I’m writing this overlooking a bird’s-eye view of San Terenzo
on Italy’s Cinque Terre coast and its bird’s-eye view of the Mediterraneum does make it a great place for some reflection. I spent the last few days in Milan, giving this speech on Social Media Measurement Download Lundquist Swisscorner in Milan, and also participating in the third European Digital Leadership Conference, a retreat in the Piedmont region of Italy organized by Joakim Lundquist. Joakim runs the incredibly innovative and foreward thinking Lundquist social media agency, based in Milan. The 2-day retreat took place at Villa “D’Amelia” a gorgeous guest house in the middle of the Piedmont wine region. Yes, we did have a bit of a tasting of the excellent wines produced in that area, but the real purpose of these conferences, is "to help develop outstanding digital leaders and equip them with the strategic vision and essential skills needed to manage their company’s digital communications. The initiative is built around a series of “retreats”, intimate and closed-door gatherings for exchange and thought leadership discussions among members."
This particular retreat included such European communications luminaries as Alessandro Bastoni of Telecom Italia, Massimo Guarnieri, head of digital enterprise at ENI the Italian energy company, Douwe Hilarius, Corporate identiy and web manager at Fiat industrial and his colleague Paula Inda Director, Brand Communications at of Case/IT Agriculture. And of course, for added fun, the ever provocative social media business guru, Richard Binhammer
former social strategist at Dell. Here we all are:
What emerged was a refrain that I have heard for the past few years in similar conferences in the US and the Middle East: While there is a need for better measurement of real business outcomes from social strategies, the proliferation of vanity metrics like followers and fans consistently gets in the way.
Bob Garfield would find fertile ground here for his anti-eyeball messages. Marketers are still looking for those big numbers, and when confronted with much more meaningful metrics like the percent of all those “likes” that are actually engaged in sharing and commenting on your content, the numbers are just too small to register in the marekters’ minds. Garfield would suggest that it is just a matter of time before the companies that continue down the “shouting ever louder” path must change or die.
That may be true in the US where efficiency is valued above all, but if you are doing business across the pond and the channel, the Relationship Era hasn't arrived, it never left.
Relationships are seen as far more important than how much you can produce for the least cost. Business is built around relationships and therefore the impression already takes a back seat to the personal connection. The problem is that social here has never even been contemplated as a means to better relationships. Relationships are forged in person, at dinner, on a sailboat, or at a retreat. And yes, there is some appreciation for Social's impact on customer satisfaction, but that seldom enters into the communications conversation.
Social is seen as a medium of growing influence and imminent danger. The stories of social media’s dumbest moves and frequent disasters are well known, as are all the rules and regulations that govern disclosure, privacy and other aspects of business that most of us in the US ignore. As a result the European C-Suite has seen social more as a means to a more efficient way of amplifying message than as the social business strategy it should be.
The good news is that the partipicants in both the Executive Digital Leadership Forum, and many of the attendees at the breakfast that I participated in, understand the real value of social. The challenge for them, as it is with their peers in the states, to convince their bosses of the truth. The good news is that as measurement techniques improve, and real value metrics are applied more frequently, the data will reveal the reality.