Tag Archives: measurement

Consider the Roles Your Content is Playing Before Determining Its Success

April 16, 2014

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Image Credit: Matt Becker

Image Credit: Matt Becker

“Can’t see the forest for the trees” –> An expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole.

Remember this scene in Major League (great movie, BTW) when Willie Mays Hays keeps trying to hit the ball out of the park even though he’s the fastest guy on the team? His manager comes over and tells him to hit the ball on the ground and leg out his hits because that’s the role he plays on the team.

Or this scene in Miracle when Herb Brooks says he’s “not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right ones”?

Makes sense, right? Anyone who’s ever assembled a team – sports, work or otherwise – knows it’s about the sum of the parts, not the individuals. A team of superstars is great for fantasy football, not so much in real life.

Maybe you’re not as big a fan of sports movies as I am. In that case, think about your group of friends. You likely have a friend you go to when you have something serious to talk about. That same friend may not be the person you’d choose to plan your bachelor party. You, like both of the movie coaches above, realized that each player or friend played a different role when viewed in the larger context of your life.

I share these analogies because I’ve had quite a few recent conversations with clients, colleagues, and friends who were obsessing over the performance of an individual blog post, Tweet, or Facebook status. What was the reach? What was the clickthrough rate? How many times was it shared? It made me want to ask about the performance of that lunch meeting with a mentor or that single in the softball game last night. Did you compare that lunch to other lunches you’ve had and kick yourself for not fully optimizing it? Did you swing for the fences your next time up because why accept a lousy single when you can crush the ball over the fence?

Very little in life can be measured in a vacuum. A home run is better than a single right? Then why not fill your team up with huge guys who crush the ball every time up? A crazy weekend in Vegas is better than a night at home playing trivial pursuit, right? Then why not head out to Vegas every weekend? Well, for starters, you’d end up with a team of players who do this and a life that resembles this. But it’s also because the success or failure of anything has to always be considered within the larger context. A crazy weekend in Vegas is great, but sometimes you just want to chill out at home. A home run hitter is great except when you need someone to run down that fly ball in the outfield. 

The same thinking applies to brands and their use of social media. Just because that cat GIF you posted reached more people and had more likes than the post where you talked about your organization’s community service efforts doesn’t mean it was any more or any less “successful.” Just because that Tweet of your staff party wasn’t retweeted 100 times doesn’t mean you should stop sharing that sort of content. Just like the home run hitter and the base stealer, each piece of content plays a different role in your overall strategy and needs to be measured as such. Your goals for that content should be driven by you, not by the social platform. In some cases, you may be trying to drive traffic to a website, or to drive shares of a piece of a content, or sometimes, it’s just to show a different side to your organization. Your social media content and conversations are not banner ads so stop evaluating them that way. 

Continue to be a slave to the metrics these social platforms use and you will soon become part of their business strategy, rather than the other way around.

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You Become What You Measure

January 6, 2014

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As we kick off 2014, we’re awash in PR trends and predictions. Here are six trends to watch in 2014. Here are 20 more. And another 10 more. But let’s look a little further ahead. And let’s start by looking at the implementation of standardized testing in our nation’s schools, the performance reviews of police officers, and the recent financial crisis.

These three seemingly incongruous industries are actually suffering from a situation that will soon face the PR industry as well. They’re all suffering from quant overshoot. It’s one of the four stages of the rise of the quants as described by Felix Salmon in his excellent “Numbed by Numbers: Why Quants Don’t Know Everything” article in January’s WIRED. In the overshoot stage, people stop thinking like people and start thinking like machines.

“On a managerial level, once the quants come into an industry and disrupt it, they often don’t know when to stop. They tend not to have decades of institutional knowledge about the field in which they have found themselves. And once they’re empowered, quants tend to create systems that favor something pretty close to cheating. As soon as managers pick a numerical metric as a way to measure whether they’re achieving their desired outcome, everybody starts maximizing that metrics rather than doing the rest of their job – just as Campbell’s law predicts.”

Salmon points to police departments that judge effectiveness on arrests and schools that focus their efforts on increasing standardized test scores as examples of the unintended consequences of yielding decision-making to quantitative data. What scared me as I read this article is that I see marketing and PR taking the exact same road. Quantitative analysis of big data is thoroughly disrupting our industry – everything we do now can be measured, analyzed and optimized. We use tools like Sysomos and Radian6 to track millions of social media posts. We use sophisticated algorithms to measure the specific level of influence people have among their friends. We use social network analysis to determine how messages flow from one person to another. We can even use cookies and web analytics to optimize the actual content that you see when you visit a site. And we’re only at the beginning. PR is going to get more and more data-driven, allowing us to become more efficient than we’ve ever been.

And that’s what scares me.

Image courtesy of Flickr user themadlolscientist

PR has always been more art than science and for good reason

Just because we can measure and optimize something doesn’t always mean we should. We’re abdicating our relationships and conversations in favor of statistical models and algorithms. Data has undoubtedly made PR more efficient and effective, but I worry that we don’t know when to stop. We’ve already stopped using Twitter to actually talk with people. Instead, we analyze the length, content, and timing of them to optimize their reach and shares. I’ve already seen instances where relationship-building Tweets like “Great article @reporterX – will be sharing that one around the office!” are shunned because they won’t impact engagement numbers. We’ve resorted to sharing “inspirational quotes” not because they do anything for our brand, but because they’ll get us more likes. We ignore reporters and bloggers who don’t measure up to some arbitrary influencer score. Where does it stop? Will it stop? Can we stop? 

PR can and should serve a critical role in the integrated marketing mix. PR should be the ones who help mitigate the impact of the overshoot stage and quickly move organizations into stage four – the synthesis stage, the stage where quantitative data is married with old school subjective experience. PR professionals should be the ones who help bridge this gap, not fall victim to the same over-reliance on data that doomed our financial systems or our schools.

In 2014, let’s make a concerted effort to not be a slave to data. To not let machines and spreadsheets dictate our conversations and relationships. To remember that public relations is still more art than science. To use data to enhance our decision-making, not make decisions for us. Let’s recognize that no matter how advanced the data gets, computers and algorithms will never be able to replace actual human interaction. Hopefully, PR professionals will still be able to do that in between analyzing their graphs and spreadsheets. 

*Image courtesy of Flickr user themadlolscientist

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Justifying the Time You Spend on Social Media

January 18, 2011

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"Ummm, so I didn't see the ROI of that last joke - try again with something a little more effective and maybe then I'll pay attention"

The other day someone asked me, “how do you justify the time you spend on Facebook and Twitter – don’t you have real work to do?” This was after I told my wife that I couldn’t make dinner yet because I had to finish up some work, only to have her chastise me for responding to some messages that I received on our company’s Yammer feed. Presumably, if I had instead been working in a spreadsheet or typing an email, neither question would have been asked.

But why should it be any different? When we’re talking about social media, why does the medium matter more than the content?  Why is it professionally acceptable to send a client an email than a Facebook message? Why is writing a white paper looked at as real work but a blog post isn’t? I’ve been asked to justify the ROI on individual blog posts, but no one has ever asked me to demonstrate the ROI of any of the hundreds of emails I send every day.

Shouldn’t the content be what determines what is considered work, not the medium? Why is social media held to this impossibly high standard when other technology isn’t?

This double standard has frustrated me for years – just once, I’d like to go through my colleagues’ emails and phone calls and ask them to justify all of their time spent using their technology. “Hmmm….looks like you’ve sent the same email out five different times – seems like a lot of unnecessary duplication! What’s with these status meetings you keep going to – are they bringing in any additional sales?”

Here’s the thing – the effectiveness of social media, like other forms of communication, should be measured at the macro, not the micro, level. Measured in a vacuum, all of those emails, phone calls, and business lunches wouldn’t mean much either. But taken as a whole, they paint a much different picture. You had lunch together, which led to a follow-up phone call, which led to a marketing meeting at his office, which led to another phone call, which then led to a new contract – congratulations! While that last phone call may have sealed the deal, that doesn’t mean that that lunch you had two months ago wasn’t just as, if not more, important. Just because it didn’t directly lead to a new contract doesn’t mean your time at that lunch was worthless – it helped you build that relationship.

The same is true in social media. While that Tweet about your favorite movie may not be related to your core business and wasn’t retweeted hundreds of times, that by itself doesn’t mean anything. There should be ebbs and flows in the content you post, and while individually, those tweets about your favorite movies may not contribute directly to those all important metrics, they do help lay the foundation that will allow everything else to be more effective.

Now, whenever someone asks me to justify the time I spend here, or on Twitter or Facebook, my responses usually end up sounding something like this:

  • “Remember when you needed a contact at that government agency and I was able to connect you with Joe? Yeah, Joe and I have exchanged a few messages over Twitter – he’s a great guy”
  • “You know how we got that project of yours highlighted in the New York Times last week? I read the reporter’s blog and he recognized my name from all the comments that I’ve left there”
  • “Those two junior employees we just hired who you absolutely love? I actually met them at a conference last year and kept in touch via Facebook, so when I saw they were frustrated with their jobs, I reached out and brought them in for interviews.”

Trying to parse this out and determine the ROI of a single tweet, blog post, or Facebook status is a futile, short-sighted effort.That’s why the Twitter feeds for most big organizations are unbelievably boring – we need to make sure that we track the ROI for every post, link, and tweet!! Instead of measuring each of these things individuals, try looking at it holistically.  If you do, the ROI of the relationships that you form over time will actually be pretty easy to demonstrate.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user russeljsmith

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What Kind of Impact Has Social Media Had on Your Organization?

May 7, 2010

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I’ve been in many meetings with senior executives where the topic has turned to social media, and sooner or later, THE question comes up –

“So, explain to me again why we should be playing around with [insert your social media tool of choice here]?  What’s the ROI of doing this?  I just don’t see how talking about what you ate for dinner on your ‘blog’ is going to help us accomplish the mission.”

Now, at this point, I’m usually fighting an internal battle between jamming a pencil in my eye or resisting the urge to shake the executives and yell, “why don’t you understand the benefits of open collaboration and communication??!!!”

Granted, the discussion doesn’t usually devolve to that level (but imagine how much more fun meetings would be if they did), but I’ve spoken to a number of people in the Gov 2.0 community who have experienced similar frustrations.  While there’s no shortage of resources for how to measure the ROI of social media, but unlike commercial companies, our government doesn’t use social media to make money or to sell products.  One can’t measure the value of using social media in a government agency in sales or revenue.  How do you measure the value of transparency?  How do you measure the value of open collaboration?  And even if you could, how do you make the case that transparency is worth the investment?

As Katie Paine says in Jason Falls’ excellent post on this topic, “Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?'”

So, are government agencies getting what they want out of the conversations?

That’s why Booz Allen Hamilton has teamed up with GovLoop to conduct an investigation into the usage of social media by our government at the federal, state, and local levels. We want to identify and assess the impact that the use of social media has had on efficiency, morale, budgets, outreach, internal communications, leadership effectiveness and other results.

To that end, we are conducting a survey of GovLoop members (survey is only open to members of GovLoop, so if you haven’t joined yet, this is a good reason to do so!) to get their input on what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why. The results of this survey will be published in a report and (hopefully) shared later this month at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC.

For each survey respondent, GovLoop will also make a donation to the Social Media Club – Education Connection to further the development of social media education at our country’s colleges and universities.

If you’re a member of GovLoop, please take the survey and help us identify what types of benefits (if any) you and your organization are seeing from social media.

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