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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  • pmatsuda

    As semi-humorous as the Oatmeal’s article (see “very passe” link) is, it assumes that Tweeters should be knowledgeable and bring something valuable to the table. With any social media, the value is having the majority, not the minority to be “real people”, not pundits, marketers or media outlets. If that is the case, then marketers will be bemoaning the fact that the only people using Twitter are those trying to push their product, service or POV.

    That being said (and getting to the meat of the article), social media is lot like golf. As the great Gary Player once said, “Golf is a puzzle with no answer”.  Any illusion that you have that you have it “all figured out”, can be easily shattered with your next round, your next hole, even your next shot. The one big difference is that the Rules of Golf are slow to change, whereas, the rules, and playing field of social media change at least once every 6 months if not sooner.

    This got me to thinking about more ways that social media is and isn’t like golf. Maybe I’ll post it in my own blog…or maybe I’ll just work on my short game. Either way I go, it won’t be an exercise to increase my rankings or mine more followers. Sometimes you just have to Grip It and Rip it for the hell of it.

  • Thanks Paul for your considered comments.

    I think you’re onto something about Twitter. I would agree that everyone using the channel DOES have an agenda and is selling something. A product, service, personality or POV.

    And the definition of selling can, and should, include influence over time. Which will lead to a sale. For that, I believe, is the ultimate value that many of these new social channels offer.

    No investment over the long term (sharing, Tweeting, commenting, interacting) no gain or ROI. And that ROI could be whatever your objective is: visits, retweets, likes, conversions, shares, downloads, links, time on page, subscribes, etc.

    But I’m with you. Grip it and Rip it is a good attitude. The challenge for everyone these days is that there’s a lot to Grip before you can Rip. At least in golf you know the goal is to put the ball in the hole and you can plot a course to accomplish that. 

    On the web, and particularly in the domain of internet marketing these days, it seems as though the boundaries of the course, and even the location of the hole, keep moving. But I guess that’s what keeps the game exciting. And sometimes exhausting!