Just over a week ago during lunch at the New Communication Forum, I had a great conversation with Tim Tozer from Radian6 (a social media monitoring service) about the real metrics that marketers are looking for and the increasingly common difficulty of finding metrics that are actually useful and offer actionable insights. Many people who have to contend with web analytics tools today will tell you that it is no longer an issue of having the technology available to measure things online, but rather the analytical ability to hone in on the metrics that really matter. Tradition, when it comes to metrics, is the paralyzing factor because it forces many brands to think about metrics in the same way they always have … with impressions or clicks and little else. Of course, with social media it becomes much more complicated to decide what to measure as activities may not have a direct relationship with "conversion." The one thing that has remained consistent, though, is the thing that all marketers are really looking for, but many are afraid to admit it. It is something I summed up in the title with a short acronym: OSG.

OSG stands for One Sexy Graphic. OSG means two simple things:

1. Metrics that are easy to analyze and act on
2. Metrics I can show to my boss to explain what I’m doing

If you think about it, smarter metrics comes down to understanding what to measure, but it also requires that we find a smarter way of visualizing data so that it looks appealing and intuitive. During the Web2.0 Expo, there was an interesting exhibit at a party from an artist named Aaron Koblin who has created several of these data visualizations. These were presented as art, but it struck me that his pieces were really what marketers have been longing for. A highly visual representation of complex data in a way that allows you to infer lots of learnings and insights. Perhaps the real need here is something that OSG minimizes through humor … but the not so revolutionary idea is that we need to rethink the way that we visualize data to focus on true insights rather than what we have traditionally always measured. If a picture is worth a thousand words, OSG can be the difference between proving the effectiveness of a social media effort in a way that people understand, or having lots of numbers in a complex report destined to be ignored by all those who almost read it.