Monday, September 24

Considering Sundance: Social Media Measures

A few years ago, Sundance Catalog Company opened a store inside Boca Park in Las Vegas, a retail center that continues to offer great dining, apparel, art, and accessory boutiques. We were working for the developers of Boca Park at the time, the same developers responsible for the acclaimed the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

There was no question that Boca Park was the right place for Sundance. Boca Park is located in Summerlin, a master-planned community surrounded by more than 100 square miles of luxury, executive, custom, and gated residential developments with thousands of homes priced at more than $1 million.

From a social media perspective, Robert Redford’s brick and mortar store was a virtual gold mine. It had it all. A prime location. An attractive corner building. Friendly employees. A high traffic count. Celebrities stopping by. Great content. Dozens of “link-like” plugs from various newspapers and magazines. It was hot!

Oh, except for one little thing. Sales. Nobody bought anything. It was all eye candy; a window shopper’s paradise. I once bought a very nice light switch cover there. It cost about $10.

Not surprisingly, Sundance moved out. It was replaced by Tilly’s, which does very well at Boca Park because, well, people buy things. Sometimes I buy too many things.

Sure, I know precisely what was wrong with the Sundance store and how it could have been amazingly successful given the surrounding area, but that’s not really what this post is about. What this post is about is the growing pressure on social media measurements and why these measures are slowing down businesses that want to migrate to social media. More often than not, social media is measured like the Sundance store.

I’ve been brooding about this for some time now. And no, it’s not the kind of stuff that makes you popular in some circles, especially those who rank. However, other people are starting to wonder if I might not be right, at least a little bit.

Where does the hype end and the real measure begin? At least those are the kind of questions that Geoff Livingston, author of the new book, Now Is Gone, is starting to ask about what is now called the Ad Age Power 150. (We’ll be opening up more discussion about this later today at BlogStraightTalk on Bumpzee and BlogStraightTalk’s newest home on BlogCatalog.) But I wanted to touch on a question raised by Andrew Graham, an account executive for Cognito, on Linkedin.

“How should social media companies be valued?” Graham asked in response to my query, what social media question is not being adequately answered by communication experts? “Given a lot of these companies are more or less built for acquisition, I think it's a legitimate question.”

Exactly. Right now, traffic counts, clicks, rank, and links are considered the most relevant measures of social media. Don’t get me wrong; these measures can play an important role in the greater scope. But, unfortunately for businesses, they provide a skewed sense of reality.

In other words, there are a whole lot of Sundance brick and mortar stores (like the one mentioned above) online. They have everything going for them, except a tangible measure like sales. And the reason is pretty simple. Many of them are chasing social media measures instead of strategic business goals. To what end?

As preliminary answer to Graham, in my opinion, a social media company is worth what someone will pay for it, but the social media measures that are currently in play (like clicks and links) over inflate the value unless proprietary technology is part of the package.

In terms of blogs or other social media tools, the best measures are based on its ability to meet strategic goals: things that range from brand awareness and market share to member engagement and sales. All the other stuff, while helpful and not to be discounted en masse, are not really valid measures unless the buyer is equipped to turn traffic into something tangible.

Likewise, companies entering social media to expand their communication plan might consider what goals they want to meet on the front end. And no, I don't mean rank as much as bank. That's what we've been doing for several companies over the last few weeks, determining what real goals they can tie to their social media plan.



Sweet Tea on 9/24/07, 2:28 PM said...

That's what I don't understand-what is the purpose of paying for comments or you click my link and I'll click yours? Yes, I started out doing that too then I got tired and tried it my way. Measures are nice, sure, but I prefer one person read what I say and be impacted by it than 10 people who don't read but will leave a comment. I think my emails are a better indicator of how I'm doing than my rank. Just my opinion.

Rich on 9/24/07, 6:18 PM said...


Measures provide a nice way to track your progress. Are people linking to your blog, leaving comments, subscribing, sending you e-mails, etc.

But those measures are media relations measures, eg. is the media picking up on your release, calling you for interviews, asking for more information, opening themselves up to pitches, etc.

Social media is not public relations.

The real measure is are you meeting your goals. Your goals, Jane, are to secure more Jericho viewers and engage to such a degree that they volunteer to assist you in securing more. Only you know whether or not you have been successful (and me, because you told me, ha!) and no social measure on the planet can measure that.

Without a doubt, you are on the right track with your content, your message, and your goals.

All my best,

Geoff_Livingston on 9/24/07, 6:50 PM said...

It's great to be discussing this. It's really where we need to be with corporate social media. I think we've ironed out the rules of engagement, let's get into it!

Rich on 9/24/07, 7:36 PM said...


You are right. And thank you for commenting because I realize now where social media measures are wrong (but still useful).

I liken it to a company that has some public relations success, getting their name in the paper. Woo hoo. Everyone is excited. And time goes on, and they get more plugs for everything they do.

But then one day, they don't get the attention because all the buzz has become matter of fact. So then they start doing things to get the buzz back.

But there is a fatal flaw here. If you are pursuing media attention or link love for the sake of it, then you are no longer working to meet your original strategic goals and may even eventually be doomed for failure.

The only appropriate measure of existing social media measures is self measurement not self delusional measurement. If you can move from 100,000 to 20,000 on Technorati, you might be doing something right in terms of exposure ... but if being above 20,000 did not result in business then there is no point whatsoever.

All my best,

Anonymous said...


I began making these points some time ago, and you are correct: doing so didn't make me more popular.

Do I blog to share? Yes. Do I blog to meet more people? Sort of. To be accurate, I am interested in building building relations. Do I blog to get links? No. Do I blog for readers? Yes. Do I care who those readers are? Yes. And that is the key to my goals.

Those readers need to be made up mostly of entrepreneurs and business people who can use my firm to help them grow their businesses. Although my posts tell my readers the what and why, my firm provides the who and the how that can execute the what and the why to create results.

Before I launched my blog, I created a marketing plan for it, complete with measurable goals. After 13 months, I began achieving those goals. At the end of the day, this has nothing to do with rankings.

Yes, I am in the top 12,000, but three months ago, I was in the top 10,000. Over those three months, my readership went up, jobs from my blog went up, and my links went down. Seems pretty obvious to me where the value in blogging lies.

Excellent post.

Rich on 9/25/07, 12:03 PM said...

Hey Lewis,

Always great to see you. Thank you very much for saying so. I read your blog frequently, and will be more often. But as a newer reader, I may have missed those points.

Good! I think they need to remain alive and well because there is tremendous temptation to track measures that do not necessarily mean results.

"Before I launched my blog, I created a marketing plan for it, complete with measurable goals. After 13 months, I began achieving those goals. At the end of the day, this has nothing to do with rankings."

I wish I could say the same about this blog. Originally, when I started it in 2005, I wanted to provide some university students with additional content outside of class. Last year, when I changed the content mix, I developed a strategic plan and communication plan (not all that unlike a marketing plan).

I love your measurements! Especially the jobs going up. That is the real measure of success.

Those links are great; don't get me wrong. But they are only an means to an end (not the end to a means) as you so excellently point out.

All my best,

Anonymous said...


I more often said those things in comments at other blogs or in my posts at MP Daily Fix. I don't post all that often on blogging.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, what excellent answer.


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