Wednesday, June 16, 2010

E-ROI; the Art of effectiviness in social media communication

'..Do we need an online strategy? Does our Company need to be on Twitter? How useful is LinkedIn in achieving my networking goals...?

Those are just a few samples of the questions I am getting every day for which no general answer can be given. That depends of course on the following elements which form the basis of effective Online Networking:

  1. Be yourself, show and share it in your Profile
  2. Target your online action and interaction towards specific Goals
  3. Interact / communicate with your Target the right way by addressing the Target's personal networking style. Be sure that your time spend online per client is be less than the time spend using other means of communication in order to achieve the same Goal.

The third rule may be new to you, yet it is essential if you consider an online strategy for your company.

Beware of Social Media enthusiasm
Too many 'social media experts' are preaching an enthusiastic web 2.0 'gospel' trying to convince you to 'just do it' on Twitter, LinkedIn or other Portals. Sadly they never have any real data about online effectiveness, they are just following accepted principles that do apply in normal person to person networking but that don't work online. You run the risk of having to wait endlessly for any return that will never happen because it simply doesn't work the same way as in real-life.

Giving, sharing and... receiving?

'...Give first in order to Receive' something back ('..but don't expect anything..') later...'

That is how it works in real life. It is one of the basic elements of real-life networking, yet it doesn't really work that way on networking Portals such as LinkedIn, at all!

I tried that myself for many years, adding thousands of Answers in the LinkedIn Q&A section, introducing countless people in my network through my network and adding tens of reviews and insights in best practices on blogs and portals. I finally came to the sobering conclusion that looking at it objectively and academic ally instead out of mere social media enthusiasm, my vast efforts in sharing knowledge and networking activities couldn't justify the return in new business.

I discovered I wasn't alone, in fact most networking actions on LinkedIn, Twitter and other Portals lead to very limited ROI. However I also encountered people who where able to score some successes and by assessing more closely 'why' this happened I discovered that these often had to do with the 'nature' of the online networking action and 'how' it was executed:

- People seemed to be more successful in getting new real business out of their efforts if their service or product had a Real Value in real life. It is e.g. generally accepted that a legal counseling service or a recruitment service has to be 'pa id for', whereas 'general knowledge' or 'best practices' about internet tools is considered to be 'freely' available online. E-networking towards the first leads to an easier E-ROI than the latter, it simply is easier to get 'being paid for' in the end.

- People also seemed to be more successful because they had a Personal Skill to target their action towards their Goal. E.g. I met an in terim manager who told me that he was really successful by getting a new job through his LinkedIn network. That makes sense, because LinkedIn is targeted towards getting new Jobs and this individual new all his 'first line' contacts personally. Also he didn't use the email service in LinkedIn, but phoned his contacts in order to find out first what the networking connection and quality in his network was before approaching his networking Goal.

This led me to create the following E-time to ROI model:

There is quite a lot of information in the Model which you can use in order to get more insight how to achieve a situation in which your E-efforts are becoming E-ROI.
On the horizontal axis you will find the central explanation: The Ability to be more Personal in an E-interaction leads to a situation where you need less E-time per person to achieve your networking Goal. Specifically:

  1. Targeting your action using a social network that fits your networking Goal (e.g. getting a new job using LinkedIn) will get you to the First Phase in Targeting = The Special Interest Group.

  2. Being able to find and select your Target carefully and knowing everything there is to know about your target is the Second Phase

  3. Translating the information about your Target into an assessment of the target's networking style will give you additional information if you will be succesful in a targeted E-interaction (Third Phase = Assessing Personal Networking Styles)

  4. Using the Assessment to personalize your e-networking action in a way that Influences your Target is the Final Phase

If you are able to reach Phase 4 you will notice that the effort in Time (vertical axis) in order to reach the critical point effective E-interaction (the Blue line) will drop sharply. You will also notice a Red Line representing the same case but for a different kind of E-interaction (Services / Products instead of Knowledge / Information). Below those lines, the amount of E-time needed (Et) will reach a level where you can expect to be more effective than by using other means of communication such as e.g. 'a personal visit' or the 'phone'. That is thus the situation you are looking for.

You will also notice a Blue dotted line. This line represents the effectiveness by using specialists web 2.0 tools such as the Deep & Clustered Web searching tools and address / phone number extractors which I make for corporate client use. These enable sourcing social networking sites for key-people using one query and they find corresponding phone numbers to them quickly. The total amount of time you will have to invest drops dramatically.

How to use the Model?
Ask yourself, where does your 'dotted' line meet with the uninterrupted lines? That will be exactly the point of critical E-ROI. Naturally I can help you getting more insight in your E-ROI situation, matching your corporate needs and how to maximize the E-ROI from web 2.0 interactions.

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