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Social media metrics are useful, immediate and for everyone – even influencers

Technology & Data

Social media metrics are useful, immediate and for everyone – even influencers


Recently, social media metrics and influencer marketing have received some heavy blows at the collective water cooler. Warren Davies suggests that the issue is a tad more complicated than some may be characterising.

Warren Davies 150 BWOver Summer there has been a series of high profile pieces on ad fraud and fuzzy digital metrics. It’s fair to say the problem of trusted attribution faced by advertising throughout its history affects paid digital media today also. By some reports less than 60% of web traffic today is human. Hello to all you ‘smart’ fridges reading this.

This is deeply alarming for our industry but also a pointer to where we are headed in brand communications. If Alibaba does have an AI writing 20,000 headlines a second we all need to think about how we approach the work.

Recently, the wonderful strategist and master of lateral thinking Dave Trott talked down social media metrics and influencers as “fashionable nonsense”.

His armchair wisdom is that the ‘current fashion seems to be influencer marketing’. Well, yes. But it’s been the case since there was media and people of interest to the media (as he observes). Much as James Bond in a fancy watch sells in print or TV, Snoop Dogg in shoes on Instagram sells. For now. The principle of endorsement is sound, even if measurement can be sloppy at times.

I’m happy to be corrected but I detect a little snobbishness from Dave about the tactic of endorsement. I’m inclined to agree – for an industry that prides itself on creativity, slapping a logo on our current collective squeeze feels a little lazy. Dirty even. But it need not be the only approach taken to marketing and advertising. It rarely is.

Use of social media metrics has been a thorn in the side of creative agencies for years. Keen to stay on top of what clients want, they took the briefs to ‘encourage engagement’, start movements and ‘go viral’. It’s a different way of working though: paying to put a well crafted idea in front of millions of people for 30 seconds repeatedly is not the same as building a product community or petitioning parliament via email.

World class creative and media agencies give best value with bold new thinking for brands and hard to match value in spreading these. That should occupy most of their time. Tactics and optimisation in channels are best left to more nimble services and agencies closer to the people and working effectively without the benefit of paid media oftentimes.

Many of the measures in social media are hard to compute. If you’ve ever downloaded a Facebook Insights report you’ll know the fun of having 50+ measures to answer the single question: did it work?

The answer is usually, ‘it depends’.

This does not mean the measures are nonsense, simply that we are (again) at the start of a big hill to climb and we have work to do. It would be wonderful if the truth of reach, engagement and commercial results could be summarised in a line (or op-ed) but it can’t and I suspect it never will. As soon as the media and cultural environment becomes stable, it is disrupted again and the process repeats itself. We experiment, we measure, we learn.

 If you’re looking to engage the services of an agency, consultant or influencer, pay close attention to exactly what is being offered and how. Ask for a good business case, with data, on why it is likely to work for you specifically. If it’s too good to be true or feels wrong, it most likely is. But that shouldn’t deter you from testing new methods, audiences or services.

Gloriously, spreading ideas through the internet does not replace interruptive advertising, it complements it. As TV did for radio and radio did for theatre, the internet and all of it’s messy goodness does for established media channels and thinking. It deepens and widens our understanding of the world.

To be honest, I’m a little over the dadsplaining on the topic. In 2019 I’ll be looking to learn from others pulling together the new tenets of effective communications with people across a diverse cultural landscape. It’s going to be ace.

Warren Davies is partner and managing director at Pretty Neat


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Image credit:Jennifer Burk


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