Expectations for Social Media’s elusive value.

Digging for Social Media value

Is there business value in here?

We seem to have moved to the next phase of social media. And, I might add, not a moment too soon.

So over it.

The first painful phase of exploration, experimentation and endless posts about someone’s lunch or dinner fare has become so very passé.

The early adopters and category gurus who I respectfully “listened” to and attempted to learn from as a naive student of the new media, now seem to be engaged in a boring and limited conversation with themselves.

“Listening” or following the conversation has become a bit of a disappointment. Especially if you are not a regular attendee of the 140 conference, SXSW or whatever gathering of the moment is being tweeted about as a “have to be there” event. As an outsider, the leading gurus inside banter is difficult to get excited about because it’s so often uninspiring.

Lingering concerns about value.

So now that everyone has many profiles on many social networks and the conversations and sharing continue at a mind-boggling pace, serious questions still linger about the real value of all this social media interaction. For example:

    • Does the huge time investment of posting, blogging, commenting, tweeting, photo tagging and gallery uploading, creating videos, exchanging in tweet-ups, “farming” in Farmville, and so many other social media activities translate into meaningful business value?


    • Does having lots of followers, fans and connections really improve the value of your personal brand, increase revenue, expand your reach, improve your influence and enhance consideration of you or your services in today’s hypercompetitive environment? Especially if you are a B2B professional services provider?


    • Is social capital really a credible investment that gains in value with each and every social contribution made over a long period of time? Especially in an environment where there continues to be so much frivolous online activity?


    • Is the end result of all of this just a game to lift search results ranking by the search engines?


  • And seriously, who really wants Foursquare or Gowalla following every move you make, 24/7 and alerting others about your activities and whereabouts?
I don’t know about you but I’ve come to find social media as an emerging, experimental and sometimes interesting exercise. And that’s about as far as I am able to go in making an assessment of the real value of this rapidly changing media.

That said, I am very sure that I DON’T want Twitter to become yet another polluted broadcast channel that is inundated with annoying and mindless ads. Who wants to deal with another layer of noise in the continually rising volume on social media?

Where to from here?

Social media is now as cluttered and polluted as any traditional media channel. And getting noticed, shared or acknowledged by anyone in it is more challenging than ever.

Yet, while social media continues to attract new participants because it it is misperceived as being a FREE channel for distributing a message or content, I suspect that the ROI is starting to align with other “direct” marketing channels. For it is there where expectations for return on investment have been in the low single digits for many years. And for marketers, social media may prove to only be able deliver that level of ROI for the foreseeable future.

What do you think?

Is social media the marketing panacea that so many are claiming? Or does there need to be a collective recalibration of the true business value that this rapidly growing channel can actually deliver?

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