Monday, August 24, 2015
The difference between buzz and noise


There were a lot of things noisy about Sage Summit this year. The bars and clubs of Bourbon Street, New Orleans, were certainly noisy. The teams of people that clapped and cheered you into breakfast were too (particularly after a late night on Bourbon Street). The t-shirts worn by the Bite team on those late nights would also qualify.

But there was also a big noise on the web, as Sage's CEO Stephen Kelly made a very public appeal to the company's employees and supporters to drive 100 million impressions of the #SageSummit hashtag on Twitter.

I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking impressions are a funny measure of success, as they're not always accurate or a guarantee of eyeballs. You're thinking just sharing a hashtag on Twitter won't necessarily convert to action or sales. You're thinking you'd look awesome in one of our t-shirts.

Agreed, on all points.

But Sage is in a new phase of its life right now, moving towards being a modern tech company and all the cloud-based, crowd-sourced, tweet-powered joy that comes with it. At this moment - as it opened its traditionally North America-focused conference to the world - it was right to shoot for a boat-load of buzz.

As the high-def jumbotron screen fired up, the lights flashed, and stars like Jane Seymour, Trevor Noah, Karren Brady, Matthew Weiner, and Tony Hawk (OMG!) graced the stage, the extension of Sage Summit into cyberspace felt right. By the end of the first day, impressions had hit the 100 million mark. By the end of the conference three days later, they were getting on for half a billion, and for a brief but exciting moment Sage's shindig had trended on Twitter.

At Bite, we talk a lot about "stopping content pollution", by which we mean "only communicate when you're adding value" and "don't create content for the sake of it". On the surface, Sage broke our rule. But it gave people a goal, with a clear success point. It rallied the Sage colleagues behind their leader.

Most importantly, it showed small businesses that Sage can mobilise people to stand up, do something, and be heard. That is the critical message coming out of 'new Sage', and they pulled it off and then some, in clear view of everyone. This wasn't noise, it was buzz. The buzz, in turn, created an atmosphere of excitement.

So yes, impressions aren't always the best way to measure Twitter which, in turn, isn't always the place you need to communicate. Sometimes, however, noise is OK. And every time, knowing your goal and sticking to it whatever anyone says is the right thing to do.

(Which is also how I ended up meeting Tony Hawk, despite being hungover and reeking of bourbon. But that's a different story...)