The ROI of social media

I had a great conversation today with Nate Riggs.  This was our first face to face meeting as we had been conversing through email, twitter, and blogs until this point.  Our discussion roamed around and touched on the  following topics (no kidding, all of these actually came up in about an hour and they are all in context of social media):

  • complexity theory
  • 4th generation warfare
  • social penetration theory
  • guanxi
  • personal branding
  • preferential attachment
  • social network analysis
  • adult education 
  • white water rafting
  • Orpheus Symphony
  • fractals

It was somewhat like a couple of jazz musicians getting together and jamming.  There was no sheet music or plan, we just started playing and buildnig on each other’s ideas and thoughts.  This is the ROI I speak of and it is also the reason why many business people do not understand the value of social media.  It is nearly impossible to put a traditional value on what Nate and I did today but I can tell you there will be value sprouting from the seeds we planted. 

If we continue to view ROI as a % or $ only, we miss the larger picture.  The “I” in ROI stands for investment and Nate and I invested in our time in something we believe there is future value in.  We have no idea exactly how much or when we will see it, but given the pace of the conversation and the mutual note-taking that was going on, something will happen soon.  I know I have thought about our conversation for the rest of the day and now have many more questions than answers and that is the COOL things!  There are ideas in my head right now that I will take action on that did not exist before we met.  As jazz great Charlie Mingus said, “You can’t improvise on nothing man.”

At the risk of repeating myself from previous entries, connecting is not the end but the means.  The goal is to build meaningful relationships because, in the end, we are defined by the impact we have on others.  Towards the end of the conversation today, I mentioned to Nate that social capital is the only type of capital that you have to give away in order to gain more.  Be a cheerful giver!

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