The karmic element of social media. Group hug anyone?

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I’m often asked by clients what the ROI is for social media. Of course this is dependent on what they want to get out of it. Do they need brand exposure? An increase in website traffic? Improved customer service? An increase in new business? Are there specific objectives they need to  meet? All need different metrics and these should be agreed and, of course, set up at the start of any social media activity. But one thing always crops up in this conversation that is hard to measure. And that’s the karmic element of social media. Social karma if you will.People seem to really ‘want’ to help each other out in social media communities. And those that do seem to get something out of it. Of course the nature of karma means you cannot ‘forecast’ what you’ll get back and in what form, which makes adding this into ROI metrics difficult.

I’ve particularly seen this phenomenon on Twitter. Successful Tweeters give without expecting anything in return, whether this is breaking news, their own advice, links to advice of others, or anything else that might help their followers. Of course the law of karma means that they will get something back eventually, possibly far more than they gave in the first place. But that’s not the point. They don’t know what they’ll get back, if anything, but still happily give their time and advice freely.

There are some terrific examples of this. Just look at #followfridays. Every Friday the Twitter community happily sends out tweets suggesting people other Tweeters should follow, and why. They don’t have to. They want to.  Retweeting peoples tweets is also a wonderful way of helping people out. There are often gatherings of Tweeters who meet offline to share ideas, opinions and generally chat (known as tweet ups in Twitter lingo). Rarely do they go along to these things loaded with expectation.

These karmic activities all help to grow networks and open up the possibility that someone else might just do something positive to help you out too.  Hell, it might even result in a new client. Stranger things have happened

If you have a look at the Twitter streams of ‘gurus’ out there you will see that they give up a great deal of time and advice to followers. The cynics amongst us might claim this is driven by ego, but I disagree. These guys give time and energy to the Twitterverse without expecting anything back. Of course they ‘do’ get something back eventually. I’m certain that if you asked how much business has come to them through Twitter, the response would be a pretty decent percentage.

There is also something about giving without expecting anything in return which makes you feel pretty damn good. Whether it’s true altruism I cannot say, but any kind of feel good factor during this tough time has to be good for the soul, right?


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