Be careful of what you ‘like’
From Klout scores to Facebook's "talking about" numbers, a sea of bad data surrounds us online. While you may need data to evaluate work and justify your budget, be wary when consuming it.
Working with bad data is counterproductive and can impair your ability to properly assess situations.
We know tallies of Twitter followers don't mean much on their own, but when the numbers look good, it is easy to mark that as a success and call it a day. We also know Klout is not a true measure of influence, but we rely on it nonetheless.
Impressive claims of online impact and influence abound, but more often than not, the actual data behind it proves nothing of the sort.
For example, touting a brand's high social impact based simply on its total number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers is misleading and not just harmless spin. Conflating (theoretical) reach with impact is damaging.
Bad data is worse than no data.
These situations are becoming more common because measurement is not yet a principal go-to tool. It has long been treated as an afterthought - or as a libation at the altar of the C-suite - and campaigns suffer as a result. More recently, measurement has been elevated to a buzzword, but little else.
When done well, measurement can be a critical strategic asset that makes campaigns more effective. Solid data that's directly correlated with objectives demonstrates return-on-investment, and helps you refine tactics throughout campaigns and make better strategic decisions in the future.
Evidence-based communication is simply better communication; the right data makes success easier to achieve.
The flip side is that when you fail to measure properly, it is at the expense of your goals. What you measure is what you get. Just as ad value equivalencies once drove a focus on quantity over quality, Facebook "likes" as a key metric leads to a focus on garnering "likes" at the expense of other factors.
Unless that is one of your objectives (and there are legitimate cases where it may be), don't be ensnared by the easy-to-measure nature of this and other similar figures.
Instead, focus solely on metrics that are directly linked to objectives. They should mirror the impact you're expecting from your campaign.
How do you expect it to change what your stakeholders are saying about you and how they're behaving? And how do you measure that?
From this type of sound data, you will draw meaningful insights and conclusions, and then act accordingly.
Measuring the right things and measuring them correctly may take considerable time and resources, but the results are of immense value.
Harold Li is assistant digital strategist at Burson-Marsteller.
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