Answer that question for me and you'll have your answer.
An organization I'm working with is stuck in "analysis paralysis" about whether or not to move forward with a platform investment that includes social media/network capabilities to upgrade a tired old subscription web site.
There's across the board agreement among the executives about the need to perform the upgrade. There's even agreement that the business will continue to suffer if the upgrade isn't acted upon in a timely fashion.
One Step Forward...
Early this past summer the pain was great enough that I was approached to develop an RFP and facilitate a vendor selection process. The goal was to identify a qualified service provider to perform the installation, customization and content / data migration.
I'm happy to say that that whole RFP/vendor selection process is complete. As a matter of fact, it was complete by mid-summer.
The process identified a capable service provider. But, here we are in November, further in the revenue hole than the organization was at the beginning of summer, and I find myself still pulling teeth to get the service provider's Letter of Agreement signed by the executive sponsor.
...One Step Back.
We haven't started the project. What's the hang up?
"How can we be sure that we can recoup our investment?" "What's the payback period?" "What if customers won't come?" "Direct e-mail hasn't worked, how can we market it?"
And therein lies the rub.
Assuaging the fear of commitment for a social networking business model has been challenging in an organization whose primary success metrics have traditionally included such trackers as: quantities of transmitted e-mails, bounce-rates, open rates, and click-through rates.
Foreign to this organization are the metrics associated with human relationships: visits, unique visitors, page views, comments, positive vs. negative feedback, content ratings, content popularity, length of visit, depth of visit, and so on.
It's scary. And rightfully so.
Of Networks and Flipping Switches.
The fact is, switching from a "push" sales model to one that facilitates customers "pulling" for information they want, and the demands they place on a company to listen, respond and engage their customers in dialog is a huge culture shift.
As they say, it ain't like a light switch: once you flip this baby on, it's on.
When the community finds its voice, the hosting company would be unrealistic in believing that the community voice can be controlled. Conventional wisdom "2.0" (and, yes! I did just say "2.0") would suggest that you rather participate, try to shape the dialog and respond to it.
That's scary. Especially, if your business model has heretofore likened itself to standing on top of a hill and shouting as loud as you can.
Shifting from a model that shouts, "Come visit me!! Look at me!! Buy my products!!" to one that engages with: "What do you think these products should be? What do you think of what I have to say? Would you feel comfortable telling your friends to come here?", is a very scary proposition.
I mean, that's the stuff of relationships. That implies a longer sales cycle, doesn't it?
What's Kirkpatrick Got To Do With All This?
How do you measure the dollar-value of a relationship?
What's it's payback period?
Do 5 comments about a piece of content trump 3 comments?
Does a relationship that's potentially worth $10,000 trump a relationship with someone who isn't likely to buy? What if the latter relationship results in a third-degree relationship that ultimately accounts for $50,000?
As I was noodling on all that this week, I started thinking about Donald Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick's "four levels" is really a model for evaluating the effectiveness of training. Those in the learning profession tend to speak of the fourth level as some elusive holy grail for training assessments.
That fourth level is basically about establishing an evaluation model that can determine the bottom line impact of an investment in training.
It's challenging. For example, if you spend a lot of money training all your employees and then revenue subsequently spikes, can you really say it was due to the training? Or, would it be more appropriately attributable to, say, economic factors?
So it was that I got to thinking about the similarities in challenges for determining social network ROI and a Level 4 training evaluation. And, with it, my thought to explore this a little further in a subsequent post.
In the meantime, I'd be interested in your thoughts. For you learning theorists, what do you think? Any similarities?
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