The other night I was at home watching the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees, and during a commercial break, the new baseball movie trailer aired on T.V. The movie is called Moneyball, based on the book written by Michael Lewis. If you are not familiar with the story, Billy Beane, the General Manager of the cash-strapped, small market Oakland Athletics recognizes that in order to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox, the organization needs to shift its perspective and come-up with a strategy to economically compete with the big market teams. Utilizing complex statistics and mathematics, the team creates a numbers formula that is applied to each player they draft, trade, and sign, and the end result is a quantifiable model that gives the best predictable chances for a small market team like the Oakland Athletics to win.
Just as the economy drove GM Billy Beane to develop theories to garner the greatest ROI for each player in the movie Moneyball, so too has it had a role in changing the strategy a public relations company must build for its clients. With the economy laboring over the last few years, it has had an unfortunate effect on the media industry by inducing layoffs, consolidation to only online publications, and in some cases even forced media outlets to shutdown entirely. Having had the unique perspective of working in public relations for a few years, leaving for commercial business experience, and recently coming back, I have seen first-hand how the public relations industry has adapted to the economy by adopting social media programs to provide additional value for their clients to go along with traditional media outreach. Social media has added an effective way clients can identify with their target audiences, but just like Billy Beane of the A’s, they too are looking for the best way to quantify the social media numbers to give them the best chance for success.
I read an article on PR Week entitled Social media numbers don’t tell the whole story, and it discusses how many of the Fortune 100 companies like Coca Cola, Wal-Mart and Disney have dived head-first into the social media world with Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare accounts to generate as many followers and likes as possible. In this economy companies are looking for the best way to analyze their public relations programs, and while these numbers show the popularity of a brand, many public relations experts believe it is the actual engagement of the customer base that truly determines the success of the program. To be fair, the fan count and the size of the community is important, and therefore, is considered a measure of success. However, it shouldn’t be the only metric looked at to determine if a company’s social media campaign is helping with its bottom-line. Even with programs like HootSuite and TweetDeck that try to provide insight on the effectiveness and impact of social media, many companies are realizing that these tools have a long way to go in providing them with tangible evidence to show the parallel between numbers and engagement.
In the end, one thing is for sure, public relations companies and their clients understand that social media is here to stay. As analytics on social media improves over time, companies will be able to get a clearer view of how the numbers provide them with the best predictable chance to win. It’s as Billy Beane says in the movie trailer, “In this economy it’s adapt or die.”