Monday, October 20, 2008

What Should Marketers Be Measuring?

Last week I missed a webinar conducted for Awareness Networks by Jerimiah Owyang of Forrester. He’s one of the most thoughtful observers of the social media scene, so I took some time over the weekend to catch up. (You can download both the webinar and slides from this page.) That also reminded me of a white paper from Coremetrics on measuring social media (download "Winning in a Web 2.0 World" from this page; they have a webinar by that title coming up soon) that’s been languishing in my files for too long. I thought I’d try to pull together some metrics issues from the two. They take quite different approaches.

Coremetrics focuses on Web 2.0 technologies, roughly divided into User-Generated Content and Rich Media. I’ve selected a few Coremetrics that are most relevant to the content of this blog. You can see the full list on pages 11 and 12 of their report.
Blogs are now considered “mainstream.” How do we know whether they are contributing to our program? First, traditional traffic measures, which are easy to obtain from the blog platforms or metrics programs. Who is adding content could help identify influentials. Since Coremetrics offers an integrated measurement platform, the paper discusses in some detail the issues of following visitors through multiple sessions in multiple media to achieve a conversion. That’s important, but more difficult than simple traffic measures. User reviews need similar measures of traffic and conversion paths. If you look carefully at the Social Networks entry, there are two issues here. One is traffic generated by social network sites/brand-related activity. That’s an entry metric that needs to be carefully filtered to understand traffic sources. The other is results of ads on social network sites which are generally best monitored by ad-specific landing pages.

This is helpful, but how does the marketer know where to start, which of the many techniques and channels to choose? Jerimiah Owyang gives a strategic overview.

His strategic objectives, which are pretty much in order based on a marketer learning curve are:
Listening comes first. Spend some time hanging out where your customers hang and listen to what’s going on. Techniques of reputation management provide a formal programmatic approach. Tools include Google Alerts, blogs, discussion boards, Twitter and FriendFeed.
Speaking comes next. We marketers are good at that. Just be sure you’re using traffic, audience and content measurement techniques to know what’s working.
Energizing may be essentially the same as engaging your audience. Get them to use apps that deliver content and attract them to your site. Try spinning the wheel on Axiom’s PersoniX program site to see a B2B marketer engage potential customers. The easiest metrics are participation/interaction/click-through measures. Following what they do after the initial interaction is the subject of the Coremetrics whitepaper.
• Once you identify the activities your audience is interested in (not necessarily the same as the ones the marketer thinks they should be interested in), Support them. The recent post on the new Harley-Davidson social networking pages is a good example of support. Support also lends itself to traffic measures. Following those through to conversion requires more complex metrics.
• Then encourage them to contribute content, ideas, suggestions. Owyang calls this Embracing—draw your users into the community fold. Make them a part of the community. Give them a feeling of ownership by making them active participants. Traffic/participation measures are important here. Can you follow ideas/suggestions through to successful activities or products and measure the ROI from the activities or products?

On the surface these two approaches to metrics—technologies vs. objectives—look rather different. When you scratch below that surface, you see the same basic sets of metrics, which are essentially based on the techniques you use to achieve the objectives.

The take-away for marketers is not to be swayed by the siren song of technology. Good objectives always come first. Then choose technologies that:
1. Design marketing programs, using appropriate technologies, to achieve the chosen objectives
2. Provide measures of the degree to which objectives are being achieved.

Interesting that good marketing is the same, whichever channels are being used. Without good objectives, nothing else matters much.

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