If you're looking for an acid test as to whether an organisation is centred in this social world, as to whether they have a marketing and communications strategy that integrates social media cogently and coherently rather than bolts it on, listen out for questions like this:

How much is a tweet / retweet / follower / friend / like / +1 / comment / whatevermetickle worth?

If this is the kind of question they're asking then, in my opinion, they simply don't yet 'get it'. If you're feeling particularly wicked, take your pick of one of these to respond to their question and see if they take you seriously:

  • $0.23 per hundred
  • A 'like' is definitely worth somewhere between 2 and 3 tweets; sort of around 2.42
  • A comment has an engagement quotient nine times that of a 'friend'
  • If you're in tech, then a +1 is currently five times more potent than a RT, but the reverse is true for other markets
  • That depends if you're B2B or B2C
  • Well, can I ask, is there any yellow in your logo?

In The Business of Influence (Chapter 5) I include the following table, titled "Maturity of influence approach".

Maturity Characteristics
High Trace the influence (the action) back to source. Focused on business outcomes, as we should be. Best practice, intelligent and you could say scientific and professional marketing and PR, and associated activities. Influence-centric
Medium It’s quality not quantity. Not how many people you interact with, but how and in what context?
Low Number of followers, friends, subscribers, circulation. Empirically supported network science. Akin to column inches and AVE – measurement because you can, not because you should. Influencer-centric
Pitiful Obfuscating compound measures of non-contextual trivial variables. No empirical evidence.

I then go on to explain the difference between influencer-centric and influence-centric approaches, but right now I feel like I'm on a mission to get the following out there...

The Fallacy of Social Media ROI

An investment in social media activities is an investment in the way in which your organisation communicates with valued stakeholders and keeps abreast of the influence going around its marketplace. It is an intangible investment, just like issuing Blackberrys, the rebrand, R&D and staff training; in fact, most modern organisations have considerable intangible assets.

Intangible assets have no value in isolation, only when they're 'in the mix', so attempting to determine an ROI for any one intangible asset at a time vies with AVE for being a complete and utter waste of time and money. In fact the ramifications are worse than that. Such calculations are usually demanded in order to make budgetary choices, and as these calculations are fascinating works of fiction at best this can only be a bad way to make decisions.

True Social Media ROI

Investment in social media activities is at its most valuable when it is informed and driven by the organisation's objectives. The objectives guide the development of a well articulated strategy that plays to the full characteristics of social media and related technologies, trends and behaviours, which is then mapped scientifically onto operations with appropriate and diligent metric selection. Period. Such a rigorous cascade has ROI built-in even if the units for the metrics in question aren't preceded by dollar signs.

AMEC Social Media Measurement Group

At The North American Summit on Public Relations Measurement this week, run jointly by the PRSA and IPR, The Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) has just announced the formation of a global Social Media Measurement Group. Barry Leggetter, Executive Director of AMEC, says:

This is a key new Group for AMEC as we plan international coalition initiatives with other like-minded groups to establish global standards in social media measurement.

I'm delighted to be a member of this group, and I'll be posting here as we crystallise our remit, consult relevant bodies around the world and begin to draw conclusions.

Here's the list of the group's members: