Are You Doing the Bend and Snap with Monthly Report Numbers

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The numbers, the numbers, it’s all about the numbers. What’s our tweet reach, are we hitting ROI goals, what’s the virality of that post, how is our klout score holding up. Damn it Scotty we need more engagement, Aye Captain I’m givin er all I’ve got….Okay lost my head, got carried away, but isn’t it the same with these monthly reports that are being created, showing all kinds of graphs, charts and numbers piled high, justifying our place at the conference room table?

social media report

photo credit: lumaxart via photopin cc

I must say there certainly has been a lot of talk lately from people in the social world regarding the importance of this number and that number. Is it relevant, are higher numbers better, smaller more engaged numbers the way to go…. It is an unanswerable question, more about opinion than solid answers in my mind. Each one of us is going to have our own opinion on the matter. Even more so, each one of us is going to have different experiences regarding those numbers and how we approach and utilize them.

A Few Observations

I have been in this social media game long enough to see it for what it is. An extremely powerful tool when applied correctly. There is an enormous amount of “buzz” surrounding our profession. When I am involved with a bunch of “us” talking, debating, and discussing the finer points of numbers in relation to the social space, using all the industry slang for all it’s worth, it reminds me of being in a social situation with a bunch of stock brokers discussing the latest in the investment strategies or mechanics talking about the latest hemi addition, torque specs etc. Don’t get me wrong I love the debate. I love sharing and hearing what others opinions are. BUT do you really think our clients have any idea or care for that matter about any of our chatter? On a basic level yes they want to know, see and hear, but ultimately… let’s be honest, the numbers are for “us”. When I go to the mechanic shop, I want my car serviced for a reasonable price. I want it repaired, or at least maintained so that I can have the confidence that the vehicle will continue to operate and be reliable. Yeah, show me the parts list, and the labor costs, but don’t try explain how each part operates within the big picture of how the engine works. The vehicle starts and stops when it is supposed to, will get me from point A to point B safely. In essence that mechanic did what was expected at a reasonable price point.
Would you think to ask your stock broker to go into detail about the strategies employed to achieve the return on your money. What do you think you are going to get? Most probably a report with charts, numbers, and market speak that as we have seen can all be manipulated to say whatever is desired.

Therein is the Point

Let’s be honest, the numbers can be massaged, manipulated and down right cooked to look and say exactly what we want them to. It is such a smoke and mirrors process. I was criticized this year for not supplying my clients with a written report including all kinds of the above mentioned graphs, pie charts etc. I thought about that advice, in the end I dismissed it. Why? Because I saw how easily it was to make reports and numbers tell a story that is exactly that, a story. Just take a look at the “buying followers practice in place by many”. I choose instead to continue doing what was working for me, meeting with my clients on a regular basis, and asking the tough questions in real time. I have found that it makes for a team effort. I like to ask whether a campaign or strategy is working for “us”, if it is not giving “us” the desired results then “we” need to tweak, or restructure to meet the desired results. Honestly, when a strategy is not working my client loses, but more importantly I am losing. I take it very personally.

In the End

I can show my clients numbers and all kinds of social bling, but what they really want is exactly what I want… increased bottom line, engagement, increased sales, goals being met, etc. Success comes in sometimes unrecognizable forms. I have a client that was spending quite a bit of time handling phone appointments. Any calls for appointments during off hours had to be dealt with in a cumbersome manner. During one of our meetings this came out, so we embarked on an education campaign pushing the fact that appointments could be made from the FB page. Outcome: major decrease in phone appointments, shift to using FB for appointments, time spent paying someone to deal with those appointments cut dramatically. Bottom line… money being spent more efficiently. A win from where I sit behind the monitors.

Don’t Kill the Messenger

Now before I get bombarded with comments telling me how wonderful your reports are, and how I need to do it this way or that. Please keep in mind, this is my opinion, this is what works for me, and why. If your clients are thrilled with reports and numbers, pie charts etc, and it is working… keep doing it. With all the guru’s and experts, bot social package companies offering that “buy my product” , “social media magic beans” and “elixirs” out there in the social space, it is important we don’t get caught in falsely justifying our efforts. We all know that expectation that hangs in the room at our initial meetings with clients, the expectation that we will wave our magic tablets and they will become the kings and queens of their social media niche. I believe the more honest we are with our clients not only as individuals, but as professionals, the more “our” profession will be looked upon with respect and legitimacy. Again, just my opinion. That being said, I want to know…
What works for you, my colleagues, the folks that are in the trenches making it happen for even the smallest niche clients? Share, won’t you.
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Gerry Michaels
Gerry Michaels (Gettysburg Gerry) is Principal at Glasswork Media Arts, Radio host SteamFeed Radio on Blogtalkradio, VP Marketing Biz Dev at Steamfeed.com, Social Media Columnist for the Gettysburg Times, Social Media strategist and community builder and explorer. I am no different than you, no better/worse. I'm an astronaut exploring this social media space. Fully engulfed in the world that is Social Media, I awake every day anxiously anticipating what the days new technology will bring. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, Pinterest. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Gerry Michaels

@Gettysburggerry

VP Marketing at SteamFeed Google Glass Explorer,No different than you, no better/worse,an astronaut exploring this social media space.
Helping You Write Great Content for Real People http://t.co/RjCNPZWFUC via @SteamFeedcom - 5 hours ago
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Comments

  1. I really appreciate your view point here Gerry. I have always been skeptical of statistics, you detailed in the post some of the reasons why. All numbers can be made to look impressive, what I liked best about what you said was the time you spend understanding the problems your client's have. I would much rather be part of solving my clients issues, then bragging about inflated statistics.

    • Gettysburg Gerry says:

      Exactly David, I just don't buy the numbers game. Of course if your client wants that, no problem, but I personally don't see the value, and I know for a fact that the numbers are often inflated…artificially. Thanks for stopping by Sir.

  2. Kristy Cartier says:

    Thank you for the post Gerry. Even though I just started a new report for my association's board, I wonder how useful it really is. One boss I worked for as a market researcher had this quote in her email signature:

    "Lies, damn lies and statistics."

    Seems fairly accurate and why I tend to disregard all the political mumbo-jumbo!

  3. Gettysburg Gerry says:

    Thanks for stopping by Kristy, I supply a report to those clients that request it, but most often after a few months they tell me they don't feel they need it because of my contact with them. I just don't believe those type of reports are reliable. Just my humble opinion.

  4. Gerry, good post and you know how I feel on this topic. The proof, bottom line sales! Who wants to pay someone to sit around talking and sharing with very little real impact, sign me up Scotty! The social media arena is the original Madison Avenue Agencies bells and whistles pumped-up on Lance Armstrong steroids. So much junk pushed around by snake-oil peddlers that the good guys, and there are plenty have gotten a bad name from association.

    • gettysburgfamilysmiles says:

      Thanks for stopping by Randy, I can't predict what my client is going to want in the way of reports, but I can assure you the goal is increased bottom line….

  5. Elle in Legally Blonde does the bend and snap the best – who are we to try and compete? :) love the witty headline – and great post, Gerry!

  6. SteveHughes says:

    You can never really go wrong if you're armed with “social media magic beans”…I sense you really don't like pie charts. I guess it comes down to give them what they want, but usually there is a lot of fluff in them there graphs and spreadsheets. I love the FB example, and really glad it was successful.

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