The Advertising Research Foundation bills its forthcoming Digital Metrics Field Guide as “The Definitive Reference for Brands Using the Web, Social Media, Mobile Media, or Email”.

According to author Stephen D. Rappaport, the ARF’s head of knowledge:

“Looking across the 197 metrics that made it into the Field Guide, the 30-plus authoritative metrics sources consulted, the nearly 150 research studies and reports cited, and the 12 essays contributed by recognized industry experts, the natural question is:

‘What did we learn that helps practitioners and their brands use metrics wisely?’”

Rappaport has distilled his answer into six lessons which he sets out in Lessons Learned from 197 Metrics, 150 Studies, and 12 Essays: A Field Guide to Digital Metrics, as featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research.

So what does he have to report?

Lesson 1: Don’t Bite the Apple of Vanity Metrics

Unique visitor numbers, page views, time spent on site and increased ‘likes’ sound good and give the impression that digital marketing efforts are paying off, but may not actually be that significant. Instead, marketers should be concerned with answering the following questions:

  • Why were these metrics reported?
  • How do they relate to an objective?
  • After data analysis, what remain unanswered?

In short: don’t focus on metrics that look and sound good.

Lesson 2: Impose a Framework on Measurement

Metrics must be aligned with objectives and all parties – brand, agencies, media outlets and measurement partners – must agree on the objective and how it will be measured. Paul Banas, director/consumer insights and strategy, Kraft Foods, established a four-tiered pyramid to help Oscar Mayer, the US bacon brand, move consumers from awareness to “increasing consumer involvement” i.e. create brand advocacy.

Top tip: if you don’t have a framework, start developing one now.

Lesson 3: Optimize to Brand Objectives, not Platform Metrics

Metrics supplied by platforms such as Facebook (Likes), Twitter (engagement/retweets) and YouTube (views), are derived from their business models - not a brand’s. These platforms seek to prove “how advertising works on their platform” and so brands should avoid automatically optimizing to platform philosophies and metrics.

The bottom line: Leverage your brand’s framework and establish if these vendor metrics actually apply to your brand and your brand objectives.

Lesson 4: Let Metrics Be the Actors that Tell a Brand’s Story

Digital marketing frequently employ combinations of interactive media channels hence brands deal with multiple data sources for e-mail, social media, web sites, and mobile etc. Rather than having a variety of isolated data silos, brands that integrate multiple data sources can better describe patterns of consumer behaviour and engagement across media channels and touch points.

The bottom line: Synthesising data and generating insight can lead to a fuller understanding of peoples’ digital journeys.

Lesson 5: Give Your Metrics “Characters” a “Personality”.

Segmentation marketing narrows – and focuses – our attention and gives advertisers more details about whom they are interested in targeting.

Equally, segmentation tools are becoming more sophisticated and powerful enabling brands to segment and analyse data by visitor type (e.g. new, repeat, returning) and media or device used.

In short: segments supply more granular analysis, more penetrating business insight, and ultimately better storytelling. Explore them.

Lessons 6: Embrace Measurement’s Paradigm Shift

There has been a notable shift from metrics rooted in media exposure (i.e. “what is our advertising doing to people?”) to metrics grounded in social activity (i.e. “what are people doing with our advertising?”).

The focus now is toward understanding people as people – their situations, behaviours, connections, interactions, influences, subconscious processes, and emotions – to grasp why they do what they do.

The bottom line: According to Gian Fulgoni, co-founder and executive chairman, comScore, Inc. “the keys to measuring delivery and success are using the right methods and metrics, not necessarily the ones that are the most accessible or convenient”.

What to know more?

Read Lessons Learned from 197 Metrics, 150 Studies, and 12 Essays: A Field Guide to Digital Metrics, as featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research.