Does New Media Demand New Metrics?

There is a huge tendency for marketers to always try and apply the rules from current media to the new approach—and it just about always fails. The tales go back from theater to silent movies, silents to talkies, radio to TV, TV to cable and, more recently, from networks and cable advertising to the Web.

Now that the Web's metrics are becoming established and comfortable, marketers are trying to apply those measuring strategies to social networking sites and mobile communications. The other day, was talking with a marketing executive who was just starting to play with social and mobile. But she had been disappointed with some recent experiments because the impressions and clicks were not what she had hoped for.

Several months earlier, had run into another marketing exec who came up with a wonderfully different measuring approach. Understanding that social media is about influence, persuasion, he did a very informal study (resources: a pair of interns) of his targeted social site. The project was to count up every time anyone on the site referenced one of their brands and to note whether the reference was favorable, unfavorable or neutral.

After tracking that for an extended period and noting the ebbs and flows, he then ran a major campaign. But instead of looking at impressions, clickthrough, leads generated or any other typical Web metric, he simply repeated his study. The only test of a social site marketing campaign, he reasoned, is to see if it was changing the dialogue at all. Were his brands getting talked about more? And was it boosting his favorable and dropping his negatives?

It won't necessarily work every time, but it's a start. Part of the problem is that, unlike traditional E-Commerce sites, the purchases that social sites cause do not typically happen within those sites, making typical Web metrics even more useless.

Mobile presents a different set of issues. It's more about location and immediacy than any Web site, which again suggests a very different analytical approach. Wouldn't you rather know exactly where a mobile consumer was at the instant they clicked? Were they at your store? A rival's? Standing next to one of your billboards? Also, what time was it when they did that? Were they inside or out?

Mobile especially makes easy answers difficult, but it's safe to say that today's Web analytics options are definitely not the answer.