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.