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Blog: ‘Moneyball’ is More than a Baseball Story, It's A How-to in Marketing

The new Brad Pitt movie “Moneyball” is in theaters around the country and it’s got something for everybody. Whether it’s the feel-good story about baseball, Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced stylistic dialog, or the whole Brad Pitt thing, it’s easy to find something to like about this movie. Even with all that going for it, its biggest appeal may be the lesson it has for social media marketers.

Brad Pitt in Moneyball
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

"Moneyball" is based on a 2003 book of the same name by Michael Lewis. It shows how the Oakland A’s took an analytic approach to player evaluations when everyone else was going off hunches and generalized stats. Compared to other teams in bigger markets, the A’s had a limited budget for investing in players. Since they couldn’t spend as much as the competition, they had to be smarter about their investments. They applied new methods of analyzing productivity and built a winning team at a fraction of the cost.

"Moneyball" is not just a baseball story.

It is a fascinating look at how breaking old thinking and applying new metrics can improve efficiency and generate better results. Some have called this the best book on marketing that’s not about marketing. Right after the book was released, dozens of articles celebrated the new era of “Moneyball Marketing” where a more rigorous analysis of marketing performance was necessary in the rapidly expanding Internet era.

It is now eight years later and a lot has changed. The evaluation of paid media marketing is much more analytical and ROI measurement is part of every marketer’s job. But we live in a social media dominated world today. We spend most of our media time with social networks and what we read influences our purchase decisions much more than what marketers are shouting at us. The evaluation of social media marketing today is still largely based on hunches, vague assessments of influence, and generalized statistics that don’t have a lot of meaning for what really counts.

F8 Facebook Developers Conference 2011
F8 Facebook Developers Conference 2011

Like we saw with the old school baseball executives in "Moneyball", social marketing performance evaluation in most companies is “subjective and often flawed”. It’s time to challenge that outdated thinking. If you want social media to drive your business, apply the principles of "Moneyball" to your social media marketing now to improve efficiency and results.

Here are 4 ways "Moneyball" thinking can increase the productivity and efficiency of social media marketing:

1. Engagement is Not the Goal – You Need to Drive Sales

There are a million ways to use social media across a company and all of them are important. If you are a marketer responsible for supporting sales and growing revenue, you need social media to generate transactions. This requires taking a direct marketing mindset to your social strategy. Conversations to increase “engagement” may fill your Facebook page, but they aren’t going to influence sales. Provide a series of activities, offers, promotions, events and incentives designed to increase trial of your product and move them towards a sale. Keep your communications fresh and interesting. Encourage product reviews on Amazon , YouTube and anywhere people are discussing your products. Like any direct marketing program, make sure start with a plan to capture the right data to determine its impact on sales.

"If you want social media to drive your business, apply the principles of Moneyball to your social media marketing now to improve efficiency and results." " -Dir. of Marketing, BzzAgent, Brian Cavoli

2. Don’t Be Everything to Everyone - Build Advocacy with the Right People

You can reach a lot of people in social media, everyone’s there. But you can spend a lot of time and resources trying to be all things to all people. To get the most results out of social media, focus on cultivating your brand advocates and let them do the talking for you. These people talk about brands habitually and being an expert on a topic or a company is part of their identity. Find your vocal supporters, give them unique and exclusive experiences, and encourage them to share their opinions with others. People don’t want to hear marketers talk in social media - they want to hear from others with similar lifestyles, interests and activities.

3. Stop Measuring Mentions – Optimize Based on Advocate Influence Scores

It’s not the quantity of social media conversations that matters, it’s the quality. You can get a lot of people talking about your brand in social media, but if it’s seen as spam, it’s not going to impact your business. Analysis from companies like Klout and PeerIndex score people based on the quality of their social media participation. BzzAgent determines a score based on the impact they have with specific brands. Use these scores to keep the productivity of your program high. You can’t manage an effective social marketing program over the long term without it.

4. Value Does Not Equal ROI – You Must Measure Sales Impact

There’s been no lack of imagination when it comes to developing social media metrics, but the only ones that matter are sales and ROI. For social media to be seen as an efficient and productive new business tool by the C-suite, it has to be measured the same way all other media formats are measured. That means reliable, third- party verified data on units sold, revenue and ROI. This can be done by tracking in-store sales with loyalty card data or with Matched Panel tests and Marketing Mix Modeling analysis from companies like Nielsen and SymphonyIRI.

With these practices in place, you can sit back with a box of popcorn and enjoy the movie knowing that you’ll be the Brad Pitt of your marketing department.

Brian Cavoli is the Director of Marketing for BzzAgent, a division of the global shopper marketing leader dunnhumby. Brian has a deep background in social media and interactive marketing. Prior to BzzAgent, Brian led marketing and lead generation for the social media measurement firm Cymfony. Brian started the search engine marketing group in the U.S. for MPG Media Contacts and he created the Innovation Engine, an emerging technologies initiative at Carat. He has also held marketing management positions at Monster.com and Instant Information. Brian’s teams have won the Grand Prix Award for Innovation by the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) and MediaWeek’s Media Plan of the Year for "Best Use of Internet".