Yesterday we put on an all-day workshop on business blogs for RAMA, the local chapter of the American Marketing Association, titled "I Link, Therefore I Am" - not original, we know, but it captures many of the elements that go into the ROI analysis for blogs and social media.
One hot topic, of course, was ROI - we had small to medium-sized businesses and colleges represented in the room and several expressed a need to explain the ROI to their bosses, if they were going to venture into blogging. Now that Charlene Li and her collegues at Forrester Research have provided us with a nice, scientific-looking matrix for calculating ROI from blogging, that becomes the starting point for the discussion. Those of us who get asked the question all the time owe a deep debt of gratitude to Charlene and folks like Steve Rubel over at Micro Persuasion, who've experienced the ROI (both tangible and intangible) and keep trying to help explain it to the bean counters.
That said, I've been fiddling with the matrix ever since Charlene so generously shared it with the world in mid-January, because I think it misses three major pieces of blogging ROI:
- it treats "negative user-generated content" solely as ... well, a negative;
- it's framing of the first four benefits as "increased brand visibility" seems biased toward large organizations with existing brands and ignores the power of blogs to help individuals, small businesses, or small/new segments of large organizations create their brands from scratch; and
- it leaves no room to consider the kinds of intangible, non-linear, and longer-term benefits of developing a network of links and trackbacks over time that I discussed in my Blyopia series (start here).
So yesterday I included a slide with a sort of "mash-up" of the Forrester matrix with more boxes for taking into account those additional ROI factors:
The blanks at the bottom are meant to remind you to think about and articulate those intangible, non-linear, not-immediately-measurable - but nonetheless VERY REAL and often most valuable over the long haul - benefits.
The global microbrand creation sections and the "low cost web presence" piece will help take into account the value of this communication medium for individuals, small businesses, and small or new ventures within large organizations. For more on these elements of ROI and links to various sources and example of Hugh Macleod's global microbrand concept see my recent "WME as a 'publishing conglomerate' " post.
Sharp-eyed readers will note that I moved the negative UGC boxes to the bottom of the Forrester matrix so that I could connect them to the top of my add-on. The question mark and Chinese characters (Wei Ji, Zhuan Ji) express that point that negative comments are not necessarily a negative. In fact, in most cases they are an opportunity for a business to shine. This has been true since before we had blogs to help. Back in 1996, when Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller published A Complaint is a Gift: Using customer feedback as a strategic tool, they devoted a chapter to urging businesses to "generate more complaints" - but the only tool they could offer was a toll-free phone number. Calls to a toll-free customer service line are important, but they help one customer at a time.
On a blog, the opportunity for great customer service and turning around a negative comment can be played out in public, where the benefit can be linked to, passed on, and magnified many time over. The GM Fastlane blog experience is instructive. After customer feedback and responses like the famous "What I meant to say ..." post from Bob Lutz relating to the Cadillac line, GM has just added a new blog, especially for their Cadillac CTS line. I'm guessing they're happy with the ROI from blogging openly with their customers, including the "negative" comments they get. What do you think?