The maturation of the conversation about social media-driven PR continues.
As the "digital communications" industry (read: somewhere in the intersection of owned, earned and paid media) grows beyond the niche and towards the mainstream, the conversation at the leading end of the industry is shifting more and more from the "why" to the "how".
Brian Solis published a great post yesterday, touching on a couple of important topics at the heart of the evolution of social media-focused communications from shiny objects to a serious business tool:
- The continued focus of the metrics conversation on conversion as an endpoint
- The definition of "influencers" from a client perspective
More and more people are honing in on the importance of driving towards tangible, credible metrics. Conversions are key within that bracket. What you define as a conversion may vary depending on context, but in general the term will focus you in on sales, memberships, opt-in contacts (leads) and the like.
Why do conversions matter? Because they're metrics that can lead to financial results (or could actually measure that themselves in the case of sales).
Folks like KD Paine, Olivier Blanchard and Rob Clark, who are neck-deep in the topic, figured this stuff out a while back but we're slowly seeing more people hone in on it. Meanwhile, they're focusing on how to prove value over "what you should do" and "why you should do it."
As Chris Brogan put in a well-timed post on social media metrics today, "The social media metric that I think does matter and that is difficult to fully qualify is sentiment: the positive or negative mentions of a brand, product, service, whatever." While unlike him I choose not to "poo-poo" measuring things like retweets, page views etc, I completely agree that in general they're at best a proxy towards measuring more useful results, and at worst a cop-out from people unsure how to measure final results or afraid what it would show.
Research continues to highlight the importance of context over quantity when it comes to influence. As Solis puts it:
"Brands seeking reach, presence, and connectivity must look beyond popularity and focus on aligning with the influential beacons who serve as the hubs for contextual networks or nicheworks."
This is becoming more and more important as the early adopters who have built large followings become the focus of more and more attention from marketers - not only will the returns be greater from focusing on niche influencers in terms of success ratio; those people have more credibility within those communities.
Simply put, while I'm likely to check out a new business contact management tool if Brogan recommends it, if he suddenly recommended a lawnmower (for example), I'm much less likely to listen than if he were a credible and regular voice on that topic. That's not a slight on him, but a reflection of the credibility that people can build up in a community that cares about their niche - that's why sites like Pulse of the Tweeters help to drive things forward a notch.
So, the conversations on social graphs and content topics continue to converge.
Follow these trends; they're important ones for anyone working in the digital communications space.