measuring the true value of social media

July 29, 2009 · 0 comments

how do we measure the true value of social media? what are the metrics to know it's working? these are the questions that have plagued social media for some time. my guess is that some executive threw this out as a challenge to something they didn't understand. then some well intended social media people answered this and it propagated. i don't know. at the same time it has plagued, it has also helped the industry come to accept social media's legitimacy in the marketing toolbox. so that's a good thing.

here's a list of the measures i see most often:

  • comments
  • retweets
  • google page rankings
  • followers/fans
  • reviews
  • ratings
  • trackbacks
these are good measures and valuable intractions by our consumers. but why are we so hung up on them? you have to admit that these participatory actions are likely the minority of total traffic.

these measures are all transactional and really just quantitative, but we've been professing the web to be more than a transactional medium for years now. we've touted social media as different because it's participatory, but that's not everything. social media is still a message stream, just one that consumers CAN be a part of in a really powerful and meaningful way; one that is two-way. because they can, doesn't mean they will.


let's look back to the forrester technographics ladder. still the biggest areas are the 'inactives' (those who consume nor produce anything in social media) and 'spectators' (those who merely take in, but do not contribute). i think it's safe to say that efforts in social media have an effect on them as well (positive or negative) but we're not capturing that effect by focusing on participatory measures.

i don't mean to belittle consumer interactions in the least, it's the cornerstone of this movement but it is just one aspect to the whole picture. more people will move up the ladder and become more involved with social media so they'll continue to be increasingly important. however, for that uninvolved segment, we need to still determine the impact our activations have. even for the involved constituency, we need to gauge the effect as well.

the measures i'm talking about are brand favorability, purchase intent, recall of specific messages and other brand equity benchmarks. we need to start talking about these and establishing them for our brands. it's a uniform way with which we can ascertain the effectiveness of our activities across the board, in conjunction and in isolation.

only with measures like these can we truly get at the efficacy of our activities against the broader audience, not just the select few deeply involved. if social media is the game changer in communications with our consumers, then we need to know exactly how our involvement in social media with them is changing their perceptions, actions and purchase decisions.

it's probably safe to say that the involved set have been positively affected and have altered perceptions, but do we really know that? and i hope that our efforts are reaching more and affecting more than the 10 people who commented. we need to start talking about and evaluating our social media presence in these terms, validating against them and adjusting our activities in response.

getting real with iphone apps

July 10, 2009 · 2 comments


one topic that i see talked about in my job almost daily and that for sure i read about daily is the iphone. specifically, applications for said device. i see why all the excitement abounds, but i don't really get it.

yes, there are some great apps. they are few. most are simply non-uttilitarian, briefly novel, limitedly functional or just pointless. while that is opinion, my issue is simply a numbers game. from my particular standpoint as a media planner, there is a signifficant gap in the value equation. i have to weigh investment in one thing to another because no one can do it all.

the simple number is 4%. that's the penetration amount for the iphone here in canada and in the usa. that is the total available market for your app. i should rephrase that: potential market. is that critical mass? further, you're likely only going to get a fraction of that to actually use it. how's that as an audience for your $50K+ investment? that's what i find hard to digest and rationalize.

of course, the response is: develop an app for each platform. android (even lower penetration), windows mobile (why even bother), blackberry (getting better) and palm (does this even matter). that's nice for the production houses who can get paid for making the same thing five times. that undoubtedly leaves the majority of the market underserved as non-smartphones are a huge contingent of the mobile market.

i'll also just throw in these other small issues that make it more nonsensical. varying carrier technologies when the iphone only supports one. exclusivity carrier agreements that will limit it right at the outset. there is only one distribution point - the itunes store.

what amplifies my troubles with iphone apps and developing for multiple platforms is the alternative. of course i'm talking about WAP pages, a universal applicaiton. something any even poorly web enabled phone of the lowest common denominator can access. as for cost, probably less than the cost of making in app for one platform.

sure there isn't the flashyness of an iphone app, but it sure is functional, efficient, cross-platform usable and broadly accessable. sorry you can't use the accelerometer. sorry that your shiny new object need can't be allayed.

my other stumbling point is how iphone apps are a trend unto itself when it eschews the general technology trends. what i mean is we are at a time when everything is moving to a web based model and desktop programs (the apps equivalent) are slowly going the way-side. building an isolated platform (as is the iphone) is counterintuitive. what makes mobile any different? why are we forgetting about the semantic web, another leveragable data collection point.

all this is not to say we shouldn't invest in these. not at all. it's being smart about it. not doing it as your only mobile initiative or having expectations set really high for them. it's the attitude around these from agencies selling them through to marketers demanding them.

thinking inside the box pt. 2 - what broadcasters and cable providers become

July 3, 2009 · 2 comments

so if the value of a broadcaster (need to find them a new name) is not what it once was (a start to finish, media, content and distributions company) what is it going to be? i see them playing in two places:

  1. content creation
    simply, the broadcasters become a production house. no different from a movie studio. they'll continue to make the content, brand it as their own and sell it to the cable companies. so the tv monetization model shifts from selling the media within themselves, to selling the rights and cable companies sell the media within. of course there is still the money to be made from integrating brands into the programming so that revenue stream survives.
  2. on the web
    the cable companies have no play on the broadcasters websites, so this is still their own territory to own. they control the delivery system and thus can sell the media within, however they choose. same as now, but they'll still have to rethink this model too.
then there's the cable companies. they, in essence, become the new broadcasters and barons of media selling. there is one problem though; it creates giant monoliths, controlling content, advertising, and reams of consumer data. of course, it needs to be regulated, either by the people or the government, or both. because the linchpin of all this is the consumer data, the government will step in, under the auspices of privacy, to ensure there's no foul play.

interesting things happen in this situation:
  1. the basis of buying
    because it's no longer a speculative model, based on audience estimates, we are buying impressions. it's no longer buying a whole audience, but buying individuals and as much or as little of them as you want. a person, is a person, is a person. this leads to a standardized cost and then buyers will be able to select on various levels of granularity to targeting and a premium at each incremental one.
  2. the whole audience
    with everything being sold based on the box we can now sell things as a whole so it is the totality of a show that you can access and cable companies can monetize. live, on-demand and pvr. though, read below in that the future really only holds one type, but for now we would buy it wherever.
  3. dynamic ad placement
    as i alluded to in the previous post, ads are not part of the stream but dynamically fed in by the box. there's a host of great new ways this can be used. more timely ads, live ads, dynamic copy ads, interactive ads, and many others that are similar to current web models (overlays, skins, companions, etc).
  4. content abundance
    there's so much potential for a massive influx of diverse content. because we're still on a model of a broadcast stream, it's limited to 24 hours per channel. lose that constraint and we're no longer limited to content from those channels. new content from all kinds of production houses, from studios to independents, can flood in.
  5. the data store
    again, as mentioned before, all the data we can enter to personalize and all the data that is collected based on viewing patterns is available (within reason) to marketers for relevant placement of ads.
  6. micropayments
    as a way to fairly charge users for the amount of programming they consume. now users who are light watchers aren't paying the same rates as the heavies.
i'd call that a compelling situation for us advertisers and agencies. even more compelling for the cable providers. yes, it brings us to a potentially orwellian future, but i'm not sure there is another way to continue marketing effectively, and serve consumers' needs (content as they want it and relevant ads) through tv. are there other options?

so to complete the thought, my full vision of where tv is headed goes like this. there are no more time slots, there are no stations, there is no appointment viewing, there is no constant programming that is 'on', there is just content you can access. when you turn on your tv, it goes to an interface and you navigate to where you want, either by browsing shows or just calling up the ones you know. probably voice activated eventually. live programming (ie. sports, news) still happens, it's just not constantly streamed, you just open up a stream of it. surfing doesn't happen anymore, we're actually engaged with what we want 100% of the time. you favorite shows for easy access. there's a random button that gives you options based on other programs you watch. you set up your own playlists. you buy right from the program. branded content is interchangable with programming.

thinking inside the box pt. 1 - the set top box: the future of broadcasters

July 2, 2009 · 0 comments

i was in the midst of writing a post about new models for tv broadcasters when it dawned on me - it's not about them anymore, they're not in control. not for the tv anyway. you're saying, 'duh, tell me something new.' i'm not necessarily talking about consumers being in control, but the cable companies.

the blog post was supposed to be on how broadcasters could reboot their model to address the digital future and changing consumer behaviors. it had its points, but something just seemed to be missing, though i couldn't pinpoint it (hence why i didn't post last week). then i just realized, what i'm proposing is outside of their capability in a meaningful way.

where i got hung-up was the ever-expanding on-demand side of the media consumption world. save for the online world, they had no presence. you may say: 'but everything is moving online anyway.' yes, it's all going to be available online, but the point is more that it is going digital, which allows it to be online. you see, tv isn't going anywhere. it is still an unparalleled experience that will still be a centerpoint of homes. it will converge with online and all things digital, but as a content consumption platform, it is here to stay.

step into the past
broadcasters became media entities simply because they had their bandwidth (the signal) and controlled the product in all ways. they made the shows, cut them up, they sold the ads, inserted those ads in between, then produced the signal with which it was all carried, straight to the home. what they put out is how it was received start to end.

the shift that started before the digital revolution is in the delivery system. it went from being a signal through the air to being piped in through copper or fiber-optic cable. the cable companies disintermediated without ever altering the signal. this hasn't been an issue because the internet along with other on-demand and personalization technologies haven't posed the significant challenges to the system until now. that and the increasingly savvy, fickle and ignoring youth that have emerged.

what's impending is a massive power struggle for consumer attention between the broadcasters and cable companies. and it's a battle that the cable companies should win, both for us marketers and the consumers. here's why.

the signal is fading
the old way of broadcasters operating, that of one signal, sent out through the air,is dead. it just doesn't make sense anymore. even if it is a digital signal that they're implementing in the usa. there are no opportunities left for a sophisticated marketers or consumers by this means.

the airwaves don't provide an efficient system of delivery, nor the ability to implement anything but singular content and messages. it's all going to the set top boxes where technology is able to segment, personalize, target and be responsive.

no one broadcaster will do
this is the data level, the semantic level. the web 3.0 of tv. there is only one entity that will be able to take the vast quantities of data that we'll soon be able to collect about audiences; their demographics, behaviors, consumption patterns, and lifestyle and make it usable. it can't be a broadcaster because they are only one of many players and as any good company does, they only look out for their interests. no, it has to be a 3rd party and who better than the delivery system.

the cable companies are the ones who can aggregate all that data and package it into something that marketers can use. it's the sum of our activity, across all networks, stations, and programs that define us and make us valuable targets, not what we do on each of those in isolation to the rest. and because they generally also are the pipeline for the internet, it's even more interconnectedness.

targets of one, not targets of all
we're not a homogeneous herd anymore and we have to stop treating consumers that way. it just doesn't apply anymore. as consumers tune out more and more to mass messages, targeting becomes the savior. in order for content to be properly monetized the ads within need to be relevant to the audience to have any impact and show roi to the investment of buying time in said content.

the technology will be so it doesn't assume a potential audience of which you buy the whole of it against a very broadly defined segment of it. rather, it will be where you buy just those that you want. that's not possible over the airwaves. the cable companies can distribute the content, not as a uniform signal from the broadcaster, but as the content interspersed with their own data generated advertising.

the on-demand environment
the broadcasters never played here in controlling the experience. that is except for limiting what was available. i have seen limited monetization happening by the broadcasters as each program that was on-demanded had some kind of ad in it as it was basically a broadcasted stream. per the points above, that's not going to continue working.

where's it all going
so what arises out of this? let's leave that until tomorrow, i've already written enough words for one post (as i often do). i'll hypothesize about where both networks and cable companies will play and how the industry will shake out.

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