September 29, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

How bad metrics can lead to bad behavior

How bad metrics can lead to bad behavior

Today’s outrage du jour includes a well-known fashion designer’s use/abuse of Twitter trending topics. I’m not going to use his name or even the hashtag he used in this article for two reasons: one, I’m not about to give him any more “hits” or attention than he has already received, and two, I don’t really need to give him the added publicity to make my point.

This sort of behavior is the online, social and digital equivalent of the old saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” I’ve never liked that saying, because it seems self-evident that yes, there is bad publicity.

So, yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity, but the volume of…stuff coming at us is so high, we forget all but the most egregious behavior. You have to lose a lot of oil in the gulf to make a lasting impression anymore. We’ve pretty much forgotten the Cook’s Source flare-up, the moderators of the Navy’s Facebook page deleting negative comments, the Greenpeace protest on–I think–Nestle’s Facebook page, Ann Taylor offering gift cards to bloggers for positive posts–do I need to go on? These things happen, we write about them, and within fairly short order, they are forgotten as we move on to the next topic of the day.

If the backlash is soon forgotten, it could be argued that pot-stirring (which is what I think Mr. Fashion Designer may be doing) could hold some benefit (for him). For example:

Are we looking at click-throughs on the link?

How about “mentions” on blogs or Facebook?

Tracking volume of brand mentions?

Retweets? Mentions on Twitter?

How about Share of Voice?

If you were to plot any of these out in a week or two, all of the graphs would point up. So stir the pot, wait for folks to forget (or at least allow the memory to mellow a bit) and you have shiny charts and metrics that look good, and you are no longer the devil incarnate (you’re just a bit of a jerk). Without context, the data here might actually look good. This is why good, human, analysis is important.

Of course, the preference is to tie measurement to a concrete business outcome, like selling more clothes and watches and things. But that takes time and effort, and linking social media efforts to those can be a challenge. And, unfortunately, the numbers won’t look as big as the marketing department, weaned on AVEs and impressions, is accustomed to seeing.

I left this comment on Scott Monty’s excellent post on this issue, and I’ll repeat it here. This is the sort of tactic that PETA has used in the past (and is using right now with yet another too-racy-for-the-Superbowl ad). Why do we keep falling for it?

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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