Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Local Media - Online Measurement & Tracking…Notes from ILM ‘08

Delving deeper into my notes from last week’s Kelsey conference, for this post I thought I’d focus on measurement and tracking. While there were a lot of presentations that touched on the subject, I found Kelsey's "State of Interactive Local Media 4Q 2008" covered the most ground on the topic.

Matt Booth gave an interesting presentation on SMB perceptions and influences when it comes to their media activity. It’s clear that although media measurement tools have never been more accessible, small business owners continue to rely on good old-fashioned gut measurements. 91% still track by asking customers how they were referred.

The problem with asking how customers were referred is the gaping hole in funnel activity that is missed through the one-word answers. Search may have started the process but IYP may have closed the deal. Likewise, a view through from a social network may have caused a search. Sadly, the SMBs are slow to adopt true measurement into their media activity and this is clouding the perception of media effectiveness.

The revelation on gut measurements deepened with another compelling point during the presentation where Booth discussed the impact that instant gratification has on the SMB’s perception of effectiveness. Booth pointed to the following chart that shows how the lag time in media going live and results captured directly impacts the perception of the channel’s effectiveness.

I believe that there’s a recency factor that comes into play here as well. When the SMBs who are not using any measurement tools are surveyed to rank effectiveness, they may recall their most recent successes and skew the numbers in their favour.

So, it’s no wonder that when you look at the SMB’s perception on which media is driving a return on investment, those with the longest (perceived) wait time for response are ranked poorly. This is yet another reason why small businesses are not as keen on display advertising as national brands. The latency effect is lost on them and the idea of a longer-term investment on media is irrelevant. I'm (pipe) dreaming that this will change with tools and education from the media publishers to help boost value in a world of stretched inventory...

Finally, Booth closed with a lecture on Solomon Asch’s findings on a conformity experiment conducted in the 1950’s. Basically, the study showed that in groups, individuals will conform with others’ decisions even when there is hard evidence to indicate flawed judgment.

Applying the Asch principle to the SMB, Booth showed that despite the fact that 31% of small business owners claim that actual media performance will dictate spend, in reality, the majority of them will be influenced through social outlets instead (57%).

Last year I blogged about the habits of small business owners and how they are actually consumers before they are business owners. In October I covered the SMB market and shared that according to Warrillow & Co., 52% of SMBs are active participants in social networking sites (although most of them do not use them as business platforms...yet). This reiterates the untapped potential of using social media as a marketing platform to reach attractive influencers in the SMB market.

In summary, SMBs are not tracking their media effectively and there’s a great opportunity for them to do so in a way that speaks to their clear need for instant gratification and their obvious habits that lean towards (social) interaction. I’m thinking communication based tracking that goes beyond a dashboard and actually lives with the SMB outside of a login environment.

Tracking has always been hot in online media at the national level. It’s time to wrap it up and serve it attractively to the local channel so that we can all get a clearer picture on what’s working. The fact is that they want to be measuring performance but they continue to roll the dice by relying on their gut to make media investments.

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