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Insights: the ROI of social media

October 5, 2010

This blog post is about the return on investment in social media. And the return comes from insights.

If you agree that people like to share, then this is an interesting time for brands.

15 years ago, in order to learn things about people who use a product or service, brands turned to secondary research services and even *gasp* a focus group.

Today, social media is one big ass focus group.

People are sharing their thoughts, opinions, images, ideas, locations, frustrations, celebrations…. you get the idea.

Three years ago this month, I launched “People like to Share” as an effort to understand what this phenomenon means to brands. Along we way, we created communities for brands, promotions in social media, and tried to understand what the value of a person in that community was to the brand. I think I’ve started 40 Facebook pages.

along the way, we’ve wondered about the value of a Facebook fan. PR people, long practiced in extrapolating value from their efforts, took the 3x model and began creating new word of mouth models. The 3x PR model was simple: editorial space on the page (ie, mentions of a brand in the actual paper) was worth 3 times what one would pay on the page. So three inches would be worth 3x what three inches would cost to buy and ad.

Under that model, a Facebook Fan (or liker, if you prefer), would be worth a dollar figure based on impressions, sentiment, and the cost of gas in Uruguay. Okay, I made that last part up, but in the quest to value a person in a social media community, people are just making shit up.

And I think that’s wrong.

Because there is value that get missed when everyone is treated as a person who should buy more widgets. Instead of wondering about the value of getting someone to go from a Facebook page or a Twitter feed right to an online shopping cart and a buy a product, what about the value in learning from the people who like to share?

This is an argument for the value in the insights generated from listening.

Take the analytics on he actual page. Add the data from the various social media websites (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), mix, and bake for a few hours. From that stew of data, derive a fresh batch of insights about current clients. Those insights can inform the search for people like them who are more likely to be new customers.

That’s a focus group. just sitting on social media sites talking about your product with other people. Typically, brands have paid millions to do mall intercepts and ask people about things. In social media, the focus group is built into the experience on the aggregate. That’s a fancy way of saying that when the data is  compiled, a story that can inform future business and marketing decisions can emerge.

Insights: that’s the return on investment.

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