Robert Goldsmith, partner, Spinnaker
Robert Goldsmith, partner, Spinnaker
A view from Robert Goldsmith

Think BR: Less is more

This is going to be the year when digital (and particularly social) needs to wash its face and prove a bit of good old fashioned ROI, writes Robert Goldsmith, partner, Spinnaker.

Justifying digital spend has always been a hot topic but in the current economic climate and with a few years of social under many brands’ belts, CEOs everywhere need to be shown that the budget is being well spent.

Digital has, of course, always been the preserve of all things measurable. Granular analysis can be applied to pretty much every form of digital marketing from clicks to opens, to dwell time, to ‘likes’, the depth and breadth of what can be reported upon is vast.

But we must tread carefully. Too often we can become blinded by our own science, with measurement dashboards so detailed and so full that the information dazes and confuses. It may be interesting to note that dwell time has increased, or that social engagement has grown, but is it important?

As Einstein famously said "not everything that can be counted counts", and we need to heed these words before we become blinded by science and lose both the support of our stakeholders and, most importantly, our purpose.   

Purpose is the fundamental word here. It is where digital marketers need to look before they act. No digital or social programme will ever be successful unless it is rooted in a purpose aligned with business goals. These goals are where the hearts and minds of the budget holders lie. It sounds blindingly obvious but there are so many social programmes out there that exist for their own sake. They may appear ‘successful’ (most often because they have plenty of likes) but are they contributing to the greater good of the brand? Reporting is often detailed, but which parts of the report are important?

In certain situations, both the budget providers and the digital operatives can become confused by too much information. It is hard to ascertain positive performance when there is so much to digest and when nothing is aligned to the fundamental objectives of the business.

If the business goal is all about driving awareness and penetration, then, in the context of social, we must look to deliver reach through strong and relevant content. Alternatively we might be looking to drive sales of a particular line. Here our social targets and strategies will be more about couponing, special deals and direct calls to purchase. And if we are about positive brand mentions, then our strategy will become more blogger and advocacy-focussed.

All of this immediately provides purpose to our programme, gives all stakeholders something to latch onto and, will also mean that analytics and reporting is focussed on what matters to the business. This process will also help focus the mind on the measurement tools and techniques that are most appropriate for particular needs and goals.

When it comes to selection of measurement tool one size does not fit all, and even the shiniest and most expensive pieces of software will be worthless if your activity’s goals are not aligned with the output that it provides.

Naturally the next step in the process of ROI justification, is demonstrating the impact that these measures are having on the established business goals. In some instances, this is easy to demonstrate if direct purchase or positive mentions sit at the heart of the matter.

Where the direct impact is further removed from the digital environment, then establishing baseline measures (eg, sales, brand attitudes) and monitoring the change over time through claimed or actual data is the way forward. But this is a separate and bigger discussion in its own right and I will share my thoughts on this in the near future.

The first action we need to take as we embark on a new year, is to better define what is important to the business and how a social/digital programme can contribute (or may already be contributing) to its achievement. Thankfully this will mean an end to meaningless digital measures and, with less data to cloud the picture, more satisfaction, clarity and business success will be the prize.

Robert Goldsmith, partner, Spinnaker