Measuring intangibles

April 25, 2011

Around about this time of year, every sports nerd such as myself becomes obsessed with the NFL’s annual draft and the sports most elusive phrase: a player’s intangibles. They refer not to how fast an athlete can run, or how much weight he can lift, but to his leadership ability, his intellect and above all his desire to win. A near impossible task, guesswork at best. I mention this as I feel measuring a player’s mental strength draws similar comparisons to the task of measuring the impact of social media.

My last blog put great emphasis on the numbers associated to an online campaign by Old Spice. I quoted numbers in their millions relating to people following, watching or ‘liking’ the brands online presence on social media sites. I even hypothesized about what those statistics mean, but that is all it was: a hypothesis. The effects of ‘successful’ interaction on these platforms is intangible, so much so that no one is quite sure what success even looks like.

Of course there are theories and ideas on how to measure the impact of social media, but ultimately a purchase decision already incurs numerous variables without throwing social media into the mix. You can talk all day about how many people clicked on a linked tweet, how long they stayed on that page and how many eventually made a purchase through said link. But that isn’t what social media is about.

The business of PR itself is intangible. We don’t live or die by numbers. We promote an image and manage reputations. These ideas are abstract, but don’t try and tell me that the benefits of these practices are worthless. Let’s keep the numbers in the accounting department. You can’t put a number on an issue affecting a brand, but you know it must be dealt with. Likewise we use social media to enhance our communicative potential and ability with our audiences. We are communicators, not number crunchers.