Measuring what matters… in real-time

A new blog post and report from Forrester Analyst, Nate Elliott, Social Media Marketing Metrics That Matter, defines a framework for social media measurement. There is some great thinking here. This image provides an overview of his framework:

The core idea is around segmenting social metrics by audience role: social strategist, marketer, executive. And while Nate correctly states, “if you’re focusing on fans and followers then you’re almost certainly doing it wrong” he goes on to suggest that social strategist should focus on just that.

Here is my problem with this approach:

The assumption is that there is a correlation between social activity (fans, followers, etc.) and real business objectives. Only if organizations are able to make that correlation, which will change over time, should they continue to track and measure social activity metrics and even then it minimizes the value of the social strategist role.

Secondly, this framework suggests real business value metrics are only evaluated on a quarterly or annual basis when senior management is involved. The benefit of social, or any interactive medium, is the ability monitor and adjust real-time. Only by empowering social strategist with real business metrics can they make the adjustments necessary to optimize your programs to maximize revenue, not retweets.

Segmentation makes sense, but all marketers need to take advantage of interactive mediums by measuring what matters and doing so in real-time.

Advertising Effectiveness Will Never Change With Analysis Like This

In a recent article, Advertising Will Change Forever, Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff explains that while digital spending will nearly double in 5 years ad budgets won’t. The reason for this, Bernoff explains, is that “In this recession, marketers have learned that interactive marketing is more effective, and advertising less effective, per dollar spent.” While this will make bloggers, digital analysts and social media strategists feel pretty good about themselves and their job security further analysis is required.

Asking marketers about the effectiveness of individual channels is part of the problem. Channels are not executed in a vacuum. We now understand from rigorous attribution research conducted by Microsoft Atlas and others what we have always assumed to be true, that the effectiveness of individual channels is significantly affected not only by other online channels but across offline channels as well. As long as research companies like Forrester and marketers take the easy way out and evaluate the effectiveness of channels in a silo, progress towards really measuring the effectiveness of marketing will never be made.

Bernoff goes on to fuel the fire by proclaiming the oncoming death of traditional channels, “If you’re in advertising, you’d better learn to speak digital, because that’s the way the world is going.” Contrary to this statement, Forrester’s own data shows that while time spent online has been growing rapidly, time spent watching TV is actually up YOY and still captures the majority of consumers time.

My recommendation is to ignore predictions of the death of traditional channels and ignore research that evaluates the effectiveness of channels in a silo. With the proliferation of new channels, consumers continued use of traditional channels and increasing cross-channel behavior, if you’re in advertising, you’d better learn to speak and measure integrated, because that’s the way the world is really going.

Five Online Trends Marketers Should Focus On.

With almost half of 2009 and hopefully the worst of the economy behind us, its time to focus on the online trends that matter. Put your Facebook and Twitter strategy aside and focus on:

  • Interactivity: Organizations need to really internalize what it means to be interactive and leverage the specific strengths of interactive channels for all marketing programs and consumer touch points. Interactive marketers need to push best practices across the entire organization to ensure a positive experience for consumers changing behaviors and expectations.
  • Measurement: Consumers increasing cross-channel behavior will force marketers to improve their measurement capabilities. Consumers move across a variety of online and offline channels throughout their purchase process. In order to accurately determine the effectiveness of marketing spend, influence future investment or identify which programs to cut, measurement needs a cross-cannel upgrade.
  • Consolidation: With the proliferation of marketing channels, organizations have acquired a variety of separate vendor/agency relationships for their search, email, social and mobile marketing efforts. Marketers need to tear down the internal and external walls separating channels to reduce the number of profit centers and infighting, create a media neutral approach and improve cross-channel integration.
  • Governance: The talk in 2008 was that marketing’s needed to release control of their brands, that consumers now owned the brands and there was nothing you could do about it. It is exactly because of that shift in control that marketers need to better manage brand communications through the issuance of governance policies and procedures for employees and increased vigilance through brand monitoring tools and technologies.
  • Analytics: For years now marketers have been collecting data through CRM systems, web analytics platforms, experiential marketing campaigns, etc. Marketers now need to integrate disparate data sources from around the organization and enhance their analytical capabilities to help improve targeting, enhance consumer insights and promote a more comprehensive view of the customer.

Attribution solutions still fall short.

The topic of attribution has been gaining steam as ad servers like DoubleClick and Microsoft’s Atlas, and Web site analytics providers like Coremetrics and Omniture have developed solutions to more accurately attribute influence across various online touch points. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back so soon.

These solutions exist in an online silo, rely on attribution rules and algorithms that need maturation, and ignore important consumer generated influencers like customer reviews. As a result, they only provide marketers with an incremental improvement to online measurement, still ignoring the majority of consumer’s media consumption (TV, Radio, Print) and offline influencer’s contribution in the purchase path.

The multitasking and cross-channel behavior of today’s consumer exposes the limitations of these online attribution solutions. The real solution lies in a clear understanding of consumers’ cross-channel behavior through the marketing funnel, programs aligned to business objectives and metrics that measure every touch point’s contribution through this journey.