It’s been 17 years since the first online banner ads appeared on the Internet. 15 years since the Internet Advertising Bureau was founded. Between then and now, measurement and tracking of online advertising has become increasingly predictable. Brand marketers know what to expect.
Enter the brave new world of social. Where the rules of online advertising don’t apply. On social, people interact differently, find things differently, and behave differently than they do in the “off social” world. Social demands a new way of marketing – and a new way of measuring the success of that marketing.
We don’t know what happened between GM’s marketing heads and Facebook’s people prior to GM pulling a small portion of their overall advertising budget ($10M of $3B). But we do know that GM spokesperson Tom Henderson said that Facebook “continues to be a very effective tool for engaging with our customers.”
“Engaging” lies at the heart of the way brand marketers should think about measuring success on Facebook. Not in terms of clicks and impressions. A brand can attract hundreds of thousands of fans, but if no one is talking about the brand, sharing their content, participating in their pages — in other words, engaging with them — it’s like putting their brand on mute.
But how to measure engagement? Brand marketers have been on a confusing and sometimes contradictory journey recently trying to understand how to measure and value engagement on Facebook.
First came the “Like.” How many fans (“Likes”) do I have? I need a big number, right? Not necessarily. Getting a big number is no good, if they are the wrong fans. If all your business is in the U.S., and all your fans are in the Philippines, you’re doing it wrong. Brand marketers should focus on identifying fans that fit their profile, and extending fans’ friends with a high likelihood of brand affinity. This is a powerful opportunity only available today with the 1-billion strong Facebook network.
Next, marketers should look at how fans participate in brand-generated content. How much it is shared, commented and liked? How are the “People Talking About That” numbers affected? How many friends-of-fans were reached through amplification means, whether those friends-of-fans became participatory fans themselves? The treasure trove of metrics in Facebook Insights is only just starting to be understood, mined and optimized.
Beyond this step, things get more speculative. How do we know if someone who liked, shared and commented on a piece of brand content went on to buy, say, a car? Or, even more interestingly, what do we know about sentiment shifts? Did seeing your friend Alice consider buying a Hyundai car on Facebook -- as a result of, say, an engagement app that lets her share her choice of colors and options -- encourage her friends take a look at Hyundai cars? Not sure yet.
But we do know one thing: Facebook is the only place online Hyundai can do this. The only place where Hyundai can know with confidence that Alice is hanging out online with her friends. That is not true on Hyundai.com. Nowhere else can marketers see the likes, desires, interests and sentiments of close to 1 billion people.
Now let’s go beyond shifts in sentiment to measurements Web-familiar measurements: acquisition, referrals, conversions, etc. For example, can we track a fan “Like” to a downstream purchase off-Facebook? Not quite yet. But we will.
Rest assured, Facebook is hearing all this loud and clear! They know the pressing need to track actions and sentiments on Facebook through to a conclusion, whether on-Facebook or off-Facebook, is required. But to expect all these measurements to be as fully refined and predictable as a 17-year old advertising paradigm isn’t reasonable. It denies the incredibly exciting marketing challenges and opportunities on social.
Success will be enjoyed by the forward-thinking, groundbreaking brands that pave the way. Not the old-school brands looking back, rather than forward.