Measure What Matters: Conversation Starters for Measuring Digital



Got it out of your system? Great. Now, don’t say those words again – unless you sincerely mean them.

In today’s marketing/business world, the idea that he who has the most data makes the best decisions is actually doing more harm than good. Granted, there are many companies out there wading through the data flood that are doing it with ease (and surprise, they’re usually based in the technology sector), but that’s not the case for most brands. I’m not a data scientist – I’m a marketer. I know enough about query strings, pivot tables, and APIs to get myself in trouble (and I usually do). What I do know, though, is that marketing/advertising/PR/customer service/[insert business group function here] have an obligation to report metrics that matter – not just to their group, but to the business and the business’ goals. Here are four ideas to spark your thinking about creating a meaningful digital measurement and reporting program. Note: If you were expecting to read this and get a list of KPIs to throw in a dashboard and call it a day – you’re sadly not going to get that. Each opportunity is different, thanks to different goals, data availability, and structure. Sadly, there is no one-size-fit-all solution.

Know Your Business Goals

Fans are a great stat, if you’re a baseball team and you’re looking at how successful you are. Likewise, if you’re running a Broadway show, you want to make sure you have as many people in the theatre every night as is humanly possible. It’s not the same for brands. Brands’ business goals can range from the incredibly tactical “Sell 5,000,000 laptops this Christmas,” to the fluffy “be the most-loved mobile device maker in the world.” Each of those are great in their own right, but there aren’t really marketing metrics that directly tie to them – and there shouldn’t be.

If your business goal is to sell 5,000,000 laptops at Christmas, you’re probably going to look at measuring clicks on links, site traffic, and conversions – but you’re not going to be too concerned with buzz or sentiment, as long as those laptops are getting from the assembly line to under someone’s Christmas tree.

If you’re aiming for the slightly more fluffy “be the most loved mobile device maker in the world,” you’re probably more concerned with measuring sentiment online, positive buzz, number of complaints, and scores from your customer service team. The point here is, you have to know and agree on business goals before you go collecting digital metrics, as trying to make them fit when going the other way can be messy.

Measureable Should Equal Actionable

If you can’t do something based off the insights your teams create around reporting, what’s the point? I use the words “Actionable Insights” with my teams and clients. Yes, that campaign got a bazillion and three impressions, but what did we learn? The learning wasn’t that we got a bazillion and three impressions, but that people reacted positively to ads that contained a blue background 3x better than images with an orange background – so we should create more images with blue backgrounds. That’s something that our creative/content team can immediately start doing once they read the report.

I like to end reports with a “Three Things to Do by Tomorrow” slide that gives people very clear marching orders – whether those are optimizations or net-new tactics. Doing this gets people thinking in terms of “what did we learn that we can action right away to save money and be more effective.”

Automate What You Can

APIs and automated downloads are your friend. They’re also the friend of your reporting and measurement teams. If they can spend less time clicking download, that means they have more time to analyse the data, working toward that idea of Actionable Insights.

While we’d all like to have custom-built tools plugged into APIs-a-plenty, that’s simply not possible for many marketers. What is possible, though, is creating regular reporting using automatic downloads – and using tools to help where networks don’t have the options.

The time you save will most likely outweigh the costs associated with automated data and report delivery, but more importantly, it frees your teams up to focus on objectives.

Forget Everything Else

This is probably the hardest bit, quite honestly. Once you set your framework, you need to let it run for a while so you can see what’s working and what isn’t. When you start bolding things on, taking things off, and augmenting existing pieces you eventually end up right back where you started – with a jumble of numbers and insights that don’t match up, don’t show change over time (because you keep changing), and don’t necessarily level up to business goals.

Making a concerted effort to measure and report on the pieces that matter not only to your specific area of the business, but wider business goals means less time and effort on your part and savings for the company in the way of data licensing/storage/tools/etc.

I once had a client that paid a company to essentially search the internet for mentions of their brand and hand score (because things like Crimson Hexagon didn’t exist yet) posts to let them know the mix of positive, negative, and neutral comments. So, every month the client got their numbers, read verbatim examples… and then continued doing exactly what they were doing. What was the point? The number had become nothing more than a check box on a review sheet – not actionable.

Note: I don’t mean to just go heads-down, but you do need to actually start measuring/reporting at some point – and that takes turning off the big data info flow for a bit.

At The End of the Day…

CEOs of large companies don’t keep track (or at least I hope not) of how many Facebook fans they have. If marketers can start thinking in terms of overarching goals and how what they’re doing contributes to those goals, that’s a good first step. The amount of data out there won’t get smaller anytime soon, so it’s up to us to fight for streamlined processes where possible and to help push for better understanding about metrics that really matter.


Comic via: 

Ditch the Digital Marketing Diets


January is a tricky time to be a marketer, unless you’re working with clients in the fitness or health sectors – then it’s a free-for-all. It’s a time when consumers are making often short-lived commitments and resolutions to do things like eat better, drink less, exercise more, or to (gasp) disconnect from technology. It’s also a time when marketing plans are being put in motion for the year… something that actually looks lot like a New Year resolution lists for the ad world. “We’re going to use social more!” “We’re going to be mobile optimised!”

Those are all great ideas, and they’re things brands should be talking about, but sadly they’re also like so many New Year’s resolutions: they don’t last. You’ll hear countless experts say “diets don’t work.” But, what do you mean diets don’t work? I see people get skinny all the time, you say. Those experts would argue that it’s not dieting that creates those lasting changes, it’s changes in behavior and practice.

So, then, why can’t brands and agencies use the same thinking when looking at shifting their marketing tack?

Drop the Fads

People love fads. Consumers, ad people, PR people, everyone – it’s built into our DNA. We want to be part of the “now” that drives popular culture and opinion. You see it with advertising all the time. Remember flash mobs? QR codes (which somehow keep making it into plans)? It’s not to say these things don’t deserve a slide in a pitch deck, but as part of a larger plan… not just a flash in the pan to show how “with it” you are.


Marketers as a whole spend a lot of time thinking about how to get consumers to do something they want – whether it’s buy a car, download an app, click a link, etc. What marketers (myself included) can do in 2014 to help buck the trend of constantly changing tactics is to get ahead of the consumer with research and studies aimed at pinpointing behaviors and planning for the future.

Measure (The Right) Things, But Not Everything

Big data, while a sexy-sounding term, is actually doing more harm than good in the marketing world right now. The “the more data the better” thought has created a digital gold rush of sorts to be the brand/agency with “the most data on [insert topic/audience/etc. here].” While data are great (<3 Data), there’s something to be said for having core metrics and KPIs in place that you can then use structured data sets to measure. This idea that going out and grabbing simply as much data as you can about audiences, markets, and outcomes simply creates (in most cases) data paralysis.

Use the Mirror More

There are many studies out there that actually point to scales being a negative part of getting healthy, mostly because people become number-obsessed and don’t spend enough time looking at and feeling the changes that are actually going on. The same can be said for digital marketing. Along with the data flood that’s clouding PPT docs everywhere, has come the rise of the “ultra-plugged-in performance watcher.” There’s nothing wrong with real-time data, but when you’re nit-picking campaigns in real-time and not giving them the chance to run their course, you run the risk of not only fatiguing your team, but missing out on opportunities.  

That’s all I’ve got… I’m off to do 1,000 digital crunches.

Location: The Last Piece of Twitter’s Success Puzzle


Twitter has been eating Facebook’s lunch recently – and I’m loving it. They’re moving quicker and breaking more things than the Facebook crew… and those things they’re breaking are barriers and ad revenue goals.

One thing, though, stands in the way of Twitter and true success in the ad space – Location.

They’ve Been Thinking About Location Before
It’s something the Twitter team dealt with even before Twitter was Twttr – back when it was a Jack/Noah/Ev concept. At that time, Dodgeball was buzzing in NYC, letting people drop notes to their friends, via SMS telling them where they were. Odeo was dying and Apple was gobbling up any podcasting goodness out there as the “status” idea started to morph into something.

Dodgeball, as we all know (or maybe not because I’m learning not everyone is a nerd like me) was eventually bought by Google – which them shut it down. However, it was resurrected as another playground game-named service as (you guessed it) Foursquare!

Location. Location. Location.
Since early on, Twitter’s mobile applications (and indeed its API) have let users share location data with Tweets. How much that actually is used varies depending on which report/study you read (and how they’re done). A USC study and resulting app says one in five tweets carry identifiable location data – either actively shared or in metadata. That number seems much higher than the previously assumed 1-3% that’s been discussed around the net for years.

That low number starts to provide a hurdle when looking to have an active part in that all-important proximity to point of purchase for Twitter.

The Mobile Holy Trinity
They’re already pushing hard in the mobile game with their MoPub buy (which will bring rich content experiences to the mobile Twitter feed soon – and holy crap it’s going to be awesome) and their opening up the ability to created Tailored Audiences, essentially bringing actual retargeting to mobile devices via data partners.

If Twitter could (and it’s going to take more than tech – a change in user behaviour) connect the three: rich ad units, retargeting, and location… you might as well just give them the advertising prize for a social network right then and there.

So, how do they do this?
That’s a tough question, and one that teams at Twitter are no doubt toiling with. Content that’s being targeted to users based on location now is only taking into account location data entered by users in their profiles – an imperfect targeting solution, but effective enough for brand campaigns aimed at increasing recognition and other “softer” metrics.

If Twitter wants to build confidence among traditional retailers and businesses, they’ll need to get closer to the register.

Change The Rules
While not ideal, changing the terms of service to allow Twitter to use real-time mobile device GPS coordinates to serve content is a way forward. The company is already testing a “Nearby” function that lets users see content being published in their vicinity. It’s only a short step from that to using the same location info for ads.

Likelihood: Medium

Buy ’em. Foursquare has been struggling the past few years. The app is great – don’t get me wrong. They’re just not proving a great platform for brands to bet on. Crawley is trying his ass off and I think they’ll get it right eventually, but will it be too late?

If Twitter could buy Foursquare and get some of the “here I am” goodness from that platform to rub off on Twitter (not to mention all the local business recommendations, etc.) it could offer a whole new dimension to their platform.

Likelihood: Low/Medium

Get Physical, Physical

I probably talk about these at least once a day, but iBeacons! iBeacons! iBeacons! If Twitter invested in this technology and linking it with their platform, push messages could be sent to users when they were browsing near products.

Likelihood: Medium

The Full-on Dream Sequence Scenario
This is how it’d go down in a perfect world, a literal combo punch of everything above.

It’s June 2014. Twitter, having just bought Foursquare in February is rolling out the latest version of their app – complete with Foursquare’s location-aware push notifications. John is walking near Regent St. and gets a push notification from Twitter: it’s a rich ad unit showing the nearest Gap stores to him (there are 3) and advertising their 30% off sale. John clicks he location that’s also right next to an Itsu because he is craving some sushi.

When John enters the Gap store, his phone vibrates, welcoming him to the store and reminds him that he was looking at some of the new 1969 Original Skinny Jeans and a cardi on the website earlier – then it points him to where they are in the store.

When John wanders over to the denim section, the iBeacon near the Original Skinny Jeans beams info on the jeans to his phone along with a special, Email subscriber only deal for an additional 10% off denim (because Gap knows John loves denim).

John goes to the register, pays with his phone (because I’m pretending we’ll all be doing that next year), and leaves the store. Since his digital wallet is linked with his email and store accounts for brands like Gap, H&M, JCrew and more, John gets a Tweet after he’s a block away telling him to drop them a Tweet about how the new jeans fit and linking him to a customer satisfaction survey.

At the End of the Day
We may be a little further off from that than I’d like, but right now Twitter is flying toward that reality at full speed. If they can crack the location issue, I think they make an incredibly strong case for being one of the most-important marketing tools of our time (even more so than they already have).