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?


Social Justice


I’ve been following the Casey Anthony trial slightly over the last few weeks, watching the @OSCaseyAnthony and @CaseyUpdates accounts on Twitter. The case is awful, you never want to see a child deceased as an alleged result of neglect, and there are a number of social media pieces that have now come up in trial. 

  • Casey reported her child missing, and attempted to garner support from friends on Facebook. (Read More
  • Pictures from Photobucket show her partying it up (even a guy grabbing her breast). (Read More)
  • Allegedly her former lawyer had a Youtube video of himself running naked with an unnamed man. (Read More)

Both @OSCaseyAnthony and @CaseyUpdates (run by the Orlando Sentinel and WESH respectively) have been presenting the proceedings in real-time on Twitter and Facebook, and the substance of this content is nothing to question. The reporting is perfectly unbiased, and being inside the courtroom allows them to report on the subtle details such as: “Casey smiled to her brother Lee as he took the stand.” (@caseyupdates)

But taking a fair and balanced look at things, these accounts are using her real face for the Twitter account avatars.  Multiple Facebook pages are dedicated to her in a a plethora of ways ranging from a straight updates page to a Watch Casey Anthony Get Fat page

Are these pages not damaging to her image and humiliating to her as a person? Put the legality of likeness, case details and evidence aside, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. If, and I say if for the sake of fair reporting, she were to be deemed innocent, what would be said of the thousands who have come to view and identify her with the negative comments surrounding all these pages with her face attached?


Now I’m all for fair and balanced journalism, and the ability for new technology to open and inform. But I’d like to pose the question:

Is Social Media in the Courtroom going too far?

I invite comments below. This is meant to start a discussion.


This same issue has been raised all around the country, as well as in Canada. Not only is there a multitude of personal critical details pushed out into the public, but other court information raises safety as well.

In the US

“We’ve determined that jurors have had access and been posting information on Facebook. If it’s a high media or high profile trial, they’ve been getting responses from their friends saying, maybe you’re going to be on so and so’s case…I’ve noted the problem of people trying to take pictures in the courtroom of witnesses, of jurors, to pass on to others for, you know, you have to guess what the reason might really be…” (NPR)

In Canada:

“I had a case recently in Brampton where a witness

who was about to be called by the prosecution was sitting in the corridor on his Facebook account on a cellphone, changing his status and threatening the accused from the courtroom outside”  (The Canadian Press)



I wanted to get an expert’s opinion on the subject of journalistic integrity in the courtroom, so I spoke with Professor Roy S. Gutterman. A former journalist and lawyer, he currently serves as the Director of the Tully Center for Free Speech and Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University:

“Social or Traditional Media aside, Wether a defendant gets a fair trial is the duty of the judge. It’s the judge’s role to ensure the jury isn’t tainted by extra-judiciary sources, be that a news article, TV story, or Facebook wall post. These [social media] are the new tools of the trade. It’s a journalist’s responsibility to get information to the people. When before you might have to wait for a court sketch or go to the library to look up the microfilm of a court proceeding, now it’s available with a quick internet search.”


To me, I think it’s great that through new technology, we are able to report in real-time, and I agree with Professor Gutterman that these are the tools of the trade now. But when we take someone and throw them into the spotlight on social media, I think it’s important to be a responsible moderator (if you are a credible outlet) and act as an unbiased extension of actual court proceedings.

I’m no expert on the legal system and I only have a minor in journalism, so I’m excited to hear what my journo friends think, but I’m impressed with how the Sentinel and WESH have covered this trial, and I’d love to know what everyone else thinks about the coverage, as well as thoughts on Social Media’s Role in Court Reporting.

UPDATE (As of 3:45 pm 3/24/11)

There is a “Fake” Judge Perry Twitter account, @JudgePerrySays under operation by @caseyupdates. This account is documenting the exchanges from Judge Perry in the courtroom.