Online Marketing and Measuring Social Media

Both David Churbuck and Rob O’Regan have are right on my wavelength this morning.  It must be something in the air.

Churbuck has an excellent list reflecting the lesson’s he’s learned in 11 months at Lenovo (as he terms it, a $14 billion start up).  All of them key ideas, but here are two that really stick with me.

Interactive/Digital marketing feels hotter to me in 2006 than Online Journalism did in 1994 in terms of potential impact and disruptive impact.

Yup, we’re still figuring this thing out.  There’s very much a wild west feel, and I’m often struck by the “give it a try and we’ll see what we get” attitudes that I’m hearing.  The problem is that we’re all looking for numbers to justify what we’re doing, yet anyone with a passing understanding can see that for the most part, our metrics are severely flawed.  I see this getting worse – as I read my copy of Online Media, Marketing and Analytics this morning I was struck by how many single point of light solutions are coming.  One for tracking online video, another for mobile video blogs, etc.  I don’t know anyone who’s got the time in the SMB world to watch 30 different tracking applications. 

Engagement marketing is where the action is but direct marketing is where the money is.

Engagement is sexy, it’s fun, it’s altruistic.  It’s marketing riding in on a white charger to save the damsel.  Direct marketing is unsubscribe lists, frequency and walking a thin line with the dark side.  “Luke, I’m your marketing manager…”

Engagement is the thing that allows you to direct market.  It helps to create an environment where the customer is willing to recieve your message, opt in for email, open print mail, click on targetted ads, sign up for RSS, etc.  It’s the difference between an open email and a new spam filter rule with your name on it.  This is purely perception on the part of the customer.

Rob O’Regan has a post about Chris Kenton’s bit on Measuring Social Media.  Another must read bit.

Figuring out ways to measure things like engagement and relevancy in the Web 2.0 world is a major challenge to online marketers used to more tangible metrics like click-throughs and page views.

We really want to know, but we’re still in a position where the numbers just don’t seem to make sense.  Everytime I am asked to report on stats, I feel like I need to put on a cone shaped hat with stars and moons on it.  Words like “if, but, maybe” start to pepper my speech, and everyone in the room gets glassy eyed.

Chris Kenton notes that in a recent online social media and metrics seminar, the talk quickly digressed to semantic discussions on the meaning of the terms we hold dear.  Clear signs that the online marketing arena is undergoing major change.  Read the whole post, but here is his summation:

I think it’s important for social media gurus to take a breath before racing down the track to deliver new metrics, and start asking some critical questions about why these measurements matter, who they matter to, and what the implications are of adoption. Are the measurements designed to aid in gaining insight into market issues and trends? Or to refine and direct influence over market dialogs and impressions? Are the proposed metrics really an accurate measurement of value, or just a reflection of a particular bias toward one form of social dynamic? And perhaps most importantly, what are the potential unintended consequences of leading investors to value particular measurements of social media interactions? (Think of Nielsen ratings for pricing television advertising, and the stupid spectacle of sweeps week.)

I guess it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.  I had a discussion with Jay Cody of Helium yesterday and he was asking where he could go to estimate the size of online niche markets.  If he was talking about print, I’d send him to the ABC, but online there is no authorititive source.  It’s like trying to estimate how many grains of sand there are on the beach…not one beach but *all the beaches*.

As tough as this stuff is for the marketing groups at the corporations, step back and think of the impact on the Medium size corporations.  We don’t have regiments of analysts to help make sense of this stuff.  There’s a need here, and not only is it not being filled, we haven’t even defined it yet.

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