The ROI of ROR

When defining success in social media, every client is different. From local B2B to national consumer packaged goods companies, there’s a huge difference in what each brand and each industry is looking for.

Some need hard nose facts and figures to see success. For one client, every last dollar spent and earned directly affects wether or not thousands in the community have wellness programs. At the start of this year we were happy to create a campaign that was aimed directly at improving their bottom line through new membership. I’m proud to say that we had a 200% ROI for the total cost they invested in our campaign. Not only did they have short-term awareness gain, but in the end, we were able to retain a great amount of the new members, who have since renewed their membership (which is where the 200% figure comes from). For a brand like that, their relationships happen naturally once you enter the building, but for many other brands there’s a value that you can’t directly measure to an investment, because it’s measured in relationships.

This Return on Relationships or ROR is no new concept. At the Democrat and Chronicle, we created a social college community. Our goal was to foster meaningful relationships not only between the D&C as a news entity, but among the college students themselves. The goal was not to drive newspaper sales or to drive online ad revenue, (we traded ads on the site for product give aways) but to create a network where students in the eight Rochester-area colleges could come together on one digital platform to share information pertinent to their daily lives.

We measured success in numbers AND quality of photos and comments on our community blogs (which were school-specific). Students came to the site because they knew first off their classmates were creating it, but also because we reported on what mattered on each campus. Partnering with a College Blogger Network only amped up the voice of our students nationwide. As a result, more and more traffic came to the site, but also more students wanted to get involved, be it writing for the site, joining the marketing team, or  just telling friends to come out to certain events we put on.

Fast forward to June 2011 and I’m sitting on a conference call with one noteworthy CPG brand whose product is in almost every grocery store in almost every state. They’re not the top seller in their product category, but spend significantly less on advertising yet are on the short list of “name brands.”

After going through their current strategy and goals, their marketing director said something that was positively refreshing to my ears:

“We know that we’ll never be the leader in our category because of our competitor’s price…and we don’t care honestly. What we know is that we understand our customers better than any of these other brands. They love us for us…so when we’re thinking about how to define the success of this campaign…we really only care about the quality of relationships that we see with our customers as a result.”

Return on Relationship is something that you can’t measure by simply looking at the number of coupons redeemed or Facebook fan growth over time. Sure you can give people a good deal and win over their pocketbooks, or promise a trip or a giveaway to the Nth fan, but these might only yield short-term success…not building bonds.

Going back to the CPG Brand example above, they’re not worried about getting 10,000 new fans with a coupon giveaway. Would it boost their numbers and bring new business? Sure. But they’d much rather spend the time and energy on a project that will bring enrichment to their consumer’s lives, not just their wallets. I can almost guarantee that their board would be much happier knowing someone posted a photo on the Facebook wall enjoying our product, than someone who liked the page just for a coupon.

So think about it…how are you measuring your success in social media? Is it sheer volumes like many brands? Or is it about the quality of the conversations taking place around it?

Remember that these people are working for your brand as soon as they make the conscious decision to click that “like” button. So what kind of workers do you want to attract? 10,000 people who show up when they feel like it, or 1,000 die-hards who show up just because they love working with you?


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