The ROI of Rotary
The ROI of Rotary
by Ike Pigott

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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