On Facebook, Twitter, influence can become profit

Companies are beginning to harness social media's new ROI – return on influence – by making it personal on their Facebook, Twitter sites.

Musicians Taylor Swift and Kanye West have millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. But there's a difference between their abilities to get people to buy something or believe in something, just as there's a difference between JetBlue's social media strategy versus that of US Airways.

I call it the new ROI – return on influence. And the new ROI can affect the old ROI – return on investment – so directly that, increasingly, companies are starting to pay attention.

I've worked with companies from DoubleTree by Hilton to Nike to enhance their brands via social media. This same approach works for people, too. Three years ago, I developed "Random Acts of Shaqness." These were social media stunts designed to help basketball great Shaquille O'Neal bridge the virtual and physical worlds to connect with his fans. Shaq used social media to share his exact physical location with fans. The first fan who could find and tag him was rewarded with tickets to a game or an autographed jersey.

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