September 25, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Social Media Hurts Broadway

Social Media Hurts Broadway

Some 16 Broadway plays are closing or have closed in the span of a few months. Observing Broadway’s sharp downward trend, I looked for a similar upward trend. I found that trend in the growth of social media.

“Hairspray”, “Young Frankenstein”, Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe’s horsing around in “Equss”, and even the coconuts of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” will all fall silent soon. Meanwhile, web sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other “social sites” are growing at an unprecedented rate.

My “tongue-piercing-cheek” conclusion that social media is to blame must be correct: I have data to back it up. Sure, the economy isn’t what it used to be. However, the social media charts goes up, and the Broadway charts goes down.

All sarcasm aside, it is not that unusual for companies to misuse their own stats to reach conclusions seemingly as rational.

I truly enjoy the theater, but I spend much of my days working with numbers as a web, marketing and business analyst. I make money and save money based on the intelligence my teammates and I can derive.

Never underestimate the power of a team where people are free to share their experiences and talents, embrace ambiguity as a starting point of an idea, and free of fear from saying the unpopular. It’s a great combination to help grow a business.

There are several simple rules I believe can improve your business decisions, assuming they are based on facts.

Rule 1: Numbers speak louder than words.

The problem with this rule is you have to know how to use the numbers. You must be sure that you know where those numbers come from and what are you really measuring. Don’t assume you know what’s being measured – know what’s being measured at the lowest possible level.

People are spending more time using social media communities and web sites. People are not going to as many Broadway shows. Both are true, but one does not cause another. In business, the correlations, or lack thereof, are likely not as obvious.

For years I have referred to this as looking for “correlations of confidence” rather than “correlations of convenience”.

Rule 2: Listen to (and Don’t Shoot) the Messenger.

There are many cases of business intelligence analysts telling of the impending bad economy – and being ignored until late September when the head of the Federal Reserve painted the forecast of gloom and doom.

Was this a case of “If it ain’t on the cover of Business Week, I don’t need to know it”?

There were tip-offs to trends in the economy in late 2007. Across many industries web conversion rates were tracking off slightly. Growth was down, but there was growth. More people were using comparison shopping engines and coupon sites to find savings. A “spend the money before it goes away” mentality made for a strong first quarter for many companies in 2008. This could have been interpreted as an improving economy. There were, however, other numbers still pointing out that we were getting lost, to quote King Arthur in “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, in “a dark and very expensive forest.”

Web analysts started finding other revenue areas for their companies, but they were, for the most part ignored. Many analysts report to IT or other areas that are removed from the decision makers. The results are like a play where the audience knows the bad things that are about to happen, but the lead characters don’t know it – yet.

Rule 3: Don’t Assume Your Customers Behave Like You.

There are a lot of business heads that assume that their brands are not being talked about in social media sites. The number one reason: because they, the business person, do not use social media sites.

This is reminiscent of when the web was new. Because many executives didn’t use the web, there was an assumption that there was no need to be there.

Today, there is “… a necessity to really think what the web is all about,” according Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas Statue University, in his Library of Congress presentation of “An Anthropological Introduction of YouTube.”

“It’s not just about information … The web is about linking people. And it’s about linking people in ways we’ve never been linked before.”

The numbers can help guide you. People experienced in social media can show you where your customers and target customers are – and how to interact with them.

Anyone sharing their opinions now has influence, and the numbers are growing. You have to try to leverage those new voices and engage them in conversations. As it was said in the musical “Company”, “… Don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect… The only thing to be afraid of really is that it won’t be.”

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