In finance, an option is the right, without the obligation, of taking a financial position some time in the future. As with any financial term, options are associated with “code speak” such as: volatility, exercise, strike, call, put, etc., glazing over many an eye. At the same time, people want, buy, and trade options all day long in everyday life without even knowing it. Options have value; otherwise people would not want them.
The ROI model of valuation fails when applied to social media. The number of hits per ad dollar just does not translate to brand loyalty or scale into rivers of cash flow. There is little surprise that corporations have great difficulty socializing because they simply don’t exist, except as a folder labeled “ROI” in the filing cabinet of an attorney in Bermuda. In fact, losing control of the message makes for an expensive funeral in that same filing cabinet. The Social Media industry is trying to live in the ROI structure and struggling to create revenue.
The cardinal rule of business is to collect assets and shed liabilities. A “right” is an asset while an “obligation” is a liability. An option is an asset without the liability, to make a decision some time in the future. As such, options favor long term planning and strategic nurturing rather than short term profit taking of the ROI model. Asian countries and corporations set a good example of buying options in the future through product quality, education, and economic patience. American corporations should do the same if they hope to benefit from social media.
People do not want ROI, they want options. They want the option to separate peers from mentors from friends from family. They want the option to experience before buying. People want the option to meet their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. They want the option to be anonymous or public in their interaction. They want the option to collaborate and support others. They want the option to overcome physical barriers.
People want to meet new people, get new ideas, and hold the option to act on those new ideas or collect on past ideas shared with others. If they exercise an option and discover another along the way, they want the option to pursue many options to meet a changing market. If they create something in one market, they want the option to apply it to adapt it and access other markets. If they help someone else up the ladder, they want an option to access what that person, in turn, has created from their help. If they make a friend, they want the option of meeting their new friend’s friends.
Likewise, when people are in trouble, they will turn to their collection of options and start exercising them as society has for millenia. The great financial transformation will occur when on-line society gets threaded into the fabric of off-line society through the trade of options. This is the area that needs to develop so that all the pieces can fall into place. This may in fact become the lasting legacy of the financial meltdown.
Options can be the traded like money throughout and across on-line and off-line social networks if there were a way to keep track of them. While The Ingenesist Project specifies promising strategies for trading options in a social network with varying levels of practicality, we can say with great confidence that it this next paradigm of economic development will never happen with an ROI mentality.