Its the quality, not the quantity you should be worried about…

Its the quality, not the quantity you should be worried about…

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) face a thankless task on a daily basis. One of their roles is to engender common agreement regarding the measurement of digital media. That in itself sounds easy enough as digital media is, after all, the most transparent of all media. Indeed, the IAB have attempted to draw up a set of quantitative standards for the measurement of social media.

Unfortunately for the IAB, commentators such as myself have the luxury of reviewing their latest missive and shooting it down in flames. That, to explain my earlier comment, is the thankless side of their role.

Before I outline my objections to their latest guidelines for “Social Media Ad Metrics” let me make clear that I absolutely applaud their efforts. By encouraging marketers to adopt a common set of standards they are making it easier for companies to invest in digital media marketing. After all, in this harsh economic climate, the promise of a high degree of transparency and possibly even ROI around campaigns is likely to be key to securing budget.

I however worry that the IAB have somewhat missed the point of brands tapping into social media and the benefits doing so can bring.

Just as background, the IAB break the current Social Media landscape down into three distinct categories:

  1. Social Media Sites (Facebook, Myspace etc)
  2. Blogs (such as this one)
  3. Widgets & Social Media Applications (iGoogle etc)

The set of quantitative standards that they then propose are adopted include:

General to all social media

  • Unique Visitors
  • Cost per unique visitor
  • Page views
  • Visits
  • Return Visits
  • Interaction Rate
  • Time Spent (section, microsite, community)
  • Video installs
  • Relevant actions taken and cost per action (includes competitions entered, items sent, newsfeed items posted)

Specific to blogs

  • Conversation size
    • Number of Conversation Relevant Sites
    • Number of Conversation Relevant Links
    • Conversation Reach
  • Site Relevance
    • Conversation Density of Conversation Relevant Posts
  • Author Credibility

The issue I have is that all of these measurements are purely quantitative in nature. I understand why this is so. Marketers need to be able to ‘measure’ the success of their campaigns and report this information to management. What these measurements cannot give you is the qualitative success of the campaign. To explain, I know that while this blog receives far more traffic than I could have ever hoped to achieve, I have been amazed at the quality of the traffic. I originally hoped to be able to engage with other financial services digital marketers. I have in fact been able to reach out to and engage with:

  • CEOs and senior marketers of financial services companies
  • Journalists from all over the world
  • Angel investors
  • Training and management organisations looking for marketing insight

In short, I think it would be fair to say that my blog has in the three short months it has been live, changed my life. But, and this is a big but, had I purely been measuring its success on the basis of the IAB’s new standards, while I would have been happy with the results, none of the quantitative numbers would come close to reflecting its true success.

My hope therefore is that senior managers and certainly marketers try and look beyond the numbers to truly gauge the success of campaigns particularly in the area of social media. It is an incredibly powerful medium that needs to be respected and understood before simply reducing it to the lowest numerical common denominator.

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