Social Media ROI: Are we comparing like with like?

[Summary: To measure social media ROI we need to know about the ROI of paper-based outreach]

Credit: PhotoGraham - Creative Commons - (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic) -

If you've ever handed out a leaflet to a class of school students in tutorial you may be familiar with then finding 1/2 those leaflets dropped in the bin on the way out (recycling bin hopefully…).

If you look at the piles of paper on most office desks – and then ask the desk inhabitant how many of these documents they've actually read – and how many they've responded to in any way – you may well find their desk is collonised by many unread and unresponded too leaflets, magazines, reports and papers. Even though all those leaflets had a tear-off slip, and the magazines had a letters page.

Printing 1000 leaflets doesn't mean 1000 leaflets get read.

But leaflets don't report back how many people have read it.

A blog post does.

And a blog post might only be reporing 150 readers, and 2 comments.

But then, did two people write in to respond to the leaflet?

If we're comparing the print-run of your paper publications, with the number of people who've read what you've written online – then it strikes me that we're not comparing like-with-like.

Beth Kanter is writing a lot at the moment about measuing the Return On Investment (ROI) of social media.

Which has got me thinking about the need for an initial case study on measuring the ROI of a traditional charity publication, or the ROI of including a letters page in a paper-based supporters newsletter to help us in developing comparisons and a baseline to work with?

(Note: I'm thinking broadly in the context of basic social media interactions that involve offering information, inviting feedback and possibly getting into a conversation – not in terms of those that are involved in fundraising etc. when measuring ROI may be a simpler process…)

Photo Credit: Waste Paper by PhotoGraham