December 16, 2019


Analytics Feature: Marketing is About People, Not Numbers

Marketing is an industry that's been bombarded with "too much" data. It makes sense in a way - for so long marketers and their stakeholders were never truly confident in the measurements and metrics that traditional media was able to give them.

And then, with the evolution of new media, the demand for data was met by supply. Modern marketing platforms and the infrastructure that drives them allows us to deep-dive into every aspect of the way in which our campaigns and strategy is performing. With all that information at our fingertips one would expect that marketing would get better - more contextual, timely, intuitive and ultimately, more meaningful.

I think a lot of people are starting to understand that while some of the benefits of deeper data have been realized, this influx of information has altered how we plan, execute, and measure marketing, in some negative ways.

Optimizing for platform performance rather than business goals

Every digital media platform has a different kind of audience, encourages different kinds of behaviours, and serves up content in ways that best suit that platform's operational objectives. Thus the data and results that we get from these platforms is presented through a uniquely customized lens.

An example of this comes from analyzing video views between Facebook and YouTube - both of these platforms measure a "video view" differently. Facebook registers a video view as 3 seconds viewed, whilst Youtube only registers a video view after 30 seconds has passed. If you were to run a paid video campaign, for your budget you might get many more video views from Facebook than from Youtube, but the quality of the views registered on Youtube would generally be much higher. In fact even organically, Youtube as a platform is designed around encouraging and optimizing for longer average view durations.

All other things being equal, if your underlying business goal were to have people watch more of your video content rather than simply generating brand/product awareness through video, Youtube might weigh more heavily in your campaign marketing mix.

Being aware of the use-cases for different platforms can help you to better utilize the data that matches with your business objectives and I would say this is true for almost all owned, earned, and paid media platforms.

Users are real people that move across multiple platforms

We're able to track so many different things through digital media, but the one thing that many people fail to grasp is that "users" (or "reach") as a metric refers to unique individuals. What that means is that these numbers are not a cumulative metric across all platforms that you operate on.

If you have 500 users on platform A in January, and 300 users on platform B, you didn't have 800 total monthly users across both platforms because some of those users may have used both platforms during that time. Even just looking at platform A, this also means that if you had 500 users in January and 400 users in February, during January and February combined your total user count wasn't 900, as people that that used your platform in both January and February would only be counted as one user during that window.

While that sounds simple enough once you understand it, the implications are much further reaching - It's a reminder that there are are actual people that we're trying to reach with our marketing strategies, and that that each of these users have different behaviours around how, when, and where they consume online media. It tells us that as marketers we need to do a better job of understanding more about the behaviour and motivations of people that we want to reach, as opposed to just efficiently delivering impressions until we generate a desired action.

Thinking about things such as multi-platform frequency, cross-device conversion tracking, and how our marketing plays in to product life-cycle and consumption behaviour, can help us generate more effective marketing solutions as well as prodding us to think more deeply about how people use different platforms and consume the content that they do.

Ultimately, understanding that we're marketing to people and not just numbers helps us to create a more positive relationship between digital media organizations and end users.

What's Next?

These examples are really just scraping the surface of how data has impacted the marketing function - as we continue to increase the volume and complexity of data driven marketing insights, successes will come from marketers that haven take the time not only to understand the context and meaning behind the data, but who have also learned not to rely on a single data source for their directions.

Contextualize the information presented to you, understand the people behind the numbers, and always look for the bigger picture.