Maybe I’m just not getting it, or I’m reading too much into vacuous statements, but why are we asking the ROI on a thing without considering what one is doing with that thing.

And define “investment” in this content? Time? Money? Something else?

Time may be money to some people, but not all, but money is never equal to time.

The vague “What’s the ROI” question is, I think, confusing the means of distribution with the content and the purpose. They are all interrelated but are not equal.

I’m generally in agreement with what I think McLuhan meant on “the medium being the message” but the use of “being” has always bugged me in this statement. It’s hyperbolic (in the non-mathematical sense). Let’s just say I concur that the means of delivery of any communication affects the reception of the content. This works for TV, and it works for Social Media.

So what’s the ROI on television?

First question that pops into my mind is from whose point of view? The broadcaster? The audience? The advertiser? The appliance store? The cable repair dude? Someone else? The ROI differs for all, based on their relationship to TV.

It is the same for Social Media. From whose point of view are you asking this question?

Asking clear questions is the obvious first step into getting clear & relevant answers. This is why we do research.

You can sensibly ask what is the ROI on your working hours spent promoting your business, or the ROI on the advertising dollars spent via Social Media, but an abstract “What’s the ROI” without specifying something tangible & measureable, is a pointless question. It’s a bit like asking “What is the ROI on eating?” Well, if you don’t you’ll die.

The use of social networks is a communicative process. The purpose differs for everyone. What I get for using LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or blogging may be quite different from others doing similar things. I do many things via social networking sites, and I communicate as well as by phone, by email, by snail mail, etc. Effective communications are a necessary precondition to doing work in our era.

I don’t measure ROI on this by channel (is this practical?) but rather the overall effectiveness of my communication strategy. My revenue stream is usually a good indication that if I spend a lot of time communicating for business and there is no associative income, the ROI is not good.

“What is my ROI on my communication strategy using social media?” is a sensible question, but not easily answered. Unless you are ONLY doing this and it works or doesn’t (using the revenue indicator) it is hard to measure the exact reach of the medium.

We of course try. That is the nature of being a market researcher. We can get you something of value, and you can use that to make decisions. It’s what we do.

I can’t guarantee you’ll get a mathematically precise measurement (like your ROI on all the time you spend on Facebook is worth $14,113.12 per annum), but I can guarantee that asking an imprecise and vague question will not get you any answer at all.


drive an Audi S4. It is a driver's car. The first time I had the opportunity to take it to a professional track for a day of professional instruction and zooming around the track, I leaped at it.

It was a humbling experience. To come away realizing that your car is more capable than you, is an eye opener. I was cramped & exhausted after four hours. I limped home. I sucked as a driver & I thought I was good.

Three months later I was back, an Audi among Porches, for a full eight hour day. And I actually learned something.

I still read articles such as this for perspective. (dead link in 2013)

When we get so wound up in day to day life, it’s good to sit back and think other people had bigger problems (and still do).

Many people don’t understand the purpose of studying history. They think: it’s over, done, let’s move on, we have things to do now.

This is shortsighted & misguided thinking.

I think what history does is set the stage for understanding human culture, including contemporary culture. Understanding past cultural conflicts gives us a better understanding of current conflicts. No one can possibly hope to understand the current issues in Middle East without knowing it’s history (which is very long, and very complex). And knowing how people everywhere have responded under various stresses and opportunties can’t help but inform & ground your thoughts.

We live in the shadows of past events.

To look ahead sometimes we need to look back to see where we’ve come from.

There is no crystal ball to predict the future, but if you find yourself half way up a mountain, I believe looking back may help you ask the answer the question: “WTF am I doing here now?” And then you can address what do you want to do in the future based on this knowledge. We sometimes call this strategic consulting.

This is why the transition from the study of ancient & medieval history to the practice of market research has never seemed a stretch to me.

In the end we tell stories and the stories involve people.


What’s your story? Why are you where you are right now?

“Because” is not a good answer.


I spend time thinking about time. This is not a terribly productive task but it is inevitable when you feel you have more things to do in a day then there are hours. Everyone goes down that route. For business, for education, while raising young kids, whatever.

Try as I may to stretch it, there are only 24 hours in a day and the ability to multi-task caps out quickly. Sure I can eat my lunch, check emails and talk on the phone all at once (between bites & swallows) but there are many tasks that require dedicated time.

I can't read two serious pieces of literature at once, nor engage in two real in-person conversations simultaneously (I think the bibilcial people call this talking in tongues - you sound like an idiot).

The world encourages full-time plug-in. Connectivity is wireless and portable. The devourers of time sit in your pocket, or your purse and slowly eat away your existence. But not unassisted.

We must be honest, we allow this to happen, no one is forcing us online 24/7.

Admittedly, we live in a period of rapid social change and the historian in me makes me think back to an earlier such period, the 1960's, where the social "prophets" who may not have had the right answers at least caused people to ask the right questions.

Timothy Leary said "Turn on, tune in, drop out".

Maybe fine for that era (a bit before my time) but the last thing I need now is more mind altering substances, more stimuli, we have media for that. Perhaps we need to adapt and update this idea for the 21st century.

I think maybe we need to "Turn off, tune in, drop by".

So let's power down the electronics, and go talk with a friend, or read a book.

The web is great (I live there), but when time flees, we need to think about allocating it wisely.

Kick off the shoes. Breath deeply. Shutdown. Your batteries need re-charging.

I will try & heed my own advice.


OK I’ve been talking about this to several people all day long so I may as well write this up in one location. Here.

First the Stamford study referred to, while very rigorously done, uses FIVE year old data. The Internet has changed a lot in five years as have the practices of online panels (we hope) some I know have, I can’t speak for all though. So take the results with a grain of salt. They are old.

The concerns however are current.

Are opt-in panels, despite the best industry practices really samples of convenience?