Rich Evans – What REALLY matters in online/social/digital media…?

Let’s set the scene.

The drone of conversation can be heard as soon as I enter the ‘venue’ (bar) where the event I am attending is being held. This is a collection of the top people and interested parties in social media in Sydney. Obviously we are a little early as people are not yet liquored up enough to have real conversations, it is all very networking as usual.

My good friend @mistressmia is with me, so at least I am not alone, and Mia knows the people in the room so we are quickly whisked off to sit with a group of people.

Thankfully I met some really nice people who were interested to talk about things like wives that watch too much SATC & iPhone vs Android, which of course i would happily debate that the iPhone reigns supreme… but that is for another post.

As the night gets underway, a few things are evident…

I think the speakers are hard pressed due to the venue to hold the crowds attention, but even in a better venue, I am not sure they would have. The audience seems to be content to talk amongst themselves as much as listening to the presentations.

The first speaker is amusing to break the ice, the second speaker loud and confident and the third speaker decides to go for shock value and drop the f-bomb on his first slide…. then his joke bombed right after.

Now I am not having a go at the event, the speakers or the organisers. I know how hard getting the right mix is for an event and everyone did a great job.

My question however is this, who benefits from the sorts of conversations and presentations they were giving. If the presentations are intended as conversation starters then they did that, but for the most part for the entirely wrong reasons.

The focus of the evening was measuring social media engagement. My hope was to learn some practical information to be able to pass on to my team and clients. After all, we know it is important, but how do we know if it is working.

What I quickly realised is this… what matters to a business owner, does not necessarily matter to a agency/corporate.

Why would I say such a thing?

As we were presented the expert opinions on the subject on their far too complex hard to read slides (hint people: stick to your main points on your slides… you don’t have to make each one a mini essay) they seemed to pussy foot around the question.

As my friend @mistressmia put it so eloquently at one point “can i get it in 140!”

They presented some great technologies that will measure the inside diameter of a ducks patooty, but in terms of dollarising the benefit to a business, they do little. This is fine if you are an agency salary employee or a giant corporate and all you need to do is impress your client, but if you are spending money out of your own pocket, i.e. the average Australian small business owner… if you screw this up, you are taking food out of the mouths of your children.
(Note: I intend to research these further and may change my mind in a later post… it has happened before)

There was a question from the audience, posed as a hypothetical that really demonstrated the issue. The question was “If I am a marketing manager and I say my budget has been cut, where do I spend my money for the best return, tv, print or this internet ‘shit’ what would you do to get in my door”

The panel was truly flummoxed it seemed. They treated it as an exercise to see who had the best pickup lines and sales techniques, but i don’t think any of them would have convinced a savvy marketing manager to divert his budget to this new internet … stuff.

However that question was really the one that was the most important… and the answer should have been… we do not know what this will deliver, but we would love to help you find out.

In this early stage of social media, we do not have enough case studies to be able to say this is the ROI (one presenter seemed to think that this shouldn’t be a key metric?) you can expect based on what we did for someone else.

You are dealing with niche, you are dealing with passion, you are dealing with people and inherently, people are all different.
But isn’t that the issue with social media… do we actually need to measure it?

The relationships and connections that are made through social media are stepping stones, ways to begin conversations. Because at the end of the day, people like doing business with people. So if you have a strategy for starting lots of conversations in your business, no matter how big or small you are, then you stand a chance of having lots of outcomes.

The outcomes are the sales, the engagements and the things that can be measured on the bottom line. This IS what matters to the majority of business owners in Australia, the small business owners who keep the economy running and are the backbone of our nation.

So small business owners, start talking, big businesses start listening and responding.

I look forward to the comments this post may receive, open and honest debate is what this is all about as without it we cannot learn and improve.

And I would like to reiterate, the event is not to blame, the people were great, the venue was not, but the organisers did the best they could and I look forward to attending again… if you will have me.