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The ROI of Social Media - May 30,2008

There is something very delicious about positive instant feedback. Like for example, when you tell someone you love them and there is NOT that awkward, gaping wall of silence but the sentiment is returned with a kiss and more. Or in business when you make that sales pitch and the deal is sealed quickly with a cheque or in cash. Or when the first advertisement for your product draws a horde of people with pockets bulging with money to spend and you need those police barricades to keep order at your storefront. Yes, an immediate and positive response feels good and social media gives it to you.

In answer to the chorus of, ‘what is social media?’ that I hear from those born circa 60s, 50s and even 40s. The internet encyclopedia defines it thusly, “Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.”

MySpace, Facebook
So, let me break it down, it means basically that the internet has created an immensely infinite collaborative and boundary-less network linking people everywhere together. It is one huge market place with millions of voices. It is also the antithesis of the traditional mass media – because here everyone does the talking and there is not just one monolithic voice. So, there is, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, Flickr and YouTube where anyone can self-publish.

These spaces are sprawling, vibrant communities where people socialize, transact and start conversations. YouTube, is one of the fastest-growing sites on the web. It shows millions of video clips daily, from homemade music videos to Saturday Night Live skits. Anyone can upload a clip to the site, where it becomes public and searchable. Anyone who views it can then rate it, share it, and use it in a blog or website. We in Jamaica should love this because in our world, ‘Every Negro is a Star’ just waiting to buss big, whether as a dancing or singing star. We really love to see ourselves on t.v. whether or not we look good.

Then there is blogging, Instant Messaging, wikis and podcasts.. For hundreds of years we lived in a world that was not connected and was out of communication. We relied on the traditional mass media to tell us the news. Today things have changed a lot. Now a days we are able to talk to others online and get their opinions quickly. With a weblog, or a blog you can interact with me and leave a comment. Call me a jackass. Etc. Etc. Traditional media does not afford this, there is not much interaction or feedback, save for the slow moving ‘Letter to the Editor’ for example. With a blog you can get some sense of the popularity of people’s material in real time. How many comments does each post generate? How many links does each post get? The new media is infinite.

While I am on this, a little about IM: that sound you hear and that intent look on your employee’s face when s/he is working around the computer might not necessarily be that the tasks they are engaged in are that enthralling. They might just be having an intense conversation with someone outside the office, outside the country and outside this region.

Instant Messaging
There is a lot of Instant Messaging going around in offices here in Jamaica. Last week I stepped foot into a ‘hot office’ (and I do not mean in the global-warming sense), outfitted with the latest computer fanciness. The receptionist did not have much time for me – she was busily IM-ing. I know because I heard the sound. If you don’t know about the sound you better ask somebody. They might answer or lol.

A lot of company time is spent on IM and it can be good or bad. On the one hand – it will definitely keep your telephone bills down as employees find it a quicker and sneakier way of lyming with their friends on your time without seeming idle as they do not have a telephone at their ears. On the bad side, it takes up a lot of productive man-hours.

So this social media is our new playground. Companies that use it to innovate and transform their communication will be breaking new ground into sustainable competitive advantage. Those who don’t and continue to rely on the old paradigm, the tired, one way monologues deserve every brickbat that they get from a fast-moving and unforgiving public. They need to get with the programme.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson MBA, ABC, is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specialising in business communication, employee communications and financial publications. Contact: yvonne@rocommunications.com; Website: www.rocommunications.com and post your comments.


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Tele:(876)925-4529 Fax:(876)941-1209 Mobile:(876)807-1140 P.O.Box 2052, Constant Spring P.O., Kingston 8, Jamaica W.I. E-mail: yvonne@rocommunications.com