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Too much data can be dangerous

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 19th October 2009

“The great benefit of digital is that it is measurable”.

This old adage (yes, time moves fast in the digital world!) is the reason online marketers will tell you their discipline is far superior to offline equivalents. And it’s true: online campaigns produce vast amounts of data. Whether we’re talking click-throughs, conversions, downloads, followers… the list goes on and the numbers keep soaring.

This road is fraught with danger however. With these data points we end up quoting obscure, meaningless digits that only serve to quantify, but not qualify, end results. We measure without a purpose, without an end goal.

Beware measurement without an aim

Measurement for measurement’s sake is a waste of everyone’s time. It has to be focused and tied to an overarching goal.

For example, it’s great we can measure Twitter followers, but a thousand followers is a pretty meaningless statistic by itself. What lies behind the figures? Who are these people? What actions have they taken? Have they visited our website? Are they increasing brand awareness? Does the effort justify the business impact?

These are the questions that, no matter how many measurement metrics we are blessed with, are still difficult to answer – offline and online.

Decide goals and then decide what metrics meet these goals

The easy mistake to run into is failing to set and agree campaign objectives from the start. This renders effective measurement impossible and the efforts to achieve the impossible are a waste of time for everyone involved.

Having a Twitter profile, for example, should not itself be the key objective, but part of the strategy to achieving an overarching business goal. To truly measure its effectiveness, it needs to be tied to a particular anticipated outcome: user engagement, customer service, prospect nurturing, direct sales etc.

Measurement is an absolutely fundamental part of marketing. The web arms us with the tools to finally be able to prove (in most cases) that marketing efforts are making a difference to a business. But numbers alone won’t hack it.

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