I cleaned up the title.

A friend asked me that question a couple years ago.

It came to mind as I was at last months Social Media Breakfast Fort Wayne as I was listening to a couple of the comments from others in attendance.

If you think that the purpose of Facebook, Twitter and the other popular Social Media Channels is to gain “Likes” and “Followers”, I say you are wrong.

It is rare to successfully translate a Facebook “Like” from someone who has never done business with you into a loyal customer.

A recent AdAge report says:

You can measure the ROI of social media, but it may not get you far. “There is definitely a quantifiable ROI, but the truth of the matter is that it’s very difficult to measure ROI within social media,” said Edelman Digital Senior VP Michael Brito.

If a straightforward numbers game is what you’re after, Olivier Blanchard, author of “Social Media ROI” notes that the ROI numbers game remains the same: “It’s still purely a financial measure.” But, he adds, “engagement is not a measure of ROI. There’s no way to actually calculate the relationship between a dollar investment in a particular activity and the number of likes.”

So, back to the original question: What’s the purpose of all this social media crap?

I say, Relationships.  Pure and simple.

I recall a few years ago attending a presentation from my friend Anthony Juliano on social media where Anthony included a slide that demonstrated the true power of relationship based social media.

A mutual friend, Heather Smith was looking for a new dentist or optometrist so she asked for recommendations on her Facebook page. Instantly she received recommendations from friends.  Over a dozen I believe within an hour.

Social Media did not replace advertising.

Social Media made it easier for her to ask her collection of friends that she was connected to on Facebook for a Word of Mouth style recommendation.

If Facebook was not around, she would have had to make at least a dozen phone calls to her friends, or at the least send an email to a dozen friends to ask them the same question.

I write this from the perspective of someone who has been a student, teacher, mentor and advocate for both social media and traditional media with a couple dozen + years of experience.

Understanding this stuff is vital and can make a huge difference in the success or failure of your business or organization.

We’ll continue this discussion in the future, or you can continue it now by leaving your thoughts in the comments below.