How volatile is your marketing?

Volatility is a concept made popular by the stock market. When a stock is more volatile, it means something is happening that is causing investors to buy or sell it in greater volumes. A nonvolatile stock has similar buy/sell volume and relative price stability every day.

When the market as a whole is volatile, it means instability. Something has happened that is making a lot of people act, whether it’s panic buying or panic selling. Investors don’t like instability. Instability means unpredictability, and that can mean significant, unplanned risk.

Back during the financial crisis, VIX, the market volatility measure, was at crazy numbers as people bailed out of stocks. The VIX spiked and trillions of dollars (admittedly all theoretical) vanished in a just a few days:

VIX 10 year chart.jpg

Why are we talking about the VIX and volatility? You can use the same concept of measuring volatility, but in your marketing metrics and analytics. Volatility in marketing means that something’s happening. It might be good or bad, but whatever it is, it’s worth paying attention to. Let’s take a look at an example, using some of my personal Twitter data. I’ve taken a column of my Tweets and retweets. To measure volatility, we measure how much something has changed from one measurement to the next:

Cursor_and_tweet_activity_metrics_cspenn_20140901_20141201_en.jpg

Low volatility means low change. High volatility means big change.

From here, we chart the retweets:

Cursor_and_tweet_activity_metrics_cspenn_20140901_20141201_en_1.png

And then finally add our volatility column:

Cursor_and_tweet_activity_metrics_cspenn_20140901_20141201_en.png

Take a look carefully above at the orange line. In the middle of the chart it gets especially spiky, repeatedly. That was a period of increased volatility. The question to ask is why? What happened during that time period that made my tweets different, more volatile, less predictable in terms of retweets?

The answer, of course, was my speaking at Social Media Marketing World, which was a terrific experience. Michael Stelzner did a phenomenal job of not only marketing the show, but marketing the speakers at the show – which included retweeting our tweets to his highly influential audience. Based on the information above, if retweets were an important KPI for a corporate social media marketing program, I’d figure out ways to increase my participation and engagement in that event. (I will anyway, because it’s a terrific event)

When you’re measuring volatility, determine first if you’re getting volatility that is positive or negative against your marketing KPIs.

Once you know whether it’s positive (such as the example above) or negative, determine whether or not you have the ability to control or influence the cause of the volatility.

  • If it’s positive and you have the ability to control it, do more of it.
  • If it’s positive and you don’t have the ability to control it, figure out ways to influence around it, such as using paid media or earned media.
  • If it’s negative and you have the ability to control it, stop doing it immediately.
  • If it’s negative and you don’t have the ability to control it, do something else you’re good at to mitigate it.

Try measuring the volatility of your key marketing metrics!


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