Social Media is Missing the Point

When you don’t know what to measure, you should know you’re in trouble. Many in the social media world might be wise to consider themselves in trouble.

Not long ago I interviewed the head of marketing for a $20 billion company.

“Our communication people are worried about the wrong things,” he told me. “I explain a business problem I’m having and they trot out the same activities. They worry about click-throughs, opens, mentions, share of voice, likes, awareness and retweets. I’m worried about sales and gross margin. Where can I find communication people who can help us improve our business?”

To be sure, some social media can be useful tools for achieving business goals by communicating faster, less expensively and with more flexibility.   However, I’m reading and hearing social media increasingly discussed as operating independently of a larger communication system. There’s a social media strategy. And then there are other communication-related strategies.

Compounding the problem is the fact that social media measurement is often disconnected from the business. Measures are soft, process metrics such as influence, audience growth rate, engagement, visitor frequency rate and share of traffic driven. Whatever happened to hard operational measures associated with sales, profitability, product quality, service delivery and return on investment?

One reason social media are independent and disconnected is that many social media developers and sellers come out of technical and staff roles rather than business operations. They sell social media as activity not as solutions to business problems.

Research and experience show that employees want to do good things for customers. Customers want employees to do good things for them. Marrying those two sets of needs together can create business “harmony.”
Social media should play a role in that overarching communication process. It needs to integrate with the larger communication system rather than disconnect from it.

The graphic below depicts external communication providing information to a customer who in turn makes an informed decision that leads to buying or not buying a product or service.Meanwhile, internal communication provides information to employees who in turn make decisions and take actions that deliver the customer experience.

Social media measures need to align with the overall organization’s measures. If, for instance, one of a manufacturer’s key performance indicators is accident reduction, the communication system, including social media, should be focused on addressing near misses, which is a recognized approach to reducing accidents. Don’t look for things social media can do for the sake of doing things. Their role should be to add value and that means creating gain greater than the cost of creating it.

Budweiser’s famous Clydesdales are horses that have helped build the company’s reputation for many years. USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter measures the popularity of Super Bowl ads—how well viewers like the ads. Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads tend to be touching and compelling, scoring high on the Ad Meter.  Budweiser wants the horses to be liked. But over and above that “like” metric is, “Did those horses sell more beer?”

Key Takeaway: The entire communication system, including social media, should be focused on driving performance upward—not just creating more activity.  If you can’t find a way for social media to participate in that role, don’t use it.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for a terrific article, but if you must know, I’m sitting in the choir. Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that buzz is not biz, biz is biz. A transaction must take place, I give you money, you give me something in return. No transaction = waste of time, money and missed opportunity.

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