Social media ROI and feedback addiction

Doing things online can be somewhat addictive.  Pretty much everything you do can be measured, so you're getting constant feedback on what's working and what isn't.  Research has suggested that Facebook and other social media platforms are more addictive than traditional vices such as alcohol and tobacco.  What is addictive is the constant feedback you receive.  Or put another way, positive feedback is the addictive element.  Seeing those numbers going up is incredibly alluring.  Last year research found that this self esteem boost was valued by young people more highly than the pleasure they get from sex.

So it's powerful stuff.  The notion of the progress principle has been touted as the cure for poor employee engagement.  Securing lots of little wins is what keeps us motivated and happy says Teresa Amabile.

When progress becomes dangerous

When we become so addicted to winning things enter dangerous ground however.  We start to crave the rush that comes with progress so much that we cheat the figures or take shortcuts purely in order to get the rush of success.

In social media such behaviour is rampant.  Things like the number of fans on Facebook we have or the size of our LinkedIn group are very easy metrics to measure.  They're also pretty easy metrics to game.  Research released earlier this year revealed the growing crowdturfing industry that exists purely to inflate those headline figures.

The big boys are no better than we are.  Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn all regularly announce the apparently booming membership numbers their networks have.  What they're less keen to publish is how many of these accounts are actually active.  At least 50% of Twitter accounts are inactive for instance.

What can you do about it?

The first thing you need to do is stop kidding yourself.  You're not on Twitter to get millions of followers.  Your business won't thrive purely because you have lots of people liking your Facebook page.  These things in themselves aren't important to your business.  If they're not important, stop measuring them.

Instead focus on what is important to your business.  Figure out what your presence on social media will do for your customers.  Figure out how your customers will benefit from what you're doing and measure that instead.  If you're using social media to provide customer service for instance, measure each successful problem resolution.  That counts as your social ROI.

You then need to work out how each success with your social purpose adds up in pounds and pence.  So to use your customer service example, how much value do you earn from solving a customers problem via social media.  Figure that out and you have your business ROI.

Do both of those things and you have some proper things to measure that impact your business.  What's more, if you do both of those things well then the other stuff will generally take care of itself.  If you're providing real value to customers then membership stats will rise to reflect that all on their own.  But just because those numbers are easy to find, don't fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong things.


14 thoughts on “Social media ROI and feedback addiction

  1. I think that you're idea of what drives this "addiction" is also a powerful indication of how one can make more effective use of social media to establish relationships. As you say, it is feedback that brings people back again and again. So, you can focus your social media efforts around giving feedback to customers and potential customers. If someone makes a suggestion for a product feature, then be sure to publicly thank them for it. If someone references your product in a posting or a tweet, then reach out to them. Even when people are writing about the broader area in which your products or services apply, take the time to draw attention to those who are making contributions. Providing feedback will open doors to new relationships and opportunities.

    • Hi Terry, thanks for your comment. You're quite right. Until the advent of social media customers were traditionally very distant from the companies they bought from. Now they have that closeness they expect the instant responses (or feedback) they get from their friends in other areas of social media activity. Responding within 24 or 48 hours is no longer really good enough, the bar has been raised.

  2. Wow, I had no idea that social media was more addictive than alcohol etc. Suppose it makes sense though when you think about it, also that like with other addictions many will seek a 'cheap hit' rather than something they have to work for.

  3. Good post, thanks for writing this.

    Connecting with their customers is what companies do. Not a new idea but somehow, the power of the social tools and the breadth of the social nets makes the tools seem more than they are and the common sense principals that have guided smart companies to somehow have gotten lost.

  4. Social Media – the listening, the understanding, the engagement- it can be so easy with the right tool. An there are so many use cases showing the chances and opportunities to develope better relationships, products and services with social media.

    Especially the integration of social media as a new communication channel into your existing interaction can boost your customer relations into new spheres. Social CRM links social media analyses to your operative processes and enables you to document this bi-directional communication in your CRM system and – most important – to use the findings to improve your business.

  5. Good timing for this post, as the co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone was in Montreal this week and himself alluded to the fact it's not healthy to spend too much time tweeting and in social networks. You can check out this report on the subject:

    Like anything, excess leads to addiction or extreme fatigue. It's usually better to remember why we do things, recall our business objectives or personal goals, in order to prioritize our time spent in the ever-addictive social media (Pinterest, anyone?).


    • Thanks for the link Frederic, I read that earlier today. Quite a statement from someone with such an interest in you using their site. The key, as Terry says, is to make sure your feedback is of the healthy variety so you don't start chasing goals that are no good for you.

  6. This is a very topical post. Everyone's talking about Biz Stone's comment – I even tweeted about it earlier on this week.

    Thank you for highlighting how addictive social media can be. It's effecting productivity and is causing personal problems in peoples' lives because they are spending way too much time on social media.

    I agree that in our instant gratification society, numbers and feedback are getting way too much attention. Providing real value to customers often gets sidetracked. Great post.

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