Digital marketing exists because the audience, the eyeballs, moved online; hence the opportunity to reach those potential buyers through media that for the very first time offered real-time interaction and rich both-ways communication. But beyond the obvious we had the promise of having a media that was very measurable beyond intention and into action. We had access to real-time messengers.
We keep struggling with figuring out the right measurement. Mr. Song (Microsoft) , as reported by adWeek calls “arrogant” and “ignorant” the online advertising executives that refuse to embrace traditional metrics to measure success of online media. He makes some very valid points but using traditional media metrics for online advertising is somehow trying to solve the consequence of the problem rather than the root-cause and if there is something I learnt well after 11 successful years at Microsoft is that success at scale happens when one address the root-cause of a problem.
The root-cause lies on the inherent challenges of the sudden explosion of data available for organizations to measure the effectiveness of their online campaigns and the lack of understanding on how to use that data. Alex Woodie reported on Jeff Jonas, chief scientist of IBM's Entity Analytics group, and his take on the nature of data and the challenges for organizations.
"What's happening is data volumes are growing at this pace, yet an organization's ability to make sense of them isn't keeping up," Jonas said. "Today, say you can make sense of 7 percent of what's available, and in a few years it might be 4 percent, and in a few years after that it might be one percent. So the percentage of what's knowable is on the decline."
As Alex summarized it, “while the sum of our knowledge is increasing, the ratio of what's knowable to the data that's available is getting smaller. Without some new technology, we'll soon be wallowing in gobs of structured and unstructured data, with no discernible path out”.
These statements can very well apply to the challenges faced by the digital media industry. We have settled down on basic metrics like impressions, clicks and end action. But the promise of digital marketing is the ability to measure the complete cycle while making the end-user experiences a very good one by delivering only relevant content. We capture tons of data with digital marketing; we cannot make much sense of it.
The attempts to pay-for-performance are plagued with growing pains. I have been fascinated by the viral growth of “Ponzi” schemes trying to benefit from CPC campaigns in Twitter and other Social media sites: I click on your Ad if you find two friends to click on mine… and so on. There are many ways to quickly go from zero to thousand followers on Twitter and many clicking on your links in retribution for clicks they will eventually get. These are growing pains.
As Interactive Marketing Analytics expert Russ Mann, CEO of Covario , puts it: “ Clicks are what it takes to get clients to your site or app or content, but fraudsters, hackers, virus spreaders and Ponzi players are all deterrents to marketers spending money. We have seen that in general, they optimize toward quality and away from lack of quality in clicks, and accept a certain amount of "shrinkage"/"breakage" as part of the cost of doing business. So we see people spend on search but not social, on AdWords but not AdSense, on web marketing but not mobile... they are doing their own qualitative risk/return calculations and just going with the 80/20 even if they give up some upside in incremental clicks or engagement.”
Social media and Digital marketing in general need to go through these growing pains while deploying technology that delivers on the promise of better advertising. That means targeted, relevant, engaging and with measurable ROI. Blaming on the media or the metrics will not address the issue; stop shooting the messenger