Running a Marathon or running social media – what about the ROI?

Today, social media usage for interacting with your target groups is one of the basics you should take into consideration when it comes to communication and marketing issues of your business. Whether it is thinking about Facebook/Orkut, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Stumbleupon, Vime or many other local and global Social Media channels which might be relevant to you.
But after the first big hype of the last years very often it comes now to the question what is the return of investment?
And this is indeed the right question to ask. Because in terms of business it means investment (time, money, people) like in any other activity you are going to start. Even when investing in private activities you often prepare before starting – or would you run a marathon just because it takes place? Or just because others tell you that it is a trend? If you decide to participate, you will also start to invest time into training, organizational details and your outfit.

Social media – the magic word
Sometimes I ask myself, why Social media seems to be somehow a magic word.
Sometimes it feels a little bit like ‘ we are on Facebook and Twitter now, we post on …, too’ means we are great marketers or communicators, aren’t we?
An additional new channel, (‘now we are also on x,w,z’), filled often with generalized and / or ‘bought’ content seems to be of high value, at least to people who set it up/ post it. Breaking the 1000 or 10 000 follower milestone is a highlight. But then you have a deeper look at it and some doubts come up …Is a hundred re-tweets, or 5 comments per post really a success? Is the number of channels and followers a sign of quality? Opinions might differ: some of us, some departments, some companies still have many doubts, others are frontrunners.

I have come to the conclusion that the success question is still more complicated than it seems to be at first sight.
Just because ‘success’ can mean so many things:
We should not under-estimate the show factor. It might be an enabler. For enlarging the number of followers, which might help you to get known. And help yourself to be seen as a social media player. Inside the company, by your employees or by competitors. And maybe, by some people you do bot know, too.
It can be very helpful, indeed – without doubt. Image support. There is nothing wrong with it, why not?

Quality leads to return of investment, quantity is a pure showtime element
But thinking that the new channel, the 500 likes or the 300 new followers you have gained with the last quiz (because they had to follow you before they could participate) or the new Social Media channel you add to the already existing ones are really leading to new customers who from now onwards buy your product only – well, probably that does not works.
It would be simply too easy: You post and wow, they love you and start buying…

Unfortunately, this does not correspond to the reality of your customers. They do not even talk about you/your product to others if they do not see a real personal benefit (which is more than the participation in a photo competition or similar).
If you want them to become supporters of you/your work, you need to offer much more. Then we start talking about real engagement, networking via Social Media. Not just about adding a new channel or posting information. And we start talking about a strategic approach.

What do you prefer?
Well, this is your decision. How much do you really want to invest and how much do you want to engage? It’s about what you want to achieve. Similar to a marathon participation. Are you one of the hundreds of runners in the mass (‘I have participated, too’ which – without doubt will be appreciated by your friends and supporters, but it does not really interest others) or do you participate with the aim to become a winner, too?
Whatever you decide, one thing needs to be clear: the way how you prepare, how you exercise, the size of investment will be completely different. And just buying new shoes will not make you a prize winner.

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