It was Albert Einstein who said not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.
Over the past five years our industry has struggled to evaluate the merits of social media statistics as they join ‘free publicity’ as one of the most used metrics to define a campaign’s success in today’s advertising environment.
With Cannes right around the corner, we expect to see many of the big hitters continue to rely on these, often unsubstantiated, numbers to wow judges.
As a Webbys judge this past year (the leading international awards honoring excellence on the Internet), I encountered some entries that consisted of little more than a link to a Twitter profile. As anyone who has done a social audit knows, evaluating a real-time media after the fact to unearth whether a strategy was successful can be quite a time consuming endeavour.
How many YouTube views are impressive? What percentage of social shares is above average? These metrics vary from country to country and are drastically affected by the use of paid social, which is not always disclosed as a part and parcel of the stat.
Part of my current work on the 4A’s Social Media Committee is to help establish social marketing measurement best practice, a standardized way to talk about social media marketing results. We’ve been working with the Media Ratings Council (who in turn is working with the IAB and ANA) to codify a much anticipated guidelines document, which in my opinion is sorely needed to supplement award show entry requirements.
But misuse of social media stats also exacerbates a narrow and tactical view of the role of social media in marketing as a whole. Many marketers still view social as a platform-based tactic with the sole purpose of helping to spread an idea. They ignore the much wider discipline of social media planning as a behavioural science: defining what connects us, what makes us human and how our culture manifests through conversation.
Buried deep under the Cyber category on the Cannes Lions website, nestled under section F09 in the categories and rules section, is a shining beacon of hope for our discipline – a category called Use of Social Data & Insight:
The creative interpretation of social data in order to target, engage or develop meaningful relationship with a specific audience or community. Insights gained through the strategic application of data/analytics and associated targeting methods will all be considered.
As Cannes 2015 approaches and we wait with baited breath for the finalist announcements from June 21st, let’s hope that we see more work that leverages this wealth of data instead of simply counting hashtags at the end of a campaign.
If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then the greatest proof of a contagious idea is when consumers take ownership.
And that’s something worth measuring.
Maura Tuohy is Head of Social at Elevenview more - Awards and Events