Over at Collective Bias, a “publisher of high quality user generated content that drives sales for brands and retailers”, there’s a case study about one of their campaigns.
The case study shares some very impressive numbers:
Looking at the image below, it looks like the campaign ticked all the ROI boxes:
- 405% increase in marketing equivalency ROI (Return on Investment)
- 3.2 million potential blog page views
- 40.2 million impressions
If you were writing out these numbers fully, that’d be a heck of a lot of zeroes! Here’s the thing, though – do these metrics actually mean anything? Eh… not really.
Hit and Hope Marketing is Not the Same as Marketing a Hit
While there’s no doubt that numbers in the millions aren’t something to be sneezed at, let’s take a look at each metric and break it down a little bit further.
1. 405% marketing equivalency ROI
This sounds great on paper, because it mentions the fabled ROI term. Social media has long been criticized for its value when it comes to lead generation for businesses, versus simply being a relationship builder.
There have certainly been enough real case studies to show social can result in ROI (and Sam Fiorella and I share several in our Influence Marketing book), but for many detractors of social’s business value, the ROI question has always been their core weapon.
So when you see a 405% return on investment, that’s huge. Or is it? Not when it’s wrapped in “marketing equivalency” wording.
Instead of being an actual sales metric, marketing equivalency is simply a relative number that equates to whether this form of marketing would generate results that would cost more or less through other forms of marketing.
When Collective Bias says this campaign resulted in marketing equivalency of 405%, what they’re actually saying is they’d hope/expect 4x the results of traditional marketing for the same cost. Of course, that’s not the same as actually getting?that return.
2. 3.2 million potential blog views
Blogger outreach is a hugely effective marketing tactic when it comes to social, and helping brands grow both awareness and measurable returns. However, there’s a big difference between “potential blog views” and “actual blog views”.
Potential can mean all sorts of metrics and “maybes”:
- a blogger has 10,000 subscribers, so the post may be seen by 10,000 people (the truth of the matter will be much less)
- a blogger has a million Twitter followers, so the post may be seen by a million people (again, not very likely)
- a blogger is syndicated across networks like Social Media Today and Business2Community and will be seen by that network’s audience (um… you can see where I’m going here)
So, yes, there’s the potential for 3.2 million blog views. But, heck, anyone can use that – there are 3 billion Internet users in the world, so this blog post you’re reading now could have 3 billion potential views. Potentially.
3. 40.2 million impressions
Much like the potential blog post metric highlighted above, 40.2 million impressions sounds impressive – after all, that’s 40.2 million potential customers, which I don’t think any brand would turn its nose up at.
Except then you see that word “potential” again – because that’s all impressions are, “potentials”.
Here’s why impressions as a metric suck (although they still don’t suck as much as reach). Impression metrics don’t care if you see the ad or not – if you, the target for that ad, are on the same “page” as the ad, that’s an impression, whether you see the ad or not.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re on Facebook, and you’re looking at your feed to catch up on how your friends and connections are doing. All these little ads that are in the sidebar (the marketplace ads) count as impressions, whether you look at them or not.
Better still, if you’re on your smartphone, and you’re reading an update from someone on your main screen, and just below the fold of that screen is an ad, it’s classed as an impression if it’s part of your feed “depth” (whether you scroll your screen down to see the ad or not).
See the problem with impressions? There’s no guarantee that anyone will see your ad, but if it falls within the measurement part of a page view, you (the client) are going to be charged for it.
How much do you think 40.2 million impressions cost, and how many of these impressions do you actually think were seen? More importantly, how many of these impressions led to real ROI?
You Need to Quantify Success, Not Quantity-fy It
Yes, I know – quantity-fy isn’t a real word. But maybe it should be – because there are far too many “case studies” and success stories that use quantities rather than quantifying the data.
On the Collective Bias page that shares the Walgreens case study, there are zero links to share data that validates the numbers on display. The same goes for all of their case studies, including this one for their “ColectivaLatina influencers” campaign on behalf of client El Yucateco.
While the numbers may seem impressive, again they fall flat without reference points.
These reference points could help explain why, of a potential 8.3 million blog page views, there were only 35,355 engagements (which could be reads, shares, comments, skims, ?etc.), especially when there were 56.4 million impressions.
We’re in 2015. Social media purists and protagonists (and I count myself in the latter, for sure) argue that there’s never been a better time to be a marketer, or advertiser, or brand, because now we can actually measure the metrics of a campaign down to the most granular level.
And it’s true. We don’t need to rely on correlative data that suggests extra foot traffic to a retail store came from the radio ad that ran that day, versus the print ad that ran that same day, versus the flyer that went out that same day.
Now, we can see what percentage of our audience clicked, took an action, redeemed, returned, referred, complained, advocated and much more. We can filter and provide as much or as little data as we want (or our clients and/or finance departments want).
If we’re going to ignore that, and share case studies that use potential and equivalency as the ROI, we may as well say our campaigns reached eleventy billion people since it has the same ring of authority to it.
Just don’t forget to use the word “potential”…