A study by Ipsos OTX, conducted on behalf of the Association of National Advertisers, caught our attention this week. The study was commissioned to gauge how marketers are currently measuring the success of their online marketing efforts. Those of you following this, or those of you who have read the book I co-authored with Danny Brown, know that marketing accountability and measurement are high on our priority list. Naturally, we were very eager to get the results.
eMarketer reported the findings today and further piqued our interest with the heading: Finally, Most Brands Measuring Social Content Effectiveness. We anxiously digested the findings only to be left wanting.
The study’s findings were summarized as follows: “80% of US client-side marketers measured the effectiveness of their social content, with social media metrics such as “likes” the most common.” The second largest group were measuring usage statistics (Eg. daily or monthly active users).
eMarketer offered this as positive news by pointing to the fact that most marketers were, in fact, attempting to measure the success of their social media content. In our minds, the fact that content marketing is still being measured by “Likes” is not something to celebrate.
The survey results pointed out that “metrics which could identify business ramifications were not used nearly as much, with financially based measurements such as return on investment and sales landing near the bottom.”
The Myth of Marketing Accountability
Soft metrics such as “Likes,” shares, and earned media are not “measurement;” they’re metrics plain and simple. Metrics aren’t measurement; they’re contributing factors to measurement, which is an effect on the business’s bottom-line, such as contributions to sales, profit or customer lifetime value.
We’re not discounting the importance of these soft metrics; they’re important indicators of the path the business is on or, at the least, the current progress of a marketing campaign in the market. They’re also good benchmarks with which to gauge the in-progress success or failure of future campaigns. Soft metrics, in isolation, only provide anecdotal evidence of a positive financial impact.
Don’t agree? Let me ask you this question: Why are marketing budgets typically the first to be cut when business and sales experience a downturn? Just when the business needs marketing the most? The answer is because C-suite executives recognize the financial contributions that each department makes to the business’s success, and they are measured in sales and profit. Until such time that marketers begin to measure their efforts by the red and black ink of the financial statements, the concept of marketing accountability remains a myth, the Loch Ness Monster of the business world.
Social Media’s Soft Metric Still Main Success Guideline
Sadly, it’s not just content marketing that remains measured by soft metrics. The same article in eMarketer shared the findings of a May 2014 poll by Contently, which suggested that soft metrics are still the number-one measurement of choice across all digital efforts.
“Nearly two-thirds of US content marketers said they used social shares and “likes” to determine success, the second most popular metric. Conversions and sales fell at the low end again, cited by 42.1%.
The report is frustrating in that it reveals that too many marketers have yet to embrace the potential that digital channels offer. The promise of social media in particular for marketers is its ability to finally connect consumer engagement across the entire life cycle to a single success measurement that the C-suite will appreciate, value, and reward.
These soft metrics, when plotted against the customer’s journey from awareness to purchase and then from purchase to advocacy, can provide intelligent insights on their effect on customer lifetime value. Which touch points generate the highest value and most convertible leads? Which touch points – and at what frequency – increase the likelihood of sales conversion? Which touch points – and across which channels – are associated with customers who remain loyal for a longer period of time? Which content is most effective at driving higher quality and more convertible leads when shared by brand advocates?
The digital realm has offered marketers the opportunity to finally break away from the myth of marketing accountability and take its rightful place as an equal member of the C-suite. Celebrating the fact that marketers are embracing soft metrics over financially based measurements, such as return on investment and sales, does nothing to further this cause.
Should we be celebrating the fact that majority of client-side marketers are measuring the soft metrics of content marketing over financially based metrics?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego