Part of the continuing problem that dogs the use of social media and social business is the extent vendors and some start-ups will go to in order to create a name for themselves.
I was reminded of this today while reading the Nation’s Restaurant News online.
In a story slugged “Top brands evolving social-media strategies: Software firm ranks the top 25 restaurant chains is social-media mentions,” the social media software company Vitrue published a “list” of supposed Top 25 companies based on social media mentions.
Forget for a minute that mentions alone, as a measurement, means absolutely nothing. I can search social media for mentions of Bernie Madoff and get thousands of mentions daily and that means nothing. The fact that Vitrue, who has four of their own clients listed in the Top 25, thinks this is a valid measure is laughable.
Now, some might accuse me of just being upset that our own Applebee’s wasn’t listed in the mighty index. But that’s far from the truth.
As a practitioner who uses social media and social marketing to produce tangible business results, this sort of coverage and “faux” index only hurts the cause. Big brands are investing in social media heavily in 2011 and real measures are needed. The longer groups like Vitrue play up numbers that mean practically nothing the longer we’ll go without reaching true validity in the Board Room. Toss in the questionable ethics of publishing an “index” that highlights your clients, and it just gets worse.
That’s not to say that some on that list aren’t doing an amazing job of leveraging social media to produce results. McDonald’s (a Vitrue client), Domino’s Pizza (a Vitrue client), Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts are “walking the walk.” All of those brands do a great job of fostering an on-going and meaningful dialog with their customers. I am not questioning that, or that they don’t rank near the top in being effective social media marketers and community builders. It’s just those of us in social media marketing need to hold ourselves to a higher standard to make sure we build legitimacy and credibility with C-level executives.
I’ve never worked with Vitrue. I am sure there are some great folks over there and I know they produce some great products to help manage social media for big brands. At the same time, with their standing in the marketplace I think they should dump the meaningless “index” and actually start using their pull to have substantive dialog and measures around what social media is doing for brands inside the restaurant business and outside.
There is richness in deeper data that can show how (like we at Applebee’s have higher engagement and active users than more than two-thirds the brands on that list) brands are not only gaining “Likes” on Facebook but are actually converting those folks into regular contributors to their online communities – be it on Facebook or other channels. And even more importantly, show case studies and data about sales and traffic.
Until everyone is honest with the impact, and what we know and don’t know, we’ll not get to the goodness we need.
I call on Vitrue to publish better data that doesn’t just prop up clients and give them an opportunity at some free PR. Publish some substantive data that shows the good, bad, and ugly so we can all get better and showing how social can lead to strong business results.
What do you think?