The Irony Of Measuring Marketing Now

by · May 14, 201213 comments

I once provided counsel for a company that had little confidence in social media marketing. It begrudgingly decided it would hire a consultant, go through some strategic exercises and probably prove that social media was bullshit and it would be better off sticking with its traditional guns.

The brand’s insistence with my work, as is with most clients I’ve dealt with, was that we measure everything as infinitely as possible. Skeptics are like that. They want to know how many clicks, how many re-tweets, how many milliseconds the time-on-site number increases each month, even if none of those measures really matter. Social Media Explorer has always been more partial to sales and lead conversion or at least metrics that match the client’s business goals. We reported those as well and met the client’s expectations.

Picture of a common measuring tape in inches. ...

Picture of a common measuring tape in inches. It is divided into 1/32nd of an inch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And after a few months and some short-term measurable impact through social media, they cut the cord. The metrics were good, but not eye-popping. And probably not as good as their last ad campaign. Skeptics don’t care that social media is not advertising and there needs to be time spent building a relationship with customers there. They want a 5.9 rating overnight or 150,000 impressions … or at least a promise that 150,000 issues of the magazine their quarter-page ad appeared in were distributed somehow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset the client decided social wasn’t for them. Best to explore and find out than to A) Not know or B) Explore, hate it and keep on banging your head against the wall. Some brands … or more specifically brand managers or CMOs … are just better suited to put social media off for the next guy or gal in charge. And maybe they’ll hear me yammering on about approaching social media marketing strategically and that you can measure if you plan to do so and give Social Media Explorer a shot.

But here’s the rub with companies like the one described above: A friend recently saw an advertisement for them … trailing the back of a bi-plane at a large, outdoor event.

And what, pray tell, infinite metrics did they get from that?

The digital space offers unprecedented access to lots of things. None is more compelling than the measures we can produce for clients. But those metrics are going to offer brands one thing they didn’t expect: honesty.

They’ve never gotten that before.

No matter how many of anything we report, no matter what percentage increase month-over-month, no matter what definitive conversion rate averages … nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever beat, “50,000 people may have seen your ad!”

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Craig Kessler

    Same old story. I find success with clients is really determined on their knowledge and understanding on the space more than any actual work done.  Truth is…a lot of time it’s more selling the idea, then performing the tactics.

    • JasonFalls

      Fair point, Craig. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Michele Price

    Yes they will spend thousands on ads with hopes of someone seeing them and then stand their with their hands on their hips saying prove it to social media, you show them more “honest stats” as you labeled it and they find another reason to complain.  WHY.  Because they are too enamored with looking good, have that home run < BUT not willing to train or get up to bat.

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  • kevinhudson

    Fantastic post, and especially brilliant final paragraph, Jason! 

    I think a lot of business owners fear social media (too many in fact), and the impact it may (or may not) have on their business. Other forms of advertising and marketing allow a business owner false hope, and/or false sense of security. E.g. an ad maybe being seen by 50,000 people. 99% of the time the business owner will replace “maybe” with “will be”…false hope.

    Because social media brings about a lower sense of security (and other forms of fear), business owners scrutinise its use a lot more, mainly because they know that they will likely get truer measurements of their brands success… or lack of it.

    It seems the majority would rather spend more money on hope, and more time scrutinising true potential.

    Bringing the topic of social media, and social media measurement, up at networking events can certainly help to separate the brave (and less naive) business owners, from the fearful ones.

    • JasonFalls

      Thanks, Kevin. Glad it struck a cord with folks.

  • Vmk Roy
  • Vmk Roy

    Oh Thanks for expert advice 

  • Marnie Hughes

    Do they revert back to old methods because, historically, they’ve had success? Maybe the social nay-sayers need to be shown how many new customers they received from the new methods versus the old ones. And was it worth the cost. Possible? Naive?

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  • Frank Strong

    It’s the old Big Blue allegory all over again.  The thing that kills me about this thinking is that we spend more time measuring than doing. Yes, metrics are important, but would you rather I spend my time reporting or making it happen?

  • Matt Thompson

    I think a lot SM marketers are learning what people that are digital marketers have known for a while- clients are “experts” when it comes to digital efforts because they actually have numbers. I always gave the analogy of your jerk friend that you go to restaurants with and assumes it is easy to run a restaurant because they eat out a lot. The same was with websites back in the day and hold more water than ever before because of the use of platforms in their personal life- everyone thinks it is easy and they can cut the cord whenever they want.

    The same people ask “how many likes should we have” when they have never asked the same thing when it comes to their email marketing database. The answer was always “as many qualified customers or potential customers I can have.” 

    Ehh, sorry for the slight rant but it is amazing to me how many companies want to “bleed a stone” when it comes to all digital efforts but haphazardly throw money in crap that cannot be measured or can only be measured by impressions.

    • JasonFalls

      Good stuff, Matt. Rant here anytime!