Tag Archives: social media measurement

3 Ways Social Media Still Can’t Win

Red Pill Blue Pill front web

In some ways, social media’s magic red pill still doesn’t work, it hasn’t been swallowed. Why are we still trying to justify its existence? Why are we still constantly arguing for its support and funding? On the other hand, do we question the need for traditional marketing? Do we question the need for a salesman in the company?

Lately, it looks as if the newest member of the “social” party to slip down into the Trough of Disillusionment is social business. “Social Business is Dead!” proclaims this article by Chris Heuer (CEO, Alynd – “SaaS for accountability in collaboration. Improves performance & productivity.”)  at the popular and influential blog of Brian Solis. The title is a little guilty of trolling for eyeballs – a little like my own –  and it works. But actually, the article isn’t saying that the practice of social business is dead – rather, it’s saying that the crusade to justify social business has been a failure. To be even more precise, the problem is that the “social” argument has not succeeded. Management didn’t buy it.

It’s not that the ideas are losing or that the goals are without merit, they are. The problem is that the deeper meaning and richer context is being lost on executives who still think the word “social” indicates a frivolous time-wasting pursuit. To them, it’s about what someone ate for lunch. Or it’s that thing their teenagers do to ignore them at the dinner table. Despite the Arab Spring, the customer revolution and an increasingly connected society which turns to Twitter with every earthquake or news event, the idea of being a Social Business has failed to break through the care barrier in most C-Suites.

– Chris Hueur

In fact, I’d argue that management doesn’t even like it. Management prefers the tried and tested corporate model of command and control. The idea that it should “socialize” its processes and in the process lose some of that control – argued for years as a benefit, has not been bought. Management still wants to manage.

Thus, the reason social business – as a term – has died, is because the key stakeholders won’t go social.

Social-Media-Fail

1. Easy ROI reporting still doesn’t exist
Social Media still resists easy ROI reporting. Yes yes, I know some of you will say there are existing tools and methods of measuring social media ROI, but how many are actually successfully reporting it? Did you convince your management of its value that easily? After all, latest studies show that social media ROI is still as elusive as ever. I’m not saying that ways to measure it don’t exist. I’m saying that it’s still too difficult for most companies to convincingly report it.

ROI absent

What’s needed, perhaps, is for social media to actually make a sale. We social media practitioners may argue that’s not the point – social media is about engagement, branding, community, etc.  But you let me know if your boss didn’t demand you show Facebook “conversions”.

2. Content is a king in a circus act.
In the beginning, we all said that content is the key to everything. I think this is still true. However, instead of being able to focus mainly on content relating directly to the product one sells, many businesses are forced to engage users/fans by posting, well, cheaper thrills. Humour, quotable quotes, “viral videos” of varying quality and taste – doesn’t matter, so long as you get likes, comments and shares. Our eyes widen at the sight of “27 shares” even though an hour ago, we were feeling sheepish posting yet another single-frame funny comic we found via Google Images. It works! And we hope somehow, this wisdom-spouting quotation inspires a dear fan to buy something from our website.

Is this the way we intended our social media to work? Maybe, but I suspect it’s also one reason why many senior managers still view social media with a mixture of disdain and indifference, like how an adult might view a bunch of rowdy kids.

3. Management still not into social
And that’s my next point. It is like the social business article mentioned above. For many senior management types, the problem of social media is not so much a matter of its business benefits, provable or not, but that it is social. While there certainly are exceptions, traditional corporate management culture has little reason to trust or adopt social. It’s simply too unpredictable and its benefits too elusive, when compared to the industrial-strength sales reports of traditional brick-and-mortar business operations, including marketing.

It’s not so painful that they need to make a massive investment to transform their organizations. They continue to make money and operate as they always have. That is the problem. The old model of organizational design and profit making is obsolete but it hasn’t yet completely or visibly failed for the people in charge.

– Chris Heuer

It may be that this is an illusion too – because some might say traditional marketing has even lower ROI than social media ROI, in terms of the cost-to-benefit ratio. Does it? Whether or not true, the fact is, many companies will still put traditional marketing first, simply because that’s what they’re used to, even in the face of statistics proclaiming of social media’s (supposed) superiority.

What if social media never existed?
You could say that social media is in this state precisely because it is attempting to solve the problems of or overturn the model of traditional business and communications. Consider: if social media never came about, never existed – would the world today want this level of “social”? Would customers remain satisfied with traditional advertizing, traditional paper mail and flyers, newspapers, telephones and the idea of a corporate business as a detached industrial entity whose sole mission is to sell “good-for-you” products whose marketing you always believe? Would we have known any better? Would we have ever missed the social collectiveness of Facebook, the viral communication of Twitter? Would we have contently stayed in the Matrix of the blue pill, and never sought more?

Because remember, this world existed before. And many companies still take the blue pill. The fight isn’t over yet!

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Social Media Kungfu – the sophistication of measurement

IF YOU CAN'T MEASURE IT, YOU CAN'T MANAGE IT!

Yes, yes, I know. Now, it’s clear that measurement is always good, if you can manage it (irony intended). I don’t deny that. And increasingly, the measurement of social media and online engagement is becoming more and more sophisticated. About 3 weeks ago I attended a social media for businesses conference and one of the talks was about social media measurement. I confess openly that I don’t remember much of it. It was so sophisticated, that within 15 minutes I was utterly lost in technobabble. Admittedly, the speaker was in quite a challenging position himself, having the task of explaining his entire life’s work in one hour.

Social media measurement (SMM) is a descendant of the web metrics of the 1990s/2000s. Its grandparents are pageviews and unique visitors. In the early days of SMM, say around 2010, this particular area seemed more like a poorly equipped wannabe trying to borrow some tools and tactics from its much older web metrics 師父 (shifu, or master). SSM was the proverbial poor boy servant who hid behind the walls secretly watching the kungfu students training with their master in the training yard, and tried to practise on his own in his little shed at night. Eventually, he would become very skilled, and even discover his own techniques.

That seems to be the story of SMM in very recent times. Empowered by ever-improving technology, the onward advance of sentiment analysis, no matter how far from 100% accuracy; with the constant tweaking of Facebook insights as a sign they aren’t satisfied yet, SMM is without doubt, growing and evolving, become more and more clever.

I suspect one day it will even defeat its former master.

I wrote recently about measuring community in non-technical ways. When I read exhortations like the one at the start of this post, I can’t help but feel a bit apologetic. The thing about technical, scientific, data-driven and data-producing measurements is that it always looks more accurate and defined than non-technical, anecdotal, subjective, emotive measurements. But of course, that’s the point. That’s why they were invented. Even if sometimes they give false impressions, they strike at the truth in terms we can measure and define.

I have no doubt that scientific SMM is important. If you can’t measure it, true, you probably can’t manage it. But what if you can’t even manage SMM? Or in some cases, social media itself? I’m afraid there is one other issue about SMM in Singapore – it’s being spoken in front of people who haven’t quite figured out social media itself. Many of us at the conference were confused. And I’m generally considered ahead of most. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I want to learn.

But in the meantime, businesses still have to survive. They have goals to meet. There is no point trying to tell businesses to adopt sophisticated SMM when they are still new at social media. It could – and probably more often than I care to admit – simply be a case of having management that doesn’t understand. Management that’s still bo(b)sessed with Big (Almost) Meaningless Numbers. Sorry, they exist, they really do.

Singapore is hardly at the forefront of social media. More and more people I meet have awakened to the reality that we are some 3-odd years behind the US. Everything from harnessing geolocation for business to mobile payments to webpage design, we are behind. Point: there may not be much point in measuring unsophisticated technology with sophisticated measures. Unless your management is ready and demands it.

I’m not trying to make Singapore social media sound bad. I’m just trying to figure out how best to help businesses and organizations move along. If you confuse your boss when you’re reporting your social media performance using sophistication, you’re playing with fire – a confused boss is often a frustrated boss. A frustrated boss will constantly ask you to justify and re-justify your social media plans and budget. Sound familiar yet? It’s my own personal experience. That’s why you must do your best to put your reporting in terms your boss understands.

Just as I said in that previous post, by all means learn about all these powerful SMM techniques, but don’t forget the language of the bosses: English.