USING social media?” “Using” needs to be replaced with “participating.”

Businesses have used mass media. They use accountants. They use raw materials. Social media is not for use. It is for participation. Commerce, as a motivation for community, can easily lead to contrived interaction, superficial relationships and limited desire for customers and employees to engage.

I am driven to explain to these organization leaders that authentic/human participation in social media leads to real relationships, passionate employees, and engaged customers. Lack of participation, strategy, and tactics lead to issues like the recent Domino's debacle on YouTube or a loss of connection with the millions of consumers/employees who have come to expect a more personal relationship with brands.

In which camp do you fall? Should social media participation and engagement be measured against expenses and sales? Are you one that believes social media can be statistically judged?

Or are you of the belief that participation is about relationships, connections, collaboration, and sharing?

Can it be both?

Thanks you, Arik, for inviting me to guest post. It is an honor to try and fill in for you. I hope your readers enjoy the post. Cheers, All. @camgross

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Mike Keliher said...

It's so simple, and I'm sure I've heard -- and even said -- roughly the same thing before, but the way you've expressed it here is perfect: You gain by participating in social media, not by using them.

Two issues, though:

First, in many cases, simply "using" social media is perfectly acceptable. Like media outlets that have Twitter accounts to pump out their headlines. That's usually an automated thing, taking advantage of RSS and maybe Twitterfeed. That's not going to save the newspaper business, and I'd hope individual reporters or editors would be using Twitter more meaningfully (see @jojeda and @derushaj), but that's a perfectly acceptable thing for, say, @minnpost to do.

Second, no matter how good Domino's corporate strategy might have been, no matter how deep its level of participation, the debacle that happened after those videos showed up online could not have been prevented by social media-savvy communication department. That was an act of stupidity and brand sabotage carried out by a couple of abnormal employees.

And of course, the ROI question is often made more difficult than it needs to be. Sometimes, making money isn't the direct goal. Maybe social media serve a purpose that's much closer to customer service than it is to marketing. How do you determine if your existing customer service efforts are adding value or eating resources? Apply that standard to your social media efforts.

Kasey Skala said...

Social media is not marketing, nor is it sales. Social media, in its purest form, is a relationship building tool. It's customer service, relationship management, reputation management. If additional sales come as result of social media, that's an added benefit.

If an organization is getting involved with social media because 1) their competitor is 2) everyone else is or 3) to increase sales; then they are doing it for the wrong reason.

Ford may not be able to directly correlate a sale of one of their vehicles to their involvement with social media, but how do you argue against what @scottmonty is doing for them?


CamGross said...

Mike, great comments. Thank you. Perhaps I was a bit short handed in my post. There are "uses" for social media. My advice for most brands would be, "participate." If a brand, like a newspaper, was also going to use social media to push headlines in addition to their participation, I say "smart."

I agree with you also on the Domino's thing. Some dbag employees will just go about being stupid. I do wonder if they would have thought twice if it was broadly known that the company is out there paying attention. The other thing the two saboteurs could not predict is the viral spread of their post. I'm sure they thought they lit a match and it burnt out. Instead, they lit a match and threw it into dry leaves.

Finally, I want to take your words and make them into some kind of mantra: "Are your [internal/external social media] efforts adding value or eating resources?" Saweet!

Mark said...

Some really good points.well ! social community is One of the best way to build links with toue friends. tweetgi is the most fastest social network. Its allows individuals to create a personal profile or identity, and connect with friends and strangers alike almost anywhere in the world.