Are Vanity Awards worth it? An experiment in identifying web influence.

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You may have received an email yourself, congratulating your company on being named in the Top 30 or 50 or 100 Best, Fastest or Friendliest companies in A, B or C industry. To receive your award all you need to do it pay a couple of $1,000 and a whole host of positive publicity is yours!

If you do a quick search for these awards then you will find some negative comments on social media, blogs pieces and other articles. But you will also find a lot of content published about the awards, so what’s the story. Are these awards useful for generating publicity — maybe they are worth it?

At Glass, we have developed artificial intelligence that is able to understand natural language at scale and have pointed it at the internet to digitally map the world’s economy. Using our AI, we investigated whether these awards are useful marketing tools based on the footprint they leave on the web.

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Share of web presence for vanity award news sources.

We know that there are negative comments about these awards in social media and other articles, but it is interesting to look at the content that is being generated by these awards when they are published. Looking at a sample of awards over the past year, it appears that the reach of the awards fits into 3 categories: PR distribution services, copy and paste content and the companies that have received the awards themselves.

  • PR distribution services typically offer low-cost mechanisms for sharing a press release to large numbers of online services and news outlets. They offer a spray and pray approach to public relations and seem to be the major outlet for the releases published by the awards.

  • The award releases do seem to occasionally appear on other sites, but if you dig a little deeper then you see that the content is identical to parts of the original release and the sites they appear on are minor company blogs; probably where the owner is looking for any sort of story related to their own industry to help with their content marketing. Interestingly, given the nature of awards, these sorts of stories seem to get picked up less often — because who wants to advertise competing companies — than other releases published by the PR distributors.

  • As you would expect the companies receiving the awards also publish information about the awards on their own websites. This is no surprise but it is interesting to view the types of companies that are receiving the “top” awards. There are certainly exceptions but if you look at other mentions they are having in the press then many of the organisations seem to have had very little impact on their own industry.

The evidence suggests there is very little chance of one of these award categories being picked up by any mainstream or regular media outlets. So whilst they do generate a footprint on the web, as an organisation you might be better off developing your own unique story and sending it to the PR distribution services directly — although another interesting piece of web analysis might be to examine the reach and impact of these services themselves. That said, nothing beats developing a good direct relationship with journalists covering your sector.