This piece is in response to @thebrandbuilder post about the #SxsmROI panel and his multiple posts about his book. He deserves your respect, but if you aren’t open to critique along the same lines as he delivers, please do us all a favour and stop reading.
Hi, Brand Builder, you may not remember me, but we talked about military strategy and Sun Tzu about a year or so ago when you were going off on one of your famous tangents on Twitter about Content Strategy and the proper definition of it. I’m not entirely certain, there have been so many over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good rant, it’s entirely appropriate at points. I kinda agreed with you at the time, kinda, but I saw past the black and white to the grey which is what life is lived in. But, here we are again with your latest rant on #SXSWi and the SM ROI panel. You’ve written a book. Trust me, we are ALL aware of this fact. You talk about it constantly. Kudos. A book is an amazing achievement. I would to. Believe me. I know quite a few successful authors. They are all worthy of kudos. I’m sure you would agree. It’s a BIG DEAL. I’ve been wanting to write a book for longer than I’ve been on Twitter (which is over 5 years now, but client work got in the way unfortunately, and kids. Primarily the kids).
Since you brought it up and made a point of it, umm, why weren’t you able to make it onto the panel you then skewered at SXWS? I can understand if, like me, you’re a mom of twin 3 year olds and something tragic happened: babysitter fell through, they got sick, someone died, etc. But client stuff came up? Nope, not a good enough reason if you’re going to put it out there like that. Clients, unless it’s a crisis, and I don’t believe you’re in PR, understand and are actually pretty pumped if you have a speaking engagement that is as big as SXSW that showcases and provides THEIR CASE STUDIES (which a panel on ROI that you were planning to speak on would surely cover, right?)… And, as I’ve spoken at many conferences, you deal with client stuff when you aren’t in your 45 min session. Your hotel room is always available, you aren’t able to schmooze, but you make your session. You also, presumably have a laptop and smartphone that makes you accessible… no? So, what was it that prevented you from attending this panel but allowed you the time to snark from afar during the panel? I’m not saying there wasn’t a good reason, but for a communicator, it sure wasn’t articulated; other than you had a beef – WITH THIS PANEL. That you weren’t on. From afar, it feels a tad convenient.
So let’s get down to the panel itself… could you please articulate for all the Fortune 500 clients and those not in the 500, what exactly a “Back Channel” is, and where one would find such a thing? This is surely a huge issue for them as they seek to monetize and participate in conversations. There’s some kind of place where their consultants and agencies speak freely they aren’t aware of? Wow. Let’s make sure we get in on that action! Having an ability to freely discuss ideas amongst colleagues is paramount, calling it out as a weapon to use when it suits your purposes kinda defeats the purpose of it. As well, attribution of quotes could help companies understand who their audience is and what their perspective is. I think this would be really helpful as social media is about transparency and trust. This is the mantra everyone has been preaching to their clients for years now and is best practices amongst bloggers and journalists.
Also, if you’re going this route, could you please NAME the people you have such an obvious issue with? These aren’t sources you need to protect. I think that in the age of transparency and social media they should be given the ability to respond directly to criticism. Especially if it’s a 5-person panel and they took the time to prepare and show up to speak in front of their peers and potential clients.
Now, to the ROI issues, yes, we all recognize you have a very distinct take on ROI. I agree in its most clinical sense. But, just like all marketing, that’s not ALWAYS the key driver in communications. Sometimes you just need to build awareness and later on the purchase, or recommendation will happen. It’s not ALWAYS the case, but it is a key product driver. That will never change. And, truth be told, what you’re stridently advocating is, at its core, actually anti-social and doesn’t take the marketing funnel into consideration or consumer/ user needs or wants. Social serves many purposes, from the top of the funnel to the bottom. All of those are valuable in a true marketing environment.
Social is not (primarily) about direct sales, nor does it need to be. Social is an extension of many marketing functions and to claim otherwise shows a lack of holistic marketing knowledge that doesn’t belong in this channel. I know a lot of really smart people who attended and tweeted that panel and they were not “duped”. They work in the space every day with large clients and measure and do great work. If you don’t understand, then don’t judge, it’s that simple. If we were to take you at face value you’d be calling for them to be fired as they bought into BS. I’m certain that’s not what you meant. Do you have visibility into every client across the globe that is doing social or what their goals are? A lot of them are actually looking to the top of the funnel. You may not agree, but that’s marketing. Change it from insights, not a bully pulpit.
Now, in all fairness, I haven’t read your book, but it was on my list after I had time and stopped figuring out ROI on social channels for large clients. I’m always open to other opinions/ perspectives, but you know what, the kind of post and tweets you posted about that panel makes me think I don’t need to. The appearance is inflexible, nor are you looking at marcomm as a holistic enterprise/ experience. Prove me wrong. Or don’t, but I think the panel at SXSW had one kind of a distinct point. And that’s okay; you have yours, so show up or write another book about it, but the position that there is only one way to do things doesn’t actually feel very, well, social.
Speaking of social, you would have taken off your mike and walked out? REALLY? How does that help anyone? We aren’t in grade school; we’re in business. Don’t trash them passive aggressively. State your case: people will agree or disagree, as is their RIGHT. Maybe you were joking, but that smacks of pettiness. The social (and tech) space has been struggling with the people who feel it’s awesome to snark from afar at conferences and in blog posts about highly intelligent people they just don’t appreciate for some reason. I remember the Sarah Lacy mess with Zuckerberg and the danah boyd keynote where she couldn’t see the tweet stream behind her as two famous examples. Does anyone now doubt those are two smart people who perhaps have a different style than others but deserve respect? No. But the way they were treated after their appearances wasn’t fair. You’re doing the same thing now with the people on that panel, except you’re leaving it for us to guess who you’re talking about. There was nothing constructive about your post.
Everyone needs to measure ROI, yes, this is true, but not every channel actually needs to deliver ROI to be successful in its most purist form. Awareness and consideration is actually part of the purchase funnel, and if you can add trust to boot, well, my god, you’re ahead of the game. Do I want to buy things on Facebook? Nope. Twitter? Nope. Do I think about and talk about the awesome experiences with brands on those channels that later led me (maybe) to purchase? Yep. If I don’t purchase from those companies but know they treat their customers right, do I refer them? YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I DO. But that could be days or weeks or years later.
It ultimately IS about trust, goodwill, and just being a good human behind the company. ROI comes if you’ve got those things right… and probably through other channels that can’t be immediately tied back to a tweet or post. But you can measure other stuff – but that’s a different topic and much more complex.
Thanks for listening :)