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This is my personal blog which I began in February 2001. I called it The Obvious? when I wrote anonymously and chose the name to reflect the fact I have to overcome my inhibitions about stating the obvious!

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Friday
Jun182010

What's the ROI on preventing the social web happening?

It occurred to me that the ROI question so often asked about social computing is back to front. It is asked because people have been conditioned to think that social computing is something that we have to make happen in organisations. They are trained by vendors to expect to pay obscene amounts of money for over priced, over engineered, process driven, time-wasting, life sapping tools! You can do most of what you have to do with social computing for practically nothing.

The social web is something that is going to happen anyway over time. People will start using these tools for business purposes whether we like it or not. They already are. All we have to do is not get in their way.

So next time someone asks you the ROI of social computing ask them to work out the ROI of stopping it!

Reader Comments (10)

If it really is going to happen anyway, fine. No company, and no indidividual need invest any money. But: ROI conversations happen when we ask an organisation to spend some money. Because there's a project. And then they are entitled to ask: what better outcomes will we get if we spend this money from simply sitting back and waiting? It's not the ROI of social computing, it's the ROI of the project you're trying to get approved; the ROI on the money you are asking them to spend.

June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Rae

I did understand that Gordon!

June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

I think there is - to a certain degree - value in measurable social media, stats and trends etc - however more and more often I talk to people who realize that development of their brand or products can be driven by few simple, sometimes brave decisions. In this context stats serve as huge backbone of one simple decision. I just wonder if they could avoid all the effort we put in graphs and measurement, if they are not familiar with dynamics of social media conversations? If one is not used to be criticized, questioned and publicly personally responsible for content (= product) on a daily basis, it takes tones of numbers to lead to actual change.

June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSylwia Presley

I must have written this post badly. My point was not about the usefulness or otherwise of ROI or measurement. The assumption is that doing social media is seen as having to be justified whereas I believe it is stopping it that has to be justified.

June 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

Euan - This reminds me of one of my pet peeves I believe is somewhat related. I'm referring to the concept of "driving" change. Cattle are driven; people not so much. You mention our widespread conditioning to "make" things happen in the enterprise. I think these two beliefs or approaches are closely related.

I must ask why we can't instead "lead" change? I don't think doing so is that different from getting out of the way. We really need to stop trying to control (account for) every aspect of the workplace, trust more, and let better practices emerge more frequently. No doubt we'll have Fredrick Taylor spinning in his grave, but it seems a small price to pay. We've been doing things essentially the same way for an awfully long time.

My experience is most leading companies are merely better than the worst, not necessarily all that good at what they do. We need to change what we value. ROI isn't always a simple monetary equation either - but I digress. You've managed to succinctly, and elegantly, turn the issue on it's head. I, for one, like the restatement you've offered. Thanks.

June 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick Ladd

Finally .... someone who understands me!

;-)

Great comment Rick - thanks.

June 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

I understood you. :) I know of a council where the IT department wouldn't give them a proper intranet search that worked so the staff - all of 'em - went through every document and "Delicious'd" it. A high cost indeed. And it costs them more now they are blocking these sites... not just in IT costs for firewalls but in trust, loyalty, usefulness, speed, integrity etc.
I call it COI - cost of inaction. How much does it cost your company to ignore social media. My link on COI takes you to one of the many blog posts, presentations etc I give on cost of inaction.

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel Papworth

Love the idea of COI Laurel - totally agree.

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEuan

Love the post Euan: I'm currently starting to chip away at the brick-wall of blocked websites and what I'm afraid is an organisational attitude to match...

There is a chink of potential benefit of the doubt inasmuch as blanket blocks seem to be applied to (someone's idea of) certain categories of websites - ours includes Facebook, Twitter and apparentlly various blogging sites - without there necessarily being any knowledge of the actual sites' contents.

I speculate that this is a disservice that our IT department has actually paid an expert to provide, and it is of course monstrous (!) but the shakier the decision (or lack of it) to block anything, the easier it should be to overturn :-)

I'm definitely in favour of flipping the insulting presumption that only decisions from one end of the 'power continuum' need be justified.

And I also love the Cost of Inaction idea. Two things on that:

1. I was looking forward to reading Laurel's blog (?) on Costs of Inaction, but the site is blocked on my work network!!
2. I wonder if the Central Office of Information has heard of the other COI ;-)

June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Fisher

The 'difficulty' with the post is because the perspective it offers overlaps with many other valid ROI perspspectives.

ROI assumptions or perhaps points of view determine how it is calculated and the viewpoints employed, or dimensions for technical geeks, may include what is measured, who measures, when or where and how often measures occur.

Perspectives and viewpoints are tightly controlled in command and control organizations and thus the mistrust of Social Media. Yes, indeed organizations like the BBC, an exemplar for the CBC , 'embrace' Social Media and shift their control focus to interactions or the user interface.

What does this have to do with ROI?

Corporations in the 1990's believed that 'sticky' websites maximized profits and today they operate as if sticky Social Media sites do the same and so much so that Twitter, LinkedIN and Facebook among many others quickly create homogeneous micro-climates to appear like a neutral pitch to accomodate this self-conditioned myth.

ROI for the application software vendors disguised as communities is keeping people close so as to deliver ads and this perspective is easily experienced by quickly moving among their software interfaces or communities.

ROI for visitors is finding someone or some content to help refine a question or find an answer and indeed both simultaneously. The software providers view ROI differently and hopefully there is a balance to benefit both the vendors and the people that use their interfaces where they are given the opportunity to create their own content and ask and answer their own questions.

Perpetual motion machines come to mind...never mind.

The stories behind the ROI numbers facinate me and probably explain for my starting the LinkedIN group 'Social Media and Web ROI.

Cheers,
Nick

July 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick Trendov

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