The ROI of Rotary

by · September 8, 201021 comments

DISCLAIMER: The following conversation is did not really happen, at least in the form presented. It is an amalgam of conversational snippets I have overheard from people in Corporate America. Many have probably happened somewhere near you.

“Peterson, come here for a moment. We need to have a talk.”

Getting called into the boss’s office is never fun.

“Peterson, I’ve been looking at your proposal. I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn you down.”

We all live with disappointment.

“I’ve been looking into this community you want to join, and it seems a little shady to me. It doesn’t seem to affect our bottom line an any way. It’s not tremendously expensive, to be sure… but you’re only talking with a small number of people. And it’s the same people all the time.”

This will probably not end well.

“We need you focused on larger pool of potential customers. You’re wanting to focus too much time on an activity that the vast majority of people just aren’t into. I’m afraid that you’ll not be able to stay in Rotary.”

It’s the Relationships, Stupid!

Rotary International Squircle
Image by cannellfan via Flickr

The same set of criticisms is often leveled at Social Media tools, and the time it takes to cultivate a meaningful and useful audience. But are those criticisms fair?

Well, they are if you’re willing to employ them to end participation in PRSA, Rotary, Toastmasters or other professional and networking organizations.

Four years ago, there was nobody who had a really good handle on Return on Investment for Social Media.

Three years ago, we tumbled through an era where some people started showing measurable results, even if they were in business models that were too different to translate.

Two years ago, there was enough of a groundswell that advocates could point to specific campaigns that moved the right needles… but again, the examples were scattered and not guaranteed to be directly relevant to your business model.

In the last year, we’ve seen such a disruption of traditional advertising and marketing media, we’re beginning to question the old CPM metrics and the way they relate.

Which brings us to today – where enough examples of ROI exist that we’re expected to show it for all social media implementations. And in that regard, we’ve fallen into a trap. ROI can mean sales, it can mean exposure, it can mean customer retention or recruitment — or it could mean Relationship Management.

Choose Your Currency

Money isn’t everything. In fact, there are many different kinds of “money” on the table. Did you drive sales? Did you save money in marketing? Did you reach people you couldn’t have gotten any other way? Did you avert a costly reputation nightmare?

When your focus is so narrow, you miss out on the ways you can enhance your overall job, department or division.

A person who is ambiently connected to hundreds of acquaintances will not excel in “making the sale” in that venue. I might “like” something you say on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I will click something on your profile and buy from you right now. However, in those three months since we last saw each other, I might have been exposed to a dozen of your 200 status updates or family photos — and you might have clicked on or commented on a handful of the many things I posted online.

The next time we are together, I may just be more inclined to talk with you because we already have so much more in common. Human nature dictates we do business with people with which we’re comfortable.

The next time someone in your organization belittles the utility of Social Media, put their objections to the test: “Would this also ban the Rotary Club?” Instead of selling Social as a whiz-bang Free free-market ready for the taking, it should have been touted as a way to extend and enrich existing relationships — and that is an activity that every organization immediately grasps.

Ike Pigott is a contributing author at Social Media Explorer. In his previous life, he was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider’s knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now — by day — he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam’s RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott.

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About Ike Pigott

Ike Pigott

In his previous life, Ike Pigott was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider's knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now -- by day -- he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam's RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott. He also recently won the coveted "Social Media Explorer contributing writer with the longest Bio" award.

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • lauraclick

    Great post and wonderful analogy, Ike! I think this argument could work well for people in large organizations or perhaps even in government. Social media makes so much sense to those of us who are immersed in it daily, but it definitely can take some convincing to get the big cheese to go along with it.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      This was really borne from my frustration at having Social Media pigeonholed as a sales tool only. Who cares what the total “reach” is? You don't ask that about the Kiwanis Club, do you?

      Thanks!

      • lauraclick

        Amen! Though, I find social media far more useful than the “networking events” I was forced to attend years ago at the agency. I'm pretty sure I didn't get much “reach” from attending those either. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/KaryD Kary Delaria

    Great insights, as always, Ike. We talk in circles about ROI (What does it mean? What's the R? What's the I?) to identify the perfect formula to calculate “R” and when a big reality is simply the value of human connection – something marketers forgot about over the years as we became more and more disconnected from our customers. Social media offers us a 24-hour Rotary (to use your example) with no yearly dues or admission fees, and the connections can be just as powerful.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      A 24-hour Rotary would be a round-the-clock rounding?

      Thanks for popping in. I'll be here as often as Jason allows. ;)

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    It's interesting that you mention Toastmasters in this post. I've started a club for my employer and got them to agree that our twice/monthly meetings would consist of one hours of the employee's own time and another hour of the company's time. Absolutely no push back from management on that at all, which was great. It's not a small company, so there's a bit of elbow room there for that sort of thing, plus we can link it to employee development, training and evaluations.

    Social media, on the other hand, would be much more difficult as most of our club's members are not customer-facing (well, excluding internal customers, I guess). They aren't costing the company sales when they do these kinds of activities, which I think is the mindset that would need to change in many companies.

    Great analogy.

    • http://SweetTea-StraightTalk.com Kathy Drewien

      I'm intrigued by the implication that social media within a company is limited to customer-facing activities. Are there other vehicles for inter-company communications?

      • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

        There are plenty of internal functions that could benefit, particularly in larger companies where not everyone knows everyone else.

        It's a huge mistake to start pigeon-holing Social Media, as I have seen many companies do. You end up with people asking the right questions, but being siloed in a part of the organization where they can't make anything happen internally.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      When the accountants go to get their CPE credits, do they charge half of that development time as Personal?

      I don't think you went far enough.

      When employees get direct benefits that make them more useful to the employer, that's professional development. And if you have the kind of job where professional development is the Employee's responsibility, then you're insulting the employees by making them punch a clock.

      That's just my two cents. It would violate the spirit of Social Media Explorer for me to hold back. ;)

      • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

        No idea.

    • http://twitter.com/webby2001 Tom Webster

      I think Social Media could use its own version of Toastmasters. I think it would be a harder weakness for people to admit, though, than public speaking is. The first time you speak at Toastmasters, expecting a hearty pat on the back and a “good job,” can be a pretty jarring experience when you realize you said “uuhhhh” 48 times, and someone counted them. The social media version of “uuuhhhhh” is the emoticon. :)

      • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

        I thought that messed up punctuation and spelling was the social media equivalent of “uhhhh…”

  • http://nancimurdock.com Nanci Murdock

    Yes, I completely agree. My corporate philosophy of “be nice, share, treat the customer like gold (which like, includes “listening to them”), was not well received by my company. Which (pardon my language, really), was essentially the same as your amalgam of snippets, “Nanci, we really just need you to throw a ton of shit at the wall and see what sticks. When you are done, throw some more”.

    I don't work there anymore.

    Thanks for the post!

    Nanci

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Ask them what the business purpose was for their last Lions Club meeting. Heh.

      (“Heh” is a trademark of Social Media Explorer Enterprises™, Ltd. Any use of “Heh” without the express written consent of Social Media Explorer Enterprises™, Ltd. will result in a harsh rebuke, and the likelihood that the staff at Social Media Explorer Enterprises™, Ltd. will make fun of you behind your back.)

      • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

        Heh.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Ike! Shhhhhhh! Don't tell people all this stuff. I want my competitors to continue to search for the goods in the wrong place. I enjoy sitting and having coffee and a great conversation with a CEO that I initially met 6 months ago via social media. He and I really hit it off when we both realized that we not only had a shared connection on Facebook, but that we also both love the TV show Lost. Our episode re-cap discussions via Twitter gave us the opportunity to touch base every so often and now he has a project on deck that needs someone with my skills. I was also able to refer him to a friend of mine to help organize a charity event he is looking to host.

    I will have far fewer opportunities like this if you keep writing posts like this Ike. Please stop!

    :-)

  • Missy

    Great post, Ike. It takes Rotary, PRSA, AWC, the Chamber, etc., etc., bolstered by SM to develop relationships and a good reputation.

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  • Geanna
  • HRMexplorer

    Ike I would like to have a chat! I am about to do a “skit” at the Rotary Conference! Coming to Cadillac Michigan. I love this that you did want to use it and build on it- credit goes to you. I would love to chat for more ideas. Cheers -Peter @HRMexplorer

  • Anonymous

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