This year, I am going to try to stick to one of my New Year's resolutions: to post here every other day at least, and to respond to comments much more regularly that I have been. As someone who's been blogging for years, I know the basics as well as everyone else. If you participate in the conversation, you get much more out of the blogosphere than otherwise.
But this presents an interesting dilemma, because participation in social media conversations results in exponentially increasing demands on one's time. If I respond to every comment here, and many of the comment that refer to here on blogs elsewhere, I'll be spending a lot of time doing nothing but commenting. Then, of course, I want to comment on other's people's posts, and these are conversations I'll want to track as well, so I can continue to contribute.
I also write a private blog for my staff internally, and I do an update for a circular that goes out to all the people in our programme every week.
On top of that, there's the flow of private emails that arrive from each and every post I write, and though it might take me a week or two, I try to respond to all those as well. Forgive me, by the way if you've written to me and not had your response. Sometimes I have to declare email bankruptcy just to keep up.
This has lead me to consider whether there might be declining marginal returns on my time the more I participate in social media. Might it be the case that the more you do, the less you get out of it?
This is counter to what most commentators are saying about social media, of course. But most of their arguments seem to assume the point of social media is social media. In their world, time is a utopian free resource: it is a public good that is in infinite supply. They can afford to spend all their free time being on blogs and friendfeed and twitter and all the rest.
I doubt that is true for those people who don't "get" social media though. They, like me, are severely time constrained. Every task one undertakes has to be balanced against the opportunity cost of doing something else.
The opportunity cost of doing social media tends to rise the more I do. For example, I could do so much commenting on blogs that I am no longer doing what I am paid to do by my bank. That will result in me losing my job, of course, which is a very substantive price to pay for participation in social media.
On the other hand, the posts I write here and the comments I manage now are value additive to what I do. In fact, this blog has been one of the most rewarding things I've done. The problem is getting anyone else to quantify the value to my day job.
The basic issue is this: those of us engaged in this kind of activity in addition to our day jobs have faith that there is an economic benefit from doing so. That doesn't cut it when you have to go into your annual review and explain you've written 60 essays on a blog and written 1000 comments in 2008, because the relationship between output and value is inherently unclear.
The fact of the matter is that if it were possible to ascribe such an economic value to this kind of work, bankers the world over would have teams and teams of us doing social media full time. Because then, truly, there would not be declining marginal returns on the effort.
I doubt there is much chance of getting to a reasonable resolution to the problem. In 2009 we'll all still be living on faith that doing this adds real – as in cash – value to our enterprises. And we'll all still be trying to justify our faith to our management.
But I don't want you to think I am complaining. For banks, social media is still quite the bleeding edge. It's very exciting, as long as the edge doesn't turn into a knife.