Making the Social Media Investment Work - The Data Obsession

Website analytics data
How applicable is your data to real decision making?
As small business operators, we continuously look for answers, confirmation that we are doing the right thing. In today’s climate, metrics are ubiquitous. There is a push to assign a number to every aspect of the business, compare some measure of performance to a benchmark or goal. When it comes to digital marketing and social media activities, it can be difficult to draw a straight line between impressions, clicks, or page views and revenue generating results. This is particularly true if your website does not have a commerce component where customers can buy your products. It is even more true when your scale is small, where a relatively limited number of outcomes can have a large impact on the data picture. Data is best for decision making when there is a virtual mountain of it. In any other case, treat it as informative, but not indicative enough to direct the helm of the company.
What is important, is that you see something happening in your social media and other digital marketing that can be considered positive progress in areas that lead to opportunity and revenue. 
Clicks and page views are not orders, and assigning some cooked up dollar value to them in order to judge performance may not be the best way to make marketing decisions. Most page views are potential customers checking you out, looking to see if your company appears to be one worth doing some business with.

You are in the sales and promotion business. You have a certain amount of intuition that relates to your field; otherwise you would probably be in another. Be careful about letting data overrule your intuition. Data is not inherently better than intuition; it’s just a different methodology for decision making. Data is useful when working to bring others into agreement with your view of things, to “bring them on board”.  When there is data, everyone can look at it and agree. You don’t need to have faith when there is data.

In recent decades, we have been increasingly indoctrinated to worship data. In many cases that adoration is well deserved. However, if you are not a statistician, or one with a firm understanding of statistics and how to determine the validity of a data sample, caution should be your watchword.
At its simplest, validity relates to whether data, and the research used to obtain it, is really measuring results related to some target aspect of your marketing program.
Is it really measuring what you think it is measuring, or are you just gathering numbers. If you are using your intuition to assess the validity of a data set, instead of statistical methods, be very cautious about making big moves based upon that information.
Website analytics are a challenge
Don't overthink your website analytics reports

Another question related to your quantitative measurements is how reliable the collected information may be.
Reliability relates to how well the method of data acquisition leads to consistent results. 
For example, if you are looking at the monthly stats on your website analytics report, how do you determine if the deductions or decisions you might make based on that data would apply to every month, or a larger group of customers with a more normal distribution (sorry for the statistics lexicon). Essentially, are you seeing things that relate to just the group of customers contained in the data, or can what you see be applied to your entire customer base? There is a substantial amount of math involved in answering that question, not intuition.

Large marketers, with substantial brand recognition and market penetration, have to struggle with statistical validity and reliability continuously. Their challenge is to squeeze some incremental increase out of a market where they already enjoy a significant presence and share.
Here is the good news.
You, my small business friend, can ignore the statistical details and focus on things that will generate revenue. By that, I am suggesting that most of you are probably in the early to middle stages of implementing a digital marketing or social media marketing plan. For now, and probably quite some time into your future, bigger gains will be reaped from focusing on implementation and procedure, than data gathering and analysis. Put some reasonable assets and activities into action and get some results.

In order for your data to truly be useful, it must expand to a volume that will produce verifiable and reliable results. There are plenty of orders to be closed between now and then, so let’s focus on that.

If you are still with me here, I hope you are more astute and comfortable with the statistical aspect of your digital marketing and social media efforts. Those analytics that show how many visitors came to your website, pages they viewed, and how long they lingered are interesting and useful as gauges of activity. The desired long term trend of activity indicators is upward, with flat being acceptable, and negative giving cause for concern. No matter the case, don't stress about it

My next post will bring some insight concerning what you should expect to gain from your social media presence and Internet footprint. As always, comment or contact me with your questions. I can be contacted directly at CMS4i by putting @TomO in the message section. At CMS4i, we are here to help you make things work, so contact us anytime.