Friday, May 15, 2015

Impressions, Clicks, Visits and Views

A few weeks before I retired, a friend called me at work and asked what I knew about “impressions,” generally understood to mean the potential number of people who saw your ad on television, your Facebook post, your tweet on Twitter, and what-have-you.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.

“”Well,” he said, “our outside agency says we have 140 million impressions from our ad campaign, and a 29-percent click-through rate. Is that a good thing?”

I considered my answer before I responded. “It’s a next-to-impossible thing.”


“You might get a 29-percent click-through rate if you’re Justin Bieber or Katy Perry, but not a corporate brand. Have you looked at traffic at your web site?”

“Yeah, that’s what doesn’t make any sense. It’s only very slightly above normal, like maybe two percent.”

“If your ads were having a click-through rate of 29 percent, you would be seeing web site traffic in the tens of millions.”


“A more typical click-through rate,” I said, “would be less than 1 percent. Some companies have done more, like the consumer products companies running contests. Coke and Pepsi, for example. But for most of us, and especially business-to-business companies, it’s much less.”

“Then what’s an impression?” he asked.

“If you ad is running on television at 8 p.m. on, say, NBC or CBS, add up the number of viewers the network reports to have at that time. Or if you’re tweeting on Twitter, add the number of followers you have and multiply by the number of tweets.”

“Are you saying this is all hocus-pocus by witch doctors?”

Well, no, I’m not. But you do have to understand what the data is before you can decide if it’s meaningful or significant. In general, if you don’t understand it, you’re mightily impressed. 140 million impressions? And a 29-percent click-through rate? Wow!

It’s possible, of course. But unlikely. My friend needed to ask what that 29 percent was clicking through to. It wasn’t his web site, the object of the ad program.

Rob Eager at Wildfire Marketing publishes a newsletter every Monday. His marketing agency specializes in books and authors. This past Monday, he had four points to make about online advertising:

First, humans account for less than half of global web traffic. The majority comes from bots, roughly evenly divided between good bots and bad bots. (I’ve seen this happen for this blog – a sudden surge in traffic coming from places like Russia and China.)

Second, the average engagement between a brand’s Facebook post and the brand’s Facebook fans is 7 in 10,000. For Twitter, it’s 3 in 10,000. Instagram ranks highest, with a 4.21% engagement rate. The corporate social media channels I managed before I retired did considerably better than the average, but that was a result of (1) a lot of hard work and (2) knowing almost exactly who it was who followed or liked our channels. And we followed a 90/10 rule – 10 percent of what we did online was about us; 90 percent was about our industry, our customers, and news important to our customers. Advertising, on the other hand, is almost invariably about you (even when it appears that it’s not.) 

Third, the average click-through rate on an ad is less than one percent.

And fourth, 54 percent of display ads by advertisers are unviewable (the link here is to the Wall Street Journal – the story is behind the paywall).

Rob has solid insight and information about the general subject of publishing and marketing of books – visit him at Start a Wildfire

The book that influenced everything I've done on social media is Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, published by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. It's not the fast way to bulk up your author's platform and get tens of thousands of adoring fans to impress your potential publisher, and it's written in a rather breezy style, but it's full of good information and wisdom. The book doesn't include a single reference to religion, faith, or Christianity, but it does resonate with Christians because it focuses on others, not self. 

Ultimately, you're only kidding yourself if you think social media and the online world is only about impressions, clicks, visits and views.

They're about relationships. And trust.

Illustration by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Doug Spurling said...

Thanks Glynn, ever since we've 'met' I've watched you live this message out here in the world of words. The message of, others first. Well done.
Now, I'm gonna click the "I'm not a robot" button below to show you've made a real impression...oh, and btw you're not retired.

Jody Lee Collins said...

From the beginning of my blogging adventure it has been built and based on advice from you about reading and commenting on other blogs.
It has been the best way to get to 'know' people and to be known by them. Over 3/4 of my connections have resulted in face to face friendships which mean the world to me.
I have 35 subscribers which makes me smile big.... 'cause I get to write to 35 people each week.
That's a big deal, I think.

Thank you, as always, for your wisdom and insight.