Calculating YOUR Social Media ROI

Inspiration for blog posts comes from such odd places; I glommed on to this one as it rolled off my tongue on a call. I told a colleague Twitter had saved me from a slow death in a dark office. My love of Twitter is no secret:

A global community of intellectuals

  • New friends with whom to banter and pose odd questions

Information and collections of learning for my professional development

A network of experts on chats, like #SBT10 with whom to ask basic questions without fear and so much more.

My colleague then said, “You be careful, Jayme. I hope you’re making money as a result?” And, I said, “Nope, I haven’t asked. ROI on Twitter isn’t always about money.”

That’s when I realized the nugget for this post. How do you define your social media ROI? Forrester  is selling a report with nearly the exact same title. (Promise, I didn’t know it until seeing the direct e-mail in my box after I wrote my headline and post.)

ROI comes in various shapes and sizes.

My friend Mark W. Schaefer who writes the amazingly successful {grow} blog with a hyper-engaged community states it wisely, “There are many business benefits that come from Twitter. It could be information, competitive intelligence, a new supplier or partner, a deal, a link, or yes, even a sales lead.” (I encourage your perusal of this link to Mark’s blog regarding his post today about the power of Twitter consumers.)

Defining ROI is usually akin to financials i.e. revenue and profit. For me, social media (Twitter and blogging) have always been defined as brand development and thought leadership. One would argue these are metrics… exactly…because return on investment is about measurement via metrics that may not always directly correlate with the bottom line and profitability. 

If you’re a SMB (small-to-medium business), determining how social media influences your business is easier to ascertain, and you can create your own value-based metrics that align directly to your business model and culture.  

How about these as examples:

  • A re-tweet 40 times of a blog post announcing a product or service leads to five inquiries on your Web site. (That’s ROI.)
  • A new person you met on Twitter becomes your next employee because you developed rapport, engaged in conversation over time, and took a chance on hiring. You saved money with no job listings, no recruiters, and communicated directly with the candidate. (That’s ROI.)
  • A blog post written by someone at the company garnered a call by a respected partner in your vertical market interested in collaborating on an upcoming project. (That’s ROI.)

I may’ve backed myself into somewhat of a corner trying to define ROI via measurement values versus dollars, but who are we to tie a bow around a box and define it traditionally? Social media has spawned out-of-the-box thinking and so, too, should it pave the way for  creative definitions of ROI suited to your business.

However, when you’re not the boss, perhaps it’s safer to get out the box with the pretty ribbon?