The Perfect Answer to “What’s the ROI of Social Networking?”

Whenever I’m asked “What’s the ROI of social networking?” I reply with a question: What’s the ROI of email?

You never hear supply chain executives ask that question, yet they use the ROI question as a way to delay or block the deployment of social networking technologies at their companies.

Email, as you probably know from your own experience, is arguably the number one productivity killer in the workplace (I actually have my email app closed as I write this so I won’t get distracted). If you do an online search for “email productivity killer,” you get 4,160,000 hits — about half a million more hits than “social media productivity killer.” And according to a survey of over 600 small business owners, freelancers and professionals conducted by, email was ranked as the #1 time killer at work; social networking was ranked #8, behind bigger time killers like Internet surfing, meetings, and non-business related conversations (see infographic here).

Simply put, nobody ever asks what is the ROI of email, the telephone, and meetings — the three most common ways we currently communicate and collaborate with each other at work — so why the double standard with social networking? If we’re willing to accept the limits and drawbacks of our current communication tools and processes, why not give social networking a try, especially because it addresses many of those limits and drawbacks?

Over the past few years, I’ve written extensively about the potential role and benefits of social networking in supply chain management (see here and here, for example). But don’t just take my word for it. Last month, I interviewed Angel Mendez, SVP at Cisco and I asked him about his perspective and experience using social networking solutions at Cisco. Watch this short clip for his great insights on how social networking helps with demand management, enables faster problem resolution, and allows companies to do more with less.

The bottom line: Stop wasting time trying to figure out the ROI of social networking. You’re wasting enough time already with email, meetings, and watercooler conversations. If you really want to know the ROI of social networking, you won’t find it in a spreadsheet or blog posting. You just need to start using it. It’s what Cisco and other companies are doing. So, stop asking the ROI question and start taking action.