5 Steps for Data Driven Digital Marketing
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I know I’ve said this before, but there are vast differences between traditional media and social networking — digital marketing.

A major difference between traditional media and social networking is that, while traditional media struggles to find meaningful metrics to guide decision-making, digital marketing is literally DROWNING in it! Data floods in from Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, Facebook Insights, Pinterest Analytics, AdWords Analytics — and many more sources.

You could assign a full time employee just to COLLECT all the data from various sources every day (luckily APIs bring the data together with a lot less effort).

Collecting mountains of data, however, doesn’t improve your digital marketing strategy! To increase your ROI (return on investment) or reach other organizational goals, you need to translate this data into insights that drive better decision-making. But, how do you tease actionable insights from a bunch of charts? How do you develop a data-driven digital marketing campaign?

Data-driven digital marketing

1/ Goals

The not-so-obvious first step in creating a data-driven digital marketing campaigns is to actually take a step BACK to develop sound goals and objectives for your strategy. Remember you want to create goals for not just sales (macro conversions), but micro conversions like awareness, amplification, loyalty, sentiment, and other factors that lead to macro conversion. Social Media Examiner makes a great case for 4 overarching social media goals, while Jason Falls presents 7 goals. Regardless of the number, set SMART goals for factors that help achieve your mission.

I developed this infographic (see above) as a tool to help you understand the myriad of factors impacting your digital marketing ROI.

2/ KPIs

Next, develop KPIs (key performance indicators) that assess your goals. For instance, a KPI for amplification might be the cumulative # of shares for a particular piece of content across all platforms. The infographic is a good starting point when looking for KPIs that’ll support your digital marketing strategy.

You also must identify sources of data necessary to understand your social media success. Where do KPI numbers exist? Is the KPI in a single place or do I need to capture metrics from several sources to approximate my KPI. Hence, if you need # of shares, you’ll need to gather data from every social platform — I use a Cognos dashboard to bring everything to a single location.

3/ Collect & display data

Now that you have your goals, collect metrics related to all your KPIs. This may mean using a 3rd party tool, like Omniture or CoreMetrics (if you’re an enterprise business) or SproutSocial (if you’re a small business). With some tweaking, you might also use the APIs from available tools like Google Analytics to generate your own dashboard. The key is to bring all your KPIs to one place, so you’re not flipping back and forth between tools.

Whatever tool you use should allow you to drill down into any metric to get a more nuanced view of performance. For instance, you want to understand not only where visitors came from, but which platform generated the most conversion …. the highest sales volume … the greatest profit.

That’s where products like Omniture come in — they gather data and allow multiple filters and display options to ensure you can make sense of your data.

4/ Develop insights

Developing insights is probably the hardest part of managing a data-driven digital marketing campaign. This is where analysis becomes 1 part science, 2 parts art.

Here are some tools that can help you develop insights:

  • Consider weighting factors. Not every metric is equally important in reaching your goals. For instance, earned media (social shares) might be more valuable than paid media (adwords, traditional advertising). That’s because earned media represents WOM (word of mouth) from friends, which we know is more influential than paid advertising, which consumers view suspiciously.
  • Correlations. Rather than viewing metrics alone, consider exploring the relationships BETWEEN metrics, such as correlations. Correlation analysis might tell you some metrics had little impact on your goals while others had a tremendous impact on goals. Thus, your efforts will generate more rewards when focused on improving more influential metrics.
  • Create models. While this sounds complicated, a model is simply a way of viewing the relationship between several factors at once. For instance, I developed a 4-factor model of social media I think does a good job of translating a bunch of metrics into a single insight.

5/ Make decisions

Once you’ve collect and analyzed metrics related to your goals, it’s time to make DECISIONS. If you don’t use insights gleaned from your analysis to make better decisions, you’ve just wasted a bunch of time.

This is where you need buy-in from management to ensure your insights translate into changes of the status quo. If, for instance, you discover a particular type of post resonates better with your target audience, you need authority to change the content marketing calendar in a way that capitalizes on this insight.

Read more: The New Age of Ads: How Social Media Micro-Targeting Can Make You a Star