The ROI of Social Media: Relationships

Once again, we consider the ever thorny question of ROI in social media.  I wrote about The Power of Give And Take In Social Media in this article.   Since writing that post, I have seen a great many articles on ROI—something that can prove incredibly difficult to measure.

Based on my own personal journey (in which social media plays a pivotal role), I can say that it takes years of hard work and creativity to see the results you want.

If I could impart some social media wisdom based on my extensive use of multiple platforms, there are a few examples of what works (and what doesn’t).

We frequently hear the term “engagement” in discussions about social media.  My Twitter connections are highly skilled at the art of online conversation, and I enjoy talking with them, but all those posts can sometimes clutter my followers’ streams.  Consequently, I start many interactions on Twitter, but I then try to extend them beyond that platform.  Continuing those conversations on Instagram, Facebook, and Google+ is a bit more manageable for me.

Recently, I re-tweeted someone I hadn’t seen on Twitter for a while.  I have always admired her as a writer, and looked up to her as a thought leader.

She reached out to me right after I re-tweeted her and asked me if it was okay for her to introduce me to someone.   As it turns out, she knew a writer who was working on an article for a major publication, and wanted to include me.   I was grateful for the introduction and thrilled to receive the opportunity.  Her e-mail introduction was so gracious and kind, and I felt grateful we had connected.

This woman and I saw each other about three years ago at a conference in New York City, and had dinner with a large group of people.  We’ve followed up with a phone conversation, and have kept in contact through our social media channels and e-mail for the past few years.

The value in social media is in the contacts you make and the relationships you build.  Treat people as friends, rather than as a means to an end.  If you endeavor to build real and lasting relationships, ROI will come.

Rather than tweeting someone you’ve just connected with to ask a favor, value their time and build a genuine relationship.

Before you text, direct message, or e-mail me about your campaign, consider whether what you’re asking might be burdensome, and whether you truly know me well enough to expect favors.  And don’t assume that someone will share your content, even if you do have a good working relationship:  it may be the case that a particular piece of content just doesn’t align with their personal brand.

I have attended many conferences over the past several years, and the key takeaway for me has been the importance of having a one-on-one drink or meal with a small group of people, so you can get to know people on a deeper level.  Seek out people who are positive, and support you in pursuing your goals.  I feel very blessed to have a sizable group of supporters, many of whom I’ve connected with online, and some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person.

The key is treat virtual relationship as you would “real life” relationships:  send them a quick text over the holidays to say Happy Holidays, or wish people a Happy Birthday via social media.  At the end of the year, organize a local holiday tweet-up so you can strengthen connections in person.

Don’t meet up or call people ONLY when you need something from them.  If that’s how you operate, I guarantee you they will stop responding to you, or might just say they didn’t see that e-mail or text you sent.

Cultivate a sense of gratitude and a genuine interest in people, as opposed to what people can do for you.  Then, you’ll see the ROI of social media!


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