The value of measurement
Personal anecdote time:
I was recently talking to a fertility doctor about IVF procedures. Bear with me, this is relevant. She told me that her clinic had recently seen extremely high rates of multiple pregnancies – such as twins, triplets, quads, and so on – for a specific type of procedure. For the last year the rate of multiple pregnancies for this procedure had risen to 45%. So nearly half of all their procedures ended up with more than one baby!
For a fertility clinic, you might think that’s good news – but UK medical guidelines stress the need to limit the number of multiple births due to potential risks to the mother and the babies. So the clinic needed to find out why this was happening, and it turned out to be a simple reason – for many of the procedures, two embryos were being implanted at the same time. So the clinic solved their problem by discouraging their patients from wanting to have more than one embryo implanted at once.
The lesson here is that this clinic had a target they needed to meet – reducing the number of multiple pregnancies. They analysed their numbers, looked at the potential causes, and found a solution. Which brings me to the point of this post – measurement and evaluation.
Deciding what to measure
At Pickle Jar we often run workshops on content strategy, social media strategy, content creation, or a whole range of other topics. As part of these sessions we cover the process of tracking and assessing your results, which is an important part of any strategy. But sometimes people want to know a bit more – so I recently ran a day-long workshop dedicated to measurement and evaluation in digital.
The idea was to help the attendees decide what they should be measuring and how they could do that.
SPOILER WARNING: I didn’t tell them what to measure.
That’s not how it works. Just like devising a social media strategy or a content plan, you will have specific goals and objectives that you need to meet – like the fertility doctors I mentioned earlier.
Because of this you need to decide for yourself what to measure. This will depend on your own individual strategy, your current projects, the targets you have set for yourself, and the overall aims of your team or organisation.
Having these clearly defined objectives let you decide what to measure – and there’s a lot of stuff you can look at…
As well as choosing metrics that allow you to assess your progress towards specific goals, you also have to think about your audience.
Different audiences respond in different ways to different things, so you need to make sure you’re taking measurements that make sense for your audiences. This might involve doing some audience research to find out what they’re interested in and how they behave – once you know this, you can start to define your levels of success more accurately.
If you’re not seeing much engagement with your Facebook posts, for example, you might be worried that they’re not the right kind of content for your audience. But that might not be true! It might be that your audience just isn’t very likely to leave a comment or click a “like” button. Maybe they’re more inclined to follow a link to your website, so what you need to track is clickthroughs on specific links.
Tailoring your content to your audience is extremely important, but it’s just as important to find out how well that content is performing – so you need to tailor your measurement approach too.
Measurement is a continuous process. Always look at what you’re doing to see if it could be improved.
When you’ve had a few successful pieces of content or a very positive campaign, take a look at what made it work so well. Was it the content itself? The timing? Your use of images or video? Did you see a massive uplift when you mentioned a particular news story? All of these things can affect your figures – and you can make use of them in the future.
But it doesn’t stop there – you need to learn lessons from failures as well. Why did that post fail? Why did no-one attend your event? What can you do to combat it? Glossing over failures won’t help you, and if you’ve been tracking your activity you should be able to pinpoint specific problems.
When you’ve got that information, it will allow you to try new things – test different post lengths, find the optimum time to post, try targeting different demographics for advertising, and so on.
One of the biggest problems people mention to us about measurement is knowing how to report what they’ve found.
My response is to come back to my first point – it all depends on what your specific objectives are. The people you’re reporting (whether that’s up or down) to will want to know how things are progressing towards those targets – so stay focused.
Don’t skip over the bad stuff – if something hasn’t worked, let people know. Make sure you explain what happened and what you plan to do to avoid it happening again. That’s what the fertility doctors did, and they ended up with the desired outcome.
Keep your reports short – after all, you’re the one writing it. Don’t make more work for yourself! Let people come to you if they want more details – regular or common requests can be incorporated into the report (in doing so, you’ll be demonstrating how you can improve by responding to measurement – how meta!)
Look at that – I did a whole piece what to measure without telling you what to measure.
If you have any questions about the value of measurement, drop us an email. We’re happy to help.