The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Appleā€™s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

BUSTED!!!

Rufus got BUSTED by the Englewood Police today as we were walking along Union just minding our own business and “doing our business.” If we continue walking along the busy, mean streets of downtown Englewood, we need to be on a leash.

Apparently, it is not so much to be in compliance with the ordinance (which does not mandate leashes, just control) but some people have so little to do during their day that they will actually call the police when they see us. So, to help them out and make sure they don’t come chase us down, we’ll leash up.

And, if you are one of those people who have that much time on your hands, give me a call! We are swamped with work at Rivershark and could use some help!

Oh, one more thing: Rufus peed on the tree in this blog post. The letter is gone.

My fifteen minutes of fame

My fifteen minutes of fame
Thursday, February 1st, 2007 07:01:27 AM

Well, it finally happened! I’m famous, at least for the next fifteen minutes. So, I thought I would take this space to shout out to the various places and folks that got a mention in my article! (Dayton Daily News, Neighbors Northwest, page 1.) Tim Hortons, Rivershark, Inc., TourneyCental, and our very, very Special Olympics Polar Plunge that you should pledge, even if it is only a buck. Please folks, this is a really, really important and fun event. So pledge!! And if you want to come out and plunge, give Rufus a call at 937-836-6255.

And of course, a link back to the DDN at www.daytondailynews.com (or at our soccer page here.)

Well, that is about all of my fifteen minutes, so go back to your lives, read some more articles and get yourself addicted to blogs. They’re fun to read; fun to write.. (except for that space bar.. I don’t have thumbs and it is hard to hit…)