This morning I was pleasantly surprised to see a tweet from Mike Myatt about an article FedEx’s Matt Ceniceros had written where he discussed how the company uses social media to connect with its customers. He added this passage:
“Social media” can seem like a complex world of diverse and daunting technology. But the technology is fairly easy to learn if you spent some time with it. Social media is really just another channel to tell people about your business. If you read any of the top online influencers like Chris Brogan, Mack Collier or Dan Schwabel they all give insights on how to be “social” and personal online. They tackle many of the issues we have in face-to-face communication, but how to translate the learnings online.
I really appreciate Matt mentioning me in that context, and especially with Chris and Dan. Matt’s doing a great job of leveraging social media to connect with Fed-Ex’s customers online, and he’s the only employee of ANY shipping company that I’ve ever interacted with on Twitter. So he’s got a leg-up on the competition there.
Matt and I have talked on Twitter several times, some times about how companies can use social media, or how his company can use social media, or we’ve even chatted about college football a few times (Matt’s a big Texas fan).
If you’re like many people, and especially companies, you might look at social media and think “Ok how is talking to a bunch of people all day going to help me? What’s the ROI of being friendly on Twitter?”
It’s a legitimate question, and one that many of us struggle with. Hell I have to justify to myself the amount of time I spend using social media.
But I don’t ever feel the need to question if there is value in helping others. In connecting friends, in sharing what I’ve learned. Case in point; even though Matt and I have talked several times on Twitter, we may never work together, and technically I probably won’t get any direct business from interacting with him. But because we’ve chatted before, because I’ve tried to help him, we became friends via Twitter, and that’s probably had something to do with him mentioning me in his article. Which then got RTed several times, then Chris RTed it to his 100K or so followers, and a whole lot of people were exposed to a very positive endorsement by the guy that heads up social media for one of the largest companies in the world.
Not too shabby.
This is why I don’t think companies should obsess about the ROI of social media. Should they, MUST they see a return on their time and money and effort? Absolutely. But if companies view every single interaction and minute spent with social media through the lens of ‘is this going to make us money?’, they are going to miss the big picture. That social media works best at INDIRECTLY creating value for companies. It’s not “If we tweet, we’ll sell more stuff”, it’s “If we can create value for our customers via Twitter, then that will increase their trust in us and the brand equity we have with them and then AS A RESULT of that, sales will increase.”
For example, let’s look at #blogchat. Our weekly chat about personal and professional blogging on Twitter has been growing like a weed for 11 months. Occasionally, friends will tell me “You need to find a way to get some business from #blogchat, you’re spending too much time with it not to.” But I didn’t create #blogchat as a way to get more consulting business, I created it as a way for people to come together on Twitter and talk about blogging. That’s it. Now as a result of #blogchat I have connected with people that HAVE referred me to clients and that HAVE hired me to do work for them, but that’s been an INDIRECT result of creating the chat. If I tried to make #blogchat a vehicle for DIRECTLY giving me business, it likely would be a lot less valuable to everyone else, and as a result a lot less popular. Which means it probably wouldn’t be helping me get any business anyway.
So companies, be mindful of getting value from your social media efforts, but understand that the more value you CREATE for the people you are trying to connect with, the more value you’ll receive in return.