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How much is a fan worth?

As we continue to debate the Return on Investment (ROI) in the social media space and the profitability of one’s digital marketing strategy, I am betwixt and between:

  1. it is a totally normal question that any respectable business person must ask.
  2. the same question is rarely asked about ‘standard’ marketing campaigns.

If the tools and opportunity to measure traffic and clicks are more apparent than, say, the effectiveness of a print magazine ad, the link between a click and a dollar of revenue remains tenuous, just like word of mouth… which is, of course, the most forceful tool that exists.  The more human the interaction, the more powerful the effect?

So, what is the value of a Facebook fan? Should there be a difference for a fan of Chase Manhanttan Bank versus a fan of Christian Dior, considering how much harder it is to attract a fan to a bank or insurance company versus a fashion / trendy brand?  Is a fan is a fan is a fan, or how much more is a fan that shares and likes with regularity to a much larger group of friends?  Is a fan that uses Facebook mobile more worthwhile than he/she who only uses Facebook on the desktop?

Instead of considering the return of investment or, as Gary Vaynerchuk might say, “the value of my mother?*”, I think we could focus on the Return on Interactivity.  There are two reasons for this:

  • the biggest and most important investment in social marketing is manhours, in that the ‘investment’ is in people and must be ongoing; at the very least, we ought to be talking about return on investment in time (ROIT!)
  • rather than focusing on the dollar “cost” of a programme, discussing return on interactivity will sharpen the view on the level of interactivity and engagement, which will ultimately drive the traffic to the stores.

While there are new systems cropping up that enable forms of automation for email responses and, who knows next, blog posting and commenting, the role of the individuals posting and interfacing with the community will remain crucial.  Therefore, should we not be more concerned with the interaction than the investment?

*Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It! and man of the vine (ie. wine and the sprawling net), likened the question about the ROI of social media to asking what is the ROI of your own mother… to which he auto-answers: she gave me life.

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