Minimum effective dose of marketing

After a shower recently, I noticed a logistical problem: all of the normal bath towels weren’t available. So I used a hand towel, which was sufficient to get the job done. Even though it was optimal, it achieved the desired effect. That got me thinking about a concept I first read in a pharmacology book years ago and saw crop up again in one of Tim Ferriss’ books: effective dose. In pharmacology, there are two important dosages that professionals pay attention to, minimum effective dose and maximum tolerated dose.


Minimum effective dose is the minimum dose of a drug that produces a statistically significant impact, an observable effect. Maximum tolerated dose is the highest dosage that can be administered before toxicity occurs. As you would expect, these dosages can vary wildly from person to person, but some generalizations can be made. Any parent knows that a dose of ibuprofen for a 200 pound adult cannot equally be given to a 50 pound child.

Can you take this concept and apply it to marketing? The answer is a resounding yes, and it’s a concept that should have its place in your toolkit. What is the minimum amount you need to do in order to produce a result? What is the maximum amount you can do before you cause damage?

For example, your email marketing list has a maximum tolerated dose. There’s a limit to how often you can email people, and that depends heavily on what the email is. Cision/Vocus* operates a mailing list called Help a Reporter Out. This list provides press coverage opportunities to subscribers and is sent out three times a day. That’s a high frequency, but because people want the contents, it falls below the maximum tolerated dose, the point at which people would unsubscribe.

An example of the minimum effective dose might be a tactical change. I was doing some data analysis over the holidays of my personal Twitter account and found that I could do things a little differently. With one very small tactical change, I was able to immediately see a statistically significant impact, a clear, observable effect**:


One little change, and metrics changed radically. Now, whether that stays the course or not remains to be seen, but there was a definite impact. It met the conditions for a minimum effective dose, a dose at which there was statistically significant impact. (curious what the change was? Become a Premium Content subscriber to my newsletter)

Consider adding these concepts to your marketing and measurement to determine when you’ve done something noteworthy and when doing more would be counterproductive.

* Disclosure: Cision/Vocus is a client of my employer. While I do not work on the account, I receive indirect financial benefit from the relationship.

** For the statistically fluent, the control was an average of 2,031 impressions of my #the5 tweets (sample: 300), while the experiment was an average of 1,764 impressions (sample: 10). The control engagements (all) averaged 9.58 per tweet, and the experiment was an average of 23.7 engagements per tweet. The p-value was 0.003.

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Marketing contains 32 times more data than you can see

This is an excerpt of my upcoming book, Marketing Blue Belt. Pre-order your copy now!


It’s the lifeblood of many businesses, the cornerstone of great marketing, and the most confounding problem companies and marketers face today. Today, we’re surrounded by more data than ever before. Think about something as simple as a Tweet on Twitter. It’s 140 characters at most, right? You wouldn’t think that sounds like a lot of data…

… But yet it is. Why? Because the data that makes a Tweet relevant isn’t just the Tweet itself. It’s all of the data about the tweet, what’s called the metadata. Take a look under the hood to see what I mean. Here’s a single Tweet:


It’s a seemingly innocuous little text update. Now look at all of the metadata that this one Tweet contains. There are 4 retweets, each of which have their own data. There’s a profile picture associated with the Tweet, which means there’s information inside the photo. There are 2 favorites – again, actions taken that have information about them, such as when someone hit the favorite button. There are 5 user identities, with photos and bios to go along, associated with the Tweet. There are dates and times associated with the Tweet. In fact, when you dissect one single Tweet of 140 characters or less, there are 4,498 characters of data that go with it:


Something as simple as a Tweet can have a massive amount of data associated with it. Some of that is only useful to the technologists and developers, but some of it is useful, even critical, to marketers like you and me. We as marketers want to know about our reach and influence; that data is in the metadata. We want to know who the people are who share our stuff. We want to know about the audiences of the people sharing our stuff. All of this information is contained inside the Tweet’s metadata.

4,498 characters of data about a 140 character Tweet. Put differently, there’s 32 times the amount of data about the Tweet as there is in the Tweet itself, and we have to be able to download, analyze, interpret, and strategize from a significant portion of that extra data. Now consider all of the information on all of the marketing systems you have access to: Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tweets, YouTube videos, mobile apps, and so much more. The data itself is growing at incredible rates; the metadata is exploding.

Are you ready to handle all of that data? Is your marketing program? Do you have the tools and the talent to make the most of it? You’d better, because this is the new marketing, the new reality.

Obvious book plug: pre-order today at and start to learn those tools and skills!

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The killer social media app of 2015? Solving post office zero

There’s a small fortune to be made for any startup or company out there willing to put the work into it. The product is, or will be, the killer app of 2015 and years to come if it’s done well.

What is it? It’s the solution to this problem:


Every single new messaging and social app is its own inbox. Instead of inbox zero, we’re now chasing post office zero.

We’ve got social media management down reasonably well, at least on the big networks. You can use tools like Buffer to publish and Hootsuite to listen, and they do a good job, especially for the price you pay. They’re as close to a social inbox as you can get.

But then the world changed again. Now, all of the social media management tools are lagging behind severely, and everyone from individuals like you and me to the biggest corporations are once again having multiple inboxes to check, just to keep up with messaging volume. The irony is that messaging apps were designed to reduce other forms of messaging. Instead, they’ve merely diffused the message stream across many more platforms.

So the killer app for 2015? Give individuals and companies a way to consolidate all of these inboxes, something like Google’s Inbox, but for everything (or everything that matters):


Does anyone know of a tool that puts Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Viber, WeChat, Line, Kik, etc. all in one consolidated stream of messages? If so, leave a note in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @cspenn and I’ll gladly take a look. If it’s capable of solving post office zero for real, I’ll promote the heck out of it, especially if it’s affordable for the individual, like Hootsuite and Buffer are.

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