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The Social Ecosystem, Developing your Business Case

In order to do a good job, achieving true success over a long time, you must always start with a clear understanding of your goals. Yes, I will continue saying that until everyone I talk to repeats “start with the goal in mind”. Please repeat after me…. Start with the goal in mind.

Jess Weiss, Project & Social Media Coordinator for Mass.gov, touches upon the why in a good post she wrote not long ago. She says it well when noting “It all goes back to that original question: “why.” Not every social media platform or social community works in every situation. By asking “why” we take that first step towards creating a communications strategy”.

The Social Organization should always start off their efforts with a business case. A business case that clearly explains the why. A business case that explains the cost and the expected return on the investment. To help you in this effort I am including a business case.

Briefly explain what your project is for, what are the goals. Include a summary of:

  • How much will this project cost in both time and money?
  • How much money will this project earn or save the organization?
  • How long will it take to see a return on this investment? For example, the return on investment (ROI) over three years will be 82% with a payback period of 18 months.

Are there other ways to meet this goal? Most people want to know that you have considered other options.

  • Explain the other options.
  • Include the do nothing option. There is always the option to do nothing. Explain why action is required.
  • Why did the other options fall short?
  • What is the cost of the other options and the ROI you would see from the rejected options?

Dig deeper now, beyond the executive summary, about what this will benefit The Social Organization.

  • Look at internal and external benefits.
  • Define real numbers and avoid, as much as possible, weak terms like transparency and engagement. You are asking for money, make your case.
  • Explain how you will measure, how you will confirm, that you are on track.

Provide all cost associated with this effort. Include:

  • Software
  • Consulting services
  • Maintainance fees
  • Training

In the Executive Summary you explained the total costs. It is your goal to explain where this one number came from, including all the miscellaneous pieces of the project that brought you to this one cost number.

Yes, ROI. I know many people argue that you cannot measure the ROI of social business, government 2.0, and social media strategies and tactics. They are wrong. If you are asking for money you had better understand the return you expect to see from this investment. Some people point to KPIs vs. ROI. KPIs are the levers that control your business engine. If you do not yet understand how these levers impact your business goals, figure that out now.

Be clear about what you are assuming, who you have discussed these assumptions with, and what you have done to confirm that your assumptions are correct..

Provide as much information about the project as possible, fleshing out the executive summary.

Remember, the budget holders in The Social Organization, along with other leaders, are responsible for maximizing the impact of their investments. Explain how your efforts, the project you are proposing, will help them carry out this mission. Partner with them and you can make your project a reality.


If you need help from The Lab, drop me a note. If you would like to view more case studies and interviews, or just want to read about The Social Ecosystem, click on the links and let me know your thoughts.

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