This report comes from Rowland Stiteler, a meeting industry journalist who attended digitalNow for One+.
If you’re looking for detailed specifics about how social media impacts the profits of your business or the membership levels of your association, they may not be out there yet.
That’s the conclusion of Susan Etlinger, social media analyst and strategist for the Altimeter Group, a consulting agency with a Fortune 500 clientele.
“If you are looking for outside standards and outside benchmarks as to what constitutes an effective social media program, right now you are wasting your time, because they are just not out there…maybe two or three years from now, but right now the standards are not out there,” said Etlinger, a keynote speaker on the second day of the digitalNow 2013 conference.
Etlinger is in a good position to know about this. For 20 years, she has been in the electronic media strategy business, working for Charles Schwab and then the Horn Group before joining Altimeter.
“Right now, most companies are in a rigorous test-and-learn phase with regard to social media,” she said.
According to Etlinger, there is still plenty of testing and learning to be done before the impact of social media on profitability can be easily measured.
That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s not important for organizations to forge ahead with social media campaigns, which clearly allow both corporations and associations to learn a lot of detailed information about the likes and dislikes of their constituencies. Certainly there is a high volume of information coming back at the purveyors of social media campaigns, and clear results in spreading brand awareness and other valuable goals.
One+ has, however, led the field in broaching these important questions about social media. In October 2010, Editor Michael Pinchera spoke with leaders at the cross-section of social media and business for the cover story, “Untangling the Value of Social Media.” The fact remains, the value of social media can be measured—it just depends on how you wish it to be quantified.
“There will never be a single equation from which to determine the value of any and all social media campaigns,” Pinchera said. “If you want to measure engagement, start building your metrics well in advance of starting social media campaigns and identify your goals. The value is based on the results in relation to your goals—much like determining the ROI, or other returns, on a specific meeting or event. That value can be determined, but one must come to the game with data and clear goals.”
Participants in this year’s sold-out digitalNow conference—held at Walt Disney’s Contemporary Resort—included a who’s who of professional associations: the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American Institute of CPAs, the Professional Golfers Association. Digital media directors for the various associations conducted workshops and symposia, sharing best practices and strategies, and about a dozen corporate resource partners—companies specializing in communications and association management software—provided a trade show component to share insights about the use of digital tools.
A star of the show this year was the new digitalNow smartphone app, which allowed participants the ability to do everything from keep up with the conference schedule to download presentation screenshots from various individual symposia and workshops to post and share their own personal agendas within the conference.
“This new app is a key tool to making the conference experience more effective for every participant,” said Hugh Lee, president and CEO of Fusion Productions, which produces the conference.
Dr. Michio Kaku, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York, also spoke at the event. Kaku is a futurist, a bestselling author and a science media guru. He is a frequent contributor to The Discovery Channel, the BBC, the History Channel and the Science Channel. He gave key insights into where social media is going in the near future, but also how science will shape the world in the next 30 years. Be sure and check out the June issue of One+ for our exclusive interview with Kaku.