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ROI: Reason to Omit Investment?

In the following guest post — reprinted with permission from his blog With or Without You — Communications Network board member, Mitch Hurst, VP, Interactive Solutions, Scofield Company, offers some thoughts about why an overemphasis on proving the value of social media within foundations and nonprofits can stand in the way of broader adoption for potentially good purposes.

I agree with much of this blog post about how the social media ROI discussion can quickly morph into resistance to adoption:

My hunch is show-me-the-money-or-forget-about-it brand managers/marketers are comfortable with how they’ve been doing things for years. They like the old ways; which are one-way. Social media is two-way. They’re unaccustomed to direct engagement and are terrified of what might come back at them. They fear losing control of their brand.

It does seem as if there’s a “prove this works” measure applied to social media that’s been missing from other communication mediums. How routine were/are annual report reader surveys to determine the value of investment in those 100-plus print pages?

It’s in the best interests of foundations and nonprofits that their brands be identified with sound management and responsible use of resources. With increased flow of information about nonprofits, there is increased risk when organizations are perceived to be mismanaged.

The flip side is that good management also entails ensuring organizations are well-placed for the future. The best-run organizations spend the necessary time and resources to understand the evolving communications landscape and integrate that understanding into management practice.

The spontaneous nature of the interaction on social networks tends to skew the ROI discussion toward instant gratification. If a staffer is spending half their day on social networks promoting the work of their employer it would be nice to find out if they’re wasting their time.

But there’s a long-haul factor in the social media ROI equation, one that requires equal measures of patience and perception. It’s not only about whether or not organizations embrace Twitter; it’s about whether or not organizations will adapt — or even lead the way — to an interactive future.


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