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Published on July 24th, 2013 | by admin

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Do Digital Rankings Really Mean Anything?

In this week’s column, BoF editor-in-chief Imran Amed questions the real value of the digital and social media rankings that have flooded the fashion industry

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LONDON, United Kingdom — Lately, it seems that, everywhere I look, there is another ranking of fashion and luxury brands’ digital and social media prowess. While they may make for great press releases and attention grabbing headlines, I have to wonder what real value they are adding to the conversation about Fashion 2.0 — and in some cases I really question the methodologies behind these rankings.

A couple of weeks ago, it was the World Luxury Index China 2013,published by the Geneva–based Digital Luxury Group, that announced: “Chanel overtakes Louis Vuitton as most sought-after global luxury brand.”

The statement was based on the volume of Internet search queries mentioning the two brands. Reading the fine print, however, it seems that the reason Chanel outstripped Louis Vuitton was largely due to its beauty business, which provides consumers with a more accessible access point to the brand and would naturally result in more search queries. It’s no secret that Chanel’s premium-branded lipstick and nail polish are highly prized by voracious consumers in the Chinese middle classes who are eager to be part of the world of Chanel.

But does this really make Chanel the most sought-after luxury brand in China? You can draw your own conclusions.

Then, last week, social media agency Room214 sent a tweet about theirnew ranking of the “World’s Top 50 Fashion Brands in Social Media.”

In the introduction, the report states that “it is often difficult to create benchmarks and standards of measurement for any brand in social media. Part of the problem is there is no accepted industry-wide standard for measuring success.”

I couldn’t agree more.

But still, the report opened by ranking the top 50 brands based on how many followers they had on Twitter and Facebook. As any smart social media or community manager will tell you, the size of a brand’s follower count is more directly tied to the size of the company’s social media budget than it is to the overall success of the brand. Indeed, anyone with a big enough budget can acquire legions of new fans and followers.

Only later in the report did Room214 distinguish between simply acquiring fans and actually engaging those fans, pinpointing Christian Louboutin, Michael Kors and Tiffany as the most engaging brands based on consumer interactions per post on Twitter and Facebook.

Using engagement metrics makes a lot more sense. If I were running a fashion brand, I’d much rather have a smaller group of highly engaged fans, than a large group of followers who don’t pay attention to, or amplify, what I am sharing.

A couple of days later, still another digital ranking was published by theDachis Group in a report entitled “The Best Fashion Brands in Social Media.” The report grouped brands into three categories — Innovators, Leaders and Achievers — though the difference between these categories was not readily apparent. What’s more, the methodology behind the report was not available for review unless I requested a “demo,” which required sharing my personal details.

Indeed, it seems that this is the biggest reason of all for creating these reports: to build email databases of our contact information. They grab you with a juicy and sensational headline, then ask you for your data so you can understand how they came to their conclusions.

Last week, the New York-based “think tank” L2 released their latest Digital IQ Index, this time for department stores, awarding Nordstrom the top spot. L2 now has a ranking for virtually every subsector and geography of the luxury industry and beyond, from Autos, Beauty and Fashion to APAC, China and Brazil.

To their credit, L2’s rankings are more rigorous than any of the others, but are still based on a tick-box methodology of digital best practices. As we have discussed previously on BoF, you are awarded Digital IQ points by doing things according to general best practice, but not necessarily by creating a specific strategy that is well-suited to your business objectives.

Which brings me to my final point. The best metrics for business success have not really changed. In the pre-digital age, before we could easily track the impact of our marketing efforts, brands had to measure success based on sales metrics, or something similar. If a particular marketing campaign drove measurable increases in sales, then the agencies and their clients knew their messages were resonating.

Today, the art of persuasion is more complex — and we have so many more metrics to keep track of. But this does not mean that all metrics are meaningful. And, indeed, they are certainly not that insightful without the broader context of financial metrics, social media investments and the return on these investments.

While social media remains a powerful way of building direct relationships with consumers who have indicated a personal interest in your brand and measuring engagement with your content is a great way to understand what’s resonating with your fans, basic social media and search metrics are not the holy grail of a brand’s success and should not be treated as such.


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