With the growth of social media marketing, an emphasis on quantitative metrics to measure marketing effectiveness has grown, too. Because online marketing gathers statistics so easily and so exhaustively, it has become common to define campaign success according to the number of Shares, Likes, Follows and such. Agencies cite these metrics as a meaningful indication that the marketing they created is working.
I disagree. The only true metric of marketing success is your bottom line. Did the person who Liked, Followed and Shared actually buy anything? Did they even click on the link to your site? Can you make a clear connection between a lot of Likes and a jump in sales?
Social media is great for public relations and raising awareness, but it has failed as a useful means for marketing. A study conducted by Forrester Research reported that “among a brand’s fans, only .07% — that’s 7 in ten thousand — ever engage with the brand’s Facebook posts. On Twitter the number is even lower — 3 in ten thousand.” The visitors to these pages aren’t even clicking through, much less buying.
So using this kind of math to prove the success of a marketing effort is misleading at best, and dangerously misguided at worst. The 2010 Pepsi Refresh campaign is a good example. (Read about it here.)
I believe this is because the job of marketing is to inspire purchasing choices in its audiences, and that requires more than a compilation of statistics – it requires an understanding of human behavior. Even children know that marketing depends on timing, presentation and the ability to be persuasive in order to be successful. (“Mom, can I stay up till ten tonight? Pleeeeeeeze?”) When you have to rely on human choices to meet your goals, you are entering the realm of emotion. Tying success solely to logic and numbers will never tell the whole story.
This is evident when reading marketing how-to books. They’ll tell you that in order to close a sale, you have to connect with or “touch” the prospect anywhere from five to 27 times through various media. This is because each prospect will need a different number of encounters with your product or service to feel comfortable making a purchase.
But since everyone is different, how can you know exactly at which of the 5-27 points of contact any given prospect decided to pull the trigger? Unless you are targeting individuals one by one, you simply can’t. You also will not know which of the several marketing media you used has worked in any specific instance. You can track some of your sales through tools such as coupons, discounts and time limits, but these aren’t appropriate for all businesses, especially services. You could try surveys, but often people don’t remember the exact moment they decided to buy or what the trigger was.
So we are back to the pre-Facebook mode of serial testing. How it works: you develop a clear understanding of your target market, including their general preferences for getting information, and then you choose several means of communicating your offer to this group based on that understanding. Since different people look at different media at different times in different emotional modes, you will choose a range of marketing media, not one, and deploy them in a systematic way over time, not once, so you can plot general sales results against them.
As you continue your marketing program, you will hone your sense of what works best through looking at your sales, not a bunch of numbers that show how well your Facebook page is doing. That is more of a measure of success for Mr. Zuckerberg than for you. Taking the time to create and execute a marketing program based on thoughtful consideration of your market instead of raw numbers has a much greater chance of success.