Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Measuring Tactics vs. Measuring Success

I met with a fellow PR Pro tonight and we got to talking about measurement. As we discussed levels of engagement, number of clicks/views, downloads, comments made, number of e-mails sent, sign-ups for white papers, promotions and other sorts of "lead generating" content, it dawned on me - this is a tactical discussion-we're only talking about the measurement and results related to a specific communications tactic (e.g. a video, white paper, etc.). What are we and our clients doing to actually measure the long term strategic success of communication campaigns? Is quantitative ruling our reporting? And if so, what are we losing/missing by doing that?

Lately, it seems everyone is advocating the use of social media for business intelligence and situational awareness in the B-to-B marketplace. The webinars and events I've attend recently surrounding ROI and measurement seem to focus on the numbers game and less on on the qualitative analysis and looking at the larger picture of how a specific tactic relates back to a larger strategic communication plan that should be focused on furthering a company's business development, reputation and revenue goals. If a PR program doesn't drive or further business - then what's the point?

So how then should we be measuring the larger impact of communication campaigns? Number of views is nice. Number of unique views is better. And number of qualified stakeholder views is key. Traffic does not equal sales or influence. It may equal greater share-of-voice (which looks nice on a chart or in a clip report) or even awareness, but not necessarily influence, thought leadership or let alone sales/revenue. So what should companies be asking of their agencies in terms of measurement? I think it depends upon the companies goals. If counting views makes a company's executive team sleep better at night because their latest product video has gone "viral," then by all means count it a success. But if the on-the-ground marketing team is talking to the same company's clients and they aren't aware or because of firewall restrictions in their offices can't see the 'must view' viral video from this company, it's not as effective as it could be. Content for content's sake is not effective. Making sure your content is seen and appreciated by the right audience is key. So a video going viral with millions of downloads may be a success in the awareness and visibility category - but not in the long term business development goals of your company. 

I think one of the best ways for companies to gauge what is and is not tracking among their key stakeholders is to conduct focus group and mass audience recall surveys at least once a year (quarterly is better; monthly is ideal). This well help address key messaging gaps and provide insight on what types of content (not just advertising) is resonating among key audiences. What are your thoughts on how to shift the conversation from one of measuring individual communication tactics to measuring overall program success?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Influence Defined?

This is the Twitter bio of a person who decided to follow me in the last week:
"I get 5,000 followers a week on Twitter! Let me show u how 2 2!"

It's the archetype as old as the high school clique - does 'popularity' mean influence?

Maybe its just me, but followers don't necessarily equal influence. While auto-follow, auto-DM of new followers (nothing I've ever done or tried btw) is popular among some users, I fail to see how following everyone who follows you enhances or furthers an individual or company's goals with the tool.

To me influence is about finding, harnessing, and addressing whatever knowledge, information, data or character insights one can share with an audience and interacting with those who can enhance ones own views, provide a different point-of-view, or share mutual interests. It is not about dominance but about leadership and enlightenment.

As I've written before, the immediacy of Twitter makes it one of the most popular social media platforms out there. However, with most new users abandoning their accounts only a few short months into their experience, Twitter (more so than some other social media platforms) demands that individuals/companies enter with specific goals in mind - whether its content, engagement level, or (I would argue) to a certain degree who they choose to follow.

Having 20,000+ followers (or more than a million individuals hanging on your every tweet) does not exactly mean that person is the most credible or the most qualified in a specific area of expertise. It does mean that person is very good at understanding technology, personal branding, search engine marketing, or in some cases, good at interaction with followers, facilitation of debate, demonstration of online thought leadership and creation of good content that merits the mass following.

As far as online networks go, Twitter is emerging is the most open and in some cases the most jumbled social network that I am a part of. I follow and have more followers on Twitter than I do Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections. While this is a bit of apples-to-bananas-to-oranges comparison, I think it demonstrates that Twitter is emerging as an instant social network search engine where one *could* argue that the more followers you have, the better or at least more varied opinions one may receive from those you choose to allow in your network. However, do you really want responses from all your followers at any given time? Or just those that are qualified enough to answer the question (whatever criteria that may be based on). How does one aggregate and determine what is credible while not limiting the universe of those who may be able to answer the question that are not yet in your network? Or does word-of-mouth network referrals and even self-discovery of the answer/source (we all hate being told who's an 'expert' in something) prevent network limitations?

Credibility to me equals influence. So how DOES one establish, grow and maintain credibility in a given network? What makes one person more credible than another? In the social media world of metrics, numbers (in this case followers) may only tell one part of the story. As Twitter continues to emerge and new third-party applications and (gasp) a business model for the tool itself is introduced, I think the "influencers" will emerge and it may or may not be those who get 5,000 followers a week. Instead, the emerging trend of recommending certain people to follow and the contribution of content may count more than how many followers an account has accumulated. Only time will tell what influence Twitter will have on who and why we trust a specific individual or company.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Follow-up Part III: Company Outrage Online

It's been awhile since I checked-in on the ongoing dispute between Clean Air Gardening in Dallas, TX, and its former IMC agency, Christie Communications based in Santa Barbara, CA.  I first wrote about this in October of last year and from the looks of things, there appears to be no resolution.

Clean Air Gardening launched a Web site alleging egregious and horrible mistakes made by Christie Communications and over the last several months has appeared to post legal communications between their respective lawyers as both sides attempt to resolve the issues.

Looking at the Web site today, it seems that neither party is closer to a resolution and that the founder of the site is happy to continue to post and update visitors with the status of the case. The latest post is supposedly the text of an e-mail from an artistic director which at some point in time allegedly hired Christie Communications and appears to support the allegations made by Clean Air Gardening. While the Webmaster clearly states he has no way of verifying if this e-mail is true, it is an interesting development that other disgruntled customers may be coming forward. 

For the sake of both parties, I hope they reach a resolution soon. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in the Blogging Saddle

After a hiatus, I am back in the blogging saddle! My apologies to anyone who has regularly viewed the blog last month only to find no new posts. I have been busy settling in to my new apartment and travelling. My schedule is calming down now, so I am getting on my soapbox much more regularly!

If you want to know what I'm up to on almost a daily basis, please follow me on Twitter! DM or @ me and intro yourself. If you're working in or blogging about PR, social media, digital strategy or marketing, I would love to check out your blog and trade insights.

Time to get back to work (and blogging)! More soon and more often!