Social Media Lesson: Don’t Confuse Response With Results

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you saw a series of one-word Status Updates. The word was always a color, and there was no explanation in the update:




Those among the baffled who Googled the subject learned that people (mostly women) were posting the color of their bras. Days later, it’s still not clear who came up with the idea, or what they were hoping to accomplish — it apparently had something to do with “breast cancer awareness”.

 It’s a great illustration of the difference between response and results.

 There was certainly a response — hundreds of thousands of women took the time to post their bra colors on Facebook. But what was the result?

 The campaign didn’t raise funds for breast cancer research, or services for patients. It didn’t help form support groups, or lobby for government support, or cause women to get mammograms. It didn’t even increase “breast cancer awareness” — nobody learned anything new about the disease.

 Response, yes. Results, no.

 For a look at a social media campaign that got real results, read this article about Jonathan Marcus, an assistant track coach at Portland’s Roosevelt High School. Marcus was appalled that many local track athletes couldn’t afford running shoes or other essential gear for their sport.

In mid-December, Marcus and his friend Jacob Buckmaster, an assistant track coach at Roosevelt, decided to take a different approach to outfitting athletes. Tapping into the local running community on the Internet through Facebook, they appealed for donations.

“We just figured we were going to get used or gently worn clothing,” Marcus said. “Initially, it was a clothing drive. But then it just started to take wings.”

Donations came from everywhere. Nike gave 40 pairs of shoes and new clothing. Road Runner Sports in Tualatin, where Marcus is a “grassroots partner,” contributed 30 pairs of slightly used shoes. Adidas on Thursday donated 14 pairs of new running shoes and 217 articles of new clothing. And Fit Right Northwest, with stores in Northwest Portland and Vancouver, came through with more than 200 pairs of shoes and about 100 garments — roughly $15,000 worth of merchandise.

Unlike whoever came up with the “What Color is Your Bra” idea, Marcus and Buckmaster knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish, and used Facebook to accomplish the goal. They asked their target audience to take a specific action, and were able to measure the results: to date, about 360 pairs of shoes and 700 articles of clothing.

To paraphrase advertising legend David Olgilvy,

Response is “I like your ad.”

Results is “I bought the product.”

Which would you prefer?


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One thought on “Social Media Lesson: Don’t Confuse Response With Results

  1. Phil – As a woman, I can say, posting our bra colors did have very real result… it got us TALKING!

    One woman posted that she had to have her breast removed and felt left out in this Facebook campaign. It opened up a way for her to explain how we can become more aware of changes in our breasts and how we can support more woman who have breast cancer. She even started a blog about it… and THAT is how true healing occurs… having an expressive voice for what’s “eating us” inside.

    On top that, it made me feel a bond with my fellow ladies… a connection that we all have to be aware of the risk, we all can contribute to the cause, and we all can celebrate how great it is to have BOOBS!

    It even made me want to walk next year in Race for the Cure! That’s what I call a positive RESULT.

    Thanks, Phil, for furthering this conversation.