Most companies see social interaction as some kind of marketing, and design their presence around campaigns and events.
Social media return of investment is then the art of measuring the output of these campaigns against whatever costs a company had to put into it.
It all sounds very well, but that is not actually what social interaction is about. Social interaction is a way of life that establishes a healthier connection between your customers and yourself. Like exercising.
Allow me to explain...
Let say you are feeling a bit out-of-shape, and over the weekend you decide to "get fit." No more loafing around, on Monday you are going to start running.
note: image via Flickr
The first run is hard, but you really feel you are accomplishing something. You feel your hearth pumping, the sweat, and the tension in your legs. You feel active. When you get home, you feel alive - even though all the muscles in your legs are killing you.
For the next few days you go back to your regular lifestyle, and on Thursday the excitement has drained off completely. You start to wonder why you are not feeling more fit. I mean, you where out running on Monday, and now you feel exactly the same as a week before. You don't even feel the slightest improvement in your health.
What is the return of investment of all the work?
Not wanting to give up just yet, you go out for another run, and you continue to run a couple of times per week.
After 3 weeks you start to get really bored. You have been out running, but you still really do not feel that much different, and running is just the same movement over and over again.
You start to wonder if there is a better way to achieve the result you want. Maybe you should join a fitness club, or buy some exercising equipment. Something that would create better results, with less work. You want a better return of investment.
Your friends urge you to keep going, telling you that the result will come, so you go on.
After 4 months, you do feel different. You are less tired, less stressed, you have more energy, and you feel better in the mornings. But you still do not feel "fit". You will not win the Olympics anytime soon, nor is it likely that you ever will.
But, something else has changed too. You start to realize that you went into this whole exercise thing because of all the wrong reasons. You were motivating yourself to run, because that would create a result, and then... what? Once you are fit, would you stop exercising and spend the next 6 months on your couch thinking you did a good job?
No, it doesn't work that way. Exercising is about reenergizing your body. It is not hard work that you have to allocate resources into. It's the complete opposite. Exercising is about putting yourself in a state where you can heal and recharge.
Exercising is a bit like breathing. If you don't have any air in your lungs, you might really want to change that (I hope). So you pull in a big gasp of air, but then you find that it didn't really change anything.
Life is not the result of having your lungs full of air, nor is it about the event of filling your lungs. Life is the result of breathing continually, in response to whatever needs your body has at the moment.
Social interaction is exactly the same thing as exercising.
Social is not about reaching 5,000 fans and "get social" as the result. Just as you don't "get fit." Being social is a state of mind; It is not a project. It's not about getting from A to B.
Social is about being part of the world around you. It is something you have to do continually. It never ends. You never reach your goal, because there is no goal to reach.
Setting the goal of reaching 5,000 likes on Facebook, is meaningless. When you reach it you will find that unless you keep being social, those 5,000 means absolutely nothing. You cannot stop being social just because you have many likes.
It's not the result that matters, it is the motion.
Getting 5,000 fans on Facebook won't help you sell more products. But being part of the community, and continually reenergizing it, will.
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