It is only a matter of time until professional contacts will be for sale. The problem is that the ROI (return on investment model) is such a poor valuation tool for social media. Another valuation tool used in finance is called Real Options. An option is the right, without the obligation, to act on an opportunity at some time in the future. Social Networks, friends, family, and professional contacts behave much more along these lines.
Five Easy Pieces:
While the calculation for the value of an option is complex, the things we need to plug in are fairly simple in the context of social media:
1. There must be an inventory of the assets
2. The future date when the asset can be acquired must be known
3. The cost of acquiring the asset must be known
4. The value effects on the enterprise must be estimated
5. The uncertainty related to the asset must be estimated
The term “asset” in social media space may include: Knowledge, skill, an undertaking of a new project, or the generation of a new idea, etc.
The Social Networking Manifesto:
The objective of the building a social network is to know where the knowledge assets are, how much they can help you, how much they cost to exercise, and the certainty that they will be applicable, available and useful when you need them. Conversely, the best way to increase the value of a social network is to be visible to others, tell people what you can do for them, tell people what you need from them, and establish a reputation for reliability.
Most importantly, everyone must have the right, without the obligation, to accept or decline the opportunity. This is what jump starts ‘supply and demand’ and makes a market a market
Let’s consider all options:
To estimate the value of an option to call on anyone in your network use a financial option calculator tool on the web and plugged in social media numbers. Let’s use Linkedin as the knowledge inventory; 40 million knowledge assets also hold options with their contacts. Say that the expiration date is 1 year (for tax reasons). Assume the market value of their skill is 100 dollars and that at some point in the next year, the value of their skill relative to yourself becomes 200 dollars. The right to buy the asset at the earlier price is worth a premium. Suppose that the volatility of the asset is 50% and the interest rate is 7%.
The value of the “call” is worth about $3.47 dollars. The Call is an option contract that gives the holder the right to buy a certain quantity of an underlying security from the writer of the option, at a specified price up to the specified expiration date.
The value of options in a network:
For the above scenario assuming all assets are equal in price of 100 dollars; if someone has 10,000 1st and 2nd level contacts on Linkedin, the value of their implied call option is about 34,700 dollars. If Linkedin were a stock market, the value of the social contracts that people have with each other is 34K x 40M = 1.3 Trillion Dollars market value for the contracts that people hold and trade.
The value of the social contract is in the conversations that they hold. Contracts are a financial instrument that can be traded, combined, diversified, and aggregated for real money.