We have an incredibly strange fascination with numbers. Now before I go any further, let me just state up front that I fully understand that all of us are in business to make money. Things like revenue and ROI are important, and yes, money is measured in numbers. (And I’m sure this post will attract at least one person who criticizes me as saying they aren’t important, along with the requisite passive aggressive tweets). But lately I feel as though we are spinning our wheels as we focus so much on numbers and trying to monetize everything we do to squeeze every little last penny out of every task. Again, I’m not saying this is entirely wrong, but it sure seems somewhat misdirected. Let me explain:
The other day Gini Dietrich pointed me to a post by Shonali called Rubbish is as Rubbish Does. The post was a rather well-tempered rant about something in PR circles known as AVE or “ad value equivalency”. If you’re not familiar with the term, AVE is an attempt by some to assign a dollar value to publicity as if it were advertising.
This is just another example of our need to justify everything we do based on numbers and dollars. You know, the old “if it isn’t making dollars it isn’t making sense” argument.
And then after reading Shonali’s post I came upon a seemingly reputable social media site that has created a Facebook business hub of sorts. Part of that hub was a “projects” section. When I clicked on it, I wanted to run the other way screaming. Most of the listings were for people looking for…you guessed it…numbers!
Listing after listing of people offering to pay someone anywhere from $30 to $500 to help them get anything from “1000 Twitter and 100o Facebook Followers” to upwards of 50,000 of each. And in some cases there was very little criteria for who those fans should be…in other words, they just wanted butts in seats. Warm bodies.
Another listing was someone looking for “Facebook fan suppliers” and he was willing to pay $30 per 1000.
Is this what we’ve become? And I say this after just helping a client get more than 1800 new fans in a 24 hour period the other day. The difference being, we know that these are targeted customers who truly do like the brand in question…they aren’t just random people.
I’ve never once in my life had someone come up to me and say, “Hey, Ken, I need friends! Can you get me 1,000 friends by the end of the month?” I’ve also never walked around boasting about how many “real life” friends I have. No one does. I mean, if you actually KNOW the number of friends you have, you’ve got way too much free time on your hands (or you don’t have very many friends…hmmm). And on top of that, do businesses rank their customers and wait on them based on how many friends they have, or how important they are? (Yes, I’m looking at you, Klout).
No, friendships and relationships just happen, and they happen over time. You can’t force them. This isn’t some sort of online dating service. Take my friend Donna. She moved to my area awhile back and used Twitter to begin making friends before she got here. I’m pretty sure that she may have only truly connected with a dozen or so people, and I’m also pretty sure she wouldn’t trade them for “1,000″ random people.
Are people merely commodities? Will we soon be seeing Facebook fans and Twitter followers traded on the Commodities exchange like pork bellies and soy bean oil futures? Probably not, but businesses and marketers need to stop treating them that way.
This love of numbers and the “need” to attach financials to everything is a mindset that brought about the steroid era in baseball.
Do we really need to grow so fast? As I said in my comment on Shonali’s post:
Making money and some sort of ROI analytics are important, but boy we seem to be so worried about numbers…especially in a microwave sorta way. You know how you pop something in the microwave and while it USED to be fast, we stand there tapping our foot because goshdarnit, 30 second isn’t fast enough anymore!
Whatever happened to seeing the cumulative results of things over time? I’ll take something that cooks in the crockpot over the same thing in the microwave any day!
Slow down. Get to know people. Don’t be in a rush to grow your following or fan base so fast. And by all means, don’t feel like you must attach a dollar value to everything you do. And remember, most ROI measurements are rather “immediate” and don’t take into account customer relationships over time. Sometimes a long time.
Are you addicted to numbers? Is there more to life and business than just the bottom line?