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Content, schmontent and impact

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The subject of the impact of social media on the actual sale of wine, as opposed to merely creating some short-lived buzz, has long been considered in my blog, as well as throughout the greater Internet community.

The question always has been: What do all those page views and visits mean? Do they translate into moving cases—or are they merely feel-good statistics that, from an economic point of view, are meaningless?

Attempts have been made to measure the “metrics” of such statistics, and sometimes these analyses look very good and thorough. But behind the spreadsheets, graphs and pie charts has been a continuing mystery wrapped in an enigma: What’s the point of it all? It’s rather like that old Zen koan, “What if they created a site that had big numbers, and nobody ever bought anything?”

This is the topic of an important article two days ago in BuzzFeed. It quoted the company’s founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti: What matters most, and what all these metrics should try and point to is impact.”

Impact! Now we’re talking.

He asks pertinent questions: “Does [social media] have an impact on people’s actual lives, are people using the content, is it something that matters to them?” Because if the answers are no, no and no, then content, schmontent, none of it matters.

BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, illustrated the unimportance of fancy metrics by comparing them to “artworks hang[ing] on the wall.” They may be pretty to look at, they may make you feel good, but they don’t pay the bills.

Peretti and Smith don’t claim to have definitive answers for achieving impact as well as metrics. Too bad, because that’s the Holy Grail. But then, after all these years, we shouldn’t expect instant solutions. However, Peretti does offer some ideas, which he poses as questions:

Does the editorial asset work across platforms?

Does it help people connect with each other?

Does it help people improve their lives?

Does it inform the public and change institutions?

Does it make the world more open and diverse?

Now, if you’re thinking that these are pretty lofty ambitions for a winery, you’re right: Peretti is thinking in terms of his company, which is making a play to be a serious media outlet. BuzzFeed may worry about making the world more peaceful and diverse; a winery is more concerned about moving last year’s inventory before the new one comes piling in.

But what Peretti is onto, I think, is that successful social media campaigns—the ones with impact—somehow are more than just themselves. They are created with intelligence and passion, such that readers or viewers feel that connection to the winery. They are inclusionary: they make all people feel part of the story. They’re not just slammed out willy nilly, like auto parts on an assembly line, in order to fulfill today’s Twitter quota. Rather, they form a continuing narrative—sort of like a really good T.V. series—that people want to revisit, to see what happens.

You know, there’s been talk of the evolution of social media as a selling platform, and maybe, in some cases, that’s true. But, as a wise man once pointed out, “There isn’t a version two or three if there isn’t a great version one.” People involved in the creation of social media campaigns should keep this in mind, and that word “impact” at the forefront of their consciousness.

  1. Social media campaigns without a direct response “buy now” option thwart the measurement of their sales success.

    Questions have been raised about another communications medium — podcasts: how do marketers measure their audience, and do they “sell” things?

    Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal “Business & Tech.” Section
    (February 19, 2016, Page B1ff):

    “Podcasts Surge, but Big Advertisers Sit Out;
    Even as listeners flock to the programs, many larger marketers keep their dollars focused elsewhere.”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/podcasts-face-advertising-hurdles-1455745492

    By Steven Perlberg
    Staff Writer

    . . .

    Advertising revenue growth has been limited by a range of problems not unlike the issues that online media faced in its early days. It is difficult to measure how many people actually tune into a podcast, let alone listen to hosts promoting its sponsors. Ads in podcasts are relatively expensive, so it is tough for brands beyond direct-response advertisers to determine whether the investment pays off. And the process of buying and selling ads in podcasts is still complex and clunky.

    . . .

    Advertisers are expected to spend about $35.1 million on podcasts this year, up about 2% from last year, according to ZenithOptimedia, which is owned by ad holding company Publicis. Meanwhile, marketers are still investing some $18 billion a year in radio and $67 billion in TV.

    . . .

    In fact, it is hard to know exactly how many people are listening at all. The chief metric in the podcast marketplace is “unique U.S. downloads,” which counts how many individuals put an episode on their device. Podcast insiders say figures can easily be skewed by counting one person’s attempt to download the same episode multiple times or failing to filter out a company’s own office IP addresses and bot traffic.

    A deeper problem is that downloading an episode doesn’t necessarily mean someone listened to the podcast or the advertising within it.

    . . .

    That is compounded by the fact that the ads aren’t cheap.

    Ads in top programs can command $50 to upward of $100 CPMs [*], which represents the cost of reaching a thousand podcast downloaders. Media buyers compare podcast pricing to very premium online video. YouTube ads sold for an average $18 CPM in December, according to data firm SQAD.

    The high price contributes to the fact that most podcast advertisers are direct-response marketers . . .

    [*CPM is the advertising industry acronym for Cost Per Thousand readers/listeners/viewers reached through a paid media communications message. The capital letter M — borrowed from Latin — represents the numerical value 1,000.]

  2. “Back of the envelope math”:

    A $100 CMP equals spending 10 cents* per each reader/listener/viewer who responded to a paid media communications message.

    (*$100 cost for the ad divided by 1,000 reader/listener/viewer respondents equals $0.10.)

    Direct response advertisers only pay for responses, not “impressions.”

  3. Quotes on salesmanship . . .

    An adman named David Ogilvy once famously said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

    Ogilvy again: “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”

    Winemakers need to be good not only at crafting a product, but in selling it.

    (Those who cannot generate revenue/income selling their product are by definition “amateurs” — not “professionals.”)

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