Yes, it IS about the money

I know social media is about “relationships.” I get it … I really do. But if you are responsible for a social media initiative for your company, somebody is eventually going to ask you, “Where’s my money, honey?”
In a business setting, social media relationships must eventually lead to making or saving money. Of course they do. Every activity of the enterprise is tied to that in some way. So, why does this opinion create such a violent reaction in people?

The fact that I think you should be focused on the quantifiable business benefits of social media marketing seems to put me squarely at odds with many thought leaders right now. This quote from a very respected blogger still haunts me:

“When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say, “to make money,” then they will fail, because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content.”

Another leading observer opined yesterday that his “economy is relationships.”

An economy is not relationships. An economy is an exchange of goods and services. If the relationships contribute to that exchange, fine. But it all has to lead to business value at some point. You can’t feed your kids by increasing your “followers” or the number of people who have friended you on Facebook.

How is social media marketing any different from holding a company open house for community leaders or hosting a dinner to get to know some potential customers? Are those things about building trust and relationships? Yes, of course! But we also have no problem admitting that the ultimate goal is to burnish our image with these influencers to improve our chance of business success. Why are we so intent on carving out a special little place in the sun — where results don’t matter — for the social web?

The world would be so much easier if we didn’t have to be accountable for results. But that’s not the way business works. A company exists to create shareholder value, so that’s what you should do — and be PROUD of it!
Tomorrow, ideas on what measurements make sense for your business.
This is part of a series examining social media marketing measurement.

Part 2: Social media ROI shock treatment

Part 3: Irresponsible social media measurement research            

Part 4: Social media impact on brand equity                                                        

Part 5: The most important question to ask in social media marketing     

Part 6: A double standard for social media marketing?                   

Part 7: Yes, it IS about the money!                                                          

Part 8: Creating a measurement plan                                                     

Part 9: Measurement is like a bartender                               


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  • JIm LeBlanc

    I have been reading your blogs for a couple weeks now and I think you speak for those of us out here actually trying to do this stuff on a shoe-string budget (like me!!!)

    I think anybody working in an average company is hurting right now due to the economy. We don't have enough of a budget to work on things we KNOW we need to do for customers, let alone new intiatives that don't promise a payback. It has to be about money!!!

    At times I wonder if all the social media people are just talking to themselves, convincing each other that this is in a different category or something. It's ALWAYS been about relationships.

    Keep 'em coming Mark !!!

  • Jeffrey Summers

    It is about relationships…relationships that lead to sales and referrals. It is also about influence…in that hopefully I have assuaged your fears about using my product or service to the point of influencing your decision to buy it. It is about content too…content that will make an emotional connection with you so that you are moved to buy my product or service.

    Man has been accountable ever since Adam bit into the forbidden fruit. It will never be any different no matter how many snakes try to tell you otherwise.


    Thanks for writing, guys.

    "influence" and "accountability" are not dirty words. Embrace capitalism. : )

  • Ryan Taft

    I 100% agree. The ppl who say it's not about making money are full of it…I'm sorry but to your point, it all comes down to money. Being a thought leader and educating ppl is great! I want to one day be looked at as a thought leader for online marketing strategies, but do you want to know why that is? Becuase I want to suport myself and my family…how do I do that? By making money. Social Media Marketing is about contributing to the conversation in order to build trusting relationships b/t yourself and your audience in order to generage sales of your products and/or services.


    Ryan Taft

  • Rebel Brown

    Great post and I agree with you Mark. For years we've talked about great customer relationships as the foundation for our businesses – aka REVENUE and PROFIT. Social media comes along and suddenly relationships are for relationships sake only.

    I love Social Media (SM) as a mechanism for communicating with a vast and diverse audience. I have always worked to create solid, trusted relationships with my customers -from my years in sales thru every consulting opportunity. I've done everything we talk about today in SM as a way to support my business. Difference is I did it before Twitter was an egg in the nest. I gave free advice, offered education on markets and options, built relationships with clients who trusted me – and in the end I took a check (as in $) for business completed. Becuase of all the effort I put into showing my clients that there was value – I was trusted and got the biz.

    Now SM makes that so much easier to acoomplish, and lets us reach so many more people who can take benefit from that information exchange.

    To me, the difference is in the intent behind the action. If your social media actions are SOLELY focused on making money from someone (aka the SPAMMER $1M WINNERS on Twitter) you WILL turn off the audience and you won't build a relationship.

    On the other hand – if your SM actions are focused on helping people learn about a market, a problem/solution scenario and to provide valuable insights – to truly help them – you'll build an audience. You'll create an image and presence for your company. And, (horrors) you'll most likely get a check at the end of appropriate discussions where your audience is seeking a solution that you provide. As a by product of that great relationship, you will get business.

    I'm sorry if all the SM gurus think that's a BAD thing. But if everyone thinks SM for business is all about non profit – they may get a rude awakening in the form of a PINK Tweet sometime soon.


    Great insights, Rebel, thanks! I'm certainly finding this to be true for my own business. The more I give away and the more help I provide, the more referrals and benefits I receive.

    There is another aspect to this — I find it genuinely rewarding to help people. I saw an example where a young man sent out a cry for help on Twitter and I sent him a helpful link. Here was his response —

    @markwschaefer So awesome! Thank you for the resource, I'm truly grateful. This is why Twitter rocks, end of story

    Now, on the surface, that makes me feel great. A reward in itself. But I'm also sure this guy will look for ways to help me too.

    So I just made an argument for why it's NOT all about the money : ) Now I'm a contrary contrarian. Ha!

  • steve dodd

    Mark, we must remember at the end of the day, it is all about money but during the day there is a process and methodology that gets you there. That's the fun and challenging part. Not every interaction has a direct monetary impact but the accumulation of all will. That's where the intricacies of measurement come into play.

  • Hmmm having a violent agreement I see. Well let me add something that has gotten me thrown out of some of the best boardrooms around.

    Social web (i will not call this crap media) is – like the web – NOT about content. We yap and we chat and we link and we do all sorts of stuff and most of it is simply content. Who cares? if folks wanted content theere would be line ups around the block at every library in the world. Hell, I can walk into any library and grab a nop in a table – no one is there.

    I have believed and continue to believe this wonderful thing called online is about utilities and tools. And the Web 2.0 (another unfortunate term) can really allow us to use the powerful technology and interact. It was explained to me years ago by a guy – genius – that said think Web 1.0 as up putting Wrd docs online. Sure we got fancy with lots of jumping bunnies and throbbing gristle – but Web 2.0 is about us putting Excel online where my fiddly bits (events) talk to your fiddly bits (events).

    Google and the APIs are perfect examples of fiddly bits i use day in and day out. Sure I get content off the web, but as a result of this document search and delivery called html, and search, and alerts and RSS – I am not reliant on a Twitter feed nor a Facebook group or fan page for social web. I do however use constantly stuff like Delicious, Posterous, Friend Feed, or say on Facebook auto reminder event notices. Hell even birthdays of all them hot chicks I date! Sory je digress …

    Think utilities. Think tools. My personal fave app right now BTW is Evernote on my iphone and computer – how I ever lived without that I have NO idea!

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