What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media?

by Jay Deragon on 03/05/2009

Is Use of The Social Web Tangible?The value of using the social web for business is “cloudy” to say the least.

Leaders constantly ask “what is it” that allows us to create value for our shareholders, our bottom-line, our employees and our customers.

It is the way business leaders think that makes the social web cloudy because they try and fit the tangible and intangible benefits of conversations, relationships and subsequent transactions into a “box“.

Most management practices are focused on end results without a comprehension of the value attributes, many intangible, that create the results. This mindset is why many businesses cannot comprehend both the dynamics and value creation that the social web produces for its users, one to one to millions. Those very users are the people whose actions, reactions or inactions create the end results for business.

When we talk about conversations, relationships and social networks many business leaders view these topics as intangibles and as such they cannot put them in a neat “box” to analyze, measure and capture on financial statements.

Intangibles can be “cloudy” elements of a business and are generally regarded as pertaining to:

  • Customer good will, employee morale, increased bureaucracy, and aesthetic appeal
  • A colloquial expression for qualities in an individual or group of individuals, especially those organized in an official group (e.g. a sports team or office) which affect performance but are not readily observable. They are often cited as a reason for performance which is surprisingly better or worse than expected.
  • An expenditure of time on an activity by a person (such as leveraging know-how, knowledge, collaboration, relationships, systems, and process)

Intangibles also have different meaning depending on the context: In business, intangibles are commonly referred to as intangible assets or intellectual capital. Referring to “relationships and people” as assets or capital is an attempt to categorize human value into business context. Ever wonder why many employee surveys reflect the lack of “feeling important or valuable“? Ever wonder why “customers” feel like numbers and have little sense that a business truly “cares” what they think or how they feel?

Critical Thinking is a Pre-requisite of Understanding the Social Web

Anything new requires critical thinking beyond existing references, experiences or mental models. One of the biggest challenges we have with clients is they attempt to “manage” deployment of plans to leverage the social web as if “it” were a static process that can fit neatly into a “project plan”.

The social web is a dynamic “system” of ever evolving behaviors influenced by technology and the characteristics of participation by the participants. Launching a network or a blog is not conducive to a start and end plan rather it evolves over time and the driving factor is learning as you seek to find relevant content, interactive methods and “connectivity” with an audience. Additionally, with the proliferation of networks launching each week every network has unique characteristics that influence its success and trying to “copy” what works for one doesn’t necessary insure that which you copy will work for your community.

While many self appointed “gurus proclaim best practices” the only best practices we’ve observed that works, regardless of network, is the nature and style of the conversations that create connectivity and relevance amongst network members. One other important practice is that of critical thinking by the network operators.

Critical Thinking consists of mental processes of discernment, analysis and evaluation. It includes possible processes of reflecting upon a tangible or intangible item in order to form a solid judgment that reconciles scientific evidence with common sense. Though the term “analytical thinking” may seem to convey the idea more accurately, critical thinking clearly involves synthesis, evaluation, and reconstruction of thinking, in addition to analysis. Critical thinkers gather information from all senses, verbal and/or written expressions, reflection, observation, experience and reasoning. Critical thinking cannot be put into a “box or project plan nor does it have a start and end point”.

Notice the term “reconstruction of thinking” in the definition of critical thinking. It is the intangibles that define a network which require reconstructive thinking by many of today’s business leaders. Historically businesses have had trouble with defining tangible value out of intangible issues such as “quality relationships and conversations with customers, suppliers, employees and shareholders”. However these intangibles can quickly become tangible when they go bad and the subsequent results are reflected in the financial reports. To prevent the negative tangible results organizations must comprehend and manage the intangibles.

The social web provides the means for learning to those willing to reconstruct their thinking. The value goes way beyond advertising schemes and short term revenue.

What say you?

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Lou Lockerz February 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

Hey, first I want to say great blog. I don’t always agree with your posts but it’s always a nice read.
Keep up the nice posting.

mms September 26, 2009 at 9:57 pm
Christopher T. Neal May 4, 2009 at 1:19 am

What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media? #social media benefits http://tinyurl.com/6dosca

Mark Harai March 6, 2009 at 7:04 am

RT @jderagon – “What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media?” http://hub.tm/?FFEPZ – Excellent piece…

Alexandra Armeanca March 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

Reading “What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media?” http://TwitPWR.com/7oS/

Aron Stevenson March 6, 2009 at 12:26 am

What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media? http://tinyurl.com/6dosca

Paul Chenoweth March 5, 2009 at 7:05 am

The critical thinking aspects of the process seem to escape too many who seek to use social media as some sort of ‘silver bullet tool’ rather than approaching it as a long term process that is more like an investment in conversation.

It is relatively easy to spot those who jump on the bandwagon with a goal of accumulating/collecting more ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ with little understanding that conversations are two-way rather than traditional ‘broadcasts’ from an ivory tower. Furthermore, these ‘collectors’ fail to understand their target audience and fall into the trap of believing that social media is just another big net to cast out over a random audience.

JDeragon March 5, 2009 at 5:13 am

What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media?: The value of using the social web for business is “cloudy.. http://tinyurl.com/6dosca

StarGazon March 5, 2009 at 5:07 am

What Are The Tangible Benefits of Social Media? /The Relationship Economy……/ – The value of using the … http://tinyurl.com/6ldlr5

Maria Reyes McDavis October 28, 2008 at 4:48 pm

The Relationship Economy blog has some great thoughts on the tangible benefits of social media http://is.gd/513l

Mark Harai October 28, 2008 at 11:13 am

Many of my clients want PR and media relations. We specialize in tech/consumer lifestyle. In one of our most recent campaigns, we did a pre-launch at the Blogworld Expo in Vegas last month and we “blew up” the web for our client. They went from 34 followers to several thousand in just a week leading up to their pre-launch and had over 50 visits from the most influential blogger’s in the world including Guy Kawasaki – Stowe Boyd – Robert Scobble and received over 22 million impressions in just 4 weeks… All through new media and 0 traditional media :> Granite, you must to have the credibility with the right folks to get results like this, but it is extremely effective and is/has changed the PR and media relations industry forever.


Social Media with Web Success Diva October 28, 2008 at 10:48 am

This is a brilliant post, highlighting many important factors for not only so-called social media experts but anyone online looking to leverage social media in their online marketing plan 🙂 Great stuff!

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