By Christopher Hill
An easy trap to fall into as a new digital marketer is confusing correlation with causation. That’s because to be successful at marketing, you need to know if what you’re doing is actually working. And that’s not possible without analytics, no matter if you create, amplify or manage marketing messages.
Data Dictates Action
Marketers have been using data points to drive their decision-making for decades before the internet. They would draw general conclusions from the real-world responses to their marketing messages and actions. But there were a lot more instances of correlation being thought of as causation.
Enter the era of digital marketing. Things became more robust with the emergence of the internet and digital media. Marketers were able to link direct actions (clicks, shares, downloads, etc.) to their marketing messages. Now, marketers are armed with seemingly too many data points to decipher, but that’s why it’s so important to hone the skill.
Let’s say that you’re a digital marketing amplifier working at a company that needs to know how their audience has responded to a recent e-commerce ad campaign, how can analytics help? If your campaign features paid ads, you could look at something like clickthroughs that led to purchases on your website as well as investigate where those clicks originated. Simple, right? But not all data points are that simple.
For digital marketing creatives, you may use analytics much differently. Unlike those charged with monitoring amplification, creatives would need to use analytics to inform how they build the marketing messages. Does your audience respond better to motion in ads vs static photography? Analytics can help you find the answer.
Understanding analytics is fundamental to getting started with digital marketing and that’s because you need to have a clear grasp of causation. All agencies, companies, and organizations expect digital marketers to understand what one action leads to a change in their results. There’s just one problem with that: how can anyone possibly whittle down a result to just one action?
The answer is a simple one: you can’t. And that’s because there are a ton of variables that have an effect. Of course, with a thorough understanding of analytics, you CAN identify most of those metrics that did play a role in whatever change you’re trying to track.
Being able to spot causation is especially important in a field like social media marketing. Whether you’re monitoring a brand, extending the reach of a client, or trying to grow your own following, working within the various social networks can get tricky. How do you quantify a like? Does a brand’s follower count on social channels affect sales? These are questions nearly every social media marketer faces. You may not be able to answer a lot of these questions initially. However, if you have a desire to grow into your role (or potential role), I can’t recommend this enough: familiarize yourself with an analytics platform relative to your field.
An Essential Skill for Career Growth
While having a basic grasp of analytics can be essential for any marketing role, being “fluent” in analyzing data can give you a leg up in the field. That’s because the farther along the career path you go, the more likely your work becomes client-facing. When you’re client-facing, you’re typically tasked with having to explain to your clients (or your manager if you don’t work for an agency) the results of your or your company’s work at any given time.
Typically, this responsibility falls on those who manage the marketing messages. However, there are instances, especially at agencies, where you can be client-facing without being in a manager’s role. If that sounds daunting, it can be. But the beauty of it is – you can absolutely prepare for the challenge.
If you have a business-related social media account, make sure you are in touch with the insights and analytics. Almost all of the platforms have an analytics feature, at least a basic one, for free. Blogs typically have a plugin for data monitoring. And for those who own a website, install Google Analytics on the backend. From there, you can monitor the results of your actions at your pace and you can choose whether to immerse yourself in the data or not. Then once you’re ready to go further, invest in a course, like UVM’s Online Analytics Certificate or Intro to Data Analytics, that can give you additional exposure to the numbers game that is analytics.
Christopher Hill is a Senior Account Executive at PureRED and Academic Coach in The University of Vermont’s Digital Marketing Professional Certificate program. In addition to his work as a digital marketer, Hill is a published author, father, husband, and avid sports fan.