Social Media is a calculated risk. Surprised?

March 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm Leave a comment


Street Chess Originally uploaded by ocadotony

Inspired by a blog posted today by @ShelHoltz (Six questions to ask before launching a Facebook Page) and a question that was posed in a webinar presented by Marketo today – The Definitive Guide to B2B Social Media – I’m pondering two points I most frequently hear from non-users of Social Media. They relate to ROI and “Why?”.  These reactions to the suggestion that social media be used as a business tool seem somewhere between clueless and incredulous. I’m wondering if people think that because social media is free, it shouldn’t be taken seriously.  Maybe that’s why it’s not respected like any other business tactic – and should be viewed as a calculated risk.

Let’s break that down and make it simple. We’ll start with calculated. Definitions for “calculate” provided by dictionary.com:  1. to determine by reasoning, common sense, or practical experience; estimate; evaluate; gauge.   2. to make suitable or fit for a purpose; adapt.

In other words, a certain amount of thought and reasoning needs to be part of any business tactic – whether you’re planning a tradeshow exhibit, customer focus groups, a training program, a sales presentation, or a Facebook Page (as highlighted in the above-mentioned blog).  Any one of those maneuvers requires a plan that is aligned with an overall strategy.

And then there’s risk. Dictionary.com gives us: exposure to the chance of . . . loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.

It’s no secret that dumping tens of thousands of dollars into a marketing blitz is no guarantee that you will get hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales . . . or any sales at all.  Whether your marketing blitz involves television ads or radio spots, glossy flyers mailed to the ends of the Earth, flying monkeys branded with your logo, or a Twitter stream posting coupons for free stuff, your campaign is still subject to risk.  Of course, the more you put into the “calculated” part of the equation (no pun intended), the more likely you are to reduce your risk.

That’s not to say that I don’t give credit to the prudent business person who must ask about ROI and question the reason why. But appearing incredulous or clueless on the subject of social media is not going to be tolerated much longer.  If one wants to protect his or her own professional image, one should at least be aware of how the consumer is using social media – and that can best be done by spending less than 30 minutes setting up an account on a few social sites and looking at them for 10 minutes each week. Even in that little amount of time it will be easy to see that businesses ARE using social media successfully and that it IS being taken seriously as a business tool, and as such, is a calculated risk.

I predict that in the very near future, when the topic of social media comes up, resisters will be expected to defend their position for not modifying their use of traditional communication methods. The tables will be turned, and they will be the ones having to respond to questions related to ROI and “Why?”

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Entry filed under: Business, Social Media, Strategy. Tags: , , .

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