The question, typically phrased more casually, is posed to me almost weekly. For as big a splash as social media, social networking, and the like have made in recent months, it remains a mystery for millions. In support of the title question, consider just one example: For the 175+ million people using Facebook [stats], most do not look beyond its ‘face value,’ beyond finding, being found, and sharing info with their closest friends.
According to Dr. Marlow, Facebook’s in-house sociologist, for a man with 120 ‘friends’, average interaction is with only 4 people [Economist]. Women, a tad more at 6. Fundamentally, this tells me most Facebook users just don’t look beyond the end of their nose. I suspect similar behavior on other social networks.
But, we’re talking about blogging for this post. The Facebook example is simply used to show
that, even though ‘millions’ are involved in social media in some form (reading blogs, RSS feeds, social networks, et al.), it’s a rather shallow engagement. Hence the continuing quest to ‘get it.’
Simply put, social media is all about broad communication, expression, and exposure. As a business, you want to communicate directly to your end consumer. As a private individual it may serve as a tool to express you. But with all of us participating, hundreds of millions of us, it’s also very much about exposure.
Blogging is but one facet of social media and a key component in my own outreach (communication, exposure) efforts as I work to express myself and the work I do. Through the benefits of search engines, word of mouth, and active self-promotion, people (like you) can find me; learn about me; and, start to form a relationship with me. At the point someone, like you, decides to actively reach out to talk with me. You’re largely pre-sold on my value. You saw something of sufficient value to drive further action on your part.
From an ROI perspective, pre-sold customers, friends, consumers, colleagues, etc., are the greatest. Rather than start cold, hoping to establish and then build a relationship, you can start a few rungs up the ladder and begin more-quickly focusing on what’s important to both of you that much sooner.
One of the things under-represented in the discussion of social media is the fact it’s not a short term fix to a failing marketing effort. You do it as the basis for building quality relationships (well, let’s hope so anyway). It takes time for people to find you, study you, and decide to stay with you. And, doing so can take months, perhaps a year.
Think of it as a snowball rolling down hill. The only difference is, you have to keep investing in the effort, pushing it down the hill. Create a blog (snowball). Push it down the hill (add content, push it over the top). As content is added, the snowball rolls, the more snow (attention) it accumulates. But, if you stop adding content, stop pushing it down the hill, it will stop. Yep, it will melt too. And, melted snowballs are the hardest of things to get rolling again.
For me, blogging is one of the most cost-effective means available to me, for gaining exposure, access, to you (and a few million of your friends). While I have maintained a website at www.jtpedersen.net for years, since I started actively blogging, the traffic through my site continues to increase dramatically: daily volume now exceeds what monthly volume was only 6 months ago.
But, while traffic is nice, you need to be able to convert it. Today, my blog is still in the growth mode (push the snowball). It’s a tad early to expect much in the way of conversion. Yet, even now, my collective efforts (e.g. blogging, public speaking, etc.) are resulting in increasingly frequent and unsolicited contact. And, interestingly, perhaps half the people giving me a call now, indicate they’ve already spent time on my website, some mentioning the blog specifically.
How you calculate ROI is up to you. Today, I measure blog ROI by the number of people who come to me, and the quality of the ongoing discussion. Tomorrow, how the ROI is calculated will have evolved.
Remember, the blogosphere has its own unique physics. Here, you have to push your snowball down the hill.