Meaningful digital metrics is not an enigma. It’s crazy how much misinformation swirls the digital ecosystem on the value of performance measurement, which tools are best used for the task and just how to go about data interpretation so that educated decisions are made and responsible digital strategies pursued. The unfortunate reality is too many businesses don’t even bother identifying digital performance instead tasking marketers or web developers to slap up and push out content with disregard for its effectiveness. Engagement outcomes define digital success no matter which digital format is used. If meaningful metrics aren’t evaluated and managed then you’re just throwing something at the wall, hoping it’ll stick and ignoring when it doesn’t. That’s meaningless.
The definition of “meaningful digital metrics” was a recent topic of conversation with a colleague. Not surprisingly we characterized “meaningful” quite differently.
As a business owner and veteran sales professional of 20+ years “meaningful” in my book equates to money in the bank. Meaningful, quite simply, pays the bills.
Today it’s a realistic expectation that all digital activity should generate money or frankly that activity’s not worth pursuing. Strategies should be developed, implemented, managed and revised with that end goal in mind. Marketing can no longer get away with “you can’t put a price on branding” because with raw metrics and today’s countless analytic tools you bet we can put a price on branding. Web developers should no longer consider the job done once sites go live and everything functions without hiccups. That’s when the work begins. Marketers and web developers should measure whether strategies prove spot on or if digital expenditures (and those who manage them) don’t payoff.
Social media’s ROI potential drove the recent meaningful metrics debate but the same measurement principles apply to any form of digital media.
To better explain my position on social valuation I shared Dump Your Business Facebook Page and Facebook Viability Questioned By Its Visibility that published earlier this year. In turn Edward, who happens to represent a content marketing technology company that optimizes brand’s social content, was kind enough to share Why Is Facebook Engagement Suddenly Dropping and Facebook’s Traffic Top Publishers Fell 32% Since January.
Although the latter titles suggest doom and gloom both articles in the end were optimistic on the social landscape with one siting an October strategy that worked exceedingly well for content distribution on Facebook. This proclamation of success was based on positive click-thru-rates, cost-per-click and overall referral traffic results that the author called “meaningful metrics”.
With that I take issue. Thus begins the debate.
In my book the author’s metrics don’t encompass “meaningful” as much as they launch INTO the meaningful digital metrics of lead generation and conversions which translate into actual new customers and bottom line revenue growth. CTR, CPC and referral traffic don’t equal ROI.
Return on investment is “meaningful”.
Less than that is meaningless.
Engagement in any digital format has to yield lead generation. Conversions only occur with sales intelligence that leads have presented to be nurtured. Show me the attribution model used and real raw data that validates positive CTR, CPC and referral traffic tangibly fuels year over year customer and revenue growth then I’m on the bandwagon with those metrics defined as “meaningful”. But until then what’s sited in The Content Strategist’s post as “meaningful metrics” is little more than “warm and fuzzy metrics”. Warm and fuzzy doesn’t pay bills. The feel-good culture we live in where win or lose everyone gets a trophy, young professionals are patted on the back for meeting expectations but never exceeding them and everyone seems rewarded for accomplishing little to nothing have all helped skew which digital metrics hold the greatest value.
I feel sorry for brands (or people for that matter) who find being “Shared”, “Liked”, “Followed” or “Referred” as having meaning because their universe must have very little meaning if so much importance is placed on those alone. The emphasis on warm and fuzzy feelings as an accomplishment is a sad commentary on the world we live in. Kumbaya marketing alone doesn’t grow a business. Results driven marketing does.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying social has absolutely no value and that your brand should abandon all social investments or strategies (even though I did author Dump Your Business Facebook Page). I am saying shares, likes, follows, referrals and anything else in the feel-good class have little meaning in the big picture. They all should lead to something more than themselves.
When it comes to social, even companies of the same size and industry have an audience that’s granularly unique to them and each must decide which channels are the best fit and identify which content proves most effective in reaching their social strategy goals and aims. I’ll add though if you’re not managing performance whatsoever and just posting willy-nilly with disregard for outcomes then yes abandon social and any other digital that’s outcomes aren’t managed or held accountable.
Persona development, channel identification and paralleled content creation is required or you’ve hired the wrong people to manage your online investments. And if the software used to manage outcomes provides little more than feel-good metrics then it’s in your best interest to consider other options otherwise you’re at risk of throwing money down the drain into the proverbial digital black hole.
Approaching anything digital without parallel performance management is like a doctor prescribing meds and not following up to see if they’re working. I guess that’s a drastic comparison since no one will actually die from mismanaged or unmanaged digital performance but in that scenario there is lost revenue consequence to businesses. Revenue after all determines the health and longevity of every business.
Align yours with digital professionals that place value on meaningful metrics more than those that are little more than warm and fuzzy. Content marketing practitioners who optimize online investments bring incredible value in changing the traditional offline marketing method of throwing something at the wall and hoping it’ll stick.
Kumbaya marketing is part of the digital dichotomy but click-thru-rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC) and referral traffic alone aren’t the overall and end all definition of success. Feel-good metrics definitely need to be monitored and managed but don’t award them too much meaning or importance. Instead feel good when those metrics are tied to increased customer retention, new customers and year over year revenue growth thru lead generation and conversions. Then reward those who got you there because their accomplishments were in fact as meaningful as the digital metrics they managed.
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