Friday, October 22, 2010

"A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers"

Plato clearly would have been an effective social media user.

In fact, I'm willing to say he probably would have earned himself many fans, followers and connections in the electronic networking world.  We would have been privileged to follow his thoughts and ideas, subscribing to @AcademyInAthens and gobbling up his philosophical musings.  "RT: @Socrates New Ideas on Western Philosophy"...

But I am sure that Plato would have been one of the first to recognize that leagues of followers and a million 'likes' cannot replace generating a genuine connection with an audience.

Franciso Rosales clearly understands this idea too.  The breadth of the connections you make is all very good, but you cannot simply measure success with a site-counter: depth is an important factor to consider too.  In his recent posting, Rosales explains the dilemma of whether numbers are important to a social media marketer: do you beat the drum as loud as you can to get the greatest number of followers, or do you value quality of connections above quantity.  I am a keen supporter of the quality argument: making a genuine and valuable connection with one person is far more valuable than a weak connection with ten.  However, as Rosales explains, which route to take is dependent on your overall strategy.

Measuring the success of your existence on the Internet is difficult.  Social media is a new and emerging tool for marketers, but should be used as part of a clear, overall strategy.  Rosales is quick to point out (and I agree) that before you just jump in and try to measure your success in social media, you need to "understand what your business objectives are and how they translate into online goals".  In most cases, do bigger numbers necessarily mean bigger profits?  No, "having higher Retweets than your direct competitor means nothing on the front-end".  In the exception of a few companies, who are trying to promote their own "information products for sale", number of followers or retweets means very little.  Know what your strategy is, why you are in the ring and how you being in it fits with your objectives.  Then and only then you can have a way of measuring your success.  As in any strategy, have SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Oriented.

Realistic is a key aspect of having a sustainable strategy and objective.  Rosales is quick to point out that social media is no exception.  Understanding what kind of connection you have made with a consumer defines what relationship you've made, what experience you have impacted and how valuable the relationship is for both parties.  If you're looking to make 'deep' relationships by finely controlling the brand experience, you need to be realistic in your measurements of success.  According to Rosales, "only a tiny fraction" of those 'liking' or following a feed "are actually engaging or [have real] relationships" with your brand.  Mark Collier agrees, going as far as to say that most social media numbers are in fact useless as a measure of success.  I feel there is a lot of merit here, especially if you are trying to enhance a brand image with the objective of creating purchases.  Measuring increases in sales seems to be the obvious choice, but even this has it's pit falls.  If you're on Twitter to purely boost sales, then I don't think you're there for the right reasons.  Through studying his own Twitter traffic, Collier concludes there are two important things to keep in mind: you're going to have low engagement from all your followers,  but those of who are more involved in your brand, you are going to have a high level of engagement from that group.  He states that the level of engagement is " likely be inversely proportional to the size of the group", citing an engagement rate of between "1-3%".  But, of those who are involved in a more meaningful relationship, you are going to have a larger portion of engagement, more like "33%" in his example. 

Clearly, there is an emphasis on understanding and controlling your relationships, it can make a huge difference when it comes to measuring your success.  It is a two-way street: you need to interact, respond and be involved in promoting the creation of a meaningful relationship.  If 'deep' is important, get involved.

I come back to the idea of a genuine relationship.  Rosales points out that 'social proof' is a big part of creating  credibility, in the same way that "a book cover reads 'Author of the Best-Seller'..." might sell better than one without.  In this way, he explains that numbers can be a symbol of your success and leadership and therefore build your credibility.  To an extent, I have to agree.  If it is important to you that people see you as successful and a leader and you feel the best way of attaining that is through numbers, then that is your strategy (and lets face it, in many cases this is what happens).  However, those people who know, who understand and who seek real value will agree that a popularity contest proves little.  Creating value is what matters: if you do not provide value to your followers, you will not create the interaction and commitment that will generate a positive and real brand experience.

Making decisions about how you use social media is about knowing what you want and how you are going to go about it.  Provide value, create meaning and interact.  It's what Plato would have done.

Have a comment?  Find me on Twitter and let me know about it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts.