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Why you can’t quantify the ROI of Social Media & Blogging

By November 26, 2008January 22nd, 2009Blogging, How To, Marketing, Networking, Social Media

When I’m working with a client to start a blog and/or use social media to grow their business, I’m always asked for the ROI (return on investment) because most people love the security of ‘if you give the Starbuck’s guy $5.00, he’ll give you a small coffee.’

But, using social media & blogging to grow your business doesn’t have a predictable ROI, or at least not one as quantifiable as the coffee example.

Here are some things that are guaranteed through the use of blogging & social media:

  • Increased traffic to your website
  • Increased rank
  • Increased searchability

But guess what? These guarantees come with huge IF’s attached.

You’ll only get increased traffic, rank and searchability on your blog if you:

  • Post on a regular basis
  • Provide quality content and valuable information
  • Link out
  • Listen to what your readers or potential readers are looking for
  • Read and comment meaningfully on other blogs and your own

You’ll only get increased traffic, rank and searchability to your site with social media if you:

  • Participate consistently
  • Listen
  • Give more than you take
  • Are authentic
  • Provide quality content and valuable information
  • Join in for the conversation and to learn – not just for the sale

But, there’s another huge reason why the ROI is a big IF. You may not know this, but I’m a yoga teacher with over 500 hours in training – I used to teach guest yoga and workshops at Kripalu Center – and it was one of the most creative and giving highlights of my life. And, one of the many lessons I learned through my own practice and from my teachers was that no two people will ever experience or do a yoga posture in the same way. In fact, you, yourself, will not do a yoga posture the same way twice – because we are all unique, moment to moment.

Think about that. I’m older hour by hour, I’ve learned new information, I’m tired, I’m excited about something – but I’m never the same, so I can’t experience or do anything in the same way. This applies to blogging & social media and the unquantifiable-ness of ROI because no one will behave the same way from day to day or network to network. The pose, if you will, consistently changes…and so, therefore, do the results.

So, your performance on your blog and on your social networks depends on you:

  • Are your eyes open to networking?
  • Do you take opportunities?
  • Are you creative when you network?
  • Do you experiment? See what works, try new things, recalibrate, re-try?
  • Are you growing with the wave of technology and innovation?

And, finally, Chris Brogan (social media expert and fantastic blogger) answers this question on a recent livestream podcast. He said there is no ROI for blogging & social media. They are tools, part of a communications and marketing strategy. Your sales closing process determines your ROI.

Very good point. Blogging & Social Media make connections, they get you to the people – you have to close the deal. And, how you behave in those places directly impacts who you attract and your reputation while setting the foundation for said deal closings.

Like any other successful tool, blogging & social media work if you work ‘em. It’s all up to you – and I have all the confidence in the world that you can make it happen.

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Julie,
    Wonderful column. While it would be terrific to be able to calculate an ROI for social media/blogging but in the end they are communications tactics and they key to closing sales is the sales process. It’s about the dialog with potential customers and customers – building a relationship….that my lead to a sale or referral.

  • Ron Miller says:

    Hi Julie:
    This is so true. This something that David Meerman Scott, who writes books and lectures about social media in the workplace stresses all the time. It’s not about traditional ways of looking at ROI. It provides a means for building your reputation as a recognized expert in whatever you are selling and that is valuable, but probably not measurable in traditional ways of measuring ROI.

    Here’s a link to David’s glib podcast on ROI where he asks what is the ROI of putting on your pants in the morning:

    http://tinyurl.com/5p9xe6

    It’s great stuff and it is really true. Blogging and social networking does require a leap of faith. It’s the same way when you tell people to give away quality content instead of selling it. The content is a loss leader of sorts, a way to drive people to you and recognize you as an expert in whatever it is you do and when done right can lead to actual bottom line business.

    Ron Miller
    By Ron Miller Blog
    http://byronmiller.typepad.com

  • Paul says:

    Great post Julie. Really get frustrated by clients who think social media is some kind of “silver bullet” – so they create a blog and…er, nothing happens. This is about conversations people!

  • Paul says:

    Whoa, you *moderate* your blog posts? See above / dialogue / etc

  • Chris Yeh says:

    Balderdash! You can quantify the ROI for anything, from flossing your teeth to whistling while you work. I challenge someone to provide an situation I can’t calculate the ROI for.

  • Great post. Social networking greatly reminds me of the time when I was in college and I worked in a children’s store. The manager always stressed to us that we had to say “Hi, can I help you with anything?” to every customer because in doing so they’re more apt to browse longer and eventually buy something.

    Social networking is like saying “Hi, can I help you with anything?” to potential customers. They will be more apt to use your services, visit your site, and eventually buy from you if more companies use social networking tools.

    Like you said, if done correctly any company will see a hearty ROI by using social networking tools because they are able to talk directly to potential customers who are just browsing around. Those who are skeptical about that don’t fully understand social networking. But they soon will when their competitors are leaving them in the dust.

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever thought about the ROI. I’m just grateful there is an opportunity to share information in a public venue where I gain as much as I give. Fortunately, I think there are quite a few of us who agree.

  • Anne Mayhew says:

    Wow. I’m a numbers person and would love to see the ROI but do agree that it is not possible to calculate. The participation and networking have a huge impact on where my blog is going!

  • Rajasekaran says:

    Social media is all about sharing informaiton and making relationships.Sometimes we cannot expect ROI from the customers.

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