I just got back from the PMA’s 28th Annual Promotion Marketing Law Conference. The short synopsis is that lawyers are working hard to get their arms and brains around the same issues that are bedeviling their colleagues on the marketing side of the business: How do you monetize all of this social media stuff?
But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the real point of all of this social media and consumer-generated content is to get people to identify themselves as the ones who actually give a shit about your brand. Think about it: If someone spends their free time creating content about/around your brand, then you can assume that they’ve got strong feelings for it. Now, those feelings could be good or bad. But what they’re telling you is that they’re not apathetic. In terms of ROI, there’s no return from those who don’t care/aren’t interested in your brand. Those who have something good to say about your brand are your loyals, and you probably have sophisticated models for figuring out ROI, ROI, CLV, and all those other acronyms. Those who feel strongly in the negative are—depending on how you handle them—potential loyals, and they can potentially add to your bottom line in the long run.
So, out of the 6 billion people on the planet, here are some who’ve noticed your brand and are engaged with it. Now, let’s sort: Who are they? Where are they? What types of communication will they respond to? How ready are they to buy what you’re selling? The point is that once people have identified themselves, they can now be dealt with using traditional means of moving them along the purchase path. They’re aware of the brand, so the question becomes how do you move them to consideration, trial and, potentially, repeat usage?
So maybe there’s no direct ROI from blogs, podcasts or online community spaces. Maybe that’s okay. In a world where consumers burrow further down into their own personal niches, perhaps social media is what draws them out, even for a moment, to make their interest in your brand known. Maybe being involved in social media is just a cost of doing business these days. What you do after they’ve identified themselves is up to you.