Ask me what the ROI of social media is for me personally, and I’ll tell you that it was $10,000 for me this week. Why? Because of what happened related to the 150-year-old, 14.5 foot circumference tree in our back yard, shown here with my son, Jason, giving it one last hug before we have to cut it down in a few days. Actually, it was my friends via social media that saved me the money – not social media itself which was the vehicle of communication that made it all possible.
Here’s what happened…
We had a storm come through several nights ago that took out a major section of the tree, fortunately falling away from the house and only doing minor damage to the garage and garden. Upon inspection by the arborist, though, it was discovered that the tree is not in good health. With the major limb gone, you could step down into the center of the tree nearly waist high. The squirrels had been living in style up there for some while, lining their tree house with plastic and even a t-shirt they stole from someone, but we had no idea about the extent of the interior damage until the gaping hole of a missing 25-inch-diameter limb revealed it. We hoped to never see the day when we had to remove such a natural masterpiece, but there was no avoiding it upon inspection.
We’ve used the same outstanding, trustworthy, yet expensive arborist for the 25 years we’ve lived in this house. Taking care of the tree with regular grooming and care was something we willingly did for the past quarter century – a mere one-sixth of the tree’s time on this earth. (I guess that puts its origins somewhere around the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.) We got an unofficial ballpark estimate from our usual arborist on removing the tree when he was here removing the downed limb. I was quite stunned at the approximate $6000 price tag to remove the whole tree! I wasn’t prepared for that.
I didn’t mind paying top dollar for proper care of a tree to extend its life, but I wasn’t about to hand over $6000 to cut one down without competitive bids. The problem? I have no firsthand knowledge of any other company in town and could easily make a very bad decision we might regret.
Enter social media.
I posted a pic of the downed limb on Facebook and a note about having to remove the tree along with the current bid we had. I didn’t ask others for referrals. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t even occur to me at that point to do so. Yet, my network of friends took over and started posting publicly, privately and sending me text messages of companies they had successfully used and highly recommended. My wife, Linda, did some Better Business Bureau research on all the names and narrowed it to three possible, reputable companies.
Here comes the unbelievable part. The bids on removing the monster tree ranged form a low of $3200 to a high of nearly $12,000! That’s a crazy disparity. Want to know the funny part? The highest bidder was also going to take down part of our backyard fence to get his equipment there and was not going to put the fence back up! Thanks, but no thanks.
We actually got two bids from each company – one just for the backyard tree and one that also included a very large 70-year-old oak in our front yard that has been falling apart little by little annually and isn’t safe, either. The bids for taking down both trees ranged from $6000 to $16,000 – a stunning difference.
We ended up going with the lowest bidder. Could something go wrong? Sure. Could we end up regretting our decision? Possibly, but not likely. We’re confident we made the right choice and it wasn’t made solely on price. I’ll let you know if we learn otherwise.
Without social media, I may never have known about the company we’re using. I may have asked a few close friends for recommendations, but no network of hundreds of people would’ve known about my need without social media. And the best thing about it was that I didn’t even ask for help. I just posted the situation and the info started pouring in.
This is the reality of how social media works today. People do not simply go to the companies selling products and services and make an isolated decision based only on info provided by those doing the selling. We have public conversations in our personal networks and those conversations influence our buying decisions. Companies that understand that will choose to be a part of the conversations, helping to influence them and earning the right to be chosen. Companies who don’t get it will continue to mistakenly think that their marketing message is the one the people listen to the most. It isn’t. We care more about the opinion and recommendations of our friends than we do about what we hear from businesses.
What is the ROI of social media? For me personally this week, it’s $10,000. Who knows what next week will bring?