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The Marketing < > Analytics Intersect, by Avinash Kaushik
A Special Note.

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When Mark Zuckerberg originally outlined his vision for businesses on Facebook, I loved it so much.

Marketing would be about earned attention. It would come from an entirely different type of relationship between brands and humans - a relationship that is not one-way pimping of products and features, rather built on brands making a small but meaningful contribution to helping you live a better life.

It was so cool that there was a platform that really could foster relationships via proximity, real humans connected with real humans, and brands caring beyond just SELLING.

Sounds like some big-time kool-aid drinking, right?

I mean every word of it.

I *hate* that almost all marketing is interruptive, and company-selfish. 

Obviously it is important to sell our products and services (that pays for my salary).

But, if you truly internalize my See-Think-Do-Care business framework, you’ll see just how much more opportunity there is for brands/companies to engage, to add value to the lives of our current or future customer-humans.

With that deep a passion for delivering value, you can see why I loved the promise of Social.
Almost none of it actually came true for brands/companies. (Though, some new dimensions were birthed, ex: political activism on steroids.)

And, it is not Mark or Larry or Jack or Guowei or Pavel’s fault.

It turns out, building relationships through providing something of value versus SHOUTING ABOUT THE LATEST RELEASE AND BUY NOW!!!! is really, really hard.

There is also a deeply underappreciated challenge in building a relationship based on engagement because it requires long-term investment/imagination/execution. CMOs are mostly held accountable for short-term results, so, unfortunately, we wind up with less engagement and ubiquitous LET ME PIMP YOU MORE OF MY PRODUCT.

So. We failed.

Here are, randomly chosen, Twitter accounts to reflect on:
American Express | Coca-Cola | Microsoft | Walmart 

Here are, randomly chosen, Facebook accounts to reflect on:
Exxon Mobil | Apple | United Health | JP Morgan Chase

On either platform, or the one relevant to your local geo,  I encourage you to visit any brand you like/work for.

You’ll clearly see we failed.

Yes, the platforms contributed a bit to the failure (darn algorithms!). But, it would be hubristic to blame them rather than look at our imagination, our execution, our incentives, and our strategy.

We failed.

For most brands and companies:

Social Media Marketing as an avenue to do something special, something across the “lifecycle of customer engagement,” is objectively a failed project. 


I bet in your small company has a Daniel or part of Daniel still working on your social media marketing efforts (with little business value to show for it).

I bet in your larger company you  have an entire cadre of company and agency employees staffing a rather large social media marketing them (with little business impact to show for it).

For those in the above scenarios, time for some truth-whispering… Specific guidance from me to inform the optimal use of your social marketing budgets.

Ready for some truth?

(For the rest of this newsletter I’m going to segment Organic - “free” - Social Media Marketing and Paid Social Media Marketing. OSMM. PSMM. Each has a different purpose, different standards to meet, and an entirely different landscape of opportunity or lack thereof.)
The (still mostly a) Vanity Project.

For some small brands, small businesses, OSMM can be a meaningful part of their success. 

Examples of these are rare with every passing day because feeds became primarily driven by algorithms five years ago across almost all platforms, this shrunk organic reach to well below 1% for everyone.

(This means if you are JP Morgan Chase on Facebook and have 376,832 followers, less than 3,768 will see anything you post organically. A significantly smaller number than 3,768 will engage with your post. It was 84 for their latest one - less than total customer engagements with JPMC in one minute in the smallest US branch.)

Social platform analytics solutions also provide re-engagement numbers with your organic content, you’ll note person-level re-engagement is non-existent.

If medium or larger brands are on Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, etc., they are primarily there as a vanity project.

Most senior marketing leaders themselves are on these platforms. They consider that to be a very cool part of their personal existence (and it probably is, including for me). It only makes sense that they would want every small or big B2B company, every tractor manufacturer, every toothpaste seller to have a presence on social media - because it is a cool thing to do.

Since there is no data to support any financial justification for OSMM as a business, it is important to internally acknowledge why you are on Social Media - vanity.

It will take the pressure off from having to justify it with numbers. 

It will reduce the emotional strain on you, others.

It might even result in optimizing investment.

Peace. Harmony. Better bottom-line.

The (still not well thought out ) Opportunity Framing.

Usually, Marketing investment is justified based on activity (GRPs, Impressions, Reach etc.), and not based on outcomes (Revenue, Loyalty, Intent etc.). 

In the case of Social Media, neither works anymore. There is hardly any activity from OSSM, and as a result there are no noticeable outcomes - click on any link above or visit any business you care for.

OSSM investments in a large number of people and agency $$$ are being justified based on opportunity.

As in: Tik Tok has 800 million active users, how can we not be there! 

As in: 100 million+ photos and videos are uploaded per day on Instagram, the opportunity for our B2B publishing business is huge!

Don’t fall for this psychological trap.

Opportunity is important to understand.

Engageable opportunity is even more important to understand: If you are there, will anyone pay attention to you?

For 1/1000th the investment, the engageable opportunity from Email Marketing might be 1,000 times what you can get out of an Instagram OSMM strategy.

There is a clever way to gently push back against Executives who bring opportunity framing to you. Someone shared these statistics validating why businesses should be on Instagram, read them with your critical eye completely open...

If you cluster the metrics by purpose, you’ll notice three things: 
  1.  You can summarize that businesses should be on Instagram because it is very good for Instagram.

  2.  You should spend money on Instagram because it is good for Influences who are on Instagram.

  3. The solitary metric, I’ve highlighted it, that talks about the benefit to the business is for activity the business can get without being on Instagram!
It might be hard to go talk to an executive to provoke critical thinking about the people, tools, agency fees, being spent on OSMM by saying it is now primarily a vanity project.

I hope you can use the opportunity reframing to provoke critical thinking.

The data above, entirely randomly, is for Instagram. A simple Bing search will help you locate it for Snapchat. Or, LinkedIn. Or, others.

(I’m not linking to the source of the above image, I don’t want to call them out. If you really want to know, a quick Bing query will do it.)

(Bonus Read: TMAI #187: Influence Marketing Rocks. Maybe Not.)
The (still challenging) Content Challenge.

For OSMM, and to a degree PSMM, our challenge with social media is content, and by content I mean substance.

No one is going to any social platform to hear about the new API integration with Zapier your company has launched or that your phone has 4 more MBs of RAM. Honestly, I’m not even sure anyone wants to see your latest BLM proclamation in their feed - not when it is so much easier to see your walk.

The winning content formula - from a user’s perspective, not a company-selfish perspective - was simple: Entertain Me. Inform Me. Provide Utility.

Some brands did this well (a tiny fraction continue to). In my keynotes, I always expressed appreciation for how well KLM did content on Facebook. Or take a gander at my, still, favorite example Innocent Smoothies and Juices (take a look at their last post, you’ll see what I mean, such perfect language and tone).

Most everyone else can’t execute the above formula.

To them, the purpose of a Snapchat filter is to launch a product (which is fine of course, but hardly social). The reason to tweet 18 times a day is to repeat the 2 new features. Value from Social is to promote the CEO’s latest tweet or video on YouTube (even the CEO’s family likely does not care). 

Even in the very best case scenario perhaps they could do Inform Me tied to the company, product, service. But, imagine how quickly it gets boring. Would you read your company’s Inform Me content for two consecutive days? And, when even you don’t can you imagine how the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter algorithms treat your content?

It is time to admit as Marketers that OSMM is a dead path for us because WE, not the platform, are not good at Entertain Me and Provide Utility (defined as contribute to me living a better life through the connection we have in an area of your expertise).

If you are going to continue to do OSSM, take the last 100 posts you did on any channel (do the analytics I recommend below but also) put your posts into these four clusters:

Entertain Me | Inform Me | Provide Utility | Selfish Content.

Be Honest.

What do you see in the distribution of percentages?

Think you have a solid OSMM strategy?

Social Media content is not just the words and photos, it is people behind the brand, it is their imagination, authenticity, and depth of understanding the human at the other end and the brand’s role in that relationship.

We’ve proven as medium and large-sized brands that we are not good at this.

(For the last two Executives on the planet still creating content to hit virality, I simply urge you to look at the last decade of your success with virality. You would be right to conclude that aiming for virality will break your heart - and bank.)

The (still not doing it right) Analytics Challenge. 

I want you to know two things.

The best social media metrics have surprisingly stood the test of time, they measure the socialness of social and your ability to achieve it:

Conversation Rate
Amplification Rate
Applause Rate
Economic Value

The first three measure your ability to achieve socialness.

They are remarkably easy to measure. In fact all the numbers you need to measure the first three are publicly available, just visit any link to any brand above.

Ex: After taking out the copious number of complaints on every tweet, American Express’ Conversation Rate on Twitter is 0%.

I’d first defined these metrics in 2011 (!), I’m astounded how well the metrics and definitions have stood the test of time. Here are the deets:
Best Social Media Metrics.

Increasing OSMM teams that are unable to demonstrate a clear impact using the above metrics fall back on activity metrics like Mentions, Total Number of Active Accounts Talking, Tweets (or Posts) etc.

This use of these activity metrics is a very clever trick, I want you to be able to notice it.

The goal of a well-staffed and well budgeted OSMM team is to contribute to social media to create Conversation, Amplification, Applause from their organic social activity.

In measuring the above metrics, what the team is doing is reporting the activity done by others which your company did not have any hand in.

Ex: Long time readers know I’m a huge fan of Sony (quality, design) and Patagonia (quality, social responsibility). I’ve tweeted/posted about these brands 100 times - out of my love for them and their products. I have no idea if either brand is on Social Media. Even if they were there, they did nothing to create my Sony and Patagonia social activity. I would have done it anyway. This is called Earned Media.

Your OSMM team deserves Zero Credit for this earned media, usually measured by metrics above.

Your OSMM team deserves credit for any earned media their work created, that’s measured using Conversation Rate, Amplification Rate, Applause Rate, and Economic Value.

Don’t fall for the bait and switch of the OSMM team/agency taking credit for (if you are lucky) big numbers representing *all earned media.*

The (still optimal) Use of Social Media Platforms.

As you abandon your non-value added OSMM efforts and save your company, Daniel or many, many Daniels, should you abandon them altogether?


Switch to PSMM.

Buy ads.

Buy attention because between our failure (content, imagination, commitment) and the platform (darn algorithms!) there is no way to earn it.

There is absolutely an audience there. A billion on this platform and two billion on the other one. It adds up. :)

They offer, broadly, banner/display ads and video ads in various formats. Buy them, as you would ads on the side of a bus or park bench or Bing or YouTube.

When it comes to measuring effectiveness, treat these ads just as you would ads on the side of a bus or a park bench or Seznam or YouTube.

Measure the Conversion Rate, Orders, and, critically, Profit Per Sale between Facebook and YouTube and Email. Spend more where you get better numbers.

Measure the Incremental Brand Lift, # of Individuals Lifted, and, critically, Cost Per Individual Lifted between Snapchat and billboards and Television. Spend more where you get better numbers.

There is nothing particularly magical or special about Social Platforms in this context.

Invest in understanding the user context on a social platform, just as you would all non-social platforms.

Build creative based on best practices the platform recommends.

Measure the effectiveness, and ruthlessly compare PSMM to other Owned, Earned, and Paid strategies your company is executing.

And, never, never, never, judge your PSMM (or even OSMM) data in a silo. Never have a single report/dashboard/data puke that only has Social data. Always have the performance of other marketing programs, same KPIs, to provide invaluable business context.

A special PSMM US challenge for the next six months.

The US has gone through a tumultuous period these past four months. As we approach the election negative political ads, divisive personal posts, hate-mongering robot activity, etc. will all dramatically ramp up. I

f you have a Paid Social Media Marketing strategy, it is worth considering whether or not you want your ads to be sitting in that context. Will anyone pay attention to the tractor or toothpaste you are selling? At the minimum, pay close attention to the KPIs (above).
Bottom line: If you are a human, or a tiny company, be on social. Socialize as you see fit. Connect with friends, family, ex-lovers. You are the content. Enjoy.

When you come to work, look at reality. Your Organic Social Media Marketing budget is delivering zero value to the company, it is not even that hard to get the data.

Treat social platform opportunities just as you would billboards, radio, Naver, park bench posters, Hulu.  PSMM can be very effective.

I’m sending you three dollops of courage. One dollop of courage for you to accept reality. Two dollops of courage you’ll need to convince your senior executives.

Accept. Adapt. Win.

Carpe Diem!

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