Metrics in Conversational and Community Marketing

There is clear dissatisfaction with the current state of marketing among the social media mavens.

So what can be done? Jeff Jarvis points out that the problem lies with measurement. I agree, as there is only value in a system where all of the people involved agree on what the metric of record will be, and how it can be validly captured.

Currently CPM is the agreed upon metric. In a feed based online world, how does a CPM model work? And, most importantly, why would I continue to place your ads on my site if all your doing is advertising to people based on the words on the page, rather than who is looking at the page and how often that page is looked at.

In effect, advertisers should be the ones thrying to figure out how to get into the community, get into the conversation. As an advertiser, don’t you want to be where the action is? But how do you find an engaged audience in an online world that makes a sand castle on the beach in a hurricane look stable?

The challenge for advertisers is to be able to find the active communities and conversations effectively. The challenge for content creators and communities is to understand the value of their conversations, the interactions that people who visit the site have with the content.

In effect, a social media advertising model turns the current model on its head. Site owners and community creators gain the benefit of being attractive to advertisers because of the community, not because of the content. And site owners who understand who visits their site, what content most engages them, how they interact with the system will be able to reap the greatest rewards by selling their community as a marketable entity.

And Steven Hodson rounds out the week’s think on communities by throwing out the subversive idea that communities are not always free (as in ‘beer’, not as in ‘land of’). If a community has paid for the privilege of coming together to participate in communal events and discussions, then can’t that become an area for site owners to further control the cost of advertising on their site?

While the benefit of reduced or no marketing content is the benefit of many for-pay communities, this benefit can be used by site owners by saying that an advertiser can have access to the for-pay community at the cost of higher ad rates and smaller ads. The free community is a completely different set of rules, but there are also areas in the free community that are of higher value than others.

In summary, the current model is broken. But there is no way to measure the value of a Twitter stream, a FriendFeed conversation, a Disqus thread, or a Digg rampage. And until there is, we are stuck with an ad model that based on the words on the page, and not the community that created the words.

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