My own field observations of Blyopia (see Part I - including Bob's comment and my retort) indicate that the condition seems to spread more easily among people with a need to appear "hard-nosed" and "business-focused." These are often the same ones locked into the instant-gratification, quarterly report mentality that requires numerical results that THEY can take credit for NOW!
To me, they're just hard-headed and short-sighted: their focus on the trees (short-term results) prevents them from seeing the forest (the long-term health and success of their business).
In Bob Bly's case, I noted in Part I that his criticisms of blogs as a business tool focuses on comparing them to his own field of expertise: direct marketing sales campaigns. In the first place, Bob's confidence that his ability to measure things like click-throughs, responses, and conversions equates directly to ROI is itself open to question. A serious problem with insisting on measurement is that it makes you dependent on only those factors you selectively chose to measure and forces you to ignore things that we don't yet know how to measure -- regardless of how crucial to success those things may have become.
Consider this hypothetical example from Andy Sernovitz's new book, Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking -
These days, all marketers are obsessed with measuring results, so let's do some math (actually some story problems).
. . .
Problem #3. We pay for an email campaign to one million opt-in (we hope) email addresses. we get 1 percent click-throughs, and close 10 percent of them, giving us 1,000 new customers. But 10,000 people don't remember opting in. So they get angry and decide never to buy from us again. And they each tell five friends that we spammed them. Two thousand of those [50,000] people were current clients who are now mad at us. And they each tell five friends.
How many prospects do we lose forever? Was the potential lifetime value of these customers greater than the new accounts we acquired? What is the lost revenue from current customers who left because they think we are spamming? What happens when people start blogging that we spammed them?
In the hypothetical, the direct marketer chose to measure click-throughs and conversions. The measured results might look impressive. But the long-term impact on the company would be harmful.
But putting aside for the moment such unintended consequences of the measurement obsession in general, or direct marketing in particular, if blogs were designed or meant to be used primarily as a sales tool for generating immediate response purchases, then Bob's criticisms might have some validity. We should not be willing to allow those with Blyopia to frame the question so narrowly.
The "engagement" with customers enabled by blogs and other social media (yours AND theirs) feed much more than short-term sales.
Blogs can feed R&D.
Blogs can feed customer support.
Blogs can feed product/service design.
Blogs can feed the company's brand value.
I can't be the only one amused by the irony of Bob Bly's Blog, where he's recently been hosting a discussion on the viability "branding" as a way to build company value. If there's anyone out there besides a few of Bob's readers who doubts the balance sheet value of brand equity, look at the comments to Bob's post (#s 10 and 12) from Diana Huff and the research article cited in another comment, Madden, et al., Brands Matter: An Empirical Demonstration of the Creation of Shareholder Value Through Branding, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 34, No. 2, 224-235 (2006) (abstract here).
Even more ironic is hearing about anyone at Coke purporting to focus on the "how many cases" question (see Part I), in view of Coke's enormous brand value. What would Warren Buffet think about that? His philosophy of recognizing the value of a company's "brand" and insistence on taking a long-term approach to building a profitable business is well known. And Coke is one of his shining examples. There are differing approaches to measuring the value of a company's brand (example, example), but Coke's most recent 10K balance sheet lists nearly $4 Billion in trademarks, good will, and other intangibles -- nearly a quarter of its shareholder equity.
Shortly after Stichweh spoke at ad:tech, Brian Kardon of Forrester Research spoke at the AMA's mPlanet conference and used the Diet Coke - Mentos videos as examples of the impact a company's willingness to engage with customers and embrace social media can have. After playing the Eepybird video (go ahead, watch it again), he reported that Mentos publicly announced it was "delighted" by the video, while Coke's initial response was pure PR Dept. spin: "it doesn't fit with the brand personality."
Want numbers? According to Kardon, Mentos sales were up 14.5%, due in part to a "significant hit" from the video. Coke, as discussed in Part I, is playing catch-up and still seems ambivalent about it.
In my retort to Bob's comment under Part I (he'd quoted Lord Kelvin on the value of measurement), I wrote:
Take gravity. Long before we could describe it accurately or measure something, humans built buildings with cantilevers and invented keystone arches. Would it have been "smart, tough-minded business" to operate as if gravity did not exist, just because we had not yet figured out how to measure it in numbers?
History has favored those who acted on what they could observe happening, without waiting for someone else to wrap a scientific explanation and measurement tools around it.
For those willing to act on what they can observe about blogs and social media, without insisting on numerical measurements that haven't yet been invented, in Part III we'll examine how to avoid Blyopia and put these new tools to work.