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Don't fall into a data trap

Published: June 28, 2013

Author: Michael Yates

Data, specifically trending data, is big business. Our clients demand data and our expertise in interpreting, predicting, and analyzing what streams in. But as a wise man once said, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics – meaning that data can be spun and filtered in any way that the presenter wishes.
To fall into this trap of perception is to fail at what makes us good at what we do. In the arena of digital marketing, it’s up to us to remove the filters, look at the data holistically, and give our clients the view that cover all the angles and not just from a specially crafted lens as provided for us. We need to see the raw points before we can cook up a lean meal for consumption.
Consider the following trend aggregations:
– Seasonality – the aggregation of months
– Holiday seasons – the aggregation of scheduled demand
– Lifetime Values – the aggregation of expected worth, over varying time frames
Marketing 101, the meat and potatoes, Trix are for kids. If we’re not proactively keeping on top of these faceted lenses for our clients, we’re not doing our jobs, and our numbers will show it. But let’s say, in our haste to impress our clients and hop on lucrative new It Things, we’re using this hot little tool (which made the admiring rounds at PPC Associates).
Smart? Opportunistic? Nope. We’re not seeing the whole picture – especially in this instance, where even Google isn’t touting it as a serious tool and is in fact actively censoring its results.  Just watch for a while and you’ll never guess why reality stars are trending because Google won’t tell you.
Filters are everywhere. They’re human. They can be incredibly myopic. They’re what allow a marketer to focus on sky-high conversion rates and ignore plummeting values for the conversions themselves. They’re what allow a CMO to see organic traffic spikes from a PR imbroglio and declare that better brand awareness has been achieved. Sometimes, they are what get tossed around boardrooms and slowly fill up a golden parachute, ready for the abrupt landing.
If we can explain the valleys as well as the peaks and give the client proper, undiluted context, we are well on the way to being partners with our clients and not paid-for yes-people.  If we can strip the filters of publisher representatives, platform and network reps, our own hopes that our work has succeeded, and natural client prejudices about their own product or service, we are fulfilling our duties in tracking the lift that we provide.
We don’t speak all the languages that flow from the Trending Now tools, but we can do our best to interpret everything we can filter-free and maintain the best, most market-efficient ecosystem we can.

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