24 Dec 2009

The ROHI or The Return On Human Investment

Given that this is the holiday season, we stop, supposedly and reflect upon what has made this year special, what has made this year memorable. Of course one of the greater stories is the rise of Twitter and the rise of the now ubiquitous term “Social Media.” Companies are now hiring social media managers because it takes a lot of time and effort to keep putting that message out on channels which the public now “listens” to and spends time on & with. Twitter and Facebook spring to mind. What is the ROI? This phrase was sung over and over again, “How do we make money on it?” Slide Shares were created which amused and enlightened, @thebrandbuilder's recent slideshare, hilarious to look at had a few key points which discussed this – but the bottom line was on slide 44 that attention to the brand will create traffic to the site which will increase sales,…. ultimately. Social media managers who can raise awareness through being followed by brand leaders, who can come up with a new way of attracting friends and fans to Facebook are important. It is an interesting time. One that MySpace wishes it could really be a part of.

It is end of the year, it is family time………let’s reflect on this for a moment, our first experience with social advertising was probably over hearing our parents talking about how great a product was they bought. “Yes, Bob, I couldn’t believe the Rice A Roni came in 5 different flavors, including Kumquat…..your favorite. And the A & P had a huge sale on it too so I got a carton. We’re set!”

Or the way the cute little red headed girl in school you liked always had Charleston Chews, and so to impress her, you began to stock up on it. We are socialized into brand affiliation early in our lives. The media holds the message, so thrown out wrappers of candy in the playground aren’t technically media but they represented another impression upon our young minds.

So when we are talking about the Return on Social Media, aren’t we also talking about how we are going to get that media to become the message to get people to want to buy our goods and services? Especially now that attention is split to near atomic levels, and marketers with budgets being cut in this new economy are looking for new ways to engage their audience. We are no longer held captive at the dinner table so to speak with 4 networks, no longer in the walled in playground of printed content. We are out there and we are spinning our own stories. How can we, the marketing and advertising community get people to listen and buy?

Was MySpace worth $650 Million? Is Twitter worth $100m? Club Penguin $750m? Don’t those huge valuations tell you something? That even in this world of a million channels, there is limited opportunity for investment in this arena. So that means this arena has a lot of users but they are funneling towards a few channels. I think that we should wait and see how the Social Media marketplace works out ultimately. And to do this takes a longer view. In this economy we don’t have the luxury, but in this economy we don’t have the luxury NOT to as well. Social Media spend is both increasing and paying off. It is a longer term investment because it deals with a human investment.

As reported in Marketing Vox, “New figures from an Econsultancy study show these channels are becoming more important to marketers. In the newly released Social Media and Online PR Report, Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia found that more firms are planning to increase social media spending next year and - more intriguingly to those loitering on the sidelines of this space - that those firms that have focused heavily on these channels have made it pay off."

An overwhelming majority of companies (86%) surveyed plan to spend more money on social media in 2010, and a further 13% are planning to keep the same budget levels.

The report does go on to say that those companies who have efforts in this area have typically reaped some reward. More than half (52%) who are heavily involved in social media advertising say that they have gained real value, compared with only 13% of companies who have "experimented but not done much." Marketing Vox goes onto discuss the new tools including the Push to Social for email enabling crossover of platform.

A.J. Leibling said “The power of the press belongs to those who own one.” In this day and age we all own a press each time we hit submit, what we need are those eyes to read and digest what we are writing. What we need is a community to share that with, and this kind of human investment does take time.

It is Holiday time, and though we will be involved with Twitter and Facebook telling “everyone” what we got for Christmas, it is also time to spend it with those from whose social sphere we migrated, namely our families.

I had the opportunity to go to the Smithsonian this past Thanksgiving to see mine. At the Smithsonian, prior to admiring the Hope Diamond and the jewels of Peggy Hopkins Joyce I chanced to read about Potlatch, and Indian festival of the pre-European days on the American continent. One quote, from an Indian Chief which struck me from the 1800’s was “the white man had a bank, where money is kept which generates interest – we have the potlatch and I have over 2,000 dollars in the hands of my Indian brothers and sisters. This will keep me with food and the materials I need as the gifts will come round to me again.”

In other words, the potlatch which is in the form of gifts to the community is what will replenish the individual. Was it a form of investment? Clearly so, in terms of a families status and also in terms of actual goods for consumption, food and sundries. It was a return on human investment. It was built up over time, and so will this return on Human investment we make in the social media community we belong to be. 27 million tweets a day and counting. You can hear us “singing” as soon as you tune in.

Engaging people is what will pay off. Of course there are other ways to engage, and my prediction for the next decade is to the virtual worlds which are 3D and dynamic, which have people at the edge of their seats and tips of their fingers as the next big frontier for advertising and brands. In the first quarter of 2009, the virtual world of Second Life saw $120 million USD exchanged through user-to-user transactions, with a record monthly $45 million USD in transactions in March. This is where the product meets the grid meets the people.

So here we have something that has both a monetary value and a human or social one –

Virtual assets which people will buy for real money to enhance their virtual lives or virtual social media lives. If Twitter could come up with a monetary widget that people could buy for one another in micro transactions would they do it? And I come to the question is social media = virtual media?

In other words as this exists on the Internet platform solely, as differentiated from traditional media of our newspapers we hold in our hands, of the TV sets that sit in our living rooms
Are we living virtually through this media – this glimpse into other people’s lives, thoughts, drives and observations?

We are investing hours of time on blogs, Twitters and posting onto Facebook. We want to be heard, we want our thoughts and observations shared, we are part of the greater potlatch of contemporary media and this virtual society at large is one we feed and feed on.

How can you measure the time we spend on answering emails, in LinkedIn group discussion and monitoring our inbox in a quantifiable way?

We read what we want, when we want and for how long we want to - we are caught up in a tide of finding things out and broadcasting what we have discovered. The return on investment for time is knowledge and entertainment – this is a new form of activity, broader and with farther reach but still a human activity, we are around an electric campfire now sharing stories, information and modern lore. Word of mouth is the most important form of advertising there is today - our attention level has been spliced, and so we trust in that most ancient of organizations, our friends and extended family.

The return on human investment is indeed a return on time spent acquiring knowledge about areas we want to be a part of. What is the price on knowing? What is the price on being heard?

In many ways my potlatch is on Second Life. I still Twitter though, follow me @pookymedia.



Matt Kelland said...

"We are investing hours of time on blogs, Twitters and posting onto Facebook. We want to be heard, we want our thoughts and observations shared, we are part of the greater potlatch of contemporary media and this virtual society at large is one we feed and feed on."

A wise man once said to me, "Posting a blog or a tweet is like standing on a street corner talking at passers-by. Making a comment or a reply, that's what turns it into a conversation and makes it social."

Pooky Amsterdam said...

Thank you Matt - this makes it part of someting greater than ourselves when we reach one another. I appreciate this remark indeed as the conversation leads to inspiration.

Helene J. Zuili said...

Hi Pooky, this is a beautiful post and iI really like the idea of a The Return On Human Investment.

In this new MetheMedia society, there is a real life-ecology to find so all of this don't become just a waste...

I guess this is also why I like SL as a place to go just over the buzz..

Best wishes from Paris :)

Urs E. Gattiker said...

Pooky this is a very interesting post.

Matt I have to agree with your comment that leaving a comment is having a confersation. Nevertheless, I prefer a one-to-one conversation over Twitter or Facebook any time - it is richer and far more satisfying, is it not?


Pooky you write: "Virtual assets which people will buy for real money to enhance their virtual lives or virtual social media lives."

This sounds like entertainment to me and people are always willing to spend money and time on entertainment.

However, I still hesitate to engage with a brand. I wish to get value for money and good service but does that require that I engage with a brand? Hopefully not :-)

I wish you all a prosperous and happy new decade beginning with 2010.

Suzi said...

I love this post, and I like the conversation that has occurred in the comments. Matt, I like your wise man's observation quite a bit.

Pooky, the statement of yours that struck me most was, "It is Holiday time, and though we will be involved with Twitter and Facebook...it is also time to spend it with those from whose social sphere we migrated, namely our families."

I know you meant "migrated" as "from whence we originated," but it occurred to me that it can also profoundly be "migrated" as "from whom we are becoming alienated," if they happen to choose not to come along on the journey.

I believe all the comments so far have made reference to conversation. I'm talking mostly to myself here with this advice, but it behooves those of us on the forefront of virtual immersion to remember to step out of those waters often and include in conversation those sitting at the side of the pool, too.