analytic

If you’re going to measure things, measure the right things

A quick note today to say that if you’re going to measure things, measure the right things.

A guru in this field, Avinash Kaushik has addressed the challenges of measurement and tracking the things that matter many times (Social measurement, Digital marketing) but it bears repeated discussion because all too often we see people continuing to measure the wrong things and build passionate arguments and make million dollar decisions because of them.

One example from the Digital world (Search and Social) I see repeated several times a year in articles, commentary and at the conferences I go to is that Facebook has more user time than Google. The stats vary but it boils down to the journo/author/speaker cooing and ahhing about the amount of time people spend on a particular platform like it matters.

It doesn’t, and here’s why:

 The very purpose of Google and Facebook is fundamentally different. People go to Google to get somewhere else. It’s utilitarian and outcome oriented and you go with a purpose. People don’t ask Google to give them the recipe for a great pumpkin soup, they’re asking to be pointed to the provider of the best pumpkin soup recipe.

Facebook is entirely different, you go because you want to see what your friends and family are doing or to share something of your own. That’s it. That’s the purpose. The purpose is to stay, not leave. If someone is thumbing open the Facebook App without desperately wanting to share something then they don’t really have a purpose other than casual intent to find out if anything interesting happening. People casually thumb through the feed of what their friends are doing and occasionally an ad will be in-between that content.

As an example, if you saw a stat which said people spend 100 hours a month watching television vs 3 hours a month watching at the cinema, would it make you take notice? Does it say which one is more effective? Of course not. But why? In the same way that Google and Facebook are both huge digital companies with global audience usage, television and cinema are both screens and they’re both showing entertainment. Isn’t it the same thing?

Digital Measurement, Time spent on Facebook vs Google

Of course it’s not, we all know it isn’t. A TV can be on in the background 8-13 hours a day while people work, write, sleep, read, text, do chores around the house – but in a cinema you’re a captive audience and you’re there for a specific purpose to watch that specific thing at that time for that outcome. Which is more valuable? Who knows, but they’re not the same thing and using ‘time spent’ as an arbiter of value is pointless.

It’s often an uneven comparison. When authors say ‘Google’ or ‘Facebook’ they can often mean a single, or selectively chosen, platform(s) not all the platforms or products of both companies. When an author means Facebook are they talking about Facebook.com, Facebook’s Apps, Instagram or WhatsApp together or separately? And when it comes to Google do they mean just Search, or Search + YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Drive etc, or Search and all those websites + Google Play, Android, Hangouts, Chrome and the Chrome store? A lot of commentators don’t clarify, or if they do, are very selective about which properties they measure for both businesses.

Today’s note isn’t intended to argue that one platform, Google or Facebook, is better or worse for users, or advertisers or getting traction for your social enterprise, NFP or business. It’s merely to highlight that it’s not the amount of time people spend that matters, it’s the tasks they undertake during that time. When making a marketing decision base decisions on finding the right audience, doing the things that matter to them and you and if you put yourself out there and you matter to them then that’s when you’ll find success.

Now, let’s talk about bounce rates…

Advertisements