In recent years, popular websites like Facebook, Google and Twitter have been cracking on down on so-called fake news, fake profiles and bots (robots) which have played a significant role in tarnishing various brands or exaggerating likes or dislikes. Governments have also fallen victim to fake trolls and bots pushing unfactual narratives that adversely affect investor confidence, businesses and general economic outlook.

Not long ago, I was privy to a high level brainstorm with a client who needed advisory on how to position their brand messaging for a panel discussion on public relations in general. My role was to advise on the Ugandan landscape in terms of customers’ social media behaviour.
As I listened to the direction the conversation was being driven, I realized that increasingly, businesses have become obsessed with Facebook page likes, and in general the amount of fuss or popularity generated by their brand on the respective social media channels.

Eight years ago, this ‘fuss’ was the measure to justify investments made in developing social media marketing. There was immense pressure on sales and marketing teams to justify why dollars should be put aside for this spend and how it would bring in more revenue.

Of recent however, the focus on ‘real value’ has evolved into a given; something taken for granted rather than expenditure that should be regularly questioned and reviewed. Yet, the respective social media channels now offer more distilled metrics to measure social media activity that is, engagement, reach, views, influence and brand sentiment to give a brand a more holistic and deeper insight into how it’s online health is fairing.

Here is where the Digital PR value preposition comes into play. Focus on the wrong data (number of likes/followers), has had major implications and often resulted in wrong strategic decisions. Objectives have also been misplaced because with these metrics, the bigger picture is missed.

Customer behaviour on social media timelines is one where he or she is looking for solutions and information (news), that is—content.
This means they are not keen on following or liking you as a brand just for the sake of it. They have expectations but once met, the brand value earns a social currency in other words, an endorsement.

Thus this focus on ‘vanity metrics’ is very worrying because the effort just to earn year-on-year growth basically limits the real value of the brand to its customers. Vanity metrics have misguided and created a wrong perception and consequently the desired business objectives are not met.
Let’s go back to the drawing board as Digital strategists and distill what clear objectives we would like to achieve as we offer support to Brand Marketing and PR activities. After all, social media efforts (shared media) should support the brands ‘owned assets’ (owned media) that is the website, mobile apps and so on.

About the Author: WMC Editor

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