Jackie Balchin of DMS: how can we tell what’s really behind online impressions and minutes?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the slow movement towards counting ‘attention minutes’ rather than relying on impressions alone when looking at the success of online ads. The argument being that brands would only pay for active views, based on whether a user is scrolling, typing or clicking on the page. This is rather than paying for total impressions, where in actual fact the ad could be obstructed due to screen size, or the user hasn’t actually visited the newly opened window.

Brands are therefore paying for real impressions and not a potential, which in turn leads to better quality measurements on the real value and performance of online ads.

So what does this move to counting ‘attention minutes’ mean for social, or even PR’s targeting traditional media that rely on impressions and circulation numbers as a key metric to measure success?

Impressions, or even potential impressions, remain a big key metric in social. But with the lifespan of a tweet rivalling the time it takes to blink, impressions once again fall short at giving the real data to support a campaign’s validity.

The good news is that Facebook has already started tracking attention minutes, and has enlisted the help of analytics company Mode “to build up this potential.” With Facebook taking the lead it won’t be long until the others will follow suit.

Outside of attention minutes, who and how can you measure the impact of an online ad?

It’s important to state that impressions do have their merit. If the aim of an ad and campaign is to increase brand awareness and sales, then impressions and click rates leading to sales are still very valid metrics to benchmark success on. But what if your campaigns and ads serve a different purpose?

For example, if your ad’s aim is to change people’s opinions then what else can be tracked? The newly coined attention minutes will let you know how many people are really seeing your message, but can a change in perception be measured as well?

It’s important to know who is behind the numbers and access how your audience is reacting to campaigns. For instance, what are they saying in the Facebook comments and how are they talking amongst each other? How does the campaign or brand make them feel, what are the pain points, what other products or brands are they evaluating in addition to yours?

With traditional media, there’s an amalgamation that can differentiate between quantitative and qualitative data. Knowing circulation numbers is important to understanding the potential audience reach, and its media value. However, ensuring the sentiment of an article, review, interview, or piece of commentary, is measurable as well as knowing what were the key topic drivers behind a post is equally as crucial.

It’s only when you place meaningful numbers behind campaigns that brands can really understand their true impact and gain insights for future product and service development.

unnamed-5Jackie Balchin is head of social media insights for Digital Media Services. DMS is a digital content agency whose services include content production, management, localisation, distribution and media monitoring.

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