As I approaches 0, ROI approaches infinity

Very briefly, here’s a mind-blower for you: As I (Investment) approaches 0 (zero), ROI (Return on Investment) approaches infinity. Ok, maybe it’s not such a revelation but the cost of broadcasting/narrowcasting activities are decreasing significantly, nearly to the virtually free cost to consume.

From Jim McGee at Fast Forward (a required reading blog):

At last week’s Blogwell 2 conference in Chicago, Lee Aase from the Mayo Clinic shared their efforts to use social media to continue to share the Clinic’s message with the existing extended community tightly and loosely surrounding them. The Mayo Clinic has built a worldwide reputation over the course of many decades. Fundamentally, that reputation is a function of word of mouth. That makes social media in all forms a natural fit for Mayo.

They are working across multiple fronts included a fan page on Facebook, multiple blogs, a YouTube channel, and Twitter. At the conference, Lee announced their most recent effort, Sharing Mayo Clinic, which is intended as a place to share people stories about the Clinic and to serve as a hub around which other social media efforts and coalesce.

i was struck by a number of things in Lee’s presentation and Mayo’s overall efforts. First and foremost was the value of simply diving in and learning from their experiences. Coupled with that was the additional leverage found in thinking systemically. The heart of their strategy here is to find and share the human stories connected to the Clinic every day. The technologies serve as multiple ways to get the story out and Lee and his team (which is much smaller than I would have predicted) are smart enough to not get in the way of those stories.

For example, although they are making extensive use of video in their storytelling, they are using the Flip Video Camcorder instead of a more complex (and intimidating) video set up. What they are learning is that the Flip provides good enough production values and doesn’t get in the way of the storytelling. I suspect that there’s more craft involved than Lee let on, but not so much that it is out of reach for any organization that’s willing to make a few mistakes in the early stages.

Lee closed with an intriguing observation about the value of Mayo’s investments in social media. Here’s how he put it:

As I approaches 0, ROI approaches infinity

I suspect that the average CFO would be a bit suspicious, but there’s an important point here. The financial investments in social media can start at zero and don’t need to get terribly far away. The real investments are in organizational time and attention and what Lee and others are demonstrating is that those costs are also readily manageable. Answering questions about ROI does not necessarily entail using a spreadsheet.

In other circles this is called asymmetric warfare and too often described as an unfair advantage agile and unencumbered insurgents and terrorists have over Big Government. No, it’s about realizing the requirements and advantages of the “now media” environment that affects the struggle for minds and wills. It can mean building passive support (community support for a local institution manifested as pride or social support of an action) or active support (voting for municipal bonds to picking up a weapon).

The dissemination and consumption of information is cheap but the impact is priceless.