Who owns the data generated by social media advertising, and why are the analytics generated by campaigns so frustratingly complex? These are questions with no simple answers, and they’re the foundation of a newly released report by the business intelligence and social advertising vendor Unified.
Surveying 120 mid-level to senior-level brand marketers across 18 industry sectors, Unified found significant confusion on the topic of social advertising data ownership, with most marketers not knowing what happens to their data if they switch agencies or whether there is a way to independently verify the information in their wrap-up reports.
Eighty-seven percent of marketers told Unified they “perceive social advertising data ownership as important,” and 70% believe it will become more important in the next 12 months. But the majority of respondents in Unified’s survey did not know the length of time needed to access data after they switch agencies, and 86% were not fully confident in their ability to access historical campaign performance.
“We’re finding that data ownership is something that has been lurking beneath the surface for awhile now, but marketers are now starting to realize its value,” says Unified CEO Jason Beckerman.
Beckerman sees multiple factors at play, beginning with current events that have placed a magnifying glass on the topic of data as a whole, both inside and outside of the digital advertising industry. He also sees transparency as a growing issue within the industry and says we’re now in a place where marketers are starting to demand increased transparency from their partners.
“Transparency goes hand in hand with data ownership,” Beckerman says. “If marketers don’t own their data, they can’t ensure the information they are being provided is accurate.”
The results of Unified’s survey back up Beckerman’s assertion. Fifty-nine percent of marketers reported partial to no transparency on how their campaigns performed, and 53% reported partial to no transparency on how much was spent on their campaigns.
“Many marketers think they have data ownership covered, but when they dig deeper, as the survey questions did, they realize that they are missing critical components,” Beckerman says. “A data ownership strategy should go beyond just checking a box saying you own your data. Marketers need to not only own their data, but be able to access, analyze, and benefit from it.”
Another concern voiced by marketers in Unified’s report was slow turnaround times. Forty-six percent of marketers said they wait anywhere from one week to more than a month for social ad campaign performance data, a timeline that’s deemed unacceptable by many in the industry.
But the problem, in Beckerman’s eyes, could be resolved if marketers started using more modern tools for social media campaign management. He says the sheer volume of data that needs to be analyzed can become a challenge, as well.
“Most [marketers] are relying on outdated tools and systems that were not purpose-built for the needs of modern advertising. In fact, we hear stories about marketers having to stitch together spreadsheets from different teams to try to make sense of performance data,” Beckerman says. “Imagine if you had to drive a car without a dashboard—how would you know how fast you are going, how your vehicle is performing, or how to avoid running out of gas? You could probably figure it out, but it would require a lot of your attention and focus, which really should be channeled towards ensuring you don’t run your car off the road.”
To that end, Beckerman believes the industry is about to see a fundamental shift, as brand marketers continue to bring more operations in-house. As that evolution continues, marketers will have to start considering which social media advertising processes they want to handle on their own, and they must find experts in the space whom they can trust with the functions that they do need to outsource.
“I think there has been a dynamic within the industry that brand marketers blindly trust their partners because of their name or experience. However, marketers need to take a stronger role and ensure that they are giving this trust responsibly,” Beckerman says. “Data ownership plays a major role here, as it helps provide marketers with the foundation and tools they need to ensure accountability and responsibility.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.