That’s right. Ignore it completely.
It’s stupid. It’s a stall tactic. “What’s the ROI?” is often a cop-out question asked by people who don’t really want to do or understand social media. If you’re asked this question when you first start talking to someone about social media, distract them. Jingle your keys in front of them or something.
“The next someone asks you about the ROI of Twitter,” Scott said, “substitute Twitter with the word ‘talking.’
“What’s the ROI of ‘talking?’ How much money do you make with this new ‘talking’ business? I don’t understand why you’re ‘talking’ to customers all the time.”
F— YEAH!!! </fistpump>
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging — they’re all tools for communication, just like talking. But we don’t measure the ROI of talking. We measure total results, usually as a sales figure.
I love networking. I go to networking meetings, and I talk to people. I meet those people later for coffee, and talk some more. My cost is the driving, the time, and the coffee (medium decaf mocha, extra hot, please). The ROI — which I have never been asked about — comes when I close a deal, get a speaking gig, get a referral for a new client, or even get a book deal. That’s something I can measure after the fact. But I can never figure it out beforehand.
An example: the first time I ever met my good friend and writing partner, Kyle Lacy (@kyleplacy), for coffee was nearly three years ago. I think I bought my own coffee, but I could be wrong. (I probably am.)
Total cost? $4.20 (mochas ain’t cheap, Chester).
But what did I get out of it? Over the last three years, several speaking opportunities, collaborating on a couple projects, a little business passed back and forth, and two book deals. And he’s bought lunch a couple times. So the ROI is pretty damn high, especially if he did buy the coffee. [Update: I checked with Kyle. He bought the coffee. He always buys coffee for first meetings. Looks like I owe him a cup.]
I’ve never had to justify the ROI of talking. No one does. So why should we justify the ROI of Twitter and Facebook? They’re tools that let us talk. If we have to explain their ROI, then show me the ROI of your cell phone. Or your desk phone. Or your laptop and email. Show me the ROI on a handshake.
Otherwise, stop asking me about it until you start using it. Then we’ll figure it out.
(Note: This is NOT to say that social media should not be measured. It absolutely should. But if you ask about ROI at the beginning of your efforts, you’re setting up for failure, because you don’t know what you’re trying to measure. Instead, try it, use it, jump into it. Get good at it. Then measure how much money you’ve made on it. I’ll talk more about how — and why — to measure the ROI of social media next week.)