Home_Slide1_ComputerThe ROI of social media debate rages on. People are getting quite bored of it, yet it is still intriguing as this is an important topic.

Following our previous post, The ROI of Social Media – Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck, several thoughts need to be added in light of comments, reactions and conversation.

There are two camps, one saying that trying to establish the ROI for social media is wrong and goes against the very nature of social media. For this camp social media is about fluid, open conversations and the building up of relationships. To reduce this to mere measurement and numbers is wrong and represents everything that is wrong with how organizations have worked in the past.

The other camp says that measuring the ROI of social media is the right thing to do. Adhering to a plan or social media strategy requires measurement and analysis. The people who argue against this approach often argue that the two are mutually exclusive, that a quantifiable mindset kills the qualitative spirit. It is this assumption that is creating the problems.

I think we are getting caught up in semantics. The whole ROI debate is riddled with controversy because people are using the language and mindset of a previous paradigm. When at the beginning of a shift, as we are, the old paradigm’s language and mindset remain predominant while the new paradigm has to find a way to express itself. Often the new paradigm has to use the language of the old paradigm to gain attention. Entitling this topic as “How to ensure you are engaging in an effective social media strategy” will not grab the attention of marketers in the same way as using the term ROI. Yet using this term brings with it a whole history, one that has traditionally been about control, admin and justification.

Absolutely. You cannot measure the effectiveness of every social conversation. Yes it is difficult to quantify the good that comes from real customer engagement. But this does not mean you should not use analytics and measurement.

Measurement is not to be approached as justification and measurement should never inhibit the flow of social conversations and connections. But in order to be effective for business, a social media campaign has to be built on a strategy. Part of that strategy is all about engagement, participation and openness. It is about starting the conversation and seeing where it goes. Yes we should encourage people within our organization to participate freely, with no expectation or obligation. The other part has to include measurement and metrics. There is little point in having these conversations if they are not going to inform you. Here ROI is measured in relation to goals and objectives rather than in terms of money.

If you are integrating social media and social software into the very fabric of your organization, incorporating your CMS and your LMS and using analytics and measurement can turn your website or web presence into powerful tools. Not at the expense of your fluid and open social conversation and interactions, but in conjunction with it.