There’s one rule any journalist learns on the first day on the job. It is applicable for anyone who posts news online, whether you work for the New York Times or BuzzFeed.
The rule is simple. Any news report must answer the 5 Ws:
What happened? Where? When? Why? By Who?
Over the years, the 5 Ws got an extra question to answer: How the story happened?
Those 5 pillars of a well-established report are essential for online marketers as well. But there is one W that is becoming more important today. Any marketing report that neglects it or just briefly covers it is missing the essence of the story. There are 5 Ws, but for marketers, one of them is much more important than the others.
From Analytics to Storytelling
Analytics tools became an essential part of the marketing toolkit. Supported by their power, marketers can easily analyze what happened on the platforms they manage. But today, knowing what happened isn’t as powerful as telling why something happened and what can you do about it.
Let’s take an example. Imagine you’re a social media manager at the fashion industry and you’re trying to benchmark your performance against other companies in your space. Puma is one of those companies. Here’s how a journalist would have taken the assignment:
This was May 2016 of Puma on two social accounts – Twitter, and Instagram:
What happened: the bare metrics are 34k brand mentions on Twitter and 154k on Instagram. Impressive figures, but even with a naked eye you can spot an unusual peak on May 26th.
There’s a story waiting for us over there.
The story of this peak happened on Twitter. Let’s take a better look at it:
At this point, we know that there was a great chatter on Twitter about Puma on May 26th. Now we need to know why. Here are the top tweets from that day. Take a closer look at them. Can you explain why the top tweet on the top-left got was so popular?
These are all polished images of Puma sneakers and shirts. The first one on the top left was extremely popular – more than 4k retweets on May 26th alone. The image is great, no question about it, but it doesn’t seem to be significantly different from the others. Why was this one so popular?
Hovering over the most popular tweet unveils the mystery. The tweet was posted by one of the most influential celebrities online: Rihanna.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) May 26, 2016
Now we’ve got our story straight. It was an ordinary month for Puma, till something happened at the end of it. Rihanna announced her new Puma sneakers and the brand enjoyed a tremendous amount of mentions online.
The Most Important W of All
Journalists seek stories. When they get raw data, they convert it into an insightful story. The 5 Ws help them navigate through the clutter of information. Marketers are in the same boat. With so many platforms to manage and data to organize, extracting insights from all of it can be a challenge.
Following the 5 Ws is an easy way to make sense through the piles of information. Instead of reporting data, tell a story. And a good story is led by solid characters. On social media, those characters are the influential users.
In the case of Puma above, revealing the influencer who created the buzz was pretty easy. But most of the time that won’t be the case. Usually, we would have to identify the level of influence for people who are not celebrities but are still influential in their space.
Understanding who moved the needle is the biggest opportunity for brands on social.
Identifying influencers within your engaged audience can help marketers make informed decisions about them. It makes every social media report an actionable plan: embrace the people who interacted with the brand; connect with the influencers; maintain relationships with your champions. That’s why answering the Who question is today’s most important W for marketers.