Posts Tagged roi

Of social business and sand castles

Posted by on Thursday, 13 March, 2014

sandcastle_xlibber Where do you find the value in social business?

It’s a common question, especially in the corporate world where every activity needs to show some tangible value to justify its continuance. But, tying direct value to every action isn’t an easy task. In fact, doing so is likely the most difficult task facing social strategists today. Why is this?

The answer, like the question, is both simple and utterly complex. You see, the value from social business is seen in the small connections and conversations we have over time, all of which are grains of sand in what will someday make up a castle. Some castles may be a simple overturned pail shape on a busy public beach, others may be expertly crafted life-sized versions like you see in competitions… but in all cases, it is the connections of each grain of sand which come together to build something bigger than themselves.

Each connection you make, each conversation you have, is another grain of sand in the castle of your social business presence. Like sand castles, the value in social business isn’t as quantifiable as counting the grains of sand that make up the whole. The value is in how they are connected and the view of what they build. Some sand castles are simple and effective at bringing value to the child who built it; providing a sense of accomplishment and purity of fun in the building. Others are built for competition and judged on particular criteria to determine the winner. Yet, neither of these examples nor any that fall in between can be considered to have innate value, or likewise a lack of value.  The value in each of these cases is fluid depending on the goals and purpose for each.

In social business, it is indeed the achievement of your defined goals which will show you the value. I’ve blogged before on the need to define your purpose/goals before setting out on a social business strategy. But, of course, even then not all goals are easily quantified. Increasing influence, building digital eminence, and thought leadership are lofty goals which come with very little in the way of reportable metrics for success, so what can we use instead to show the value with these goals in mind? How can we quantify the beauty of a sand castle?

Stories. It is the connection of each of these grains that work to build the beautiful sand castles, the larger picture if you will, and likewise it is the stories of successes reaped from social business connections which combine upon themselves to show the value inherent in social engagement. So, to that end, I’ll leave you with this story that I’ve posted previously and that I believe exemplifies one of the many benefits of blogging:

I had a practical lesson in the benefits of blogging on Friday morning. During a routine skip-level conversation with my program director, I was able to impress upon him some answers to his questions by referring to a few blog posts I’d published that week and prior in the past few months.

Even as I was pointing him to those entries did I realize the value of blogging: I had content available, on demand that I was able to quickly reuse to address a few questions in a relatively concise fashion. Not only did these posts immediately address his questions, but more so they showed that I was a step ahead of the game, that I’d already been thinking about the issue before he even asked.

In this way, blogging for me has become a source of reusable self-generated content I can rely upon to either provide solutions or supplement larger strategy conversations and stands as testament to my expertise around my job and is now working its way to being a solid piece to my resume.

See 😉 Reusable, self-generated content to help show the value of efforts. Social business works. To thrive, adopt the role of story-teller and show your audience value rather than just telling them.

image credit: (cc)  Some rights reserved by xlibber


Influence is irrelevant

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 January, 2013

jro_kloutThat got your attention, didn’t it? Last month I called 2013 the Year of Influence and shared Brian Solis’ interview of Klout founder/CEO Joe Fernandez where they spoke about the future of Klout as a tool for influence measurement. Contrary to the title of this current post, I still believe 2013 will be the year of influence for content marketers and social businesses on a large scale. But, let me tell you why I think it is also irrelevant to some of us:

In social business, the common belief is that measuring a person’s influence on social networks is the key to showing value; that influence is THE metric to use to show value and success. That is to say: is it accurate that if I have a higher influence score then I am obviously more successful in social business? Many people have been scurrying to quantify this as part of their efforts to define ROI. You’ve even heard me use the word when speaking about other aspects of social business and how being and influencer and working with other influencers are key parts to creating results.

While I’ve been cautiously skeptical about companies purporting to be able to define this soft concept in quantifiable numbers, I did buy in to the idea that influence is one of the keys to show value beyond simple click-through or follower metrics. I’m no longer so sure. From a strictly sales or marketing organization perspective that may indeed still be the case; but I don’t work in sales, I work in the support organization where our mission is different and our value is most often seen after the sale.

From a support delivery perspective, as a client what you want from me isn’t my opinion nor my ability to influence you to my ideologies; what you want (and need) is my tacit knowledge and skills to solve existing technical problems. As a client/customer your interaction with us has nothing to do with our level of influence, instead it is wholly focused on your trust in our expertise and capabilities; two items which activity measuring services like Klout, Kred, Crowdbooster, or PeerIndex can’t touch on… at least not yet.

Tom Webster at notes in a prior blog post:

“… These are the three appeals:

  • Ethos, the argument from the author’s credibility;
  • Pathos, an appeal to the emotions of the audience;
  • Logos, or an appeal to the audience’s sense of logic and reason.

Writers who skillfully weave Ethos, Pathos and Logos stand the best chance of swaying their audience to change their state. I believe that what “influence measures” are working towards is this: a quantification of Ethos. They aren’t there yet, but they are iterating rapidly. And I can buy a Klout score as a representation of Ethos, especially if they would finally get around to applying these scores to individual topics. But Ethos alone is insufficient. What all of these scores fail to measure–indeed, cannot measure–is the effect of the message itself… “

Taking Tom’s ideas into account, we can still use the Rhetoric concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to help our efforts in quantifying value within the support realm but outside of the concept of influence.

  • Ethos= perceived trust and identified skill.
  • Logos= quality of interactions and historic interaction/observation
  • Pathos… There is less of an emotional need in support, as logic and reason are ingrained in our technical content used to answer questions or solve issues. But what this does touch on is the sense our clients get from our interactions which may help them be more inclined to contact us sooner when an issue is encountered, or conversely may cause them to use us only as a last resort. Call this approach-ability, friendliness, or personality.

So, let me try to define a new way of looking at this:

Value for a social business support account = perceived trust + identified skill + historic interaction/observation + quality of interactions + responsiveness + approach-ability.
Or, put more simply: value = ethos + logos + pathos

But it goes beyond that. You can see here, what we need from these measurement tools is not a quantification of influence. Rather, we need thought leadership or digital eminence quantified: a person/account which is perceived by their followers as best in breed; the people who are technically adept and know the right answer, the smart answer… the connectors to the knowledge you need.

The deeper root problem here is that the mock equation above is based on measurements of concepts, thoughts, and feeling; not always directly observable or quantifiable activities. So, how do we quantify perception?  In my research I’ve found that direct feedback is the single most critical component to quantifying subjective perception. But, often that feedback is scarce at best, and non-existent most other cases. Often (and especially in self-help scenarios) once a problem is solved there is no additional contact to close the loop and provide feedback so we are left attempting to quantify the unknown, and make educated assumptions of effectiveness to close the gaps as best we can.

In light of the lack of direct quantifiable feedback we only have indicators like click-throughs, reach, and influence scores to tell us if our efforts in the social business spaces are moving in the right direction and potentially effective in helping our clients solve their issues, and to show us value beyond the pure technical content we create and share. So, while influence is indeed irrelevant, the scoring information is a usable measurement to at least tell us if we’re doing something right.

All our efforts in the social spaces, of course, grow IBM’s influence as a whole as we build that level of trust and identified skill.  But in support, indirectly providing influence is a side-effect of our primary objective: getting the right answers to the right people just in time.

On the value of thought leadership

Posted by on Thursday, 23 June, 2011

It is no secret that anyone working in the social business world struggles daily with how to measure value and return on their investment (ROI) in the space. If we can figure out how to effectively measure our work and translate it into monetary value, we’re golden. Come up with a nice easy formula in the support space to show avoided cost, something like: “total clicks to payload x success indicator x %clients who would call = avoided call ticket x cost per case = avoided cost”  and you’ve got your end of story, right?

Well, not so fast (you knew I wasn’t going to let you go that easily right?). What about measuring those intangibles I spoke of in my earlier post here? How can you effectively measure thought leadership and eminence in the industry? Or rather, and perhaps more importantly, is the value of being a thought leader more important than the simply monthly indicators of engagement and content consumption?

I’m fairly certain you can see what I’d argue here…. that thought leadership, that digital eminence is actually the primary purpose of social business, everything else we do is secondary to supporting that higher goal. Sharing our high value content? Sure, that’s an essential part of what we do…. which goes to support the end result of raising our place in the digital world and the ultimate perception that we are indeed the thought leaders in our industry.

Let me take an exampled approach here, and bear with a few assumptions along the way:
You all know I am passionate about whiskies. No arguments from any of you on that point I’m sure. Amongst my friends (outside of the actual industry) you may possibly consider me as a burgeoning thought leader when it comes to topics surrounding whiskies. But why is that? Is it simply because I consistently post a measurable number of links to quality whiskies related content? Or is it because over time I’ve consistently provided quality content related to specifics of whiskies in conjunction with other efforts I make in other spaces to learn and help teach others about this water of life? I’ll bet you’d tell me the latter of the two choices. But which of the two is more important to you? Is just receiving the content enough to warrant me as a thought leader when it comes to whisk(e)y? Again I’d wager to say, no, it isn’t. Thought leadership is critical to what my boss recently described as “compounded interest”. Which makes perfect sense to me.

Continuing with the example…  let me ask; is my thought leadership in the whiskies world of benefit to you? My guess here is that it is, but only when you need it. I am often asked by friends and family for recommendations of whiskies to give as gifts; and I am happy to oblige, especially since answering those questions typically helps me learn and stay up to date on pricing changes and allows me to hone my skills at choosing decent drams. But it is only important to you because the issue on your plate is what bottle to buy for your friend. If you weren’t in that predicament, my thought leadership in the space wouldn’t be of value to you. This exemplifies my point about thought leadership; that there is value there, possibly great value, but only in a ‘just-in-time’ ad hoc model. Right now, as I write this entry, my eminence (bear with me on that assumption) as a whiskies subject matter expert is irrelevant since I am neither posting specifically about whisky, nor is anyone presently utilizing my knowledge about the topic, so I’m not seeing value right now, nor have I over the course of this month. Last month, however, my thought leadership WAS valuable as I was able to recommend a moderately priced bottle as a gift, making a big impact upon the recipient from what I hear, but also not breaking the bank to do so. In that case, I’d say my eminence could have a direct monetary value had I not been asked and had a higher priced bottle been purchased.

My point in this is to show that thought leadership can only be built over time, and the value only seen at the whim of the client with no way to predict how or when that value will be recognized. Perhaps, in the technical support world it will be in avoiding a call ticket because a client remembered a blog post on the topic which included the answer, or perhaps it will be during a sales call when a client signs a maintenance agreement because they recognize our eminence in the space and know we can help them effectively and efficiently when they encounter difficult issues….

Thought leadership is potentially VERY valuable in these instances, but (like the above example), is not solely a product of just work in social business, rather it is a holistic drive connecting all sorts of activities which combine to build that eminence over time. Eminence which can show value in varied, unexpected ways, which can often skirt any potential to accurately measure and connect effort to value.