“Don’t just crunch numbers — tell a story.” There were many insightful takeaways from last night’s Social Media Club of Los Angeles event, “Making Research and Data Relevant to your Brand: How to Measure Social Media ROI,” but the lesson in telling a story through data was paramount. The panel was moderated by Tara Coomans, an “elegantly aggressive digital marketer and SMC member since 2009,” and featured panelists Talia Arnold, cofounder of Exverus Media, Nick LaBran, social intelligence and listening analyst, and Alison Fox, head of strategy at Invincible Unicorn.

Crowd at the Social Media Club panel on March 19th

After members enjoyed Fresh Brothers pizza and Fruit Bliss snacks, the panel kicked off a discussion about how to properly benchmark data. LaBran noted how benchmarks are suggestive depending on your brand, product, and data, as well as how share of voice can help determine where to start. Arnold and Fox mentioned comparison to competitors, as well as setting campaign goals. “Data can be a ball of string,” said Fox, “There’s a mix of communication objectives, and each objective has to be applied to KPIs.” Coomans next asked what she should expect from a healthy campaign in digital, and Arnold shared that the right mix of brand-building and equity over time should be 60% of your budget, and 40% should be dedicated to driving short term immediate sales, the “60/40 split”. Fox added how this is also variable depending on whether what you’re selling is a high consideration item or a consumer packaged good, citing the example of buying a bottle of water versus buying a Flywheel bike.

What systems need to be in place for properly measuring KPI and analyzing data? LaBran starts with Google Analytics, but then also mentioned Tableau, a visualization software, and Google Data Studio. “Digital has disrupted the marketing industry – in good ways and in not good ways,” said Fox. “Just being on social because social is a thing is not necessarily the right thing for a brand. Unless you have someone really analyzing the numbers who really UNDERSTANDS these numbers, you could be flying blind,” she said. Arnold then cited a current client who was reaching towards a goal of obtaining a certain number of monthly users, and how a software tool they’re using is helping them measure success within this objective. “Historically, you had multi marketing attribution, but it was only for brands who could afford it. In the past you were paying big money for big tools, or using media best practices, knowledge and research as a proxy for attribution,” she said.

Tara Dewitt Coomans

Coomans next asked what people should be looking for as a baseline in terms of measuring marketing success, wondering if CTR or purchase rate was key. Arnold stated bluntly that she hated CTR, which prompted laughs from both her fellow panelists as well as the audience. “If it were me and I were running my own company, the only thing I would be looking at is sales and profitability. Most companies we work with, we request weekly sales data. Not that we can attribute everything we do, but we certainly want to try,” she said. Fox mentioned how one of her pet peeves was people demanding they need content just for content’s sake. “Content is expensive, and when you’re doing content for content’s sake, it doesn’t necessarily translate to who you are. Maybe you’re getting tons of followers, but are they the followers that you want?” She mentions that she often sees people spending money to promote content, but in a way that’s undifferentiated and doesn’t tie to a broader goal.

“The thing that’s tough about social media is it’s the most visible to anybody in the company,” Arnold said, sharing how common it is for CEOs or high-level executives to panic when they see a certain metric (particularly “likes”) that doesn’t fit their ideal. LaBran provided a simple response when asked how he managed situations like that – “I would tell them to relax. Engagement rate tells you who’s actually interacting with you. It’s telling a better story than what’s happening, versus just likes. Are people taking an action that you want them to take? That’s what you want to measure.” Fox then adds that strategic planning can help soothe these reactions, if you can point to a particular trend, targeting method, or strategy. “It’s all about selling a plan first. Social is a viable and cost-effective channel, but it’s one channel among a global ocean of how to strategize a brand,” she said.

Fruit Bliss

The panel next gave some individual perspectives on how each social channel should be measured and approached, and then, the discussion wrapped up as we opened the floor for audience questions. The audience had robust queries, many focused on influencer relations and ROI, as well as how to become more engaged in learning about data analytics and metrics. (A cheeky response to that was provided as we sat in General Assembly – a digital learning institution) When Coomans asked the panel to again sum up their thoughts in a succinct answer, LaBran offered “Don’t just crunch numbers, tell a story.” This sentiment echoed particularly true after an insightful, thought-provoking and valuable panel.

To learn more about our panelists, please read below – and don’t forget to join us for April’s special event, “On Podcasts: An Evening With Ralph Garman,” Tuesday, April 23rd, from 6:30 – 9;00 p.m. at General Assembly in Santa Monica. Click here to RSVP now at this link

Talia Arnold

Talia is cofounder of Exverus Media, whose mission is to market products that are improving people’s lives, and turn them into widely recognized brands. Talia’s expertise in data and analytics brought over a dozen brands to partner with Exverus. Early on, Talia saw the need to invest in machine learning and AI software so Exverus’ clients could accurately measure their marketing impact. She’s helped lead the agency to 100% YOY growth and recent client wins include Walmart, Suja Juice and Bonobos. She is also a writer and speaker at industry conferences including OMMA, Digiday, and iMedia.

Nick LaBran

Nick has been working in the social media and social analytics industry for more than a decade, having worked both in-house and agency side. He’s done everything is the social media space from channel management, content creation, paid media campaigns, social listening to analytics. Nick has done social media management and intelligence for well-known brands such as Samsung, Bank of America, Spectrum Communication, and ADT Alarms. He has worked with The Walt Disney Studios, miVIP Surgery Centers, and GMS as well as having his own consultancy, LaBran Consulting, where he worked with a wide range of companies on social media, SEO and content strategy.

Alison Fox

Alison is the Head of Strategy at Invincible Unicorn, a Pending B-Corp Ad Agency that serves clients with for-good missions. Over the past 15 years, she’s worked across start-ups and Fortune 500 clients to deliver insights and solutions leveraging classic brand planning and research as well as digital data. Clients / work experience include James Patterson, 20th Century Fox, ABCMouse, Mens Warehouse, Flywheel, Intuit, This Saves Lives, Garden Fresh, Interactive Corporation, and many others.

Tara Coomans, Moderator

President of Poodle Mafia, Elegantly Aggressive Digital Media and SMC member since 2009, Coomans has taken brands from startup to IPO with cross-media campaigns. Her clients include a global list from startups to publically traded companies, including tourism, health and wellness, lifestyle brands as well as regulated industries, government organizations and political campaigns.