Direct & Integrated Marketing Roundtable

Monday, November 7, 2016

Measuring Social Media ROI

It has been 3 long years as I close in on the completion of my Ph.D. in Education Technology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.  As I finalize my dissertation on the use of social media by universities in communicating with students and alumni there are many interesting questions my committee have been asking.  I will share my answers to some of those with you now specifically on the measurement of marketing ROI for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

How do not-for-profit organizations, such as universities, measure return on investment?

Measuring ROI for traditional nonprofit organizations can be difficult as many of the positive outcomes of spend on research or a marketing campaign or appeal may be intangible with a social (ethical) component.   Quantifying those benefits are difficult to say the least but can be recorded and noted.   However, other outcomes of marketing and research spend can be quantified. 

For example, if a university spends dollars on research for a new drug and takes that drug to market then we can weigh the costs versus the outcomes (sales) against one another.   But even in this case, a clear cut example, we are still missing the value brought to the lives of healthier adults or children due to the use of this new drug.  So in this case we know our hard ROI figures are definitely understated.  By how much, it is hard to tell.  But certainly we could try to apply values to our formula.

Regarding pure “marketing” ROI, nonprofits can measure this in various ways.  The metrics to consider depend on where in the marketing funnel the dollars are being spent.  There are many funnels for nonprofits but in general it comes down to these main four components shown below from top of the funnel to bottom respectively with tactics and metrics also listed:

For universities the above funnel is the same for the alumni association or those in development.  But this funnel does not work for those in charge of student enrollment.  For this function, a more traditional funnel is in play as shown below:


With marketing automation tools like Hubspot, Eloqua, Marketo and Salesforce, most of these various actions can now be tied back to the initial visitor via tags.  The challenge is in determining the correct attribution model to clearly understand the value each part of the marketing strategy brought to the table.  In a panel session I moderated last month on marketing ROI which included digital strategists from Purina, Centene, Linkedin, Adobe and Perficient, we all agreed that measuring ROI is difficult due to the complexities of marketing these days, but as long as you stick with one attribution model you will at least be making apple to apple comparisons for assessment purposes.  No metric will be 100% accurate in the digital marketing world.

A recent article reported that only 15% of organizations (for-profit and not-for-profit) can quantify the impact of social media.  Discuss how organizations should measure the impact of adopting digital media strategies.  

Today many CMO’s are still having major issues quantifying the impact of all of their marketing campaigns.  In a recent article by Adobe, 93% of CMOs say they are under pressure to deliver measurable ROI; only about 20% of marketers are successful at tracking their content marketing programs; and only 8% of companies said they can determine the ROI of their social media spending.

We must keep in mind that the definition of social media ROI really depends on the goals.  Not all goals will be quantifiable and may be non-financial.  And, as I spoke prior, regardless of the efforts we will not be 100% accurate in our figures.  I am a firm believer that you first define your metrics and formulas the best you can and secondly stick with that same measurement strategy throughout for clear apple to apple comparisons.  Doing so, will allow one to compare one campaign versus another with minimal risk of misinterpreting. 

Let’s consider some specific goals:
  • Lead generation – click-throughs can be easily tracked from social media posts to the website for signup forms or downloads.  Future engagement can then be tracked on these visitors on social going forward.
  • Donations – click-throughs can be tracked from social media or emails campaigns and actions noted.  Future engagement and actions of this donor can be tracked elsewhere going forward.  Re-targeting campaigns can be used as well.
  • Site traffic – for publishing sites it is all about visits, page view and their return rate.  Metrics can be set and monitored over time.  Traffic sources will be followed closely and difference in content consumption noted.
  • Revenue – Last but not least, was a sale made?  Where did they come from, what content did they consume along the way, how much nurturing was required?
In general, ROI can be captured with some effort.  But even if we could follow every prospect and customer around digitally, there are many things outside of our control (as marketers) that mess up metrics.  These include individuals that delete their cookies on a regular basis (1/3 of us delete our cookies on a monthly basis); search in stealth mode; use Adblock Plus (a popular browser plug-in which blocks ads); share a computer with their spouse at home; etc.
Another recent article indicated that analytics are only useful if they are considered across the organization.  Comment on this statement.

I could not agree more with this statement.  In order for an organization to fully harness the power of data and technology all within the organization need to be on board.  The organization must create a data-centric culture.  To me this means making data easy to request, capture, access, display and interpret.   

Data can (and today must) be used strategically by every individual in an organization from a copywriter to the HR representative to the web developer in order to stay competitive.  And in today’s faced paced world, companies need to be ready to shift and pivot when the market says.  Companies need the latest and best data to help them answer those important questions.   It is a shift in thinking.  We must now ask at every level and every department, what data do you need to support your business goals?

Today tools including Tableau, SAS, IBM, and others make the date capture, analysis, reporting and visualization very easy for the novice.  Most tools are point and click unlike when I was a young analyst at the Reader’s Digest Association in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  An organization, by the way, that was way ahead of its time in terms of a culture of no silos, all had a place at the table and data was at the heart of every single decision made.

Yet another recent article indicated that non-consumer facing organizations have greater success in using social media.  Comment on this statement.

The use of social media and strategy for B2B is certainly different than B2C.  I am not sure I would agree with the author of the article that B2B has far greater success in the use of social media.  I think it is just different and your success depends on your strategy and deployment and measurements.  

Let’s talk about content, channels and goals for these two business models to understand better.

  • For B2B the strategy is clear.  It is whitepapers, e-books, downloads, forms, case studies and more.  All easy to track and present.  
  • For B2C, caution has to be taken so that it is not perceived as a push.  The content needs to be visually stimulating and entertaining in some cases.  Native ads are also used for this purpose.
  • For B2B it is certainly LinkedIn for the main channel.  Twitter most likely following.  And Facebook last.  But of course there are always exceptions.  You must understand your audience and it’s demographic.
  • For B2C, it is pretty much all social media except LinkedIn.  And, again which is priority depends on your audience and their demographic.
  • For B2B it is a download, form signup, e-book, newsletter.  All easy to track success of campaigns with marketing automation tools in use today.
  • For B2C it is sales for the most part.  And the journey to get to that sale can be complex and fraught with attribution issues as previously spoken about.
This educational journey of mine has been very fulfilling.  I hope you find me sharing answers to questions posed by my Ph.D. committee helpful in understanding the complex world of measuring marketing ROI.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Perry Drake Speaks at the Social@Scale Summit Hosted by UMSL, Purina and Sprinklr

On September 11 of 2014, the University of Missouri - St. Louis teamed up with Purina and Sprinklr to host the Social@Scale Conference in the JC Penney Conference Center. More than 250 industry professional, students and academics came to this half day event featuring guest speakers from Purina, Brown Shoe, Ameren, Save-a-Lot, Monsanto, Lockerdome and more. It was an information packed afternoon with lots of great questions and answers.

All sessions were taped thanks to STL Tech Talk.  I closed out the event with a talk about "Embracing the Disruption" where I also spoke of future trends (below).  

One fact that I spoke about which seemed to resonate with parents in the audience can be seen in the captured tweet shown below.

We ended with some great food and wine curtosy of The St. Louis American Marketing Association and Waterway Carwash. Oh yes, and there were some great gift items also for everyone -- a very nice portfolio for note taking, a pen and a coupon for a free carwash!

If you were not able to make it, keep an out out for next year. We are already in talks of doing this annually.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Digitization of Currency

Another disruption is about to occur.  Are you ready?  And it is going to effect how you and I will make purchases. 

Apple Pay is about to allow us to quickly cross the chasm in terms of leaving our wallets and credit cards behind.  Apple will play a key role in moving the early majority to this new pay model relatively quickly.  Starbucks blazed the trail with their payment app a few years ago.  And, the early adopters of that technology (me included) embraced this new way of paying relatively quickly.  It felt cool.  It was cutting edge, whipping out our phone and paying for a Latte.  Us early adopters had also hoped it would have spread even more.  But to have an app for every retailer would be cumbersome and not manageable. 

Apple Pay will solve this problem and I see this new technology propelling us forward in terms of digitizing currency.  And as this occurs, I wonder just how badly it will disrupt the Federal Reserve and what it will mean for Bitcoin.  Might currency disappear all together?  Will Apple Pay and Bitcoin compliment each other somehow in this new collaborative and sharing economy that appears to be emerging?  Maybe Apple Pay will help Bitcoin become more mainstream?  All are a real possibility.  I just get excited thinking about what all might transpire! 

Let’s look at some interesting facts from Comscore, Digiday and Goldman Sachs to support what we are talking about:
  • A third of all online purchases are made with mobile devices.
  • Approximately 86% of our mobile time is through an app.
  • Online retail spending grew 14% last year.
  • Global e-commerce sales made via mobile devices are expected to top $638 billion in the U.S. by 2018. 

So, when looking at those stats and projections above, keep in mind that they were all posted before the announcement of Apple Pay.  So I think we can see what this means for the future of a currency free society.  It will not be long. 

Whether or not Apple Pay slays eBay’s new “One Touch PayPal” is not the point.  But what is certain is that Apple will in fact play a major role in this disruption that is about to occur and change the way we conduct e-commerce forever.  So I ask again, are you ready for this next big disruption that is about to occur?  I know I am and cannot wait.

I Would love to hear your thoughts about this topic and if you agree with me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Developing Your Social Media Marketing Plan

The basic function of marketing as we know it has changed.  It is no longer acceptable to simply push out a message or grab someones attention with a catchy slogan.  You must be able to hold their attention.  It is all about creating content to engage the consumer.  This is where social media comes into play.

Many businesses both big and small fail at profiting from implementing a social media strategy.  Remember, social media isn’t a separate part of your marketing efforts. It must be integrated into your overall marketing strategy for social medial to be effective.

I have developed a simple 9 step process to consider when building any marketing plan and in particular a social media marketing plan (see Figure 1 below).
 Figure 1 Your Social Media Marketing Plan

Understanding Your Customers
Knowing your customers will help you assess the types of media to consider.  And, the emphasis to place on each.  Are your customers older?  Are they more likely female? Where are they likely to purchase/shop?

Where Are You Now?
Who are your competitors and what are they doing promotionaly.  What is their market share compared to yours.  What is your market potential?

A great blog article on helping you understand the steps to market sizing is:  The Ins and Outs of Sizing Your Market

Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Strengths - Do you have better customer service, better technology, bigger name recognition?
Weaknesses - Do you have fewer locations than your competitor, lower perceived value?
Opportunities - Are you moving into a unique and niche market?  Is your competitor less nimble and capable of change?
Threats - A new competitor could move in quickly, no patent, easy entry.

Check out the following article to help you lay out an effective SWOT analysis:  Discover New Opportunities, Manage and Eliminate Threats

State Objectives
What are you trying to achieve here:
  • Increase the customer base
  • Increase sales
  • Reduce attrition
  • Enhance awareness

Know Your Audience
Detail your segments for targeting and the unique qualities of each regarding demographic, psycho- graphic and behavioral data.  This will be key to understanding the most appropriate social media strategy for each segment. 

Select Your Social Media Channels
There are four dimensions you will need to consider here for purposes of building an effective strategy.

1.  What social media channels make the most sense for your segments? Consider setting a priority of which social media to implement first, second and third.  Especially if there are budget and resource constraints.  This is very important.  But, do NOT make the mistake of thinking you must be in every social media channel available.  Some may not make sense for your business model.

2.  Next think about if you will need a blog or a YouTube Channel?  There are many other beneftis to blogging such as SEO and link building.   Here is a great article by Search Engine Watch that may help:  Why Blog: The Benefits of Business Blogging for Visitors & Links

3.  What about gamification of your brand or service?  For example, badges for completing so many tasks.  Serves as a great retention tool. Check out this Mashable article:  How to Gamify Your Marketing

4,  And lastly, do you need to worry about monitoring ratings?  Do coupon sites make sense? What about social commerce?

Ensure a Good User Experience (UX)
As you lay out your plan, ensure you are representing the brand consistently across all channels both social, digital and traditional regarding the look, feel, price, options, etc.  You do not want to confuse the customer.  Be very deliberate here.

Regarding mobile, ensure your sites are working well in this environment with good responsive design and a supporting app if that makes sense.  Remember, we are using mobile and tablets at higher and higher rates every day to access the web.  So you need to be where your customers are.  And, you need to give them a good experience.  Consider this article to help you decide:  Mobile Site or Mobile App?

The Action Plan
Lay out every step to execute the plan identifying responsible parties and due dates.  Set your budget.  Do not forget the tools.  You will need tools to monitor your social efforts like Hootsuite. Additionally, to help you understand what percent of your budget should be allocated to social, use this calculator to help you get started:  Digital Marketing Budget Calculator

Monitor, Manage and Measure
Name one person to oversee the execution of the plan, hold regular update meetings.  And lastly, define how you will determine success of your efforts by establishing measurable KPI's.

Hope you find this road map helpful.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Perry D. Drake

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Embrace the disruption, don't fight it!

I bet you are feeling the disruption due to technology advances either in your personal life or workplace?  Am I correct?  And I bet you are feeling overwhelmed at times by these disruptions?  Yes?  Trying to stay on top of the latest computer advances, technologies, medias, communication vehicles, apps, mobile devices, advances in tracking software, and online security issues is not easy to say the least.

Well, don't feel alone.

We are all feeling the impact here.  But here is the deal...embrace these disruptions and adapt and become stronger as a result or as a business you will be out on the streets.  These advances are not likely to slow down any time soon, guaranteed.

Two months ago I was invited to speak on the uses of social media and digital technologies at an AGTA (Airport Ground Transportation Association) conference being held in Clearwater Florida.  And, I was honored to have been asked.

Listening to the 3 keynote speakers prior me going on stage, I heard fear and anger from the AGTA about Lyft and Uber who are infringing on cab and livery drivers turf at airports, hotels, and about town.  I heard them talk about the poor quality of the Uber driver and how they are not licensed, or insured in some cases, or have criminal records.  They went on for over an hour.  I felt hatred, anger, confusion and many emotions pouring out of them that morning during the keynote.  But you know what, I get it.  They are being disrupted by technology.  Just the latest victim due to technological advances.  I totally get it.  But talking badly about Uber or Lyft is not going to make it all go away.  The consumer has spoken.  And they love the ability to open an app, click and have a car at their door.  And, in this day and age of social media, the consumer is in complete control.  The tables have turned.  So, when I got up to start my talk I told them not to feel alone.  I told them they are not the only ones feeling the pains and sense of confusion.  We all are, even us academics like myself.  Yes, even academics.

In case you did not realize we academics are undergoing a major disruption in the University setting.  MAJOR!  In academia we are being disrupted by what we call MOOCS - Massive Open Online Courses.  Courses that are being offered online for free and in some cases full semester courses.  Khan Academy and Coursera are just two such web sites offering these courses from universities like Rutgers and Harvard.  Many universities like mine do not know what to do.  The way we deliver content to students is changing and changing quickly and if we do not adapt we will have no students to teach.   It is that simple.  I cannot tell you how many committees I am on right now dealing with this issue.  But you know what, I love it.  I, like many of my peers, are embracing the challenge and trying to figure out how we can make education more affordable, convenient and a better overall experience for the students all due to technological advances.

Brands too have and are feeling the pain.  Because of social media, they have lost the ability to simply push out a message and expect us consumers to passively accept that message as fact.  Now us consumers have the control.  We can tell our friends what we think of the brand, their products and the type of customer support (good or poor) we receive.  Brands have totally had to change the way they interact with us consumers as a result of social media all caused by advances in mobile technology.  And, those brands that do not understand this simple fact, well, will be left out in the cold.

But two of the the biggest disruptions I can think of were (1) Naspter and (2) travel agencies.

Napster, although what they were doing was illegal, totally changed the way music was purchased and delivered and consumed.  Probably one of the largest disruptions out there due to advances in technology. 

And what about the once vibrant travel agency business model.  Remember them?  Or maybe you don't.  In this case it was the adoption of the Internet alone that changed that business model and killed off travel agencies (except for those dealing with exotic vacations).  Apps or mobile had nothing to do with this feat.  Travelocity, Kayak and others killed the travel agency businesses.  Wow, not that is a disruption.

So Mr Cab Driver we are all being disrupted.  You are not alone.  You (and all of us) have two choices.  Either site back and fight it and lose or, embrace all that technology can bring and use it to our full advantage to build even a better business model.  The later will be more fun and give much better odd of success.  Guaranteed.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Perry D. Drake
   Assistant Professor of Social and Digital Media Marketing, University of Missouri - St. Louis

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Statistician's View on the IRS Investigation

If you have been following the congressional investigations on the IRS practices, you may have heard that seven individuals who are under investigation, all had hard drive failures on or about the same time.  In addition to that, the IRS further claimed all failures resulted in an inability to retrieve any data from each of the seven drives.  Here is a link to the Miami Herald from June 20, 2014 on the hearings in case you have been vacationing on a remote island the past week:  http://hrld.us/1lIktol.

Photo Source:  C-SPAN 

As a seasoned statistician and data analyst, I thought to myself, what are the odds?  Is this very likely?  Maybe it is.  After all, we live in a digital world and who among us hasn’t had a hard drive crash, or had a close friend who had a hard drive crash?  So I decided to do some investigation to determine just how long the odds were of seven hard drives failing, and following that, the probability that of all seven, no data can be salvaged.

As any statistician knows, this is a straightforward calculation.  It simply requires some data, a few assumptions and a calculator that can multiply.

Data Required
1.  What is the failure rate of any hard drive?   Hard drives do tend to fail more when they are older and in addition various manufacturers have different failure rates.  I found an article on Lifehacker providing some good information comparing some major manufacturers.  (reference:  http://lifehacker.com/the-most-and-least-reliable-hard-drive-brands-1505797966).

They also provided some normative failure rates across all drives.  (reference: http://lifehacker.com/how-long-your-hard-drive-is-likely-to-last-1462918832)  In particular, the last article says that if you consider a hard drive’s life in three segments, the probability of a failure in year 1 is 5.1%.  Past year 1, but before 3 years, the failure rate drops to 1.4%.  After three years the failure rate is 11.8%. 

2.  What is the probability of retrieving information on a crashed hard drive?   In looking into the various causes of hard drive failure, there are many things that can render a hard drive inoperable without damaging the disk itself.  If the disk itself is in tact, the data should be retrievable by strategies that include (1) taking the disk from the inoperable drive and swapping it into a drive that works or (2) taking a transient voltage suppressor (TVS) diode off of the circuit board causing the hard drive to come back to life long enough for one to copy files to a fully functional disk drive.  Joel Hruska wrote an excellent piece on these and other techniques, "Raising the dead:  Can a normal person repair a damaged hard drive?" (reference: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/133294-raising-the-dead-can-a-regular-person-repair-a-damaged-hard-drive 

What cannot be repaired is actual damage to the disk itself.  So in investigating the success rates of companies that do this sort of thing (and provide success rate metrics on their website), I found a company in Grand Rapids, Michigan called Data Recover that gives a success rate on data recovery at 95%.  I also found a German Company called Freecom which gives a success rate on data recovery at 98%.

We will assume the crashes of the seven hard drives are independent.  Meaning that in an office setting, the event of a co-worker's hard drive crashing has nothing to do with the probability that your own workstation will experience a hard drive crash.  This is a relatively safe assumption.

Additionally, we will assume the ability to retrieve the information from one drive has nothing to do with the ability to retrieve data from another drive.  Again I think a safe assumption assuming we make a good effort to retrieve data on each damaged hard drive.

The Equation 
Assuming independence of events, the equation to compute the probability of seven hard drive failures is the probability of a failure on the first computer, multiplied by the probability of a failure on the second computer...and so on until the seventh computer.  If we assume the odds of any one hard drive crashing being equal to 11.8%, then the odds of seven hard drives crashing at the office would be 11.8% to the 7th power:

(0.118)**7 = 0.0000003185473901 
or converting it to odds
1 in 3,139,250

If we further factor in the probability of not being able to retrieve data on any of the seven hard drives we would need to include the 5% probability for each computer that the data would be irretrievable.  To do this we simply multiply the above figure by 0.05 to the 7th power:

0.0000003185473901 x (.05)**7 = 0.0000000000000002488651485 
or converting it to odds
1 in 4,018,240,425,000,000

To put this in perspective, the odds of an individual being hit by a meteorite has been calculated by NASA to be 1 in 20,000,000,000,000 (reference: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/13/meteorite-space-earth).  And the odds you will win a Powerball Lottery is 1 in 175,223,510 (that is why most statistician never play the lottery by the way!)

What do you think?  Could it be true?  Would love to hear your thoughts and if you agreed with my assumptions. #lovestatistics #bigdata #numbercruncher 

Rhonda Knehans-Drake 
   Assistant Professor, New York University & CEO, Drake Direct