Social Media ROI Is Like An Oreo Cookie

While watching Olivier Blanchard‘s great presentation about Social Media ROI that I ‘discovered’ on Mashable this week, I had a revelation.

Social Media ROI is like an Oreo Cookie!

It would be hard to find anyone who hasn’t taken apart an Oreo cookie to eat the frosting.  Some people claim that the middle of an Oreo is the best while others claim that there are no calories in the frosting which means that it doesn’t really matter.  In any case, one of the slides in Oliver’s presentation resonated with me and it made me think of Oreo cookies.

There are a lot of activities that people quantify and measure when looking at the ROI of an investment – but the only 2 ones that matter are the Investment Impact and the Financial Impact.  The investment relates to the limited resources of  people, technology and time for the activity, and the financial impact relates to increased revenues or decreased costs.

Social Media ROI is Like An Oreo Cookie

Social Media ROI is Like An Oreo Cookie (loosely borrowed idea from Oliver Blanchard and Nabisco)

In other words, the Investment and Financial Impacts are the cookie outsides and the non-financial action is the stuff in the middle.  And just like an Oreo cookie, the stuff in the middle doesn’t really matter.  At least it doesn’t matter from in a return or investment sense.  Web visitors, impressions, customer complaints, positive reviews, blog posts, click-throughs, emails, Twitter followers, blog comments, etc. do not translate directly into quantifiable revenues until those actions convert into incremental sales or confirmed cost reductions.  The non-financial impacts are predictors of success, but they are not success in and of themselves.

When it comes down to it, the only things that matter is how much did you spend and how much did you make.

Most importantly, Olivier says to:

  • Establish a baseline – so you can measure the changes from
  • Create activity timelines – so you can correlate specific actions to
  • Analyze sales revenue along several dimensions – in terms of Frequency, Reach and Yield or F.R.Y. (transactions per month, net new customers, $ amount per transaction)

With that introduction, I give you Olivier Blanchard’s Basics of Social Media ROI presentation from Slideshare which he originally presented at the Social Fresh Conference in August 2009.  He uses images from the 1970’s British television show, UFO Series, which makes for an interesting and amusing presentation:

You can also follow Olivier on Twitter at @theBrandBuilder.

Speaking of ROI, Maddie Grant summarized 6 other blog posts on Social Media ROI in Social Media Today this week.  Here are repeats of her links:

  1. NTEN – The Three Dimensions of Social Media ROI
  2. The BrandBuilder Blog by Olivier Blanchard – Defining Social Media ROI once and for all, and understanding the action-reactive-return narrative
  3. Adam Cohen (A Thousand Cuts) – The Basics of Social Media ROI
  4. Social Computing Journal – Measuring Social Media ROI: Does size matter?
  5. BrandSavant – What’s Wrong With Social Media Marketing Strategy
  6. Jacob Morgan – The Importance of a Social Media ROI Diagnostic

Forrester Groundswell Awards for 2009 — commonground Wins Supporting Award

Forrester GroundswellForrester Research announced the winners of their 2009 Groundswell awards today at the Forrester Consumer Forum.  The 13 winners in the 3rd annual contest were honored for “excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology applications.”

According to Josh Bernoff, senior vice president of idea development at Forrester and co-author of the Groundswell (the book):

Every year the quality of business social applications goes up, and marketers become more sophisticated.  This year’s winners stood out in a very competitive field; all of them demonstrate not just creative use of social technologies but impressive, measurable results.

For 2009, the winners by division are as follows:

Business-To-Consumer (B2C) Division:

  • Listening: NASCAR Fan Council by Vision Critical
  • Talking: Lion Brand Yarn Blog and Podcast by Converseon
  • Energizing: Norton Advocates by Zuberance
  • Supporting: myFICO® Online Customer Community by FICO
  • Embracing: Scholastic Book Clubs Reading Task Force Community by Communispace

Employee And Non-Profit Division:

  • Managing: UPSjobs Problem Solved by TMP Worldwide
  • Social Impact: Flowerdale (Australia) Bush Fire Social Outreach

Business-To-Business (B2B) Division:

  • Listening: CDW Advisory Board by Communispace
  • Talking: The Conversation by Eloqua
  • Energizing: UNLEASH 2009, The Mediasite User Conference by Sonic Foundry
  • Spreading: MetricStream Community by Regalix
  • Supporting: commonground Global Community For Environmental Professionals by EDR
  • Embracing: The Archer E-GRC Ecosystem by Archer Technologies

Links to coverage of the Forrester Groundswell 2009 Awards are below:

commonground big logo

commonground is a virtual community for everyone in the environmental and property due diligence industries to share ideas, ask questions and network

I am most excited with the news of EDR’s commonground community winning the B2B Division Supporting award because I have done a bit of consulting work for them this year.  Mark Wallace is the VP of Social Media at EDR and I’ve known Mark since his days at Shared Insights and Mzinga.  Besides hockey and his family, making sure that the community was thriving has been one of his top priorities over the last year.  Barbara Hannan, the commonground community manager, also deserves a great deal of credit for driving growth and conversations on the site.

According to the Groundswell blog post, commonground won the B2B Supporting award for “helping to increase EDR’s search ranking and contributed to 93% of its clients rating its service good or excellent.”  In addition,

commonground has also contributed to EDR’s customer loyalty. According to a recent customer satisfaction survey, nearly 90% of clients indicated they feel EDR strives to provide great customer service, 88% indicated feel strongly that EDR is a thought leader, and 93% rated EDR’s customer service as excellent or good.

Since September of 2008, EDR’s Alexa ranking has improved by 446,000 positions and traffic is now in the top 1.29% of web-sites in the world. Since commonground version 2.0 was launched on June 1, 2009, Google indexed pages have increased by over 3000%.

commonground’s first effort to offer premium content far exceeded expectations, achieving 170% of the revenue target. And, members are getting referrals and business, which ultimately helps drive sales for EDR. With the feedback received, we will be introducing a standardized nationwide training curriculum and an environmental service provider directory.

The commonground community now has more than 5,200 members and this growth has taken place during an unprecedented recession in the commercial real estate market.

Congratulations to Mark, Barbara and the rest of the EDR/commonground team for this well-deserved honor.

Customizing Your Twitter Profile Page

Have you customized your Twitter page yet?  If not, you should be and here is how I did it.  It’s pretty easy to do, and a person or company with a customized page is more likely to generate attention, conversation and followers.  Plus, a customized page shows that you’ve taken the additional step to share more information about yourself – and transparency is what social media is all about.

For example, I rarely follow anyone who does not have a profile picture, a web link or bio.  And if someone has a nice background page, I am more likely to follow them back and check out some of their links.  Since Twitter only lets you display a 140-character Bio and a thumbnail picture, a customized display lets you go into much greater detail.  This is especially important if you have a business account on Twitter since Twitter’s default screen gives users a lot of screen real estate on the left hand side of the screen that you can use to tell your own story beyond the 140-character limit of Twitter.  On most screen resolutions used today (i.e. 1280×800), there is at least 250 pixels wide by 650 pixels tall or about 2 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches.  Unfortunately, the links you put in your Twitter background are not clickable as the file is just an image.

While there are many different ways – some free and some not so free – to customize your Twitter background, I wanted to be able to fully control what I put on my screen.  Plus, some attempts at customizing a Twitter background actually look pretty bad so I know others must be feeling the pain too.  My approach uses tools that almost every has already or are relatively inexpensive to purchase.  I used Microsoft Powerpoint (download my template on Slideshare) for most of the work, Nattyware’s free Pixie tool to identify color palettes and SnagIt to generate a JPG image.

These are the 3 easy steps I used to customize my Twitter page.

1. Create Powerpoint slide and generate JPG – First, you can start with the Twitter Background – Generic that you can download from Slideshare.  On the template, you can edit the file to include your name, a picture, some details about you, URLs for your website and blog, and additional ways to connect with you on other social media platforms.  For my template, you can change the background image and sidebar background to any color that suits you.  Notice that the background color should be all one color as you will be matching this color using Twitter settings in a later step.  Many people select colors that match or complement their logo, or select colors that set them apart from other users.  Be careful about getting too wild with your color schemes as that can definitely be a turn-off.

When you are done with customizing the template, I select Print->Preview to see what the image will look like.  From there, you need to generate an JPG image of the screen shot.  My preference is to use SnagIt from TechSmith (see my SnagIt blog post for more), but the new Windows 7 has a Snipping Tool that will accomplish the same thing.  You can also save the file as a JPG in Powerpoint, however the resulting JPG file on my PC was not as crisp as using SnagIt.

When you are still in Powerpoint, you need to use a color picker tool to get the HTML color code for the colors you have selected.  My preferred tool is called Pixie from Nattyware.  For example, the dark gray below is A6A6A6 and the lighter gray is D9D9D9.

Twitter Powerpoint Screen Shot

Using Powerpoint to Create Twitter Custom Screen

2. Upload JPG file to Twitter – After you have a JPG image of your customized Twitter screen, you need to upload the file to Twitter.  Under the Settings in the top menu, select the Design sub-menu.  Then use Choose File to upload the JPG file you saved in the first step and Save Changes.

Twitter Choose File Screenshot

Upload Your Saved JPG File with Custom Background Via Twitter Settings

3. Modify background colors to match JPG – The last step is to change the design colors in Twitter.  First, you will want to use the HTML Colors noted above.  You need to change the background color to the same background color on your Powerpoint template.  I have found that matching the sidebar color to the color of the box and the links to the color of the background on the template works well.  While some people like to add color to their text, my recommendation is to stick with black or a dark shade of gray.  Click Save Changes when you are done.  Then it’s time to check out what you’ve done.  If you don’t the end result, you can easily adjust the colors or even redo the template.

Twitter Change Colors Screenshot

Change Design Colors to Match JPG File in Twitter Settings

With these simple steps, you should be able to easily customize your Twitter background in 15 to 20 minutes – and take advantage of providing more information about you and your brand.

Crowdsourcing New Car Pricing

TrueCar - Find Out What Others Really Paid

TrueCar - Find Out What Others Really Paid

Wouldn’t you like to know exactly what others have recently paid for the new car you are thinking of buying?

You no longer have to wonder with the new TrueCar pricing service.  TrueCar is a spin-off from Zag.com and opened for business in April.  Zag.com and TrueCar are founded by Scott Painter, a serial entrepreneur who was also part of CarsDirect and PriceLock.com.  The parent company, Zag.com, provides a white label platform for auto retailing to companies like USAA, American Express, CapitalOne and Overstock.com, and their mission is to make the automotive retailing experience better for both the consumer and dealer.

Ok, TrueCar is not actually crowdsourcing new car pricing in the literal sense.  But they are collecting and analyzing data on individual new car sales from over 30% of all transactions taking place in the US.  In a sense, TrueCar is bringing social media openness and transparency to the process of purchasing a new car by leveraging the power of crowds to transform pricing practices that formerly favored the auto dealers.  The TrueCar pricing service provides consumers with the power of real information to transform the new car buying experience and minimize the stress involved with buying a new car while shortening the purchase cycle for automobile dealers.  Essentially, the no-haggle, upfront pricing is a win-win proposition for consumers and dealers.

TrueCar has a very intuitive and easy-to-use interface.  You start out by selecting a make of auto and inputting your zip code.  Then, you select the specific model, style and options.  TrueCar then provides you with a very good-looking and graphical set of reports showing a curve of what others paid, a bar chart, details of specific prices paid, price history over the last 6 months, vehicle pricing table and cost breakdown.

Being involved with business intelligence and reporting for much of my career, I am very impressed with how TrueCar is serving up their price reports.  Until you have a chance to check it out for yourself, here is an example of the Details report which shows the actual number of purchases in my local area over the last 4 weeks.

TrueCar New Car Pricing Details for 2010 Toyota Prius

TrueCar New Car Pricing Details for 2010 Toyota Prius

So, how reliable is the information from TrueCar?  Here is what they say about the pricing on their website:

The TrueCar Price Reports are backed by data and rigorous statistical analysis. Today, we collect extensive sales data on more than 30% of all new vehicles sold. All data shown on the site is less than 4 weeks old. TrueCar does not manipulate the raw data, nor do we interpret it. TrueCar has no hidden agenda, is not beholden to anyone, and nothing is holding us back from reporting the facts. It is TrueCar’s goal to equally serve consumers and dealers.

And how does TrueCar’s price analysis differ from other pricing services like Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds?  The primary difference is that the other services use opinions of what the price should be instead of actual prices paid recently.

Finally, as CEO Scott Painter said in an article in Wired in April:

We’re transforming the market.  Those dealers not willing to give an upfront price are going to go out of business.

TrueCar is offered both online, and by phone at 1-888-TRUECAR, all free of charge.

Here are some related links to check out.

Creating a LinkedIn Group for Your Business

I wrote a blog post in August 2008 about creating a LinkedIn Group for a community site.  Since then, LinkedIn has made it easier to set up groups and they have added new features to the Group pages to make them more useful.  For example, you can now hold interactive discussions, post links to articles and blog posts, set up RSS feeds, add job openings and create sub-groups.  Additional information on LinkedIn Groups can be found on the LinkedIn website.

With these new features and the growing influence of LinkedIn in the social media world, every business should set up their own LinkedIn Group – and you can set it up in less than 5 minutes.  Here are some quick tips, benefits and ideas for maintaining your group.

Minuteman Parking Group on LinkedIn

Example of a LinkedIn Group Profile I Set Up For One of My Clients

Benefits – LinkedIn is seen as a business-oriented social networking site and people tend to act more professional in this network than they would in Facebook or MySpace.  Plus, many professionals tend to visit this site more frequently than they would other social media sites as they use LinkedIn to research companies and potential contacts.

There are many great benefits for having a LinkedIn Group for your business.

  • Individual Visibility — when someone joins your group, they can elect to have a small badge representing the group display in their profile (and people generally opt in for displaying the badge).  This badge signifies that someone has a particular affinity with your company and brand.
  • Corporate Visibility — the group gives your company additional visibility.  When someone sees the group badge in your profile or the profiles of others, they may click on it to see what the group is all about.  If a customer joins your group, it shows that they are committed to what you are doing and makes them ‘stickier’ and   less likely to take their business to another company.
  • Corporate Announcements — you can use the Groups feature to contact your group members with an announcement or other news.  While you can only use this feature once per week, it is a low cost way to keep members informed about new programs, offers or company news.  The alternative would be to use an email or newsletter solution that could cost you from $25 to $100 per month or more.
  • Job Postings — you can also use your group to post job openings for your company or affiliates.  Only members of the group can see the postings, so this is another reason for people to join your group.
  • Better Connections – even if you are not directly connected to another group member, you can still send that member a message or invite them to connect with you because you share the group affiliation.
  • Group Newsfeed — any activity in the group is reported in the news feed for anyone who has joined the group.  For example, I can easily see if there are any new posts or news added to the group site by reviewing my newsfeed.  Users can also opt to get daily or weekly email updates of new activity.

Getting Started – It is pretty easy to set up a group, and much easier than it used to be.  After following these simple steps, your group will be set up in less than 5 minutes.

  1. Go to LinkedIn Create a Group
  2. Upload a logo or picture
  3. Fill in the details for your group
  4. Click on the Create a Group button

Building Membership – Once you create the group, you need to build up the member base.  You should definitely put a prominent button on your website that says “Join Our LinkedIn Group”.  Creating a group would make a great blog post topic for your corporate blog and you should also include it a newsletter or email blast.  Some people even put a link to the LinkedIn Group in the footer of their email template.

Maintaining Your Page – The final step is the ongoing maintenance of the Group page.  You don’t have to update the page daily, but you should definitely spend some time adding fresh content to the group on a weekly basis to keep your company in the forefront of your members’ minds.  You can easily add the URL of an interesting news article or blog post, or start up a discussion topic that may be of interest to your group members.

Visible Networking with Tony Karrer – Los Angeles Social Media Starters

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tony Karrer reached out to me this week as he was seeking “Social Media Starters” in the Los Angeles area.  Tony is the CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning.  He frequently speaks at various venues about how he uses social media and particularly blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter as part of his services business.  Invariably, people are always asking him to follow up with how to get started or for help with maintaining their social media presence.

While Tony likes to be helpful, social media consulting is not part of his company’s core business.  So, Tony is developing a network of social media consultants who can help companies ramp up their efforts.

As part of his outreach effort to provide exposure to social media consultants in his network, Tony asked a series of questions to learn more about me and so he could share this post with professionals and businesses who have requested his help.  (and please see Tony’s blog post on Visible Networking for more information on his networking approach)

How did you get into social media?

When I look back on my career, I have actually been using social media since 1996 when I was working in product strategy for Oracle – except it wasn’t called social media at the time.  Much of my work had to do with evangelizing about our solutions, developing marketing collateral, and networking with other Oracle employees, the press and analysts.  My life would have been much easier in some ways if I had access to the social media tools that we have today such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

My recent foray into social media started in 2006 when I was working in the Strategic Projects function at a small-sized software company.  I was assigned a project to launch an external B2B professional community for users and prospects.  Over the next 18 months, I was fully responsible for community strategy, day-to-day community management, content creation, marketing, business development and operations.  The community was called Catalyze and focused on usability experts and business analysts.  After coming out of beta, I was instrumental in growing the community to over 4,000 members in less than 15 months.  As part of my duties, I experimented with many different social media tools and techniques and got hooked on the possibilities of social media.

For the last year, I have been consulting with several different companies on social media strategy and implementation, marketing and community strategy.  For one of my companies, I am their outsourced marketing department.  I write blog posts, create marketing collateral, write call scripts and help maximize their use of Salesforce.com.  On a more detailed level, I updated their website, created and monitered Google Ads, standardized their company’s LinkedIn profiles, set up a LinkedIn and Facebook groups and created a profile on Yelp.  I also worked on the social media strategy for one of the clients of an interactive media company.  For another entrepreneur, I updated his LinkedIn profile and developed a mock up for his new website.  Finally, I spent the majority of my time in the last year working on the community strategy and management for a start-up professional networking community.

What are you working on now?

During the last year, most of my projects have been of a long term nature.  But I am now starting to focus on social media consulting for small-to-medium businesses as I see a need for these companies to do a better job with social media.  Many of these companies are lost about where to start, have trouble prioritizing social media against other competing projects or do not have the bandwidth to adequately maintain their social media presence.  In most cases, these companies cannot afford a full-time social media resource and do not really need someone to devote 100% of their time to the effort.

Social media lends itself nicely to a project-based focus – and with my experience and background, I can easily help companies get started and maximize their exposure via the key social media channels of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts on helping people get started with social media?

Social media is here to stay and customers are now in control of the message.  Companies must adapt to this new reality and begin the process of doing a better job of reaching out and interacting with their customers through social media channels.  However, social media is still relatively new and there are many ways to approach it and different starting points to apply social media in a business setting.   The best way to start is to have a conversation with the CEO or executive team about their business and develop an implementation plan and priorities.  The typical questions would cover topics such as: status of current strategy, analysis of social media readiness, results of marketing programs, overview of brand and company awareness, future growth plans, customer service issues, etc.

Even if a company does not have much time or budget, there are many simple things that they can do that have some pretty huge pay-offs.  LinkedIn is one example where companies can spend some upfront time, but which does not have much ongoing maintenance or management.  Blogging or using Twitter is a different story as these social media tools require a consistent commitment to delivering strong content.

What kinds of social media services do you provide?

My social media consulting services cover all aspects of social media, including developing strategy, training, implementation and outsourced maintenance services:

Strategy – on how to apply social media tools and techniques to increase brand awareness or connect better with customers

Training – on how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media tools

Implementation – and setting up of various social media tools or sites

Maintenance services – this is a retainer based service that essentially provides comprehensive maintenance of a social media presence, including blogging, Twitter and other tools/techniques that require consistent updates to be effective

Small, one-time projects could be probably be completed in as little as 8 to 10 hours.  Conducting training and implementation on social media tools could take anywhere from 15 to 40 hours.  And outsourced services could range anywhere from 5 to 15 hours of dedicated time per week.  At a minimum, I think most companies would benefit from several months of hand-holding under a maintenance program as using social media is not natural or easy for many people and you want to make sure you get it right.

You’ve been blogging for a while, what are five good posts that I should check out?

I have been blogging since March 2007 and here are what I consider my top five social media blog posts:

5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile

Best Practices for Corporate Twittering

Simple Advice for Brands on Twitter

Community Managers and Quarterbacks

Adding A LinkedIn Group To Your Community

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to?  What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

I have started attending the Social Media Club-Los Angeles events this year.  One of my friends, Geoff Brown, is the coordinator of the group and he has been encouraging me to get more involved and I have started writing blog posts for SMC website.  I have also attended two one-day community un-conferences put on by Forum One in Sonoma in the past year.  I love the format of these conferences and the content you gather in one day is amazing.  The primary focus of these conferences was community strategy and management, but they also include a great deal of general social media content.

Who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles ?

Most of my social media network is virtual and stems from connections I have made through Twitter and through my connections at Boston-based Mzinga.  Mzinga is the white-label community and social networking software company that I used for two communities that I used to manage.  The key social media people in my circle include:  Aaron Strout, Jim Storer, Rachel Happe, Derek Showerman, Mark Wallace, Jeremiah Owyang, Bryan Person and Barry Libert.  In the LA area, I keep up with Geoff Brown from SMC-LA, Mark Sylvester from introNetworks, Kevin Lucier from AccessDNA and Shara Karasic from Business.com.  I also have a fairly extensive blog roll on my website with the key bloggers I follow.  Finally, I use Twitter as my primary filter to keep current on the latest trends in social media.

How can people find you?

I am an active blogger and an avid user of Twitter and LinkedIn.  You can find me at:

Tom Humbarger blog

Tom Humbarger on Twitter

Tom Humbarger on LinkedIn

Thank you Tony for including me in your Social Media Starters network – and for helping me formalize my thoughts on social media.

Happy Birthday John Wooden

John Wooden on his 96th Birthday - from Wikipedia

John Wooden on his 96th Birthday - from Wikipedia

Today is Coach John Wooden’s 99th birthday.

John Wooden is well-known as the UCLA basketball coach from 1948 to 1975, and for the basketball dynasty he created by winning 10 NCAA titles during a 12-year stretch from 1963 to 1975.  He has written several books, and his latest one – “A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring with John Wooden” – is being released today.

In the LA Times today, writer Mike Penner wrote 99 things you may or may not know about John Wooden.  This article is like a mini-biography and provides highlights of his life.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Mike’s article:

“Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

“Talent is God given; be humble. Fame is man given; be thankful. Conceit is self given; be careful.”

“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.”

John Wooden is also famous for his Pyramid of Success which lists John’s 15 qualities of personal success.  It took Coach Wooden over 15 years to fill in the boxes on his pyramid, and he views it as a ‘personal roadmap to pursuing, and at times, achieving Competitive Greatness.’  Wooden freely shares his pyramid, his wisdom and his approach to success.  You can learn more about the Pyramid of Success and download a printable copy along with other resources from CoachWooden.com.

John Wooden Pyramid of Success from CoachWooden.com

John Wooden Pyramid of Success from CoachWooden.com

Coach Wooden shared his philosophy on the difference between winning and success in this TED video in 2001.

You can send birthday wishes to Coach Wooden through this website.  The goal is to have 9,999 people wish him happy birthday and they are just shy of 3,000 currently. Take minute today to reflect on Coach Wooden’s Pyramid and to learn just a little more about this great man.

6/5/10 Update – please see my tribute blog post to Coach John Wooden who passed away on June 4th, 2010 for more information on John Wooden.