Sometimes the ROI is just in the People

Companies and individuals are desperately seeking metrics to track the ROI of social media participation.  Which networks are profitable or worthy of time, which aren’t. I love numbers and spreadsheets more than the average person. As a matter of fact, I spent a couple of years doing sales forecasting.   I lived and breathed spreadsheets and tracking systems and people got fired if their numbers didn’t look good on my spreadsheets.  You can bet I understand the importance of numbers.  They are crucial to every business.

BUT…..(you knew this was coming)… everything you do in your life doesn’t have to have a concrete measurement.  Todd Carpenter said, “if you coach a softball game”, do you measure the ROI of getting new clients?”  Now, that is just silly. Of course not.

People keep asking about the value of Foursquare.  I love the application.  I use it a lot, mostly when I travel or when I am out in the evening.  During the day, I rarely check in, but if I wanted to, I bet I could be the mayor of my mac. 

On Sunday, I had an extended layover in the Dallas Fort Worth airport while in Boston, Chris Brogan was happy to be getting an early flight.  My tweet to him caught the eye of Mike Neumann

I consider Mike to be my friend from  (Odd little social network.  Really has no value, right? ) It is the place I engage with him most often.

So who cares what airport, I was in?   Or Chris Brogan was in?  Mike cared.  He was in the same airport.

And next thing you know….


If I look a little road weary, I was.  I was exhausted after multiple airport delays and too much travel.  But more than anything, I was delighted to finally get to meet Mike, my friend from this odd little social network called blip.

On Sunday night, I noticed I had been added to a new Twitter list, Mike’s “met-irl” list, meaning we had met face to face.  This is not isolated.  This happens to me all the time.  When I go places, I often look to see who is checked in our Foursquare.  I now find people to follow on twitter who have checked in on similar places on Foursquare.  What’s the ROI? Where’s the value?  Do people care where I check in?

The value is the people.  I own two businesses.  Both of them are driven by people.   If there were no people, I wouldn’t be in businesss.

Perhaps we should start measuring the ROP- Return on People.  Or ROR.  Return on Relationships.

I am not saying we shouldn’t have metrics to track our activity. As I mentioned above, I love metrics as much as the next numbers geek.  But everything doesn’t have to have a metric.

If the only reason you go on FourSquare is to get a sale, you probably shouldn’t be on it.  Facebook, same thing.  (Facebook Business page- different story.  You should be tracking metrics on that.) These are personal networks.  If used appropriately, they can enhance your business opportunities.  They have an ROR.  A return on relationships.  They may have an ROI, but they don’t have too.

I have developed relationships that turned into clients from, twitter, facebook and foursquare.  Just as I have developed relationships that have turned into clients from Junior League, the school foundation, and mommy playgroups.  I don’t track the ROI of taking my kids to the park and shoot me if I ever do. 

Every interaction we have doesn’t need an ROI.  Just because you don’t understand how someone is using a particular platform doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.  Every interaction leaves a trail of social objects- connections that bloom into stronger relationships and opportunities.