Sick of PR fluffery in reporting and numbers that seem to be dreamt up? Social media analysis is getting really, really good. If you know where to look it can offer the foundations for a digital marketing strategy.
My first few months in PR almost a decade ago were punctuated by the heady whiff of bullshit.
Tangibles, KPIs, measurements; there were not things hugely important in journalism at that stage. Online was still something you shoved in a cupboard upstairs to engage with the “yoof” (yes we called it that then) market. You had rajars and listener figures but that had to be seen with the station as an entirety. And as everyone knows people tune into the radio for the weather and traffic first and foremost. The rest is pretty much seen as colour.
Yet when you’re asking people to hand over wads of cash for PR the need to prove its effectiveness becomes increasingly important. As it should. That wasn’t something I had a huge issue with. How utterly crap the actual reports were proffered was another matter entirely. Google Analytics was always useful showing exactly where traffic to the site was coming from. But PRs are always very good at contextualising and adding a narrative, largely to do with behaviours and whether people are bookmarking pages instead of clicking straight through from the articles being created.
At least there were numbers, though. The first time someone explained the idea of AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) to me I laughed in their face until I realised they were telling me the truth. Only the PR industry could develop a tool for reporting that requires a whole new definition of the word arbitrary. Figures have been plucked out of arses with a greater level of accuracy than AVE.
It comes down to an intangibility, an inability to prove worth and results. Successful PRs, the really good ones where you can see and feel the impact, never have to use crap to pad out their reports. They can explain why having an article in The Times, an online blog and a monthly magazine is a good thing. They work within a wider team focused on pushing brand and messages via a variety of channels. Everything works in tandem and partnership. You haven’t got someone running off in a random direction on a ego train. They work with journalists, they don’t see them as a tool. If you have to create an equation to explain why you’re doing a good job, perhaps you’re not doing a good enough job.
So the reason I embraced social media so fervently as a PR tool was largely because of its tangibility. The numbers do not lie. Plus you talk directly to the audience.
And what do PRs do? They turn it into a conversation about reach. Reach, FFS. Ah you’re talking to this many people and this many people are clicking onto your website and your sales have done this, but because of your Twitter followers you *could* be talking to this many people. You can just never be sure.
Numbers don’t lie. If they’re not going in the direction you want them to go in then you’re not doing your job properly.
Also what social media analytics offer is, more than ever before, a greater understanding of your online audience that is vital to develop a wider digital strategy. Last month at a marketing conference I was following on Twitter the big “news” was that segmentation” is dead. Instead you have to analyse your audience based on behaviour (Note to marketers, look up what “segmentation” means).
How you divide and understand your audience largely depends on your audience and the brand or campaign you’re working on. But where they live, how often they tweet and spend time online and how much information they go on to share to their followers is a fairly good basis for an understanding of how these same people might behave online. Use that as a principle for segmentation and you understand where your brand is having an impact, what messages inspire people and what don’t and whether you’re wasting your time. If any kind of online activity is part of your approach then why would you not use this?
Good social media analytics offer all of those things.
The issue is when it stands alone. Thankfully we’ve, largely, moved on from the idea that because it’s free to set up a social media account then it’s free to run a social media campaign. Facebook barely works now unless you’re paying. But having someone doing social media who doesn’t feed into the rest of your marketing just seems like madness. You’ve finally been offered tangible figures as to how you’re going down with real people online, why is that something you’d shove in a corner. Segment your social media audience, study the analytics and use it as a springboard for the rest of your digital marketing. And ignore reach. It’s as useful as multiplying the rice of an advert by three.