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nobody knows anything November 10, 2008

Posted by nicholas gill in chinwag, e-commerce expo, helen lawrence, roi, social media, social media roi.


William Goldman, an American novelist and Academy Award winning screenwriter is credited with the line in the headline of this post which came from his memoirs. Goldman was referring to the changing face of the entertainment industry. The same statement could be applied to today’s social media world. Everything is in beta, technologies change faster than a heartbeat and once somebody has done something, everyone else knows about it. At the same time we strive for innovation and the next big thing while craving the reassurance that it will work. The latter point took me to e-commerce Expo at Olympia in fine London town last week for one solitary lunchtime session from the Chinwag folk entitled “Social Media ROI.” In these constantly changing times one shouldn’t rest on one’s laurels with a PowerPoint full of examples of what to and what not to do. You need to seek out new examples, new insights, new observations and new facts.

I’m not sure I found any.

On the one hand I’m reassured that what I talk about day in, day out makes sense, is grounded in reality and hopefully with a dash of inspiration. But it would seem that those who were on the panel brought nothing new to the table. You can’t blame the panellists for being quite overt in PR-ing themselves, their new venture, their former glories – given the same situation I wouldn’t be averse to whoring myself either but as a neutral observer it made you realise how salesey you do look. Note to self for future reference.

If the debate were won or lost on the power of conviction then Ankur Shah of Tech Enlightenment would win hands down. Deliciously provocative, he added spice to the occasion but his focus was around delivering results in social media based on advertising: click rates, interactions, tracking through to purchase. All well and good, my friend but that’s advertising in social media, not doing social media. Anyone can pop an ad on Facebook and get results. We do it all the time for our clients and yes it works extremely effectively. But it ain’t social media. It’s advertising in another destination space. I’m afraid the chap from Nielsen got a rough ride of scepticism from most of his fellow panellists and seemed hell bent on trying to convince the audience, most of whom appeared to be SMEs, that the only way to accurately measure the impact of social media was through large scale, and by definition large cost, panels tracking pre and post measures. Worryingly this sounds like we’re back in the bad ways of econometric TV modelling. Blah blah blah. I think he should get onto Google quick sharp. There are a multitude of quick and easy measures a brand can introduce to understand their social media footprint and the impact it has without costing several thousand pounds to co-habitate with Coca-Cola and the like. Sure some if it is manual and requires some man hours but ultimately it’s about setting objectives upfront and working out how you track it. Pre and post activity measurement impact to your audience – ooh, I dunno, how about sending a survey via survey monkey? For free?

I had high hopes for Helen Lawrence of Dare. Sat in the middle of some large egos and dominant grappling for the mikes, she was a rose between four thorns. Unfortunately she didn’t really get the airtime she probably wanted, made some sound observations about human interaction in social media replicating the real world and in trying to get a word in edgeways toward the end talked about integration as matching luggage (I’m paraphrasing by the way), which was like a dagger through my heart after many moons of persuading, cajoling and ultimately putting your money where your mouth is in your belief that integration is paramount at a strategic level but not executional. But I’ll forgive that as Helen keeps me amused on Twitter and does an exceptional job at Dare under the tutelage of the Professor.

The discussion ended somewhat bizarrely with an audience member defiant that her son is ONLY influenced by social media. Come on, really? If he is then he needs to turn off the computer and get outside to talk to his friends and experience real life.

So I discovered nothing new, but realised that while we all know nothing, we also know everything at the same time.

Update 11.11. You can listen to the podcast and see pics of the event here. (Thanks for the link, Sam.)

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