The common flaw analyzing social media metrics. And why the Star Wars Prequels teach a good lesson.

Posted by on Jun 28, 2012

A yardstick is a great ruler, but can’t measure happiness or a brand. Or the true success of a Star Wars movie.

What do I mean? Consider this. If rated by sales and theatre attendance, the prequels to the Star Wars movies (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) are among the best movies of all time. But if you talk to most Star Wars fans, they are considered the worst of the franchise, bad movies overall and attributed to taking a big chunk out of the Star Wars brand. Why the disconnect?

Let’s not get into the reason why they are so bad (cough, horrible dialogue, mediocre acting). Instead, let’s ask why, despite being such a bad experience, did these movies rank so high in measurements like sales and attendance? Easy, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Those mostly well-done movies had built up so much goodwill, they gave fans the energy to keep charging the fortress of ho-hum, that are the Star Wars prequels. So the sales figures and theatre attendance are good as a measurement of customer loyalty. Not happiness with the product or the brand.

Measurement by raw sales and attendance figures are totally blind to the resulting disappointment, loss of interest and brand damage to the Star Wars franchise. If you relied on those measurements to report the effectiveness of the prequels, you wouldn’t be able to see that audience involvement is driven by borrowed interest. Most people came and brought their kids for their feeling about “Star Wars” not for the prequels. They “like” something. But not really what you’re selling. And as I said, that gets lost of in the reply by simply using the analytics of number of transactions.

In social media, you can show numbers of thousands or even million of people who “like” you. Or show up to your website because it’s optimized for a currently hot topic. Though you can wave the numbers at other to show how those results prove how popular your brand or web property is, it’s easy to forget that measurement may have nothing to do with belief in the brand. Rather your ability to promote yourself or tangentially connect with people at some non-germane point of interest. To go behind the numbers to see they don’t so much “like” you, but like the free t-shirt or contest you are holding.

If so, they barely had a reason to come to your web property and with no true brand to person connection, even less to stay. For a more holistic approach, both content and analytics must be in alignment for monitoring and building that connection. “Likes” on Facebook, like age, sometimes is just a number.

As an added bonus, check out this video that parodies Gotye’s “Someone that I used to Know” to see Star Wars fan’s frustration with the prequels.

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