A marketing nightmare occurred at our agency a few years ago (don’t worry, it was a marketing nightmare, not a real nightmare). We primed a social/viral initiative we thought couldn’t miss. We launched it into the world, seeded it in all the right places, and did all the things you were supposed to do to make it work.
At first, it seemed like we were right. It jumped off to a great start. People were sharing it in their networks. It was posted all over social media. We thought we might have traction in the press. But just when it was about to take off, disaster struck. And by disaster, I mean a real-life, front page news disaster (I won’t trivialize its victims by saying which one). Our little piece of cultural fluff evaporated into thin air, as it should have.
In digital marketing, we confront a chaotic environment. Anyone who’s worked long enough in the field can tell you about a hot campaign that barreled into a weekend filled with high tides and sunny days and got lost because everyone was out having a good time. On the flipside, we’ve also had added success with a launch because nothing else was going on.
It’s clear we need more nuance in measurement. Advances are already happening with tools like Facebook’s Atlas, which provide insight into the offline or off-platform impact of an ad. Insight like this helps us understand how an online spend affected in-store sales, for example. There are also some new metrics that illuminate even trickier concepts, like how good a campaign really was. Here are a few examples:
Acceleration: Some campaigns move quickly. People start sharing content with their friends, then those friends share to their friends, and the web continues to widen. We can call this “acceleration,” or the speed at which each share garners more shares. If we measure it correctly, we can see not merely how many clicks a campaign received, but how fast it initially engaged people. We can also figure out if it was doing well, even if the bottom fell out for other reasons.
Velocity: Let’s say you have a campaign that reached a million people—but it took four years to do it. That’s too slow. While you got plenty of looks, your entire focus, product, and even brand may have changed in the meantime. Clearly, the people who watched it weren’t all that passionate about sharing it. Velocity is great for helping you determine whether a gaudy number really added up to a big impact.
Conversation: Quality of conversation is a greatly overlooked metric. For one, conversation requires more investment than sharing. But the conversation also needs to be relevant to the message you’re trying to convey. My favorite recent example of this principle is the Bill Cosby meme generator. For whatever misguided reason, his marketing team released an app last November that let you take a photo of the Coz and put your own message on it. You can only imagine what people did with it. Needless to say it had terrific acceleration and velocity, but for all the wrong reasons.
Creativity: Along with conversation, you can also look at how much creativity a campaign inspires. The great thing about the Ice Bucket Challenge, for example, was the degree to which people devised new ways to do it. That shows that they weren’t merely sharing or talking about the campaign; they were putting their brains to work to extend it. Of all the social metrics we have, creativity is probably the most valuable.
Of course, when doing any campaign, we can’t forget the boring basics. It’s important to set goals for velocity and conversation (creativity should be a bonus), to measure whether we miss or exceed them, and by how much. This way, we can benchmark our success and decide if we should do more of the same, or change course.
The good news is that we can now better understand when things are working or not — so long as we ask the right questions. Metrics like conversation and creativity add important context to a campaign, whether it seems bland or monumental. You can always get a lot of clicks for all the wrong reasons, but what you want is to get people creatively engaged.
Shane Atchison is the global CEO of POSSIBLE.
Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.