Just as AVEs lost their luster and began a protracted process of exiting mainstream PR, a fresh wave of vanity metrics came crashing into the world of communications, creating a much greater set of silly metrics, inaccurate data sets, and hollow insights.
The new vanity metrics took the form of Views, Likes and other automated measures from social platforms; much of these measures were themselves data points that lacked accuracy and integrity.
Video is increasingly important to communicators, but social platforms vary dramatically on what counts as a ‘view.’ Facebook and Instagram count a ‘View’ if a clip plays for as little as three seconds, while YouTube assesses a view at around 30 seconds. Those ranges—from 3 seconds to 30—register a count even if there isn’t any meaningful understanding of what the overall clip was about and what messages were in it. Add to that the frustration of determining whether the platform has videos auto-play versus only counting if there’s an affirmative click by the viewer, and you have a formula for messy metrics.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have their own twists on how to measure reach and engagement, many of which made no sense and were clearly inaccurate. The resulting uproar from communicators, advertisers, and even government regulators is helping change this dynamic.
It will take time for this new wave of vanity metrics to recede. The good news, however, is that they are in fact receding and communicators are much more demanding on data and insights that are accurate and verifiable.
Speaking to my colleagues across the industry, there has been a clear trend in senior PR and communications professionals insisting on quantitative metrics being verified rigorously, and qualitative metrics being human-curated, to ensure insights are meaningful and actionable.
The bad news is many junior and mid-level communicators continue to rely on low-value social automation charts and graphs to report to their clients and to shape strategy: it continues to astound me how some of the world’s biggest brands will bet their future on an automated chart filled with Views, Likes, and Share data points which, as we saw with YouTube, are not only of intrinsically low-value, but also blatantly misleading and lacking in informational integrity.
Fortunately, once communications leadership has set itself on the right course towards genuine insights, which it increasingly has, the kids will likely follow.
As for the new generation of vanity metrics, it is fair to say, winter is coming. And its only long-term company will be shriveled and discredited AVEs in a wasteland of poor research, which attracts only the weakest and least sincere among communications professionals.
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