Measurements Become More Efficient Once Advertisers Realize Metrics Aren’t Everything

Only focus on what matters to your specific business or campaign

Focusing on the superficial details won't offer any real insights into your brand's impact. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Brittany Richter

In the beginning, and arguably even still today, one of the beautiful things about digital marketing is how measurable it is in (at least close to) real-time compared to other traditional advertising efforts.

With better measurement came higher standards, followed by more metrics than are even necessary. Now, many advertisers are getting lost in an overwhelmingly large ocean of data, and they’re trying to boil that ocean. Every week, we see requests for more and more data points, more analyses of this metric compared to that one. It’s just not insightful. It is our job to collect all of the data that we have access to and analyze it and also report on the ones that matter in measuring business results and any others that provide insight into the media or the consumer. Sharing every single metric every week isn’t helpful and is creating more harm than good.

Instead, we need to take a step back and think about the actual challenges and objectives that we as marketers are trying to solve for and how we’re measuring success. My guess is that more than half of the data being analyzed isn’t actionable and that there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to all things measurement.

Today there are more than 1,800 metrics that we get from a single Facebook or Instagram campaign alone. Add in the metrics for the other major social platforms, search engines, display partners and affiliate networks, and that number is enormous.

Sharing every single metric every week isn’t helpful and is creating more harm than good.

For any marketer or advertiser struggling with measurement, these are the five key things to consider. 

Ground media measurement in business objectives

I’m still seeing advertisers look to media-only metrics like aggregate engagement, followers or click-through rate as their primary KPIs. Instead, we need to choose the metrics that really matter, that we feel are leading indicators of true business performance.

Are you running media for the sake of media, or is it grounded in business performance? For example, does someone watching a video actually mean anything, or should we be looking at clicks to site, site actions or brand lift studies instead? I’d argue the latter. What about engagements or engagement rate?

For years, the platforms and third parties have done research that shows us there’s no correlation between these metrics and any business results, but we still keep seeing it on reports with no insights around why it matters.

Define which metrics matter and how to define them

What are the KPIs associated with each of the business objectives that we’re trying to solve for? Forget about the names of the metrics and the different definitions: What do we feel are the true leading indicators of success against those business objectives? The next step is to define that metric and what user behavior we are looking at. What is the source of truth for capturing that metric?

From there, we can audit what is available on each of the platforms, partners and engines we’re running on, identify which of those metrics match what we’re looking for and where there are gaps. Don’t feel limited by what is currently being provided by each platform, partner or engine. If you need to, create a custom metric.

Consider your data sources

There is no true one-size-fits-all due to partner tagging and tracking limitations. What combination does your business need to create the full (or as full as possible) picture? For example, are you able to use engine-, platform- or publisher-provided data, or is there a need for external sources like SA360 or site analytics platforms? Is what you’re looking to measure more attitudinal thus requiring a brand study? Understanding the capabilities of the data sources you do or could have access to and which combination best addresses the metrics you need is an integral next step.

Outline your measurement framework

Determine the sources of truth for the data and metrics you will be looking at and how you want to see them reported on and at what cadence. This should be a guideline and roadmap for how to measure media for your organization that all parties can have access to.

Summarize your learning agenda

This should start with research questions about media. What is it that you want to learn about the media you have in market or about your consumers? Do you want to learn about which ad units perform best, which sub-segment responses fit best to each value proposition or which partner performs best against each business objective?

These questions should then be paired with specific hypotheses, each with their own testing parameters that need to be true to support or nullify those hypotheses. This means that your media doesn’t just meet marketing and business objectives but also answers questions to power a larger learning organization.

And don’t just stop there. Do not feel limited by what is known to be available today. The industry relies on advertisers and marketers to push it forward. Where there are gaps, you should speak up and ask for what needs to be done differently and better whenever you are working with your agency partners or the platforms, engines and publishers. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, so it’s important that we all continue to think critically about what change is needed and work to push that forward.

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@belizabeth86 Brittany Richter is vp, head of social media at iProspect.