One Billion or 1B? You’re Asking the Wrong Question

I found myself eavesdropping at a cafe. Two coworkers from a nearby marketing communications firm came in for coffee and sat on the couches near me. One was an account director, the other a copywriter. They talked about content for a client’s social media campaign. The account director wanted to tout the client’s impact by citing important statistics.

One of those statistics involved the phrase “One Billion.”

It’s rare to see creative and sales departments work harmoniously, so I was impressed, but it was time to stop listening and get back to my own work.

Then this happened:

“Let’s shorten ‘billion.’ Just make it 1B,” the director said.

“You don’t want ‘billion’ spelled out? I think it’s an attention grabber,” said the copywriter.

“You do? I feel like it’s too basic. I’m not sure it’s an attention grabber for our audience.”

I’ve been in similar conversations for as long as I’ve been writing. Who do you think was right?

My opinion is that neither of them knows. At that level of detail, it’s difficult to predict which version will perform more effectively without research.

Now let’s say you have the time and money to conduct a survey or an A/B test, where everything about the posts are identical except for ‘1B’ versus ‘1 Billion.’ Let’s say your metric is ‘Likes,’ and there is a noteworthy difference in response.

I ask, what good is that knowledge? What does it matter if you go from 100 to 150 “Likes,” when you might have had 1,000 with a better message?

In other words, if you’re going to test something, make sure it matters. Start with potential key messages, then refine your copy by tinkering with details.

And finally, if you’re still not sure, trust your copywriter. MW

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