Victus Spiritus


What's the dollar value of social media?

05 Nov 2009

Donor's Choose Meetup

At its best, social media is a virtual rallying post for causes. Like minded communities can emerge about topics they are passionate about, and work together with genuine leaders to effect change. Many of Fred Wilson's regular readers had a meet and greet last night in Washington Irving High School. The school is right off of Union Square, and we gathered to celebrate the funds raised for Donor's Choose. Most of us found each other through social media, namely Fred's comment section on his blog.

One advertising representative asked me a recurring question:
"what's the value of social media?"
After she heard my background (engineering) and about the social information driven projects I'm working on now, she was hoping for an advanced algorithm to measure it's dollar value. It's actually a simpler problem than most people make it.

It's another communication channel

I went through my standard shpiel, citing that social media is an emerging technology that started many years back (email anyone?). Social media comprises a series of communication channels where we can connect with other minds. I asked her how she values this meetup? Or how she values her phone or email? Social media, beyond all the hype, is another medium where folks can interact and "hang out" with each other. There's no magical dollar tag value any algorithm can reliably yield.

If your customers expect you to be present, there is a straight forward estimate to the customer service aspect. You need to have representation within that social channel. Otherwise you will lose customers/revenue at a rate comparable to having no or poor customer service. Gauging and measuring user expectations is a required technique businesses must begin with (preferable), or develop, to have sustainable growth and healthy revenue.

If the question was based on revenue generation models for social media companies that's entirely different.

  1. First there is word of mouth power, or genuine recommendations (the best marketing is paid for in product development!). Look at Apple's community presence and you can see what a fanatic fan base can do for you.
  2. While challenging there are estimation techniques available for measuring revenue, dependent on white hat (transparent, sustainable) or black hat advertising promotions.

Best practices

(thanks to input/feedback fromĀ Deano Powers at Byron New Media, and Jason Cronkhite, we may finish that wiki social media page one day):

Four Pillars of a Social Media Strategy

First Social Media Strategy Pillar - ListenUnderstand the conversation in your niche or market before creating any significant content. Understand context and hear the pain of your target audience.SecondSocial Media StrategyPillar - EngageUncover your ideal clients/customers/partners in their natural Social Media settings and make contact in a way that enables a meaningful relationship.Third Social Media Strategy Pillar - ConnectCreate or adopt Social Media spaces where your new tribe can connect with your, your content and one another.Fourth Social Media Strategy Pillar - ShareHaving recognised and adopted the first three pillar. Share meaningful content in the right setting and context, that empathizes with the pain being felt by your tribe and demonstrate your leadership.
Source: Byron New Media


Social Media is sharing, it's a conversation, it's personal and informative. But what businesses needs to focus on when building any relationship with social media is trust. Actions within the channels of communication speak louder than words. Sharing, the fourth pillar of social media strategy mentioned earlier, begins the slow process of trust. Continually supporting members of your community builds their confidence in your organization.

There are several possibilities for businesses using Social Media:

The most well respected brands within social media define themselves by repeatedly giving away timely and truthful knowledge. The act of sharing well received advice and expertise without charge, is a visible signal of authority within a community. This message is transparent to users and fellow brands alike. Consider the analogy of valued web content. Visitors will repeatedly link, use and interact with great web sites. Instead of a fixed content site (older static websites), social media is a collaborative network of shared dynamic information. The conversations and exchange of contextually described links increases the value of information available to host sites. Modern social media tools allow businesses to easily transform parts of their web domains into social hubs, with themes central to their niche. Social Media increases value both through providing multiple perspectives to a topic, as well as allowing for iterative product/customer cycles without the necessity of old format surveys.