We (Still) Don’t Need Digital Measurement Standards

I can’t seem to go a week without reading a story asking the marketing industry to develop measurement “standards.” And I still don’t see why this is necessary or a good idea at all.

It continues to be pushed by people with an agenda for developing such standards, or those who aren’t actively involved in using marketing technology on a day-to-day basis but a need to distill what is a complex space into something simple. But not everything should be reduced to simplicity or sound bites when it is unique, nuanced and yes, requiring expertise.

It’s not simply articles or pundits: I’ve been asked to participate in conference calls and closed-door meetings with associations to discuss social media and marketing measurement standards. Typically, these meetings are with groups of people who I get the sense didn’t really grasp what they were discussing but despite that, were pontificating and saying there was a  need for standards right now. It almost felt like listening to politicians talking about legislating the Internet (i.e.: we have no idea what we’re talking about, but dammit we have to do something today!).

I’ve heard all types of standards being discussed. Standards for agencies. Standards for brands. How everyone should measure success in the same way. Lists of metrics without any rhyme or reason. Fancy formulas and influence scores that mean nothing. Establishing the “value of a like” or ReTweet. But with my analyst hat on, I cringe through all of it.

Standardization is almost completely unnecessary. Digital measurement is pretty much solved (or close enough to solved you can probably do most of what you need to right now, with a few “nice to haves” coming in the not-too-distant future). You don’t need standards, you need savvy team members able to develop the right outcome metrics and KPIs that roll to them. Able to analyze data and put it to work right now. I would argue it is no longer OK to not understand digital measurement for anyone in your organization. It’s too important to not understand or rely on some externality to tell you what matters.

I’ve briefed more than enough brands on new measurement tools (both on the agency and vendor side) to realize that those who understand digital measurement and developed analyst chops already get it. They know what to measure, what to report on as success (which, by the way, isn’t some fancy or magical metric: but rather, revenue / sales figures) and know how to present the data. They know what metrics to report as indicators of success and how they impact outcomes. They know how to analyze social, real-time, mobile apps and other emerging channels and technologies because they’re immersed in the space. They’re able to analyze new technologies, sites and platforms and understand what matters and how to apply it to existing process. It’s a fast-moving space and that demands being involved.

Standards feel like a cop out when in reality a good analyst can make sense of it all for you, right now, today. Everyone can get to conversion and macro and micro will differ for each brand. Trying to fall back on standards may seem easier but in reality it is far more valuable to find your own truth and measure against it accordingly. Even if standards were developed and agreed to by every analyst, brand and consultancy (unlikely) the space moves far too fast for such a thing to keep up. It’s just overall a bad idea.