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The problem with vanity metrics – how marketers can stay focused

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Earlier this year Yogendra Vasupal, the founder of Stayzilla, announced in a blog post he would shut down all operations of his company – despite having recently raised $33.5 million.

Yogendra wrote an honest and transparent post highlighting the reasons for his decision and admitting that he made mistakes. In the post, he openly admits the company focused on irrelevant data which ultimately led to their demise:

The initial seven years were all about having negative working capital, positive cash flow and a sustained ability to fund our own growth. Those were the only metrics we tracked. In the last three to four, though, I can honestly state that somewhere I lost my path. I started treasuring GMV [Gross Merchandise Value], room-nights and other ‘vanity’ metrics instead of the fundamentals of cash flow and working capital.”

We read news stories every day explaining how companies focused on ‘X’ to overachieve their targets, or how the latest trend must be implemented in your organisation to make it successful. However, the danger with focusing on all this new information is that it is easy to lose sight of what is really important.

So, what are the equivalent vanity metrics in marketing and comms?

As professionals working in an ever changing, digital industry, our client programmes and campaigns are filled with copious amounts of data and metrics that we simply cannot make use of.

Just because a metric exists does not mean that you have to use it, even if it worked for someone else. Think about whether it is worth the investment of your time and whether you have the resources to measure it. Decide which is more important.

Drowning in vanity metrics

Impressions, followers, share of voice, likes etc. – we have an abundance of metrics to choose from but the challenge marketers face is to distinguish which metrics will have an impact on business objectives.

Before you make the decision to use a metric, stop and say to yourself “does this metric help me make a decision?” and “When I view this metric, does it help me understand how to get closer to my business goals?” If you answer “no” to both of those questions, you are looking at a vanity metric.

Initially, vanity metrics appear important, but they tend to be superficial and often have a negative impact on your business goals.

initially, vanity metrics appear important

Yes, figures in vanity metrics may show that your business is successful but they will often not provide any insight that will help grow your business.

Re-tweets, likes and AVEs are good to use as a benchmark but they are not always useful for measuring the success of your campaign. Don’t let metrics hold you back; ensure that they give you some insight in order to make an impact on your business.

Share of voice: the complications

As an example, share of voice is a metric that measures the frequency that your organisation is mentioned in comparison to your competitors. For most marketing professionals this metric indicates audience preference and brand trustworthiness.

However, there are a few issues when using share of voice as a metric. Often, you will need to use services that operate sophisticated AI algorithms and language processing technology to accurately track your organisation’s share of voice.

which metrics would help make an impact on your business

These services are often quite expensive and are still not 100% accurate. Without this accuracy, you will be left with no real insight. Worryingly, it’s also very easy for organisations to manipulate share of voice figures. For instance, Twitter bots can be used to increase how often a brand or public figure is being talked about.

This tactic will boost how often your brand is mentioned in comparison to your competitors but it will not increase customer preference or your brand’s trustworthiness.

Quality over quantity is an expression that we hear every day, but in this case, it’s applicable. Carefully consider what would be better to measure and which metrics would help make an impact on your business?

So, what can you do?

It’s important that your marketing and communications strategy doesn’t focus on the wrong metrics. You need to make sure that everything you measure will give you real insight and positively impact your business.

In light of this, here are three things all marketing professionals should consider when thinking about metrics:

– Marketing objectives need to align with business objectives, whether this means acquiring new customers or increasing profit

– Do not get side-lined by irrelevant metrics that will not help you achieve your goals

– Experiment with different ways to measure campaign success. Change your activities to see what works and what doesn’t. Technology is constantly evolving and how you measure the success of your campaign today may be less impactful tomorrow. Question everything you do and try new approaches.

Don’t just focus on the latest trend for the sake of it. Ensure you have a clear understanding of how it will benefit your organisation. As we have seen in Stayzilla’s case, it’s important not to get swept up in the latest fad or you can face serious consequences.

Data, analytics and measurement are important for all marketing campaigns but it’s equally as important to focus on the right approaches. Develop your understanding and find out what works for your organisation to ensure overall business success.

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Digital

Manchester United unveils official global mobile app

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Manchester United has unveiled an official mobile app powered by its digital transformation partner, HCL.

The new app features exclusive content, including the United Now feed – which collates the latest news, polls, stats, videos and blogs about the club– and a live matchday experience, including line ups, up-to-the-second match updates, live blogging, player stats and score updates from rivals.

The app will also provide exclusive content and behind-the-scenes player access.

Manchester United’s group managing director, Richard Arnold said: “This app will allow our 659 million Manchester United followers to easily connect to the club they love, wherever they are in the world. Fans will now have the opportunity to follow all Manchester United matches through the app with up-to-the-second notifications and updates.

"The app was created by a dedicated project team from HCL Technologies and Manchester United, ensuring a truly collaborative approach to the project. The team not only built the new app and website, but also created an advanced underlying platform that will give the club the ability to adapt as new technologies emerge.”

HCL Technologies’ corporate vice president, Ashish Gupta said: “Our partnership with Manchester United has been one of continuous co-innovation. HCL’s digital experience platform has driven significant business transformation combining digital product strategy and technology innovation to deliver a compelling user experience. The Manchester United official app has received excellent reviews from a worldwide fan base with downloads in over 210 markets."

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The Drum presents: Tom Ollerton talks to Rachel Falconer, head of Goldsmiths Digital Studios

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Talking about the latest marketing technology in order to make sense of it for brands and agencies to apply it through his podcast 'Shiny New Object' is Tom Ollerton, AI consultant and the former innovation director at We Are Social. In this latest installment, Rachel Falconer, head of Goldsmiths Digital Studios offers her thoughts on the impact blockchain will have on the marketing industry.

Each episode of The Shiny New Object Podcast will be distributed in partnership with The Drum and can be followed by subscribing through the Apple podcast app (which also currently features the SheSays Says series) here on the website or follow The Drum's SoundCloud page.

Tom Ollerton is a consultant in the field of creative artificial intelligence. He helps brands use the speed and scale of AI to make their content and media budgets work harder. Tom runs a monthly meetup called ‘I’ll Be Back’ that studies the intersection of creativity, ads and AI. Each week he interviews an influential marketer about their favourite new marketing technology.

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Sony Pictures Network unveils a digital campaign for the 18th Asian Games

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Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India has unveiled the #KoiKasarNahi (No stone will be left unturned) campaign for the 18th Asian Games to be held in Indonesia.

As part of the campaign, SPN will be hosting a ‘Fan Flame’ on its microsite . Inspired by the Asian Games torch that burns in the cauldron for the duration of the Games, the virtual Fan Flame will have message of support that will be passed on to the participating Indian athletes.

To feature on the virtual Fan Flame, fans will need to use hashtag #KoiKasaNahi on social media platforms. SPN will broadcast live more than 300+ hours of the Asian Games in both Hindi and English.

It will also have a live studio show with panelists like wrestler Jagdish Kaliraman, hockey champions Sandeep Singh, Viren Rasquinha, and Jagbir Singh, tennis players Somdev Devvarman and Gaurav Natekar, badminton player Aparna Popat, and expert columnists Ayaz Memon and Boria Majumdar.

Rajesh Kaul, president, Sports and Distribution Business, Sony Pictures Networks India said: “At Sony Pictures Networks India we have always promoted a multi-sport culture and it doesn't get bigger than the 18th Asian Games.

"As our athletes compete across 36 sports and against sportspeople from 45 countries, we will bring fans and viewers the ultimate experience to enjoy the Asian Games. As patriotic fans, it’s our utmost duty to give our unrelenting support to our athletes just as they will give on this stage.”

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