Measurability on the web is a very common argument among digital fanatics. It is the ultimate proof of the superiority of this channel compared to television, radio, billboards and other competitors. To take this statement as an absolute truth is often a very costly mistake…
The only serious way to approach the issue of measurement in communication is to consider the objectives. In other words, if you want to know the effectiveness of your communication actions, you must assess the achievement of your objectives and nothing else. If many make the mistake of overestimating digital measurement capabilities, it is because they confuse observation and measurement.
Indeed, it is undeniable that ICT has greatly facilitated the retrieval of information concerning the public exposed to the communication. Where TV, for example, requires a survey operation, a website will allow you to collect all visitor data automatically. This apparent ease in the collection is a trap that prevents you from asking the real questions.
Shortly after the creation of Youtube (2005), the first viral ad in history was launched. It was the “Beer Cannon” video in 2006. The phenomenon was new and the campaign’s success seemed enormous: 3 million hits (a record at the time). Big media like CNN celebrated this “great advertising success”!
However, barely a few months later, reports indicated a drop in sales for the two brands of beer involved – Milkauwees’s Best (down 11%) and Best Light (down 7.5%). People have taken the phenomenal success of the video from a virality perspective but disregarded the commercial failure.
The number of visits, clicks, likes or shares should be considered for what they are: clues. And they must be put in the perspective of the objectives pursued. There is no point in accumulating millions of clicks if this does not bring the organization to its expected results.
So, viewing content proves that a message has been seen, but what about achieving the set objectives? We do not measure in the same way a sales, awareness, image, positioning objective … each case is unique and each interaction can be interpreted from different angles.
If we communicate, it is to effect a change in behavior or in perceptions. It is therefore necessary to question the data to find out how it can provide information on the achievement of the objectives set.
If on a theoretical or abstract level it is easy to isolate communication as an action and as a function, it is not the same in reality. Indeed, any communication effort depends on other parameters such as the quality of the product, its price or its accessibility. In other words, if the company succeeds in its approach it is difficult to determine which element of the marketing mix has generated which result; except in cases where only one element is modified which makes a change on the fallout.
However, in all circumstances, communication must be measured, it must be justified. When it is impossible to approach it from the perspective of results, it must be approached from that of quality. What is a quality message? In reality, many researchers and practitioners have tried throughout history to come up with the magic recipe or the winning method.
Who does not know the AIDA model (attention, interest, desire and action)? But in practice, it is easy to see five major trends in people of communication: the school of seducers, argumentationists, motivationists, semiologists and technologists (read on this subject Little Guide for Great Advertising Success).
If it is impossible to disqualify one of these five currents of thought, since each is effective under certain conditions, it is still possible to identify a winning attitude (not a recipe) which is unanimous: no message can to be fully effective without being seen, appreciated (especially in the socio-cultural sense), attributed (that we know who communicates) and understood.
If a message is not articulated around these four conditions, its chances of success will be reduced. Besides, if you analyze any communication flop you will always find errors on at least one of the aspects mentioned. So to get back to the value that an interaction on the web can have, we have to determine to what extent it indicates that a message has been seen, appreciated, attributed and understood.
Digital has facilitated the measurement of communication actions, but the collection of information is only one step in the measurement process. Because the latter is fundamentally strategic, methodological and analytical.