My earlier post about networking behavior off-line mirroring networking [savvy] and behavior online earned a comment from my esteemed colleague and fellow posse member, Tank. He questioned online networking’s return on investment. This topic is clearly debatable. I thank Tank for challenging me to dig deeper.

One thing is proven: with all things that you measure, you need to establish a goal. After goals there are objectives, strategies and tactics. From there you have a variety of benchmarks. I always start my social media consulting projects with a plan; much like what I’ve done for years when using traditional marketing tools and tactics.

Recently I was enlightened by an attendee at a presentation I gave to the Virginia’s Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association that in some cases ROI is a misnomer. A more accurate measurement might be ROO. Return on Objective. I like that. May not be as hard core as some law firms require, but all the same its a measurement. I welcome further thoughts on that idea.

Whatever you choose to call it, as the online medium matures, our ability and our need to report on effectiveness will intensify and also evolve.

Several well-recognized and respected thought leaders, Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer and Chris Brogan of community and social media, have blogged here and here on the measurement of social media. I’ll summarize their thoughts, but ask that you read the posts and comment on this blog so we can all benefit from your ideas.

Mr. Falls suggests that measuring ROI on social media is a bit like “trying to assign multiple choice scoring to an essay question.” He referenced the thoughts of Joanne Puckett of Ketchum who said at PRSA International in Detroit that:

….. there are three types of results in interactive measurement: outputs (impressions, share of voice, tone, etc.); outcomes (attitude shift, behavior change, expanding reach); and business results. She said about business results, “We haven’t figured that part out yet.”

And he referenced:

“Katie ( Katie Delahaye Paine ) hit the nail on the head near the end of her round table discussion when she said, ‘Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?’

[Mr. Falls] And, as stubborn as it sounds Mr. CEO, you don’t get money out of a conversation. And they’re not going to. And neither are any of us unless we start looking at the results in relation to the goals.

If your goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audiences and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand, then your measures should prove you’ve done those things. Your ROI is what you got out of the conversation, not what you got out of their checkbook.”

Chris Brogan puts it this way.

You Can’t Have Strategy Without First Having Goals

Strategy is essentially the diet, but the goal might be weight loss, muscle growth, cholesterol reduction, allergy aversion. See how it’s not one-size-fits all? Before you know which diet to start, you need to know the goal.

  • Goal: increase attendance at our live events.
  • Strategy: add and Facebook events components, blog, invite local geek groups. Possibly purchase Facebook ads to test that, too, targeting regional. Craigslist?
  • Measurements: add a “Where did you hear about us?” field to the registration form.
  • Measurements: check link referral logs.

Both posts are definitely worth reading and chewing on. Tank, others,….ur thoughts?

Addendum: Just saw that Chris Brogan posted on ….MEASUREMENT this morning (10/30/08) over on Check it out.