Social Media and Math: Make your Marketing Efficient

Ask a room full of marketers what they enjoy most about math and chances are you’ll hear a pin drop. The fact is, as marketers, most of us will readily admit that we chose marketing because “I don’t do math” or “I’m not the numbers type.” The winds of change are blowing though. By now, most of us realize that social media is an integral part of a well-rounded marketing campaign, and getting it right depends on doing math. Yes, math. Lots of it. Kick and scream if you must, but the two have been aligned for some time now.

For social marketers, it’s tough to imagine that math and social media are chummy. However, relying on the coolness factor of social or the mythical benefits that “can’t really be measured” is no longer cutting it. Social media marketing is growing up, and brands need to move to more nuanced and econometric-driven, math-based measurement. Bottom line? Marketing is becoming efficient.

The Math-Marketing Connection Is Real

Let’s look at some proof. The 2014 CMO Insights Survey from Accenture revealed some pretty interesting truths. When asked what function in marketing will likely experience the most change, the top answer was “ analytics skills” as a core competence.

Before you panic, know there’s nothing really new going on here. Algorithms and modeling are at the forefront of pretty much everything related to Internet search. A glorified math problem in itself, algorithms make sense of information on the Web using data points. Through a marketing lens, math saves us time, energy, and sometimes, even a few dollars. More importantly, math done right leads to operational tweaks within an organization, making it easier for customers to find the products and services they need online. Whether it’s personalized recommendations, search engine optimization, or something John Nash-complicated, algorithms make the math-marketing connection real.

Marrying Social Data with Econometric Models

When I joined Adobe, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much math was integrated with marketing. Our marketing leadership team relies heavily on mathematical models that help us measure how much output we can expect to find from various corresponding inputs and where along those input levels we can find diminishing returns for every extra dollar invested. Our marketing insights and operations team is a seasoned group of econometricians, statisticians, and mathematicians who help lead this effort.

Our labors in social media aren’t excluded. In fact, we use econometric models to help us understand which of our inputs and corresponding successes are most closely correlated. For example, we can identify the degree to which specific activities or investments will result in greater engagement with social posts or perhaps how to reach the greatest number of people through impressions. Some of the findings are intuitive, others less so. But more than simply knowing which activity creates which results, our models show us the degree to which they are correlated.

Imagine this scenario. While working on a specific campaign, an executive pulls you aside and asks you what more could be done to achieve the greatest number of social shares. Instead of relying on what you think would work or what you’ve seen work well in the past, you could show the exact correlation numbers from past experience. Now imagine being able to show how much investment should be made to maximize the result without hitting a diminishing margin of return.

We’re seeing both the present and future of social media measurement, and that’s alright by me.