What is Social Media?

Memo to the CEO: "What is our social media ROI?"

Everyone, especially CEO's, are asking: "What is the ROI on our social media efforts?".

Here is a sample memo in reply to that question that might come from the marketing, membership or online community management departments. It also helps to illustrate how you might go about defining and calculating social media ROI.

So next time you get that inevitable email asking "What is our social media ROI?" you can be better prepared to answer that question!

p.s. Want to learn more about how to define social media goals, measures and results? Visit our events page for more info.



To:            The CEO

From:       Online Community Director

Date:        1/31/2012

Re:           “What is the ROI on our social media?”

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your email last week asking: “What is the ROI on our social media?”. Here is the answer to that important question:

Expenses: We are spending $125,450 on our social media efforts based on a.) 1.2 FTE’s  - $95,450 (includes pension and taxes) and b.) applications and tools - $25,000 for our private social community network application and $5,000 for subscriptions and applications we use to track and manage our social media programs.

Revenues: We have realized $156,250 in sales as a direct result of our social media campaigns based on our tracking:

  • Membership – Improved member recruitment, retention and renewals by 1% = $34,500.00
  • Registrations – A 5% bump in conference registrations this year from our social media campaign which equates to an incremental increase of $116,250 in revenue.
  • Certification – Our Twitter campaign to promote the certification study course produced sales of $5,500.  

Cost Savings: We were able to substitute social media campaigns for some of our traditional marketing expenses, saving us $22,000 as follows:

  • Direct Mail: Eliminated 1 direct mail piece at a savings of $10,000
  • Display Advertising: Dropped 1 display advertising piece at a savings of $12,000


Based on the above we realized a total of $178,250 in revenue and savings compared to an investment of $125,450 yielding a net positive return of $52,800.

This means the positive ROI for our social media is 42.1%      

Let me know if you need more information or detail!

Online Community Director     

Want a PDF copy of the Memo?



Social Media Listening and Staffing

The following is a conversation that took place recently on the ASAE online community. The question raised is one you probably have in your organization;

How to efficiently monitor social media mentions and discussions about your organization?

There are a number of options available, each with its own pro's and con's.


From: Kate Achelpohl
Subject: Social Media -- listening

I'm trying to come up with an efficient way of listening to what's being said about our assn & products on social media outlets. I have some Google Alerts set up already, and I've expanded (greatly) my LinkedIn group memberships. And yes, I use TweetDeck.

But it all seems very manual and inefficient. At this point, I'm considering assigning publications & groups to others in my dept and asking for daily reports. Again, that doesn't seem like the right way to go about the task.

The purpose is to monitor and respond as appropriate.


Kate Achelpohl
Director, Member Communications
Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute
Reston VA
(703) 243-8555


From: Terrance Barkan
To:  Communication Section
Posted: 01-17-2012 11:38
Subject:  RE:Social Media -- listening


There are several tools for automating social media monitoring but at the end of the day, someone still needs to read the reports and make decisions if and when to respond. The tools you mentioned cover the majority of what you need to pay attention to. The question seems to be how to make the very best use of your valuable time (i.e. not to spend more time than necessary in reading all of the mentions you get if there is not some added value to that use of your time).
There is a trade-off to be had between doing your own monitoring versus relying on automated tools versus paying someone to perform the function. Here is how I see those trade-offs:
1. Self monitoring (Google Alerts, Tweetdeck etc.). The risk is that you spend more time that is necessary wading through content that is either not informative, actionable or otherwise adds value. The upside is that you and your staff are in the best position to interpret the information and you get it as it happens. I have some suggestions how to make this approach more effective at the end of this post.
2. Automated tools (Radian6, Thrive, etc.). The downside to using automated tools include costs, the need to manage and monitor the results (someone needs to know how to configure and manage the tool itself) and the need to dig down to the original posts in case a response is needed (much like option 1 above). The upside is that these automated tools provide you with a dashboard and trendlines that can help you to monitor progress overall and that is certainly a worthwhile advantage.
3. Paying someone to monitor for you. The downside is that this is additional costs although you would want to calculate which is more expensive to your organization, outsourced time or your internal staff time? The bigger downside is you need to find someone that can make judgment calls about what information is important and that needs attention. Not impossible but probably not as effective as your own staff team. You also need to manage this outside resource which will consume some of the staff time you are trying to save.

How to make option 1 more effective?

I have found that monitoring Google Alerts does not take a great deal of time and the trick is making sure you have the most relevant use of Key Words. If you find that you are getting results that are too broad or not relevant, adjust the keywords or eliminate that search altogether.

More importantly, be actively engaged in your online groups (LinkedIn for example) where instead of just monitoring discussions, your periodically introduce discussions. Better yet, have some of your volunteers lead discussions on topics you have identified as important within the association.
If you are not already doing it, having a more proactive stance based on a solid plan and social media engagement strategy does two things; a.) it helps you focus on the channels that are most important thereby saving time wasted on less relevant channels and b.) it helps you monitor what is being said about your association from within the conversation as opposed to from the sidelines, primarily monitoring.
Hope this is helpful to you.

Kind regards,
Terrance Barkan CAE, Chief Strategist - T: +1 202 294 5563 - www.socialstrat.org


New "Polls" for LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn has introduced a new feature for LinkedIn Groups - Polls 

If you are a LinkedIn Group manager, you should understand what this means for your LinkedIn groups.


You can now get instant feedback from directly within your LinkedIn groups on important and interesting questions. Members of your group can participate and see the results.

This is a great way to stimulate thought and discussion on any topic and it is very easy for your members to participate.   


For example, in TheSocialCEO group, we are asking association CEO's what is their most pressing social media related issue for their organization?

Depending on your group settings, Polls can be created by the LinkedIn Group Manager/Moderators or they can be created by any member of your group!

You will want to consider which of these options best suits your particular group.


Note: By default, LinkedIn has enabled any member of your group to create a polling question.

On the one hand this may be seen as a "pro" but on the other, it can also be easily abused.

For example, your groups may become innundated with numerous polls from service providers and consultants. You may have a large number of poorly worded or frivolous questions posted in your group. All of which can have a negative impact.

If there are too many polls running, your members will also experience "poll fatigue" which can negatively impact the results your get from your own, organization originated polling questions.

Our recommendation is that most group managers will want to adjust your group settings so that only the group manager can create a poll. You can still ask your members to submit polling ideas or questions that they would like to see and you can then judge if it is appropriate and adds value.

How to adjust your group settings:

1. Go to your group tab on LinkedIn.

2. Click on "Manage" and then click "Group Settings"

3. At the very top of the page you will see the check box for "Enable the creation of polls". If this is enabled, you have a sub-box for "Allow only moderators and managers to create polls." Check this box.


4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Save Settings".

Whether you decide to leave the poll creation option open to all of your members or you decide to enable only your LinkedIn Group Manager to create them, Polls are a welcome and powerful new tool to help make your LinkedIn Group more interesting, engaging and valuable.


Are you a LinkedIn Group Manager or Moderator?

Join the "LinkedUsers" group to share ideas and experiences with more than 750 peers and colleagues!



Staffing for Social Media - Meet Kevin Morse, the Director of Online Services

How associations should plan, manage and staff for social media is one of the most important and one of the most difficult issues today. 

The answer depends on how large your staff team is, how advanced your social media efforts are and what you are trying to achieve with social media. It will also depend on the social media skills of your staff, volunteers and members.  

One trend is clear;  as social media becomes more mature and is engrained in everyday aspects of association management, a new set of skills and competencies will be required by the people who will be made responsible for social media management.


Kevin Morse, Director of Online ServicesA few associations have already taken the step to hire a full-time, dedicated online community manager.

One of those is the American Dental Education AssociationI had the chance to speak with Kevin Morse about his role as the Director of Online Services.  He had a lot to say about what he does and about the evolving role for association social media community managers.


What do you think about how social media is being managed in the association community today?

“Too many people are focused on the tools and applications. It reminds me of how CMS (Content Management Systems) have evolved over the past years. In the past, there was a lot of attention paid to learning how to code web pages. Now with CMS tools, we are able to focus more time on the quality of the content. With social media, I see the same parallel. There is a lot of talk about how to use the tools when we really need to be focused on the quality of the content.”

What is the thing you like most about what you do?

“It is a combination of strategic thinking and engaging with members at a high level. It requires the use of judgment and excellent communication skills in real time. It gives me the chance to use my experience and background to deliver higher value added services to our member community”.

How does community management differ from traditional communications?

“With traditional communications, you have an editorial team that has a fair amount of time to prepare and polish a piece of communication before it is pushed out to the audience. With online community management, you are really more focused on driving content from within the group on a peer to peer basis. This means you have less influence over the content and play more of a moderating role.

Now it is a lot more about what happens after the message is sent. The work really begins when the conversation starts and you begin receiving feedback, questions and dialogue after a message has been posted or the website has been updated.”

What is your biggest challenge and why?

“The greatest challenge is to motivate true subject matter experts to share their knowledge, experience and perspectives online and inside communities. The most valuable content and conversations come from the subject matter experts from within the community. The challenge is that these experts are truly time-starved. If they do not see the direct benefit of spending time writing a post or getting engaged in a community platform, then they will not participate.

In some cases, they hesitate because they are not familiar with using tools like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. I also think the experience of online sharing is understood in reference to older types of sharing, like letters to the editor, when you had to pass a gatekeeper to be heard and response time was measured in weeks or months, not seconds or minutes. In other cases they might feel that what they have to say is not good enough or they are shy about sharing their experiences.”

 Any words of advice?

“Quality of the content is certainly more important than the volume or the frequency. Too many people seem to feel the need to fill the gap with fluff. Consistent frequency is necessary but not sufficient to build a following, you need to create and share content that is meaningful to your followers consistently as well.

Online community management is an art. The ability to simultaneous motivate community participants to share information and insights while monitoring my organization’s online presence is a stimulating challenge. At the same time, applying judgment when moderating online communities, knowing when to intervene and knowing when to hang back is a skill I feel is only developed over time.

The successful online community manager will need a good understanding of policies and the culture of the organization in order to protect the brand and reputation.”


All of this is of course a tall order but it is also makes online community management probably one of the most meaningful, engaging and challenging new jobs to emerge in the association community.

As the use of social media in organizations matures, we will continue to see a trend to develop well thought out social media strategies, policies and staffing structures to manage this increasingly important method of member engagement and communication.

Who should be the community administrator or moderator?

The person that assumes the role of community manager and moderator will need a range of skills and knowledge. Because social media touches so many different departments (communications, membership, marketing, education, live events, etc.) and uses multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Slideshare, etc.) it is critical that there is someone that knows how to coordinate all of these moving parts.

So what are the characteristics of a great online community manager?

Someone who . . .

  • Understands how to communicate with empathy and tact
  • Is slow to anger, has a mature nature and is able to demonstrate sound judgment
  • Has excellent written communication skills
  • Has a broad understanding of the organization with an especially clear picture of the objectives, guidelines and policies for the online community
  • Is able to delegate as well as to recognize when a matter needs to be referred to a senior authority
  • Is able to sift a large volume of information and communication, and is able to distill trends within that data flow
  • Is competent in using technology tools, in particular tools used for communication, listening and measuring engagement within social communities
  • Is respected by the community members because of his/her ability, knowledge and skill

Online community management is becoming one of the most demanding and highest valued skills in today’s environment, where online communities and peer to peer communications deliver the bulk of association membership value.

Request your free copy of "Online Community Management Guidelines". It includes a description of key social media policy areas and a description of online community management best practices.




Social media policies - One size does not fit all!

The following is an excerpt of a discussion that took place on the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) listserve:


For associations, there are at least three different "classes" of users for which specific social media policies should be developed in my opinion. For example:

1. Staff

      - Senior staff and managers that have a hire/fire authority

      - Staff that might use social media but it is not part of their normal or required activities

      - Staff that are required to use social media as a function of their job responsibilities

2. Volunteer leaders

      - Board and other volunteer leaders on how they are allowed/encouraged/prohibited to use social media in the name of the organization

3. Members/Users

      - Terms of use for ordinary users of your social media platforms which may include members and non-members, venders, key stakeholders etc.  

The policies employed are going to differ depending on the level of risk tolerance, the sensitivity of the underlying content or purpose of the association, and many other factors. For example, staff that have hire/fire authority have to be very careful how social media is used to recruit, manage or even terminate an employee. This is different for staff that do not have this level of responsibility and therefore, different policies are required.

I see groups getting into trouble especially when they do not have a clearly defined strategy regarding why and how they are using social media. Then, when they realize they need to have at least some form of policies regarding social media use, there is no plan against which to design the policies or policies are crafted ad hoc to cover everyone.

As social media becomes a true mainstream part of doing business for all organizations, I believe this area will mature to the point that all organizations have developed professional social media and communications plans that are supported by well thought out policies that apply to the different types of users outlined above. 

Kind regards,

Terrance Barkan CAE, Chief Strategist | Business Architect

www.globalstrat.org |http://www.linkedin.com/in/terrancebarkan | Tel:  +1 202 294 5563 | http://www.twitter.com/tbarkan | Google+: http://budurl.com/GPlusTB ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

-----Original Message-----

From: David Teisler

Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 10:24 AM

To: Communication Section

Subject: [comet] RE: Legal issues & social media policies 

Can't dispute Terrence's cautionary note.  But I will note that the case to which he refers discusses rules governing internal staff usage as opposed to rules governing usage of social media flowing under your name.  


David Teisler, CAE

Director of Communications

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

305 Seventh Avenue

New York, NY 10001-6008


-----Original Message-----

From:  Terrance Barkan CAE

Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 4:42 PM

To: Communication Section

Subject: [comet] Legal issues & social media policies - Cross Posted

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to bring an issue to your attention that might be of interest. Many organizations are in the process of crafting social media policies for their staff, members, volunteers or other stakeholders. Quite a few organizations are adopting a "copy and paste" approach using bits and pieces from the hundreds of examples that exist online.

Please be aware that unless you obtain qualified legal advice from an attorney that has experience in this area, you may actually be creating more of a legal risk for your organization as opposed to reducing it.

An article about just this issue is instructive:

http://budurl.com/SociaLexNews1  Dover, Maryland has recently rejected a social media policy that was intended to protect the city's reputation but endangered the city's position vis a vis its employees. There are many parallels that can be drawn to associations and association policies that are being crafted to protect the association's brand.

I am not an attorney and I personally do not offer legal advice on this topic but I am a strong advocate for organizations to have a clear picture of how and why you are using social media, and to then have social media policies that support your social media strategy.

Hope this is of interest and help to those organizations that are in the process of crafting your social media strategy and policies. 

Kind regards,

Terrance Barkan CAE, Chief Strategist | Business Architect

www.socialstrat.org |http://www.linkedin.com/in/terrancebarkan | Tel:  +1

202 294 5563 | http://www.twitter.com/tbarkan | Google+: