Getting to What Matters

Even in an industry as seemingly young as ours, history seems to repeat itself over and over again. Like many of you I have been listening with a wave of déjà vu to the chatter about various social metrics, including the number of fans, tweets, posts, likes, and shares relative to objectives and ROI. The social metrics discussion is reminiscent of prior evolution in the metrics surrounding display, website traffic, search marketing, and other forms of paid, earned, and owned media.

Click-through rate (CTR) is a prime example of a perfectly fine metric that somehow became a campaign objective. While we as an industry still struggle to get beyond the click, we maintain a conflicting and pervasive obsession with CTRs. If you do a Google search on click-through rate you will discover articles on CTR for PPC, reporting on CTRs for tablets, as well as studies that report on CTRs as a standard for what matters.

Social media metrics have similar confusion in the marketplace. A quick search on “Do Facebook likes matter” produces an array of various published opinions and advice including:

“There are many reasons why having more fans in Facebook matters…”

“Like’s are critical factor [sic] in building an audience with potential to convert…”

“Total Likes will influence the frequency in which a business’s Page appears in search results. Therefore, the more Likes you have, the better you’ll rank and reach new customers…”

“Feel free to disagree with me, but I really don’t think that Likes matter…”

“Facebook Likes and Comments do indeed have a significant impact on the reach of your brand…”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding and measuring what matters, and approaches need to evolve with new media and technology adoption. Industry benchmarks only become relevant in the rare situation that they describe something that is directly comparable.

How do we make sense of what metrics matters and develop an approach that reflects our current industry dynamics, changes in human behavior, and our respective businesses, but remain flexible as the market evolves?

It’s a unique process and result for each of us.

  • What matters is relative. What matters depends on the goals of the effort, your business environment, the level of investment, and your pre-determined success metrics. No one metric will have the same value to every effort for every business across industries.

    There may be some standards and averages that apply across comparable verticals that we can use for broad comparative purposes, but they offer little instructional value. We make a mistake when we continuously try to force definitions and benchmarks too broadly. The strength of the digital channel is its ability to flex and adjust to highly targeted audiences and behavior based on industry and specific business differentials.

    Define what matters relative to your business, ROI goals, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to objectives.

  • Quantity doesn’t matter without quality. This is pretty straightforward yet there are many marketers who still get stuck on the top-line numbers. If you have hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans or visitors to your website but they are not active, don’t convert, or don’t take actions that “matter,” then that is a reflection of the quality of your audience – a poor reflection.

    Quality can be measured in a number of ways: by conversions, activity, engagement, audience profiles, drop-offs, and so forth.

  • Determining what matters requires expertise, knowledge, and internal consensus. It takes interdisciplinary and interdepartmental effort to plan and execute programs that can deliver what really matters to a business.
  • What matters evolves. Marketing and media evolve along with new technology and platform adoptions, but channels or tactics should not drive business goals. Your goals should drive your choice of tactics, not the other way around. This takes constant internal education to make sure the organization as a whole is focusing on the right information.

Digital marketing has a well-earned reputation and a history of accountability and measurement that surpasses all other marketing channels to date; but the ability to measure tons of data points and the ability to extract value from those data points are two different things. To ensure value in your metrics you have to ignore the hype and keep asking yourself what really matters to your business. What are the key questions I need answered? And how will I be able to use the information I am gathering?

If you ask the wrong questions even the most accurate of answers won’t help you succeed.

Quality image on home page via Shutterstock.

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