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Dispelling the myth that traditional media cannot be measured

A Basic Misunderstanding

In certain social media circles, there’s the belief that social media is far better for marketing purposes than traditional media because it’s easier to measure. Compared to social media – where you can measure tweets, Facebook shares, blog comments, YouTube video views, etc – traditional media falls short. After all, how can you measure who viewed a TV ad, or newspaper ad, or radio ad, and then followed your call-to-action on these platforms?

Here’s the thing though – you can measure traditional media. It’s been happening for years, and long before social media became such a buzzword for true measurement.

Set Your Goals

Before you measure anything, though, whether it’s on traditional platforms or social media one, you need to set your goals. The only way you’re going to get true measurement of success is by having something to compare them to – that’s where your goals come in.

Some of the goals you could aim for are:

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  1. amount of unique visits to your company website.
  2. amount of clicks to your sales page.
  3. amount of sales or brochure downloads.
  4. amount of sign-ups for your company email list.
  5. amount of offline sales in your brick and mortar showroom.

These are just some goals – obviously you’ll have a better idea of your own goals. Once you have these goals, you need to set out how many of them you’d need to meet to make your marketing spend worthwhile.

Perhaps you just need 1,000 visits to give you 1% of them turned into sales to make a profit – maybe you need 10,000 visitors to turn 10% into sales to make a profit. But this is where your pre-planning comes into effect, and then you’re ready to put it all into action and be ready to measure.

How Traditional Media Can Work and Be Measured

The first part of getting your campaign out the door and ready to be measured is prepping your materials. Let’s say it’s a print flyer with some of your seasonal offers.

As well as having the standard graphics on there, you have a vanity URL and a discount code exclusive to that flyer. The URL is for a dedicated landing page on your website exclusive to the offer, and the discount code can be for either online or offline sales. If you want, you can even have a QR code on there that, once snapped, directs a smartphone user to a mobile-friendly version of the offer. Again, you can give the QR code offer its own URL to be linked to.

You then go to Google Analytics and you set up a tracking account for this campaign.

If you’re using different URLs for normal web and smartphone visitors, you set up different tracking accounts. Same if you have multiple flyers for different locations (some might offer better return on cheaper products while some might offer better return on digital products).
You’re not limited to flyers, either. If you have a TV, print or radio ad, you can have the announcement, “Quote this word at time of purchase” and that word can also be tracked by both online analytics and offline receipts. You can even have a different word for TV, radio and print, to make measurement easier. Newspapers or magazines can also use their own versions of the flyer ad URLs.

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Okay, prep over – time to get the ads out the door and begin the measurement process.

Measurement and Refinement

Because you’ve set up your different parameters on where the interest in your flyer or ad is coming from, you’re now in a position to measure which one is more successful than the other.

Using Google Analytics, for example, will give you the information on which URL was more popular – the one on the flyer, the print publication or the one embedded within the QR code.

You can then see what the follow-through action was – did smartphone users make the most purchases, or the other mediums? Is the breakdown skewed more towards male or female buyers, and if so, which medium provided the bigger demographic?

If the smartphone users were more active, is this because your wording was better within the QR code, or just that people found it easier to make a snap purchase on their iPhone or Droid as opposed to waiting to get back to their home computer?

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How many discounts were given in-store for people using your promotional WORD when making the sale? Which medium offered the bigger return for the cost involved in getting your ad airtime?

These examples above are just some of the information you can gather by setting up parameters to begin with. You then sit down, work out how much it cost to be on each platform versus how much interest you got from each, versus how many sales that interest turned into.

Having that information helps you decide whether TV, radio, print or flyer is working, or if you can cancel one and concentrate more on the other.
Of course, once you combine all this information with a social media aspect as well – man, the sky can be the limit.

The point is, yes, social media is perfect for reaching a wider audience at a lesser cost than traditional marketing. But that’s not to say it’s always going to be the most effective – it all boils down to whether your customers even care about social media.

But then, marketing for your customer has always been how the most successful companies have made their money. It’s no different now – they know when social media will work and when traditional media will work.

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They also know what can be measured and what can’t be, or at least what’s more difficult to measure. And that’s what really counts at the end of the day, no?

Written By

Danny Brown is co-founder and CEO at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, offering integrated, social media, digital and mobile marketing solutions and applications. His blog is recognized as one of the top marketing blogs in the world; featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs; is one of HubSpot's Hot 100 Marketing Blogs, and won the Hive Award for Best Social Media Blog at the 2010 South by South West festival.



  1. Tinu Abayomi-Paul

    October 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Very true, all of these things can be measured. Not an exact science, but that's not what we want, right? We just want to know that the efforts we're making are not in vain.

    It can be as simple as having a page on the site that's an "Easter Egg" – blocked from search engines and not on the site map. So you know that everything that comes to that page had to have come from X campaign, or someone raising awareness of X campaign through word of mouth. It's an easy way to track for the low-tech person, though I still agree with your suggestion of coupon codes and the like, Danny.

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