The Value of Social Connections
I talk to many of our clients about social media every day. One of the most repeated questions is how do you measure it? I offer my perspectives on it here, but I always have a sharp eye out for others' views on the subject. There were two great pieces out this week that I saw as somewhat related and add a couple of new dimensions to how to think about this.
The first is a (sponsored) post in ClickZ by Augustine Fou with a catchy headline, "The ROI of Social Media is Zero." This bold statement was based upon the opinion that social media, in the sense of how companies can spend money on it as they do advertising, doesn't exist.
People's conversations are not media; they can't be purchased as such by advertisers. In other words, people don't talk whenever advertisers want them to and they won't say whatever advertisers tell them to -- so it isn't "media" like TV, print, and radio.
Augustine then goes on to suggest a new way to think about measuring social...whatever you want to call it.
The assertion that "people's conversations are not media" is an interesting one and a good way to think about measurement. This is where the second piece from this week comes in -- Stephen Baker's article in BusinessWeek about ambitious IBM/MIT research that attempts to measure the value to these conversations. The study quantifies a broad set of online interactions ranging from e-mail to text messaging to Web 2.0 services.
While the study's result is based upon an analysis of online interactions among thousands of IBM consultants, it provides some basis to apply potentially to the social connections companies can make with customers and prospects in the buying community. As Baker's story is billed as the first in a series on the "Value of Virtual Friends," I hope he explores this further. I'll certainly be thinking about it in the meantime.
Until then, I'd be interested in how you think online connections should be valued, either quantitatively or qualitatively?