Social Media and Linear Metrics

I read with interest this article on the problems marketers are struggling with in relation to the use of social media at the recent DMA conference.

This highlights well the existing problem faced by social media and indeed online media in general as we move into 2008. The “Google effect” means that marketers are now expected to provide clear performance reports showing that dollars invested can track directly to specific actions – ultimately sales – for every online campaign.

But as we all know, advertising and marketing does not always line up in this way. Social media especially is not set up to work in this way. Even a strong interest from users may not result in any direct measurable sales and in many cases the campaigns are about users enjoying some kind of brand experience rather than a straight ‘click, review, buy’ model.

So finally online marketers are being asked the same questions that traditional media has suffered from for years…prove this is working !!

It’s interesting the article makes reference to seeking out the help of academics. I have no doubt the future for social media campaigns, online brand campaigns and traditional media in general will be measured by clever statistical analytics of: Y% change in brand preference = x% increase in sales. Until this is done no CEO/CFO is going to get the answers they now want. They are also unlikely to back ‘brand campaigns’ the way they used to without a second thought.

Hey online media community…this problem is only going to get worse before it gets better. As you start pulling higher percentages of media dollars away from traditional media you better start getting ready to answer these types of questions more frequently. Online can no longer hide behind click rates and cpc’s. The questions will now get more demanding and we as an industry have set ourselves up to fail by relying on linear numbers to set expectations.

Thanks goes to Google for helping educate executives just enough to become a right royal pain in the backside!!

“linear ROI” – defined (by me) as the directly measurable link between ad and action, typically through a click on an advertisement and subsequent activity on the client website.

“Non linear ROI” – defined (by me again) as the indirect action or responding to an advert – such as hear radio ad…go to store and buy product or engage in online social media activity and three weeks later buy product via online store.

“Google effect” – defined (by guess who) as the expectation by executives that all online media activities will be able to demonstrate a tangible linear ROI metric or clearly defined performance based metric. This effect has resulted from the original pay per click search model, so strongly championed by Google, which has set unrealistic expectations as to what web based marketing campaigns should always be delivering.

Dick Reed
Just Media, Inc.

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