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Resisting The Temptation of Meaningless Metrics

February 9th, 2010 · 7 Comments · All Posts, EricFletcher

With the question of measurable ROI of social media echoing at the financial end of the C-Suite, it is tempting to fall back on the numbers. And while hits, followers, friends and connections are measures to be sure, are they the measure of social media success? (For that matter, are the numbers a smart measure of the potential?)

In a recent roundtable with colleagues, a marketing manager described a campaign designed to do nothing more than exponentially increase hits on a consultant’s blog. The campaign sounded like a radio station-style promotional gimmick with one major exception: the overwhelming majority of those lured to the consultant’s blog were not in any way, shape or form targets for the blog’s content. The goal was simply to achieve thousands of “hits.” The “hook” for the campaign was a blatant example of false advertising, and well over 99% of those hitting the site, left as quickly as they arrived. Any thought that they might one day be an actual target of the consultant overshadowed by the fact that any hope for credibility was forever lost.

In the spirit of giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the objective of the “hits” campaign was to demonstrate the potential of the blog; but even assuming the best, the mere accumulation of numbers is a waste of time, creativity, and credibility with anyone paying attention.

If the “numbers” don’t represent relevant targets, the numbers are meaningless. They don’t reflect valuable connection, communication or relationship.

Those of us at the table openly scoffed. Why would anyone invest resources in such an effort? But a lone voice called us to task, comparing this campaign to the schemes and tools openly designed to increase Twitter followers and Facebook friends…seemingly without respect to whether the increase in numbers equates to an increase in relevant connections.

There can be little doubt that social media belongs at the strategic marketing table; but a few of the conversations I’ve eavesdropped on sound like emotional apologetics for something we feel we somehow need to protect.

It is worth noting that touting shallow or meaningless metrics is, at best, a career limiting strategy. On top of this, social media is viable for one reason; it is the fabric of the marketplace; the voice of consumers. Social media is not the property of marketers.

The case for social media is embedded in the reality that, in and of themselves, budgets, creative genius and media don’t matter; conversations do. The metric that defines success in this “new marketplace” is the number of quality conversations you’re having with targets.

A million followers is an impressive measure. But if they are not relevant targets, its little more than a noisy crowd.

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