As it always does, at least in conferences and seminars I have been present at, the question about ROI of blogging and other participatory communications tools came up. And, as usual, we could offer no definitive, quantitatively perfect measure (although there are tools out there to help).
I offered a way of thinking about the question that I though I'd reproduce here in case folks want to continue the conversation.
My point (and I have written about this elsewhere) is that our task as communicators is network building. Participatory communications tools are particularly powerful for this task. This means that by commenting on other people's blogs, by blogging yourself, by participating in a wiki, and so forth, you are building a network of connections between you, your organisation, and your audiences.
My argument is that these connections, or links, are stronger than the links you form when you meet someone on a plane or at a conference and exchange business cards, because they are material and visible. Unless you are a fantastic and motivated networker, you may never use that business card. But by commenting on a blog, that link can be more easily followed up on and, perhaps more importantly, others can see it, and follow it.
All of the links you build are investments in the future. You never know when you might need to call on the person you linked to to become an ally. By contributing to a conversation, by acknowledging someone's existence, they just may see you as trustworthy - or at least worth the benefit of the doubt. They might defend you when you need it, even if they don't always agree with you because they feel like you make an effort to communicate with your customers.
As I mentioned, we communicators sit in front of potentially millions of people who could comment about us. There are no budgets big enough to enable you to handle that number of people individually. That is why we need networks of allies to help us. And when that network kicks in, you have just experienced your ROI.
The problem is measuring that.