Interactive Marketing Strategist – George Benckenstein Interactive Marketing Strategist & Flat World Evangelist musing about how digital is changing the paradigm of human culture.


Return On Influence – The Real ROI

Next time you hear people talking about history repeating itself, I'm hoping you will think about this.  None of us remember the era when all commerce was localized -- meaning, anyone you did business with lived in your immediate community.  There was no such thing as advertising, marketing channels and brands.  You did business with people you knew.  It was not an "information economy" and nothing was mass produced.  It was a Trust Economy.  So what am I talking about when I say that history repeats itself?   ...welcome back to the Trust Economy.

When it comes to using social platforms to create awareness for your service, product or brand - you have to remember that this is not your typical marketing channel.  As consumers, we are weary of "marketing speak," suspicious of "buzz" (it can be bought) and we don't trust strangers.  We are back to square one.  In a Trust Economy, your market is your community or network, trust is mandatory and influence is king.

Return On Influence - The Basics

If you want to understand how to create trust and affect individuals authentically, imagine yourself moving into a new neighborhood.  You've just entered a new community.  So how do you meet people?  This is the exact construct social media platforms emulate.  Would you immediately start going door-to-door peddling your product or service to your neighbors?  I would hope the answer to that question is NO.  But over time, as your community gets to know you, the trust and reputation you have built will no doubt lead to talk about what you do.  So keep these things in mind:

  • You can't fake a relationship
  • Relationships come before sales
  • Business is not the first order of business
  • Your personal brand comes first

Leveraging your relationships is a great way to increase awareness of your product, service or brand -- but you actually have to become a respected and trusted member of your community and nurture your own network before you can tap into it's potential.

Work Life Integration

So I just mentioned that your personal brand comes first.  For organizations, this logic will seem counter-intuitive and will require understanding of the social construct.  However, no matter how you look at it, the lines between our work and our social life are blurring.  For example - childhood friends are now being reconnected thru facebook and becoming business associates.  Business are invading facebook like a pack of 4 yr. olds will invade a Chuck-E-Cheese.  Corporate recruiters are sourcing talent from LinkedIn, Twitter and even MySpace.  In the end, interactions are interpersonal - people do business with people (not brands) and the economic environment we once knew is systematically being turned on it's head (Judy Martin got me thinking about this).

Personal Interactions = Network ROI

So here we are back in a Trust Economy except our localized market is now global.  Thru the ubiquity of technology, we are able to have rich, personal interactions and find meaningful connections with others.  As always, when it comes to relationships, you get back more than you give.  First and foremost, we are creatures here to serve one another.  It's a tried and true principle that is undeniable.  We just have more tools to serve each other more effectively and more efficiently.

Attention = Currency

One of the most rare things on earth is a person's attention.  Between email, 30,000 ad messages a day and life in general, our time is our most precious commodity.  We have become masters at filtering out anything that is not meaningful to us NOW.  So go out and join the conversation.  Listen to people.  Answer their questions.  Be of service without regard and be meaningful to people NOW.

Authentic Influence

Let people get to know you, trust you and befriend you.  You will create meaningful relationships that get integrated socially and professionally.  The more you give, the more you get.  Relationships are back.  We are built to affect and influence one another.  Your interests will become social objects and awareness of them will radiate thru your network.  These authentic alliances are what all relationships are built on.  This is not something you can fake.  It's something you must embrace.

Comments (29) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Excellent post, George, and really groovy looking page.

  2. "Return on Influence" – love it. A timely and important reminder.

  3. Great post, and a fresh perspective on the topic. Just gotta say that George is not the creator of the term Return on Influence. That goes to Michael Goeghegan in 2006 see story here

    • Good feedback Cathy. I would be willing to bet everything I have that the phrase was uttered by someone even before that.

  4. I admire people like you George who can articulate so well this phenomenal topic of influence. Thoroughly enjoyed your article & shared it everywhere I could.

  5. George, it is a delight and quite refreshing to read your blog. I will spread the word and I look forward to more. You do great work.

  6. thanks George … been thinking myself in terms of Trust Economy…

  7. Good post and you make some valid points, but you're confusing ROI with things like impact and effect. Just make sure that when an exec asks you about ROI, you don't redirect to "Return On Influence," or you won't get invited back for a follow-up. ;)

    • You have a good point there Oliver. Being the brandbuilder, you definitely know to shape your presentation for your audience ;)

  8. Dear George,

    My name is Daniele Bazzano and I work with Robin Good at MasterNewMedia.

    We would love to republish this post with full credit and link back like we already did for your excellent "Social Media vs Institutions".

    Please let me know if you would be willing to give us such permission.

    Many thanks,


  9. Well said. This Return on Influence pays itself back in time in the form of a valuable asset. As our social graphs or online influence grows it becomes a real measurable asset. I see this asset being critical to the success of the next generation and those with out a well developed, well managed asset will suffer severely. I see an online presence or social graph being our most valuable asset being worth even more than our homes. I wrote about it here: Online Presence: Asset of the Future-Why our Social Graph Will be Worth More Than Our Homes.

  10. "Be of service without regard and be meaningful to people NOW." Great post George.

  11. nice one!

  12. Completely agree that attention is the new currency… I wrote about this issue in my blog, but think that the key conclusion is that we are returning to making friends and marketing products through relationships. This is not a new idea, but as you state above the difference is that computers now mediate our communication and provide scale to this approach.

    Do give me a shout on what you think of the discussion that I have posted here:

    (Apologies for linking within your comment thread- hope it is interesting)


    Coffee Marketing

  13. Thank you George~Great post! ~ Refreshing indeed. ~ Thank you for bringing us back to the basics of trust in building on-line and offline relationships (steeped in integrity and respect) and the importance of our personal brand. ~ They are of high value as well as your post. I will pass it on. ~ Blessings ~ Nancy

  14. "I admire people like you George who can articulate so well this phenomenal topic of influence. Thoroughly enjoyed your article & shared it everywhere I could."

    I really can't express my sentiments better than Maria says it.

    GREAT stuff George!!

  15. George… you have access to my email through the moderation of this comment, please contact me if you would. I have questions and would like to connect further.

  16. This is interesting. A man like you has been places. Have you ever heard the term 'people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it'? Its some where along the same borders of what you're talking about.

  17. Corporate social media policies need to have a better understanding of the fact that personal and work life are blurred. I think many companies are still afraid to acknowledge this shift. This is a fantastic article.

  18. I work for the Dept. of Employment at the State of Minnesota. I am charged with creating a presentation for my co-workers (20-25 people) on one of the seven habits of highly effective people: synergize, and I would like permission to use part of this article within my presentation. From my perspective, trust is the key component to synergy and consequently to the presentation. I would appreciate it very much. Sincerely, Kim

  19. WoW! This was long but good because I could not stop reading it! Everything you wrote is much needed especially for newbies who want to do online networking. Great Post and keep up the good work!! :)

    Many Blessings To You,

  20. this was lengthy but excellent because I could not quit studying it! Everything you had written is much required especially for beginners I would like authorization to use aspect of this content within my demonstration. From my viewpoint I think many organizations are still scared to recognize this move. This is a amazing content.

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  22. Socially responsible hiring is an aspect of corporate responsibility. This aspect focuses on making socially conscious hires where the employment has the potential to positively impact the surrounding community. It differs from ethical responsible hiring in that ethically responsible hiring refers to hiring practices that are fair and within the confines of the law.

  23. Adding video conferencing to an alive societal networking scene is a heavy onus. Numerous rights be to do so, further hundreds of selections to deliberate about in times of customization moreover usability. The undertaking pleasure demand an sophisticated snare developer also a strong alive dais for this unit to process from. Additional right that forces inferior process is to coordinate the location beside alive video conferencing spades comparable Skype, using a widget computer.

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