There are four mandates that companies are adopting when they are examining and analyzing the success of their online marketing and social media programs. I recently gave a presentation to the Measured Marketing Roundtable at Techpoint, Indiana's technology and economic development association, that outlines these new metric must-dos.
It's Not a Lie if Everyone Agrees to It
For a very long time, measuring marketing was a needle in a haystack approach, whereby we all agreed to lie to each other about data and extrapolations of it. In Charlotte, North Carolina there are something like 1.7 million households with a television. Yet, the behavior of just 641 households are used to calculate the Nielsen ratings that determine the prices for advertising market-wide. This is clearly less than ideal mathematics, but it's all we had at our disposal, historically.
Then, digital marketing came along. Among its many benefits was the ability to measure the behavior of every impression, visit, click and so forth. No extrapolation necessary.
However, as is so often the case with online marketing, we overdid it. Because so much data was at our fingertips, we tried to measure everything - because we could in fact do so. This resulted in a 10-year period (that we are just now emerging from) where the glut of data made it paradoxically more difficult (not less) to know what the hell was going on with our online marketing results.
Today, marketers are smarter and more discerning about their data needs and desires. Now, there are 4 Metrics Mandates:
1. Behavior-Based instead of Aggregated Data
Katie Paine coined the bon mot "HITS means How Idiots Track Success" in 1997, and unfortunately it's still relevant today. Even though most website owners aren't using "hits" as a success metric any longer, we're still falling into the trap of counting aggregations.
Twitter followers and Facebook fans and the most egregious example. The number of Twitter followers you have means practically nothing. What you can do with them matters a lot.
Thus, the best metrics are those that measure behavior. Website leads from people that clicked on your tweet. Sales from Facebook fans. 5-star ratings on Yelp.com from blog readers. That's what we need to measure.
2. Integrated Metrics instead of Siloed Numbers
We have been able to track so many things in digital marketing that we created a series of data lakes for ourselves. SEO stats. PPC stats. Website stats. Banner ad stats. Email marketing stats. But which are the most important indices?
Today, the mandate is for integrated metrics that combine data from multiple sources to provide a seamless, instructive dashboard. Companies like PostRank (with its analytics product), and Klout (with its online influence measure) and leading this integrated metrics parade.
3. Optimizable Metrics instead of Happenstance
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of online marketing has been the ability to precisely test and optimize results. Given enough time, I can determine for you the best possible day, time, subject line, from line, layout, and link placement for your email newsletter. I can do the exact same thing for your paid search campaign, banner ad campaign, and your website home page. Online marketing and scientific method go together like Big Bird and Snuffleupagus.
But in the social media realm, we haven't quite gotten there yet. I can tell you at what times of day more people click links on Twitter, and I can tell you how many people commented on a Facebook status update. But, I can't test (at least not easily) hypotheses about headlines, link placement, time of day, etc. Social media results are still too much about trial and error, not optimization. Let's hope that changes - and fast. Maybe Twitter's new analytics feature will help?
4. Benchmarkable Metrics instead of No Frame of Reference
We have an insatiable desire for context. A search of Google for "good email open rate" fins 74,600 matching web pages! Why? Because most companies know their open rate, but they do not know whether it's any good in comparison to other companies.
That's one of the reasons Twitter followers and Facebook fans are such popular metrics; because they allow for on-the-spot manhood measuring between your company and your competitors. Even though Daily Story Feedback, Active Fans and several other metrics are better measures of Facebook success, those stats get very little mention because you have to log-in to see them, so companies can't one-click measuring stick.
Postrank is now allowing you to compare your blog's performance to that of up to four other sites. And "Share of Voice" is becoming a much more popular calculation (measuring the neutral + positive social mentions of your brand vs. competitors). Let's hope more social metrics are developed or published that give us the frame of reference we crave.
The 4 Characteristics of Marketing Metrics: Behavior-Based, Integrated, Optimizable, Comparable. Do you agree?