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.

So if you’ve been reading any other blog entries, or have in fact met me in real life, then your going to be in a very good position to make an educated guess on to my answer to the question posed in the title. Of course, in true viewfromthedarkside fashion – I can whole-heartedly tell you yes, of course we can trust Twitter. Can we trust those who tweet? Now we’re talking.

Searching the Internet for worthwhile thoughts and information, I came across this very interesting blog entry on sponsored tweeting and consequently this gem of a website. The latter is a very interesting website that can calculate for you the supposed ‘worth’ of a celebrity endorsement on Twitter.

The idea that a celebrity out right telling you that they ‘endorse’ a product, is to my mind an absurd suggestion that people in general are idiots. Actually its not so absurd as I imagine many people are idiots and could well have their buying behavior influenced by a non-entity who appears only in gossip magazines for various unimportant reasons. Yes I do feel better for getting that off my chest, thank you.

I guess you can see where I’m going with this. By paying for a celebrity endorsement on Twitter, despite the tweet being marked as being paid for one does have to question the morality of influencing people through a medium that is designed to share people’s thoughts. But actually what do I care? If it works it works. That’s the business I’m in and I have no problem with using the tools at my disposal.

It’s well documented by many academics (L’etang, Grunig, Smith and co) that the art of PR is all about selling an idea or image of a product to a public. So in this age of interactive communications we can safely presume that the digital world is another (large) playground in which PR practitioners can play. But does the image created in this playground actually affect the product itself?

Lynx deodorant is a wonderful example of brand image. The suggestion of the Lynx brand is that by using their product, one may instantly attain the lustful desire of attractive women. I can tell you this: I have used a pre-teen male level of Lynx this morning. I can inform you now, after a trip to the golf club where I occasionally work, a brief visit to Guildford town center and a walk to the post office I am no more sexually active than I was pre-application of Lynx. Am I missing something?

But did I really expect the product to bring we scantily clad women? Hell no. But I still bought the product. Why? I’m pretty sure no one can answer that question without a substantial amount of educated guess work. We buy products because for whatever reason in our minds we like them. So you could presume therefore that an online PR campaign could be pretty integral to the success of a product. Let us look one of Lynx’s competitors. Old Spice recently ran an incredibly successful campaign integrating social media into its televised adverts. The campaign strategy is almost a parody of the Lynx message, “you can’t be me but you can smell like me”. This campaign does sell a more down to earth image of the product, but ultimately is still abstract.

Cut out the middleman

February 27, 2011

The use of social media in consumer PR is well documented and the positive effects of a well run online campaign are clear. But many businessmen and women have very logical beliefs that the use of such media as a PR tool can and does only work on a B2C basis. But this is a misconception. Many PR practitioners are having great success using various online social tools to promote their respective clients and businesses.

Base One is a PR Agency that specialises in using social media to promote its clients, with great success. On their website you will find a very interesting metaphor for social media in the business world, comparing the different platforms to the various components of a busy city centre. I admire the concept and feel that the comparison mainly hits the nail on the head. But take a step back and look at the purpose of all social media. The clue is in the name. SOCIAL media. I think that many if not all business to business’ are missing a trick. To attract more custom to your company why not promote your product to your customer’s customers? Consider this: if one can create a demand via a social media platform for a product created using your product, then businesses who’s customers want products created using your services will surely increase their interest in you. I believe that it won’t be long before B2B PR skips the middleman and markets directly toward those at the end of the supply chain.

Obviously this approach will benefit companies offering more tangible services, but social media could present a brilliant opportunity for B2Bs to increase their worth. Watch this space.