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June 9, 2008
The Holy Grail

Co-author Chris Wexler founded Carmichael Lynch's online media practice, worked at MRM Worldwide and will soon join Crispin Porter+Bogusky as Associate Media Director. He can be reached at chris.wexler@gmail.com.

Measurement. ROI. Metrics. Analytics.

We're supposed to bow down to these altars in the digital age. We've stood on our soapboxes for over a decade, asking others, to believe—to acknowledge the proof. The digital space is inherently measurable! All praises to the digital age!

Tell us you find it all a bit amusing. We do. Especially since Enron, it's been tough believing in numbers, statistics and ROI. (Why yes, that's a well-worn copy of Darrell Huff's How To Lie With Statistics on the bookshelf.)

The digital age is certainly far more accountable than its predecessors. At least when you run Google Analytics for a site or MediaPlex for display banner CTRs, the numbers are not wholly speculative like the $60B broadcast TV market.

We certainly know more, now, too. Perhaps the real advantage of inherent measurability is knowledge, more so than proof. We're better equipped to tell more compelling stories under more relevant circumstances to more specific people.

But now, Social Media: Conversation. Listening. Participation. New approaches that subvert traditional assumptions, and turn old school marketing on its head. And our audience, the CMOs and CEOs rightfully ask, "Where's the proof?" If digital marketing is better in part because of accountable metrics, shouldn't there be measurement standards for social media?

Maybe not. Maybe the holy grail of digital marketing doesn't apply to social media. Yet.

We're not convinced social media ROI is truly possible at this point, because as marketers, we're not party to the vast majority of marketing conversations occurring offline (until Google perfects that cranial implant). That said, current analytics opportunities within social media can help us better sense the flow of marketing conversation than ever before.

So here are two ideas around helping us all step closer to that illusive goal. We believe the faster those of us who engage in social media share common metrics and results, the faster we'll convince the majority who have yet to jump in.

Data Aggregation: Start with Google or Yahoo! alerts, stir in Google Trends, add a pinch of BoardTracker to find posts based on keyword inputs, some Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a hint of Compete and Alexa for brand website measures, Technorati for brand keyword activity on blogs and tagged media, pour on Facebook Lexicon to see the volume of chatter on Facebook Walls, blend in Tubemogel.com and VidMeter.com to track video views and comments, and SocialMeter to scan blogs, search engines, link promotion and portals for evidence of brand URLs, then finish off with a touch of Summize, Tweet Scan or Flaptor to measure brand keyword activity on Twitter. Stir it all together in a single dashboard using tools like Yahoo! Pipes.

It's so easy, teenagers do it. And if you're smart, you'll automate most of it. While we're on the subject—hey, Effies, IAB or AAAAs—how about establishing and promoting a standard methodology here?

Brand Engagement: How does your brand define it? For Betty Crocker, it may be recipe downloads. With Volkswagen, vehicle configurations. For Zappos, DMs via Twitter. In other words, what counts? What actions truly matter, and how do you value them?

Here's one approach for applying values to actions with an audience of almost any size. What's yours?


Value Action
.5 Searching for a brand on Google, Yahoo!, MSN
1 Visiting a brand website once
1.2 Writing an original blog post about a brand (negative)
1.5 Returning to the same website within 15 days
1.75 Becoming a brand's "fan/friend" on Facebook/MySpace
2 Subscribing to a brand's e-newsletter
2.1 Sign up for customer loyalty program
2.2 Calling a brand's 800 number
2.25 Subscribing to a brand's RSS feed
2.25 Following a brand's spokesperson on Twitter/Pownce/Jaiku
3.5 Commenting on a brand's blog post
3.75 Joining a brand's custom social network
4 Engaging in a transaction on a brand's e-commerce website
6 Writing an original blog post about a brand (positive)
Brand Engagement monthly goal = Obtain participation value of 2.00 with 5% of the brand’s total consumers and value of 3.00 with 1% of consumers. In other words, we want the hyper-connected 4-6% of the brand’s consumers to engage with the brand and help spread the word to the other 94-6%.


You've got to build your own holy grail. Then share it.

In this era of social media, it's up to everyone to create and propagate the rules by which we'll all measure effectiveness. This might require re-calibrating long held beliefs inside your organization about what gets consumers excited, or how and when consumers engage. It will probably require rethinking your sense of proprietary marketing data.

But the results are worth it. The greater our common understanding of what works, why and how, the better our individual efforts will be. Isn’t that a goal worth chasing?

Co-author Chris Wexler founded Carmichael Lynch's online media practice, worked at MRM Worldwide and will soon join Crispin Porter+Bogusky as Associate Media Director. He can be reached at chris.wexler@gmail.com.

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As a writer, creative director and drummer, Tim Brunelle started in advertising in 1993 after receiving a B.A. in Jazz from the University of Cincinnati. Since then, he's worked with TBWA/Chiat Day, Heater/Easdon, McKinney & Silver, Arnold Worldwide, OgilvyOne, Mullen and Carmichael Lynch. Tim now works for his own entity, Hello Viking.

Tim has provided strategic and creative leadership to A.G. Edwards, Anheuser-Busch, Brown Forman, Goodyear, Harley-Davidson, Porsche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Volkswagen.

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