The ‘Prove It’ Stage of Social Media

socialmediaworks1I’m working on a presentation with a colleague about social media’s benefits, risks, impacts, etc. to be presented to various staff on campus.  In some discussions, we decided that a critical part of the presentation would be to explain the benefits of social media in clear detail.  For the commitment to social media to be made, there has to be no doubt in the minds of those on campus, that the benefits are real, tangible and impact the business goals of the institution.

Tonight I came across a blog post by Chris Brogan where he talks about companies think that social media is fine, but want strategies and a better understanding of how the tools will impact their business goals.  Chris states:

The shine is off. We are in the “prove it” phase of social media. Though it’s still early days in oh so many ways, it’s also far past the time to tell folks that a blog will save their business.

Chris’ comments and my discussions with my colleague really got me thinking.  Institutions are willing to accept and embrace social media, but the benefits need to be proven.

Up until recently, social media hasn’t been mainstream.  It’s been in the ‘experiment stage.’  The folks at metricsman.wordpress.com have a great post titled, “Is 2009 the tipping point for social media accountability?” The article states:

So far, the spirit of experimentation has provided a sort of ‘get out of jail free’ card with respect to having to demonstrate the value of digital and social media programs and initiatives.  It looks like 2009 will change all that due primarily to three factors:

  • the widespread awareness of social media use in a business context
  • the economy
  • the economy.

2009 will raise the bar on all of use to demonstrate how social media programs are helping to drive desired business outcomes.  It won’t be enough to just report on the number of view-thrus for a clip or unique commenters on a blog.  We will be challenged to explain how our programs will drive consumer/customer awareness, engagement and purchase intent.

Chris as obviously hit the nail on the head in his post.  The benefits of social media are real. But the ‘experiment stage’ of social media is over and it’s time to buckle down, attach social media to business models, and prove it!

We are going to see more emphasis on the ROI of social media and applying metrics to social media.  The measurements won’t be so much about numbers, but about quality conversations.

Do you think social media can benefit business goals?  How are you proving social media in your institution? How can conversations be measured?  Please add a comment.

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