Social Media has become a catch-all term for just about any content distribution on the Web. Who would have thought that two years ago, a press release would be considered social media?

But here we are. Anybody who is blogging, twittering, publishing photos, friend-feeding, Viddler-ing etc… is social media-ing. But are they? I say that social media is the platform. The platform allows us as content creators to develop content that want to share. From there, it’s a matter of how it’s used.

Social Marketing

Social Marketing is the bulk of what social media is used for. There is a distinct difference between using Twitter to discuss the banal details of your life and using Twitter to distribute 20% off coupons for your restaurant. Using the tools available to you through social media in order to generate direct sales is social marketing.

Social Marketing is often thinly veiled and that is where some of the frustration confusion occurs. When “consultants” offer their services through social media they are participating in social marketing. But it is veiled as social media. Simply sharing ideas, right? But the intent is to ultimately lead to a sale.

Using content sharing services to promote your business and services is a great use of social media as a platform. Enabling your customers to evangelize and tell your story for you is one of the greatest ways to build your brand and message. Social media as a platform also enables those people to reach each other.

Social Networking

We all like to meet people. We all like to interact with humans. After all, if you remove the ability to physically connect with the people we interact with online, social media would shrivel to nothing.

Being able to use social media to share pictures of my pug or arrange to meet some friends are great benefits of the technology platforms that comprise social media. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of social media as a platform is it’s opt in. I get out of it what I put in and if I choose not to participate, the world doesn’t end.

Plenty of stories exist about people using social media to network their way into a job or raise funds for a charity or even find a spouse. Being able to foster relationships, both professional and personal, is one of the great uses of social media as a platform.

Social Education

If you are out to share information (like this blog?) or distribute a message then you are using social media as a means to educate. Social education utilizes the alternative definition of social. In this instance, social is a reflection of society as a whole. Building communities around lifestyles or the environment is an emerging use of social media as a platform.

The emergence of the “green” lifestyle and social awareness in general is able to reach new levels thanks to social media as a platform. Video blogs, micropayments and the Twestival for charity:water are great examples of our society taking advantage of the innovations in social media technology that have emerged recently.

What Does This Mean?

It means that there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. It means that we need to be aware of the progression of the platform and how we as marketers and social beings can utilize it in innovative ways.

Just because we’re out in the “social media-sphere” doesn’t mean we know what’s happening. This shift that is occurring around us changes daily. Having a platform to build on and capture our every thought and action is both intriguing and totally frightening.

What this means is that social media is here to stay. How will you use it?


ROI.

How do you measure the ROI for a Tweet? How do you measure ROI for a video posted to YouTube? How do you measure ROI for a blog post?

The concept of ROI in modern public relations and corporate communications has evolved from the old standby of column inches earned * ad rate. The common belief now days is that retweets, blog comments, saves to Technorati etc… are all forms of currency.

ROI = $$$

Yes. A return on investment can only be measured in actual dollars. An increase in reach and “authority” are great. But how does the use of social media affect your or your clients’ bottom line?

Using social currency or “whuffie” or any other social metric is icing on the cake. But the cake needs to be a financial impact of the marketing or communications program. This applies to consumer goods just as much as it applies to enterprise software or discreet manufacturing. The units may change, but the affect to the bottom line is still what matters.

The concept of attributing a sale to the use of social media has become relatively easy. Marketing automation companies such as Marketo or even URL trackers such as bit.ly have made it much easier to follow a lead through the process of becoming a contact to becoming a customer.

The bottom line

As Olivier Blanchard over at The BrandBuilder reminds us “ROI is always financial.” Lots of people are beginning to pontificate on that stance. That it’s time to make some money on social media. There’s no reason for the consultants and gurus to be the onws making all the money. But nobody’s offering a solution.

Now it’s time for me to offer a solution. Instead, I am going to try and offer a mathematical problem, so bear with me.

The first item I’ll tackle is twittering a link to a product purchase form. First, let’s define some variables. X= my hourly rate, y = the amount of time in hours it took me to get to the point I can publish that tweet, z = the final cost of publishing a form. So:

(x * y) = z

Now, let’s continue. Lets try to determine the ROI of you publishing that tweet. More variables 🙂 If you have a = number of people that fill out the form and b = the cost of each unit sold and c = the number of new customers we can use the answer from above to find the ROI of that tweet campaign.

(b * c) – z = ROI

I know this is beyond over simplifying. How do RTs or word of mouth affect this calculation? I’m hoping you all can help me out with that. Can somebody check my math?


My new IRL buddy Kenji Onozawa is running this little series where he shoves a camera into people’s chests faces and talks to them about social media.

This is a great series because it helps put a real person to the avatar. The joys of tweetups, conferences etc… are that they help us realize just who eachother is. Without actual human connections, social media would not exist. I was more than happy to participate in something like this, even though I hate being on camera.

Let me know what you think in the comments!