Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Last night, I attended an event hosted by the Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association. It was titled "The Impact of Social Media on Marketing."

The format was friendly and inviting, very much in the spirit of social media. We mixed with each other freely, connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. And we were asked a couple of questions, which we debated in small groups:
  • Five years from now, will "Web 2.0" (aka social media) sites be used more for traffic or building relationships?
  • Should companies get involved in social media now, or wait it out?
Now, aside from the sheer absurdity of thinking we'll be able to predict what the Web and marketing will look like in 5 years, it was telling that the organizers are thinking of social media in terms of traffic rather than relationship building. To anyone who is even remotely familiar with social media right now, it's clear that the social aspect (aka relationships, engagement, etc.) is at the core.

Our answers were tallied and it was interesting to see how each question resulted in a 3:1 split in favor of social media:
  • 75% thought Web 2.0 sites would be relationship-centric
  • 75% thought companies should get involved now
While I'm encouraged to see a majority support some of the basics behind social media, I'm concerned about that other 25%. There's really no excuse not to be involved in social media right now, even if it's about listening. But the alarming one was that they think that in 5 years traffic is going to be the metric that's central to social media. It's not even central now.

Earlier this week, I asked my Twitter followers if web site traffic even mattered for social media. Here are some of the responses:
  • to 99% of the people that will be paying you these days it does. (Tom Biro)
  • I've heard a lot of interesting thing about volume of posts and things like sentiment extraction and comment clustering (Rachel Happe)
  • I think it's worth looking at. But the real # that should matter is how many people are truly engaged? (Chris Wilson)
  • Comscore and Nielsen have metrics such as visits/minutes spent on the site per user.'engagement' is dependent on the context tho (Jamie Nathan)
And in an email exchange, Chris Brogan made the point that because so much of social media is distributed and disaggregated, we don't get the full impact of measurement - some people might be reading your feed on Facebook or never leave their RSS reader, or share your content via email.

It's definitely a challenge for social media - the notion that content should be open and distributed is in direct juxtaposition to most of our current notions about measurement. But where we are able to measure, I think my Twitter peeps have it right - it's much more about engagement and interaction than it is about traffic.

When are the other 25% of marketers going to realize that?

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