It’s a healthy exercise to periodically reevaluate our personal, and professional lives. And as marketers, we’ve been conditioned to look at the available data to find insight or opportunities to rethink and optimize our approach. Is it time that we take a fresh look at the value of social media?

Since Facebook opened registration to anyone in late 2006 we’ve seen the explosion of marketing opportunities across social networks. The c-suite executives had to be convinced this wasn’t a trend. Our clients wanted to measure the monetary value of a “Like” or for us to calculate the ROI of our programs. And the consumers were hoping we’d listen to their complaints or share a money saving coupon.

Perhaps I’ve had too many conversations filled with anecdotes or read too many blog posts dissecting the theoretical social media bubble. What I do know is this: even with consumers expressing some digital and social media fatigue, these channels are not going away. More so, I don’t think we are going to find one expression that calculates the value of social media in dollars (or euros).

Looking Back Before We Look Forward

Looking into the past, mass media has always been a one way marketing vehicle. Worse yet, any time a brand had a message to share, they were required to find or assemble the appropriate audience.

Perhaps this was effective before fragmentation, but with endless media channels competing for the consumer’s attention it has become more difficult to reach and engage them for any period of time.

Social media has empowered the consumer and the channel(s) have created the opportunity to have a two-way or multi-way conversation.

Old news, we know this.

What is the Value of Social Media?

Instead of buying an audience, social media has given us the opportunity to collect an audience.

Done well, every single interaction we have with the consumer should strengthen our relationship and our community. Essentially, brands have become their own media channel. Red Bull anyone?

It sounds simple.

What Are We Measuring?

This isn’t to say that we don’t have a need to establish and measure KPIs or show that our social media community can contribute to the bottom line. In fact, one meaningful measurement should be the decrease in cost to interact with our consumers over time.

But value, that generates something more. More than a simple click or conversion. Value is something important, even precious to us. When it comes to social media for a brand or organization, what should we value? How do we know when we’ve done well?

  1. Values. No, it’s not double talk. But we should value our values. Have you demonstrated shared value? What equity have you created with your consumer to show that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk?
  2. Silence. Have you taken the time to listen to the community you have created, to truly listen to what they are saying (or not saying) about your brand? Whether we call it social listening, or something else, there is value in understanding the consumer, their thoughts, motivations and behaviors. Social media allows us to do this in real time.
  3. Differentiation. Many companies swim in the sea of sameness, what have you done to stand out? Would your community miss you if you disappeared tomorrow? We should value differentiation and demonstrate it for, and with the community.
  4. Relevance. We live in a world of too many options and the need for too many decisions. Please value your consumer’s time. Be relevant, be consistent, be yourself.

Great brands and organizations have always delivered value. Social media represents one of greatest opportunities to continue that and deliver much more than a two-way conversation or trending meme.

While consumers may be more forgiving of irrelevant messaging in mass media you may not find that within your community.

We are responsible for generating and delivering value. How will you do that for your company, your clients or your own personal brand? I look forward to hearing from my community. Please share you thoughts by leaving a comment below.