Google’s New Social Data Hub

Google’s Eric Schmidt appeared today at LeWeb 2011 and dropped some notable quotes during his interview with conference organizer Loic Le Meur (@loic), including this prescient perspective: “It’s reasonable to say that in the future, the majority of cars will be driverless or driving-assisted.” Foreshadowing perhaps? Could be…but closer to reality:

Google’s Executive Chairman also quipped, “It’s easier to start a revolution and more difficult to finish it.” Google should know. They’ve been revolutionizing the way in which consumers interact on the Web since their inception and news posted today following the LeWeb chat follows suit.

The news reveals a new initiative launching today called the Social Data Hub. What’s even more exciting is the Google Analytics Social Analytics reporting to appear sometime next year. While the details were somewhat vague, I got the inside scoop and what was published should be enough to incite a minor frenzy in the Social Analytics circles.

The “Social Data Hub” is a data platform that is based on open standards allowing Google to aggregate public social media posts, comments, tags, and a plethora of other activities using ActivityStream protocol and Pubsubhubbub hooks. (Yea, that’s a real thing…I had to look it up too.) Early partners in the initiative include social platforms such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Slashdot, TypePad, Vkontakte, and Gigya among others. Of course Google’s own social platforms, Google+, Blogger, and Google Groups are included as well. Noticeably absent from the list are social media moguls like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn who have yet to buy into the new Googley idea of a Social Data Hub.

So What…?

If you’re scratching your head wondering how this is different than Google just trying to get more of the world’s data, you’re not alone. At first glance this may seem like yet another big enterprise ploy to get more data (and oh yeah, Don’t be evil). Well, I see this as a huge win for marketers, bloggers, publishers and anyone else trying to discern the impact of social media marketing across the multitude of channels and platforms available today. Currently, most marketers are forced to evaluate their social media activities through the lens that the platform (or their social monitoring tool) offers. Typically this yields low-hanging counting metrics which can be of some value, but more often than not end up as isolated bits of information that don’t provide business value.

Getting at this all important business value in many cases requires wrangling the metrics into another system, processing data and just generally working hard to gain some incremental insight. This is laborious work for the average marketer, so it’s no wonder that eConsultancy just reported that 41% of marketers surveyed had no idea what their return on investment was for social media spending in 2011. Yikes!

Google’s new Social Data Hub – coupled with Google’s Social Analytics reporting – has the potential to knock the socks off these unknowing marketers. By aggregating data from multiple social platforms into the Social Data Hub, they have the ability to make comparisons across platforms to show which channels are driving referrals, which are generating the most interactions, and which are potentially not worth investing in. It’s not that big of a stretch to imagine Google linking this information to data within their Google Analytics product such as Adwords, Goal completion rates and cool new flow visualizations. If/when Google applies the lens of their analytics tool to this new aggregated data set, look out marketers — you just hit the jackpot! Of course, I’m speculating here, but the possibilities are intriguing for a Social Analytics geek like me. That is of course, if platforms open their APIs to the Social Data Hub. A big if…

So Why Would a Platform buy into the Social Data Hub?

Well, it’s questionable if Facebook ever will opt in for this system so I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. However for other social platforms, being part of the hub has some distinct advantages. They get to prove their value by partnering up with one of the only solutions on the Web that is capable of providing real comparative data on the performance of social channels.

This is a no-brainer for fledgling platforms that want to increase their visibility and even for established players, opting into Google Social Hub could mean the difference in gaining advertising dollars from skeptical marketers. While the big dogs in social media may take a while to come around, I see this new Hub as a potentially great equalizer for understanding the impact of social media as it relates to referrals for on-site activities which can ultimately lead to conversions and bottom line impact.

While today’s announcement may be just a small ripple in the social media pond, I see big waves building for Marketers. But that’s just my take on the disruptive and revolutionary force that is Google…

If you want in on the action, here’s a link to request access to the private beta for Google’s Social Analytics Reporting: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/socialpilot/

And here’s one to for platforms to join the Social Data Hub: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/socialData/socialOverview.html

Published on December 7, 2011 under Events, Social Media Measurement

Announcing Web Analytics Demystified GUARDS

Those of you who follow my blog, my work here at Web Analytics Demystified, and my active participation in the WAA are well aware of my interest and commitment to consumer data privacy in web analytics. In addition to my role as liaison to the Standards committee within the Web Analytics Association and participation in numerous issues related to protecting personal privacy, I am also the co-author of the Web Analysts Code of Ethics.

These efforts have been primarily focused on the web analytics community in an attempt to elevate our own knowledge of how our work and actions are perceived by the outside world. And, thanks to a long-and-growing list of Code of Ethics signers, I believe that we are starting to have an impact.

Despite my participation and involvement in WAA Standards and Code of Ethics work, there has been one nagging and persistent concern: actionability. Given the right intentions, what action can business owners take to clearly express their commitment to digital consumer data privacy? There really hasn’t been anything …

Until now.

Today, I’m pleased to announce on behalf of myself, Adam and Eric – along with our partners at BPA Worldwide – that we are very proud to introduce our Web Analytics Demystified GUARDS program. This is the world’s first audit and certification for digital marketing and measurement platforms.

The GUARDS audit is a comprehensive and actionable assessment of how consumer data is flowing into – and through – the Enterprise via a wide range of online platforms and solutions. Designed primarily for the C-suite and corporate shareholders — the group at the greatest risk from privacy-related litigation but also least likely to have day-to-day knowledge of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of online data collection — the GUARDS audit provides a clear and actionable plan to ensure the highest-level of protection for consumer collected, personally identifiable data.

Those clients who demonstrate an appropriate balance of data collection and data governance will be eligible for GUARDS certification. This certification is Web Analytics Demystified and BPA Worldwide’s assurance that consumer data is being used in a respectful, appropriate, and secure manner within the business. We have built this program for companies who want to get out ahead of proposed legislation and be proactive in their commitment to the digital consumer.

More information about Web Analytics Demystified GUARDS is available on our web site.

We are incredibly excited to be partnering with BPA Worldwide on this effort and are happy to answer any questions about GUARDS that you may have. Please contact us directly to discuss the effort or to arrange a GUARDS audit for your business.

Published on October 18, 2011 under Change Agent

Moneyball Will Put Web Analytics on the Map

So, my prediction is that the movie Moneyball, set to release this Friday September 23rd, will add a level of awareness to Analytics that skyrockets our little cottage industry straight to household status.

For many of us in the analytics and optimization business, Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball is something of a bible. I know that when I first read it back in 2003, it made me want to become a web analyst. The book chronicles the unorthodox methods of one maverick baseball manager who was forced to break the traditional paradigm of scouting and recruiting big market baseball players to build a winning team that didn’t match his shoestring budget. The manager was Billy Beane, responsible for the 2002 Oakland A’s baseball club, who irrevocably changed the business of baseball using analytics.

Back in 2009, when Steven Soderberg was directing the film, the critics were calling this a niche movie with a purported $60M budget. But since then, with Bennett Miller taking the Director’s chair, this film is set to leap off movie screens across the country. This isn’t merely because they wrangled A-listers like Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to star in the film, but because this movie has universal appeal. Baseball, business, and Brad Pitt. What brand doesn’t want to imagine themselves as the underdog who bucked the system and came out ahead of the game? Even the biggest brands will see the potential for doing more with less as depicted in the movie. And my guess is that many c-level executives will walk into their offices on Monday and ask who’s running their analytics. Brad Pitt is about to put the sexy into analytics. While, this parallels are somewhat different, I think that just like Pitt’s 1992 movie A River Runs Through It catapulted flyfishing to mainstream status, Moneyball will do the same thing for web analytics. While there may not be a flashmob at the next eMetrics event with newbies clamoring to become Certified Web Analysts, there will certainly be a widespread awakening to what we do.

The thing about Moneyball is that despite the fact that analytics enabled the team to recognize talent and even predict what/who was likely to be successful, it also reveals that running a business purely by the numbers doesn’t guarantee your win. This is akin to the debate ignited by my partner Eric T. Peterson about whether or not your business should be data-driven. While I agree with Eric’s argument on many levels, commentary from the other side of the argument penned by Brent Dykes makes a lot of sense too. I’ll go on record as saying that I do believe that both of these guys are trying to slice it too thin by getting into the semantics of analysis because they’re both right. What we do as analytics professionals requires a balance of data and experience. So the way I see it, both these guys are arguing for similar results. The Oakland A’s got the jump on most major league teams back in their day by using data for competitive advantage. But just like many of the stalwart directors and scouting veterans likely thought, it didn’t get them all the way to the world championship. In analytics too, we need to balance data with business acumen. Tipping the scales all the way toward managing by business experience and intuition won’t net big wins any more than managing purely by the numbers.

What we can take away from analytics and now thanks to the movie Moneyball is that data can gets us a whole lot closer to the answers. While Billy Beane’s character depicts a relentless pursuit of his goal using data, his visibly abrasive personality and callous nature of treating players reveals that balance is required. The fact is that analytics are everywhere in business today. In baseball, Billy Beane still works for the Oakland A’s and my beloved Redsox hired Bill James (another Sabermetrics guru), but many NBA basketball teams reveals that numerous big leaguers are employing interns, analysts and consultants to study the numbers. And of course, businesses too. For every digital proprietor, business-to-business operation, or consumer facing brand selling today; using data to understand customers and to improve digital marketing has undeniable allure. So, have we finally made it to the mainstream? Well, I think we’re close and that this movie will certainly help.

So the next time you’re explaining to your neighbor – or grandmother – what it is that you do for work … Don’t be surprised when they say “Oh, it’s like that movie Moneyball!” Just smile and say, “Yep, it’s something like that.”

Published on September 21, 2011 under Analytics Culture, Change Agent

The Social Technology Spectrum

Social media technologies are massively confusing today. Not because they aren’t powerful or capable of substantially benefitting your organization, but because there are so many to choose from…

During my research while writing my book, Social Media Metrics Secrets (Wiley, 2011) and through countless interviews with social media practitioners and leading vendors in the industry, I developed a categorization schema for understanding social media technologies. I call this the Social Media Technology Spectrum. Across this spectrum, there are five primary functions that businesses can accomplish with social media technologies:

Discover > Analyze > Engage > Facilitate > Manage

While, I go into great detail about each category in the book, I’ll offer an overview here:

    The Discovery Tools (Social Search) Discovery tools are social media solutions that effectively act as search engines for social media channels and platforms. Typically, Social Search technologies are freely available, but they don’t allow you to save search queries, download data or export results. Example Discover vendors include: SocialMention, IceRocket, Backtweets, Topsy, and hundreds more. 

    The Analysis Technologies (Social Analytics) These tools are most commonly associated with listening platforms, but in my view, Social Analytics vendor requirements include: filters, segments, visualizations and ultimately analysis. Example Analyze vendors include: Alterian SM2, Omniture SocialAnalytics, Radian6, Sysomos, and many more.

    The Engagement Platforms (Engagement/Workflow) Vendors in this category extend their Social Analytics capabilities to include workflow delegation and engagement capabilities from directly within the interface, it places more controls at the fingertips of your internal business users. Example Engage vendors include: Crimson Hexagon, Hootsuite, Objective Marketer, Collective Intellect, and many more.

    The Hosting and Facilitation Tools (Social Platforms) If you need to offer your community a social media destination like a user group, a forum, or a designated social media website. That’s where the Social Facilitation technologies provide a platform that can facilitate the conversation, the dialogue and the learning experience. Example Facilitate vendors include: Mzinga, Pluck, Ning, Lithium, Jive, Telligent and many more.

    The Management Solutions (Social Management) This group of technology offerings includes social customer relationship management tools, internal collaboration solutions, and social media aggregation services that enable businesses to manage their social media efforts in an orchestrated way. Example Manage vendors include: BatchBook, Flowtown, Salesforce Chatter, Yammer and many more.

As you can see, each category has associated vendors. While there is certainly some cross-over here, there is also a lot more depth to each of the categories. For each category, you can delve deeper by specific social media channel (i.e., there’s a whole cast of Social Analytics tools specifically for Twitter). Yet, in a technology environment that is so cluttered with options and new entrants, I feel that some categorization is merited.

But what do you think? … Am I on the right track here? Do you use technologies from multiple categories? …What did I miss?

Published on September 13, 2011 under Social Media Measurement, Web Analytics Tools

Privacy Whitewashing, History Sniffing, and Zombie Cookies, Oh My…

This content originally posted on the ClickZ Marketing News & Expert Advice website with thoughtful comments and numerous reactions on August 11, 2011.

There’s a great deal of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in the hearts and minds of consumers regarding their privacy online. While not totally unmerited, this FUD is fueled by mainstream media sources like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, that typically paint the issues with a stark black and white perspective. Unfortunately, this perspective corrals all advertisers, website operators, and would-be digital trackers into a single category of shameful voyeurs.

While some tracking practices may indeed be dubious, other allegations are accused of slander. Both scenarios are reason enough to give conscientious consumers pause, thereby placing your online business and the way you track customers in jeopardy. The root of the problem is a fundamental communication breakdown.

What’s Really Going on Behind the Privacy Curtain?
The majority of first-party digital measurement (“first-party” data is obtained by the entity that owns and controls the domain) is designed to improve the user experience online by making processes easier, enabling faster access to relevant goods and services, as well as offering time-saving conveniences for everyday users. These practices have been going on since the dawn of consumerism, and for the most part are tolerated and even appreciated by consumers as long as they adhere to some semblance of consumers’ rights. However, consumers must retain the right to shop, browse, and otherwise interact online in an anonymous manner if they choose to do so. Thus, the opt-out policy. But technologies today have inadvertently enabled ways to circumvent the opt-out by regenerating cookies (dubbed “zombie cookies”) or embedding locally stored objects into users’ machines. These practices are wrong and deftly explained and criticized in Eric T. Peterson’s whitepaper, “Flash LSO’s: Is Your Privacy at Risk?” (registration required).

The flip-side to first-party tracking is third-party tracking, (“third-party” data is obtained from the first party and typically not reasonably known to the end user). This data is often employed by ad-serving technologies as a method for targeting consumers. The primary objection to third-party data is that it can be used to track visitors across multiple domains (“history sniffing” or “daisy-chaining”), thereby creating a history of multi-site browsing behavior that reveals aggregate details on consumer actions unbeknownst to the user.

Most third-party data sources still don’t know names, nor do they profit from selling any personally identifiable information. Instead, anonymous user data is brokered to a slew of third-party advertisers, ad exchanges, ad networks, ad platforms, data aggregators/exchanges, and market research companies who work to serve up relevant content based on the websites users visited. I hate to break it to folks, but that’s how most content websites work. Visitors get free content, hosts deliver ads. It’s a trade-off that most of us are willing to accept. It’s also this trade-off that’s sucking any remnants of serendipity out of the Internet, because things just don’t happen by coincidence today; they happen by marketing.

If They Want Out, Show Them the Door!
The fact is that if consumers don’t want to be tracked, then you must offer them a simple and permanent way out for the wary. Of course, browsers can do this today and consumers can take proactive steps to delete cookies, but it’s still the responsibility of the business to offer choice. Your primary responsibility as a vendor or business is to educate your users through effective communication. This is where most of the confusion festers because vendors don’t provide easy-to-understand guidelines about how their technologies are designed to be used; and businesses often don’t educate their customers about how they treat personal data. As a result, technologies are used inappropriately and consumers feel violated by targeted content and there’s typically a whole lot of fingerpointing going on to pass the blame.

If you’re a business, it’s your responsibility to understand how the technologies you use for digital tracking work, but also to give consumers a choice regarding their ability to remain anonymous and to opt out of all types of tracking. For first-party data collectors, this should be a relatively straightforward exercise; don’t retain customer information if they don’t want you to. If you need more guidance on the right thing to do as a practitioner or data collector, visit the Web Analytics Association’s (WAA) Code of Ethics that outlines the core tenets of ethical first-party, data-handing practices.

For third-party data collection, organizations like the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) or the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) offer third-party opt-out choices for consumers. Consider joining one of these coalitions to join the ranks of the self-regulated. Alternatively, you can brush up on third-party data collection guidelines issued by organizations like TRUSTe, who act in the best interests of consumers by offering guidance on what to do and what not to do regarding digital data collection.

Create an Action Plan for Maintaining White-Hat Digital Tracking Practices
Finally, the best thing that you can do as a vendor, a marketer, or a business is to operate above the fray of privacy pundits by following a few key principles. Take these steps to use digital tracking in the way in which it was designed and to deliver value for your customers and your business:

1. Understand the technologies. While this sounds relatively basic, you must know what the technologies you build or deploy are capable of doing. While getting inside the minds of the devious shouldn’t consume all your time, vendors should issue guidance for utilization as well as educate constituents about how technologies function.

2. Keep PII safe, secure, and private. It should go without saying that keeping customer data safe and private is a top priority, but go beyond offering lip service and spell it out for consumers. Demonstrate how you protect and secure data by communicating to your audience about the measures you take to do so and instill confidence by provisioning multiple safeguards.

3. Divulge data usage practices. If your business is collecting and utilizing first- or third-party data, make it known by divulging your practices in clear and readable language. This requires keeping the legalese to a minimum and offering consumer-friendly policies and explanations for what you’re trying to accomplish. Transparency is the best practice here, so explain what you’re doing and how visitors benefit.

4. Empower consumers to opt out. This one bears repeating…give consumers a way out. And for crying out loud, don’t opt them back in if they don’t request it. This is potentially the biggest threat to online privacy today and as more and more organizations abide by consumer preferences, the ones who don’t will be outed and ultimately tarnish their reputations.

5. Spread the word. The Internet offers many incredible opportunities for networking, commerce, education, and entertainment, but collectively we must act as stewards of consumer data. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I believe that most data collectors are ethical and simply need to do a better job of describing what they’re up to and where the value exchange exists for consumers.

I personally applaud researchers like Ashkan Solanti and Jonathan Mayer for the work they do and for keeping vendors honest about the realities of their digital tracking applications. We need more education and we desperately need to voice the digital measurement side of the argument to crystallize the validity of what we do as analytics professionals.

The online privacy discussion won’t dissipate anytime soon, so the best we can do is communicate effectively, demonstrate value, and offer choice. Do you agree?

Published on August 22, 2011 under Analytics Culture

Thoughts On Our 1st G+ Foray

This week the Demystified Partners forfeited our weekly meeting to hang out with our fellow #measure peeps on Google+. We felt that the thread about web analytics technologies and where innovation would surface in our industry needed a deeper discussion. If you haven’t seen the original thread yet, make sure you go check it out. Also, if you need a G+ invite, let us know we’ve got plenty to share. But our exercise was as much about continuing the conversation as it was testing out a new social medium.

Before going live on G+, we practiced for about a half hour, where all of our browsers crashed and we experienced various video connection in’s and out’s as we tinkered with and tuned our machines. By showtime, we had a few stalwart veterans join, including Tim Wilson who was dialed in on a 4G connection while driving home with his wife from camping. As our discussion grew, We added up to nine people, which didn’t quite push the limits of G+ as we had hoped, but it was an all-star #measure cast including: @erictpeterson @adamgreco @mymo @Exxx @tgwilson @joestanhope @OMlee @keithburris and yours truly.

Our conversation began with quips from each of the participants about how we’re still grappling with digital measurement technologies. Despite most of us being in this web analytics industry for years, and in some cases decades. Time passed quickly as we debated from all sides of the vendor/consultant/practitioner perspective. After a brief privacy sidebar, we asked each other where innovation would emerge from in analytics and really why we were pursuing these digital data anyway? I think we edged the needle just a little bit by agreeing that what we do matters because we’re educating our employers and clients on the power of data; and just possibly making the Internet a slightly better place. Ok, when I chatted this in the G+ hangout mid discussion, I warned everyone not to throw up on their keyboards, so I’ll do the same for you. But as cheesy as that sounds, our quorum agreed that wasn’t such a bad goal. What do you think?

So, the technology of G+ did prove that it was up to the task of handling this type of group discussion. People could talk and share their ideas on video or contribute to the conversation using the chat functionality. But we’re curious to know if you’re interested in joining us for a future G+ hangout?

If you are and willing to hang out with us to discuss the hottest topics is digital analytics, let us know because we’ll plan another one soon. Heck, we’ll even make this a regular event if you’re interested. What do you all say?

Published on August 17, 2011 under Events

You’re Using the Wrong Social Media Metrics!

This content originally posted on the ClickZ Marketing News & Expert Advice website on July 14, 2011.

In my experience, I’ve found that the vast majority of practitioners measuring social media currently rely on the wrong metrics. Metrics such as fans, followers, +1′s, shares, likes, and dislikes are easily captured and readily delivered by social networks, but they represent merely the low-hanging fruit of social analytics. These are the “counting metrics” of social media because using them typically equates to counting up digital trivia. Effective measurers of social media go beyond counting metrics to create outcome-based metrics and ultimately report on business value metrics to senior stakeholders across the enterprise. In this column, I’ll elaborate on the minutia of counting metrics and where they can add value to your social media operations, as well as how to take the next step of creating outcome and business value metrics to ratchet up your social analytics game to the next level.

Testing the Social Media Waters

The temptation for businesses to experiment with social media is practically irresistible. And in fact, you’d be foolish not to venture into new and emerging channels if your target audience leads you there. But experimentation and ongoing participation in social media must continually prove out the potential for business value. Often times, this potential is demonstrated in metrics that are indicative of volume and activity. Counting metrics do just that because they are measures that tell you how deep the social media pool really is. These counting metrics are typically the freebies offered by social media networks that quantify the basic observational statistics of participation. The stats include: number of users, number of fans, number of followers, number of posts, number of comments per post, number of check-ins, number of ratings, number of reviews…and so on. You quickly see that there’s numbers on top of numbers.

Yet, stopping at this point and using only counting metrics to measure and manage social media is not only just plain lazy, but also detrimental to your business. These metrics are important for gauging the health and activity of your social media operations, but they fail to tell you if you’re achieving your business goals. Counting metrics can offer insights into how many people are swimming and if the water is too cold, or just right. They can also tell you how many people you are reaching with your social media messages and if your content is worthy of passing on to their friends and followers. But, what counting metrics cannot tell you is who the lifeguards should be watching, and where management needs to focus their efforts. Thus, it’s imperative that you go beyond the counting metrics offered by social media platforms to formulate outcome metrics that constitute real measures of success.

Identifying Outcome Metrics for Social Media Measurement

Stepping away from the pool for a moment, I ask you to consider why you’re participating in social media in the first place. Are you working to build awareness for your new products or services? Do you want to initiate a dialogue with your customers to solicit their input on what you could be doing more effectively? Are you building goodwill with consumers by giving back through social media and encouraging philanthropy? Or, can you increase your profits by selling directly through social media platforms? The answers to these questions reveal the business outcomes that you should be working towards when participating in social media. It’s only when you have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish with your social media efforts that you can develop truly effective measures of success. If you can’t pinpoint why you’re participating in social media today, or if your answers are flimsy and won’t stand up to the scrutiny of executive leadership, I strongly advise that you stop everything and rethink your efforts.

However, if you have a strategic vision of what you’re trying to accomplish with social media, then developing your outcome metrics will become a much easier task. For example, if gaining exposure is the outcome that you are after, then metrics like reach, velocity, and share of voice will be extremely helpful in determining your progress toward this outcome. Similarly, if you’re working to foster a dialogue with customers, focus on metrics like audience engagement, key influencers, and trending topics. Or if cold hard cash is what you’re after, then metrics like social referral source, cost per acquisition, conversion rates, and average order value will illuminate progress toward your stated social media outcomes. Each of these metrics tells you how well you’re doing according to plan and reveals valuable business information.

Demonstrating Social Media Business Value

Now that you’re straight on using counting metrics for sizing up opportunities and outcome metrics for quantifying purpose, the next step is tying all this together to communicate your fabulous progress. To do this, you need to detach yourself from the metrics that you use everyday to manage your social operations and translate these granular metrics into more generalized business language. Think carefully about the things that matter to your organization and the stakeholders that oversee the business and communicate in ways that resonate with them. In most cases, this means aligning your business objectives with corporate goals. Demonstrate which social media channels are contributing to new customer acquisition, which are adding dollars to the corporate coffers, or which are elevating customer satisfaction. This takes some skill and corporate savvy to indoctrinate non-believers into the world of social media metrics, but it’s an entirely worthwhile endeavor that will pay dividends for your organization in the long run.

I’ve found that the most effective way to present a strategic plan and communicate your successes using metrics is to leverage a framework for social media measurement. The one I use includes an inside-out strategy that begins with corporate goals, then aligns business objectives, maps these to measures of success, and then extends out to operational tactics. Using this framework allows me to solicit feedback from stakeholders by actually including them in the planning process of developing social media programs. This encourages participation and gives everyone involved a vested interest in the success of social media endeavors. Ultimately, your social media metrics should build from the basic counting metrics to outcome-based objectives that wholly support your corporate goals. Once you have a solid plan and a strategic roadmap for how you’ll stitch this all together, then you’re ready to dive into the deep end of the social media pool.

Published on July 26, 2011 under Social Media Measurement

5 Social Media Secrets – M.Tech 2011

The folks over at Thoughtlead have put together what they’re calling a Digital Influence Collaborative. It’s innovative and exciting and a new way to consume content in microbursts. If you haven’t gotten wind of these events yet, you’re missing out.

They typically feature 60 influencers on 60 topics in 60 seconds. Topics vary from Social Media to Enterprise Marketing Management.

Here’s a mashed version of the one I delivered for Mtech 2011:

5 Secrets for LEARNING from Social Media

Published on June 7, 2011 under Events

Tweeting on Schedule

I’ve been playing around a bit with scheduling my Tweets and thought that I’d share some of my findings with you. But first, I’ll riff a bit on the fragility of this nascent channel and Twitter’s amazing rise to prominence as the 3rd largest social network in this universe. The figure I’m using for scale is 145 million registered users, which came straight from the Twitter CEO, Evan Williams back in November, 2010. But, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if another 55 million users joined in the past 5 months. That’s the number that’s being bandied about today.

With ad revenues estimated at $45 million and projections escalating at a 3x clip this year, Twitter is rocketing unequivocally skyward. The only problem with attaining massive growth with user populations rivaling the number of people residing in Brazil, is that Tweets are extremely perishable. If you aren’t watching, listening or searching for a Tweet, it’s highly likely that it will slip right past an entire country of users without ever being noticed. That’s a problem. It’s bad because it seriously erodes any value proposition of time or dollars invested in the channel. Thus, the argument for scheduling Tweets.

Researching Tweets

The best research I’m reading about Twitter is coming from Sysmos, where they continue to crank out valuable insights. Back in September, 2010, they found that the average lifespan of a Tweet is about an hour. Sysomos discovered that 92.4% of Retweets happen within one hour after publication and 96.9% of @replies occur within the first hour. This means if your Tweet isn’t circulated after 60 minutes, it’s likely a goner. Of course there are numerous tools that allow you to automate this process. And that’s what I’ve been exploring. Even the most pedestrian Twitter clients now allow you to schedule your 140 character missives for posting at a later time.

What are the drawbacks of scheduling Tweets?

Scheduling Tweets is a tenuous business. For the most part, you should be Tweeting to deliver good content, but also to initiate a dialogue with your followers. If you’re out on the golf course and your Tweets are generating a firestorm of activity, who’s going to respond? Be cognizant of this fact when scheduling Tweets, because if your Tweet gains velocity and lots of people hear it, you better be at the ready to engage. If not, you’ll quickly lose credence as a friendly human and instead come off looking like a bit of a bot yourself. For this reason alone, if you’re planning to schedule Tweets, do so with considered caution and release news or informative Tweets purely to gain exposure. You don’t want to provoke a dialogue when you’re not ready to interact.

Who offers Tweet scheduling?

This isn’t meant to be a full and comprehensive review of Tweet scheduling tools. These are just a few that I’ve used personally, and my observations of each. I look forward to hearing what you think about Tweet scheduling and which tools if any you use. I’ll commit to updating my list as you offer more…

    Tweetdeck – Ahh…my first real Twitter client and a darn good one at that. It’s iconic black interface offers de facto functionality and does so with a fine polish. (I’ve tried to use the “light” interface but just can’t make the switch). Tweetdeck is lightning fast with Tweets posted in real-time. But more to the point, they allow users to schedule Tweets in the future by simply selecting the date and time of your desired launch.

    Hootsuite – This little freemium gem is quickly becoming my go-to Twitter client. Despite their recent service outage (which wasn’t really their fault), It’s winning me over with the multi-tabbed interface, multi-user efficiency and slick stream views. Hootsuite allows users to pre-schedule Tweets as well, with the option to select the date and time and receive an email when your 140 character missive flies.

    Crowdbooster – I gained access to this product only recently and have been intrigued since my first login. This beauty not only allows you to schedule Tweets, but also recommends the best times to give a shout out. I really like that they deliver an explanation of why specific times are best for Tweeting based on when my followers are active and when I’ve gained the greatest reach. Crowdbooster also has the best charting I’ve seen yet from a Tweet scheduling interface that reveals which Tweets attained reach…and RT’s and @replies as well. I’m having fun with this freemium tool and may even upgrade.

    Timely.is – Here’s an interesting new app, that I learned about recently. It uses an algorithm to Tweet when your message is likely to reach the largest audience. Currently, they don’t provide any visibility into how they make this determination, but you can override it by forcing the Tweet to send within the next 30minutes. While they do offer a few cheesy “suggested” tweets, this tool is a product of Flowtown and I’ve been waiting to see what these guys bring out of their private beta. This is definitely one to watch.

    Buffer – Buffer offers a slick user interface allowing users to schedule Tweets across a number of recommended times. It has links to the Bit.ly API, but requires premium access to utilize this function. Yet, the free version delivers solid capabilities and collaboration functions for adding additional team members. Perhaps the easiest function is the Chome browser extension that enables you to schedule a Tweet directly from a webpage. This makes scheduling convenient and will be helpful in getting to word out on those juicy bits you discover during non-peak times.

    LaterBro – Yo, bro…I haven’t actually tried this one yet, but its interface is simple and clean. I trust it works just fine for planning ahead.

Since drafting this blog post has taken beyond my optimal Tweeting window, I’m signing off now. But before I do, here’s a few more Tweet schedulers that I haven’t tried yet. I’m sure there’s a whole lot more too.

  • DynamicTweets
  • FutureTweets
  • Garious
  • SocialOomph
  • TwAitter
  • Tweet-u-Later
  • TwitResponse
  • Twuffer
  • What do you use for scheduling Tweets and what do you like about it? Curious minds want to know.

    Published on April 27, 2011 under Social Media Measurement

    U-Slurping Influence

    I’ve noticed something recently that appears to be a burgeoning trend, and I don’t like it. Startups dangling the promise of exclusivity and early admission to their private beta parties in exchange for wielding your influence to “Spread the Word”. Pssst…”The more friends you invite, the sooner you’ll get access!” C’mon! If your product is good, people are going to use it and talk about it. Don’t patronize me with your bad Charlie Sheen references and generic html. This is lazy social media marketing in my opinion. And its a tactic that I won’t pander to.

    However, it’s not nearly as bad as hitting submit on a digital form only to realize that the teeny-tiny checkbox in the bottom left hand corner, yeah…the one you didn’t UN-check?? Well, they opted you right into Tweeting to your entire following that you just signed up for the latest whatever on Twitter. These sneaky little broadcast methods are cheap trix and I say you marketers should be ashamed of yourselves.

    I’ll keep this rant short, but influence is and will be a contributing factor in the success of many social marketing activities. Yet, as with all things social, leveraging influence must be genuine. Blatant solicitation of influence is only adding to the derision of influencer metrics and the narcissists who work to game the system. The real value of your influencers will pay dividends when they choose to talk about your products and services unprovoked. Doing it otherwise is a surefire way to usurp the power of the influencers you’re trying to enlist.

    Published on April 22, 2011 under Social Media Measurement

     


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    You can contact Web Analytics Demystified day or night via email or by reaching out to one of our Partners directly.

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