Clicks, Impressions, relationships, conversations: What’s more important?

I have asked this question before but in a different way. It was a post I wrote about two months ago, The Holy Grail of Social Media: Conversions or Conversations? My summarizing hypothesis was that social media as a communication channel might not be the best strategy for customer acquisition and/or direct marketing as would search or display advertising.

Just yesterday, Reem asked a similar question on her blog – What’s more important: a million impressions or 5 relationships? — which was originally asked by Joe Marchese, President of SocialVibe, during a panel at the OMMA Social conference in New York. According to Reem, he was specifically asking this question about those who actively participate in social media. It was a great question that many marketers struggle with today; and if we are talking about social media users only, I echo this sentiment loudly. That is, real relationships matter more in social media, much more than millions of impressions.

If the question was directed at all web users in general (not just social media); that brings up a whole new set of variables. One variable being, the complexity for organizations that use multiple communication channels; yet want to maintain one voice with one high level strategy and multiple measurements of success. This is an issue that many corporate marketers have to deal with and it’s not as easy as one would think.

From the outside looking in, the answer might seem clear.

  • Organizations need to be aligned in their communication strategy.
  • Companies need to integrate their go-to-market strategies.
  • Internal communication, planning and collaboration is the key.

Unfortunately, organizational silos exist so it’s not always that easy. Nonetheless, I would argue that social media may not always have to align with every other marketing activity, namely direct response marketing where conversions are the number one metric. Still, it doesn’t hurt to over communicate internally.

At HP, I managed search and social media for North America. My marketing objectives were to drive awareness and consideration for HP products and services (printers, scanners, All-in-Ones, Digital Cameras, etc.). My colleague and friend, Paul O’Brien managed interactive marketing for HP Shopping. While we talked, communicated and partied quite often, he had no interest at all in the engagement metrics that I was measured by; and I had no interest at all for his VERY STRICT CPA (Cost per acquisition) goals either. Nonetheless, it was nice to understand his strategy and go-to-market plans; and of course we always looked for opportunities to collaborate.

So to address the original question of “What’s more important: a million impressions or 5 relationships? and considering that I am referring to all web users in general, I would say it depends who you ask. Paul would say impressions and then narrow it down to a click-through rate – conversion rate – revenue per keyword – cost per acquisition – blah blah blah. Yes, he is THAT ANALYICAL. For me it was about engagement, relationships, conversational sentiment and tone; and I could care less about the clicks and impressions.

I would also say that the users who were browsing HP Shopping were “ready to buy” and could care less about engagement and conversations at that precise moment; which is probably a common scenario for most e-commerce related businesses, where users do want to be sold something.

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Joseph Rodgers

    Conversations… I may be a rookie to Social Media but there is a lot of value in conversation. I don’t know if you listen to Jaffe Juice and Managing the Gray, but Jaffe and CC both have recent podcasts specifically targeted to their conversation with customer service.
    Long story short, Jaffe iis trying to punish Delta through social media, because of his bad experience.
    CC talks about how awesome and fast Comcast took care of his problem.

    So What?
    Both these guys have a large circle of influence. Conversations matter. The winner in the two instances I mention is Comcast. They get it. They are active on twitter and they are LISTENING.


  • Jon

    Unfortunately it is difficult to quantify the value of a conversation so, as most of us who work in corporate know, it is difficult for the top-level brass to understand the importance. However, you can put a powerpoint together with all the statistics and ROI information you want, it all comes down to sales. Those customers who have personal relationships with a brand will spend more than those who don’t.

    Also, thanks for pointing out the importance of leveraging your internal audiences as a method to communicate with external audiences – it’s an important group of people many companies often overlook.

  • Jon

    Ok, so my computer is acting up, so if this post appears twice I apologize. Unfortunately marketers are unable to quantify the value of conversations like they can impressions or conversions. Therefore convincing a companies top-brass of the importance of a conversation can often be a challenge. But when it comes down to it those customers who have relationships with a brand will ultimately spend more money than those who do not – and let’s face it, the sales numbers are the ultimate metric.

    I also wanted to thank you for pointing out the importance of leveraging internal audiences to initiate conversations with external audiences. They are an important group of people that marketers often forget when communicating.

  • Chris Turnquist

    Hi Michael,

    I believe the answer is D. all of the above. Our philosophy is that the two go hand in hand. When social media is employed successfully, it becomes and intregal part of traffic and conversions.

  • michael

    test comment..

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Great post! Depending on the type of business and audience, all of these factors are equally important…

  • Sam

    A very informative post, and great perspective on 2 key points… conversation & impressions. I would tend to favour conversations, but that really doesn’t matter… what matters is what is most effective and with an efficient ROI.

    Perhaps this sounds a bit naive but I can’t think that one logic can apply to all markets or products/services. After all has been said and done, it always will come down to actual sales, be it brought in by conversations, impressions, clicks, or the tooth fairy :)

    Great read! Thanks.
    copywriting business

  • Glyconutrients

    Although importance of social media can’t be denied, but I think, Good relationships are much much better. From these social medias, I receive a lot of traffic but the click through rate is very low, even my sites was not able to grab there attention for a few seconds and all of them had very high bounce rate. So for me social media is not as fruitful as it is assumed.

  • Glyconutrients

    Sam, I am agreed with you. For me Social media is not as fruitful as it should be. I had a high traffic(while I was using social media) but 0 productivity. Now I have a low traffic site but I have almost 80% productivity, mostly visits on my sites converts to successful sales.

  • Max Entin

    Small businsses need to focus on direct marketing basics aka conversions which come from clicks. If you’re a large company with big budgets only then you can talk about the other stuff