Finding Social Media ROI is like Hunting a Unicorn
I’ve been intentionally not posting on my blog for a good reason – O.K., that’s not entirely true but I’ll talk more about that at the end of this post – but the intersection of four interesting items all surrounding social media have caused me to violate my posting moratorium.
Here is a list of the four items in the order I encountered them:
- Post on The Financial Brand titled “Confessions of a Social Media Skeptic”
- Post on Snarketing 2.0 about how “Banks and Credit Unions Can Forget Twitter for Marketing”
- A question on a bank marketing board asking other participants for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.” URL intentionally not shared to protect the innocent and not so innocent discussion participants.
- An article by Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s”
I’ll give you a quick bit of background on my own foray into social media and then quickly move on to some comments about these four interesting items and my thoughts on how they are all related.
First, my background on using social media within the banking industry:
- It all started when a man by the name of Al Gore and I invented the Internet
- Most of my involvement in using social media within the financial services industry would be traced back to my use of LinkedIn in 2008. An innocent invite from a friend in the technology field introduced me to this professional networking site. Since that time I’ve grown very fond of LinkedIn; have used it to advertise industry webinars, publications, speaking gigs, etc; and have found it to be a very valuable source of industry credibility.
- In May of 2009, I started the Twitter handle @BankMarketing. This project started from a small observation: that I read a sh*t ton of articles about banking and bank marketing, which many others in our industry don’t see. I started the account the first night I was at the ABA School of Bank Marketing & Management after mentioning Kasasa and nobody had heard of it yet. (Confession: a Google alert on a competitor was how I knew about this product before they had done a large formal launch). My tweets mainly consist of broadcasting what I’m reading within the industry. The byproduct is that I’ve connected with a ton of people in the financial industry, increased by industry reach and credibility, and been exposed to a lot of writings that I might have missed.
- In late December of 2010 I started the now rarely maintained blog/website www.ihelpbanks.com. My intentions for this site were to have a presence on the web outside of my employer – both at the time and the new one I was about to join – and to start advertising my speaking services within the industry. The blogging portion of my site is underutilized because of the main point of this entire post: ROI (Return on Investment). More correctly, I’d say ROSMI (Return on Social Media Investment).
What is ROSMI? Better put: Who is ROSMI?
Definition: a mostly mythical and poorly drawn unicorn
O.K., so now that you know my history with social media and the definition of Rose-Me, let’s get back to the intersection of the four items I discussed up at the top.
Item 1: Hopefully you actually clicked on the link to the great read at TheFinancialBrand.com. If you did not, allow me to recap:
A 25-year-old bank marketer named Dave – who looks quite scary in the shadowy pictorial representation – said that social media has become an irrational quest by banks. He said that ROI needs to be the focus of all marketing decisions instead of taking off on a wild quest for a mythical purple Unicorn.
ROSMI Summary: Every bank marketer in America, “Where is that damn mythical purple Unicorn, Rose-Me?” Dave, “She doesn’t exist. Neither does Santa or the Easter Bunny.”
Item 2: Hopefully the four of you who are reading this also subscribe to Ron Shevlin’s excellent blog www.snarketing2dot0.com . I know at least 25% of you do as Ron is one of the four subscribers. If you are in the other 75% – i.e. you aren’t Ron Shevlin – do yourself a favor and subscribe to his blog.
On his site you can read interesting posts like this recent one that is summarized with the following:
- Credit Union members don’t engage with their CUs…nor will they do so with large banks.
- One-half of one percent of all Twitter users follow a bank.
- Twitter’s usefulness is questionable when you look at the desirable outcomes of any potential marketing banks or CUs can do.
- Ultimately, Ron sums up the post with this line: “Bank and credit union CEOs need to start asking their CMOs: Is Twitter really the best use of your department’s time and resources?”
ROSMI Summary: Bank CEO to CMO, “If you insist on taking your staff off on a trek to find this mythical unicorn, you’d better bring it back stuffed and mounted so I can show my friends.”
Item 3: Sorry that you can’t see the board post on this third citation. Perhaps you’re on the board and have seen it. If not, my summary is that one person asked for “ideas to help drive people to our Facebook page.” Many people replied with ideas that worked for them to get to 1,000 likes in X number of days. The conversation on the board reminded me of this great email exchange I had with an industry contact of mine in regard to his questions about Facebook strategies and my follow up questions about what his goals are. He said:
“I’m going to have to get my Senior Management Team to agree on the ‘Goal’. I find that a lot of my friends up this way have jumped into the Social Media craze, but when I ask them what their goal is, they have no idea. My management team has a history of introducing new products and services, and when I ask them what the goal is, they look at me like I have ten heads. I always ask them, ‘how will you determine if this is a success or not?’ and I just get stares.”
Unfortunately, the focus of the board post became getting “likes,” which we will assume has become the unofficial currency of most bank Social Media efforts. I did like one poster’s closing comment to “Have fun and look for a ROI!” Unfortunately, liking unicorns and finding unicorns are not the same thing.
ROSMI Summary: CMO, “I like unicorns.” Another CMO, “Me, too. Hey, look, a Leprechaun! Sorry, I’m easily distracted. Hey, look, a shiny object.”
Item 4: If you’re not reading Dave Martin on American Banker or through his www.ncbs.com site, then you’re missing out! (Subscribe to “Dave’s Instore Newsletter” on the right side of the page…even if your financial institution doesn’t have any “in-store” branches.) I’ve never met Dave but have been reading his newsletter for years now and he’s a great blend of sales and marketing…something all marketers should strive for.
You must click and read this article…come on, you’ve come this far. Here it is again: Dave Martin on American Banker’s Bank Think titled “Your Staff’s Time is as Valuable as the Customer’s”
Here is the most important statement in that article in case you missed it or didn’t click the link despite my pleadings:
“When managers express concern about employees feeling micro-managed about their time, I smile and say, “Well, that’s easy. Don’t micro-manage.” I simply suggest that we stress to folks that their talents and desire to succeed may be unlimited. But their time is not.
Employees don’t need (and, in fact, resent) being told what to do with each minute of their day. But regularly reminding them, in word and action, that their time is a valuable asset improves the chances that they (and you) will get the most out of it.”
I was speaking to a group of college English majors last week – Yes, I’m a former English major who ended up with a decent career story so I get invited back to speak occasionally – and one of the questions was whether hard work or talent was more important to get ahead. While I could have taken that question in any manner of different directions – creativity is king, saying no to idiots is kind of valuable, brownnosing will save us all – I answered it in the most honest fashion by stating that both are important. But, that talent and hard work must meet at a supply and demand intersection of sorts. “Hard work” as defined by looking busy all the time and answering emails at night is no substitution for leveraging your talents to achieve high level results. Your talents should be abundant to you but also limited to the company – if there is only one of your talents, that’s not just job security but job creation! Then the ultimate goal is to apply your talent with focus so you’re not defined as a hard worker but as a producer of results.
[Your ability to utilize your limited amount of time] X [the high-payoff talents you possess] = How you will be judged by your organization
Just because you have “social media technical skills” doesn’t mean they are high-payoff activities for your organization. And, the ability to utilize your limited amount of time means you need to have awareness of how to create results that matter…to your employer! Where does generating “likes” fall into this equation? It doesn’t.
ROSMI Summary: Hunting mythical unicorns isn’t something most people are well suited for and most likely won’t become a career defining endeavor. It’s best left to the Care Bears…or whoever hunts them…(I’m not a big Sci Fi fan so may have that one wrong).
Building, implementing, maintaining a social media strategy is a time-intensive endeavor, especially when the payoff isn’t there yet for most every Financial Institution. The first two blog posts I shared have this correct. I know of a handful of banks with consistently worthy social media efforts. They are the true unicorns…and they are rare.
Not everyone can or should lead social media ventures…as indicated by the third item. Technical proficiency in generating a page and “likes” isn’t what you or your institution should be shooting for.
Finally, our industry has gone so far past ROI when it comes to social media that we’ve forgotten about the limited resources we have to generate revenue for our institutions! I rarely hear people talk about time management. Perhaps this is because our industry has downsized so much that most people are so busy chasing unicorns that it seems as if everyone is working hard! Have we become afraid to say, “that’s not the best use of our time” for fear of being viewed as incapable of working as hard as Sue or Bob down the hall? Saying no to non-revenue generating activities is a valued skill.
It’s refreshing to see articles that question the validity of Social Media as a revenue generating strategy. And, it was enough to shake me out of my non-blogging ways to reengage my four readers!
Feel free to comment. I’m sure some will say that Social Media isn’t meant to generate revenue but to generate engagement. Well, what is the true, main job of a great marketer? To generate results that impact the bottom line? Or to generate minimal engagement amongst a limited segment of your customer base? To generate “likes”? And, what if you only have time for one of these? Which do you think would save your job if it were ever on the chopping block?
Footnote 1: OK, so maybe I’ve used my own social media endeavors to uncover a unicorn or two…I have booked some speaking gigs because of what someone saw on my LinkedIn profile or because of a recommendation. More likely, these weren’t unicorns but like a Guide Horse (aka. Miniature Helper Pony for the Blind). My social media strategies center on looking for a way to increase my visibility but in ways that wouldn’t require more resources than I had to devote…or more succinctly put, strategies that I could ignore when higher ROI activities presented themselves. This blog is great, but can be abandoned for 160+ days when sales become so busy that you can’t devote resources to maintain regular posts. Banks and CUs don’t have the luxury of abandoning their social media efforts for months at a time.
Footnote 2: I’ve been trying to figure out a way to toss this social media story into the “Internets” since I heard it in the fall of 2011 at a banking conference. I didn’t figure out a seamless way to work it into the above post so here it is on its own in the footnotes area.
I saw a panel of bank social media experts talk about their experience with social media. At the end of the panel discussion, an attendee asked the panel, “How do you address the question of ROI?”
The first participant to speak said, “How do you measure the ROI of a hug? Because that’s what we’re doing out there on twitter.”
Holy crap? Really? Banking may need a softer image but it’s not going to be about hugs and unicorns.