Is Social Media Encouraging Narcissism?

I’m a little worried about us. At first I was really psyched to see a tweet about my friend and business partner Eric appearing the the WSJ for his not-so-small side project, Twitalyzer. I eagerly clicked through from Tweetdeck to read all about the great strides that Twitalyzer was making in the marketplace only to be massively disappointed by the article, Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers. This article is all about gaming the social system to increase influence scores from services like Klout and Twitalyzer and to personally benefit from doing so. Is this what we’re training kids to aspire towards today?

Have you Googled yourself lately…?

Okay, just admit it. At one point of another you’ve typed your own name into to Google just to see what shows up. Or perhaps, if you’re like me you’ve even created a proactive alert that informs you every time you or your business is mentioned in media outlets? It’s not that I’m vain, but I want to know when something or someone publishes about me or about our brand. Isn’t this the cost of putting yourself out there today? Social media has accelerated this exponentially.

I don’t fault people like the ones described in the WSJ article for working to improve their social influence scores as long as they’re genuine. It’s smart to understand how rankings are formulated and how you can improve your scores. That makes the difference between individuals who are building their personal brands with an entrepreneurial drive and those who simply aren’t tuned in enough to know how. Done right, that’s commendable. But understanding the system and rigging it to your favor is potentially where we’re headed in this age of social media. It’s an environment where your potential employer will check your Facebook page prior to extending that job offer; and they definitely will follow your Tweets after that offer is extended; and you can bet on the fact that they’ll be watching your social escapades after you’re hired to ensure that you don’t misconstrue ideas that are yours alone with those of your employer. Or heaven forbid you’re passed over for a consulting job because of a low Twitalyzer score, like the story Shel Israel foretells. But, this is business today, I just wonder if we’re encouraging an unhealthy level of narcissism?

What’s your Social Media Credit Score…?

One of the topics I’ve been researching lately is Social Media Profile Management. This started with the whitepaper that I authored for Unica called, True Profiles: A Contemporary Method for Managing Customer Data (download the paper next week) where I explored what it takes to integrate data streams from disparate sources. Yet, while that’s happening on the business side, consumers are in desperate need of managing their own social profiles. Services like Rapleaf, PeerIndex, Klout and Twitalyzer all reinforce the need to know how you’re portrayed as an individual in social circles and how much personal information about you is floating around out there.

Brian Solis talks about this as well in his compelling Lift presentation where he describes the sociology and psychology behind what we do in social media. He mentions that debt collectors are now visiting individual’s Facebook pages to track them down and sometimes publicly humiliate them into paying their debts. That’s absolutely frightening! But it’s a reality of the world we live in.

Managing your social credit score is important and undoubtedly we’ll see a burgeoning slew of services like Identity Mixer and others that allow you to manage what appears in the databases of companies like Spokeo.com and whitepages.com for all to see. You’re already being indexed, ranked and reported on whether you like it or not. I just can’t help from wondering if the way we (or at least some people) operate with the aid social profile management technologies is disingenuous?

What Should You Recommend To Your Business…?

Those of you who know anything about Web Analytics Demystified recognize that we’re not ones to take data and simply gaze at it in wonderment. We use data to make recommendations. More importantly, we encourage you to do this as well. So for all the measurers of social media out there, take into deep consideration the value you place on influence. I do believe that it’s a meaningful metric and I am optimistic about < foreshadowing > new developments on the horizon from Social Analytics vendors in this area < /foreshadowing >, yet you have to understand what your metrics are made of and how they’re calculated.

That’s the thing that irked me most about the WSJ article was that it implied in the subtitle that all the vendors out there keep their influence rankings secret. Twitalyzer doesn’t do this, in fact they expose all of the factors that go into their calculated metrics for all to see. While some metrics within the Twitalyzer dashboard do rely on scores from other technologies like PeerIndex and Klout, they’re labeled as such with nothing secret about them. I’m not bringing this up to tout the greatness of Twitalyzer, but more so to call out the fact that transparency in the metrics you use and rely on is critically important.

Hopefully, most of you are migrating away from counting measures like fans and followers that offer little more than a measure from an uncalibrated yardstick and adopting business value metrics that actually mean something to your organization. If you are working toward this end — and if influence is a measure that will factor into your marketing efforts — then take the time to see through inflated scores and popularity hounds that are gaming the system. It’s likely that you don’t want these people doing your bidding anyhow. Instead, use measures of success like Impact to correlate influence to action. When you begin to look at your social marketing efforts in this way, you may just find that those with the most “popular” profiles aren’t actually good for your business.

Published on February 11, 2011 under Social Media Measurement

The Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics

The Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics is a reality! This Code represents an industry effort to promote ethical data practices and treat consumer data with the respect and attention it deserves.

I’m writing this on the eve before the official launch announcement of the Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics here at the WAA Symposium in Austin Texas. As you can see in the video above, this effort is the culmination of a ton of hard work by a community of contributors.

Yet, the conversation isn’t a new one. My partner Eric has been writing about the fact that We are our own worst enemy since August and our internal conversations about privacy regulation and public opinion of tracking practices have been going on long before that. The issue received mainstream attention from the Wall Street Journal in their What They Know series, which took a bias view in our opinion. Anything that starts out with the phrase; Marketers are spying on Internet users… is FUD in my opinion.

So, in September of last year we decided to do something about it. I must say that Eric never fails to amaze me in his ability to make things happen, because not 24 hours after our conversation about launching a Code of Ethics, he had one drafted and in my inbox. We decided that the best avenue for getting this code out to the community was to work in conjunction with the WAA, where I am a member of the board. Thus, I shopped it around to my fellow board members and we all agreed that it was something that our industry needed. The issue was brought before the WAA Standards Committee and a sub-committee was formed to hash out the details. And the Code was offered to the community for public comment. After numerous iterations and literally dozens of comments and contributors, we arrived at the final Code you see here.

It’s important to recognize that this Code is a pledge for individuals and not organizations. We created it as such because we know that not every individual will be able to enforce policy within their company, but every individual can inform and educate their peers. Yet, as we state in the pledge itself, “I recognize that we are far stronger as a community…”. And this effort is about a community showing it’s commitment to ethical data collection and utilization practices.

Momentum for this project has been incredible thus far, but our work is far from over. It’s just beginning. Like any good analyst, I’ve created goals and success metrics for the code of ethics that I’ll be tracking and reporting on over time. The video above is the first effort to share a glimpse of the metrics, but ultimately I’m shooting for the following goals:

    1) Gain 1,000 Pledges to the Code of Ethics in 2011
    2) Attract mainstream media attention to this community effort within the first 90 days of launch (e.g., recognition by @WhatTheyKnow)
    3) Ensure that our collective voice is heard by legislators and policy makers before regulation is forced upon us

Let us know what you think about the Code of Ethics here by leaving comments and joining the conversation. Or simply show your support by pledging to follow the Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics.

Published on January 24, 2011 under Change Agent, General Web Analytics

The Privacy Apogee

The biggest topic that you will grapple with in 2011 is consumer privacy. We are at the most liberal and lenient point of consumer privacy in the history of time. It’s primarily because digital data is spewed by consumers with each click, like, Tweet, share, and update with reckless abandon. Consumers are barely aware of the digital footprints they’re creating and we don’t know how to handle it. There are no rules here.

Consumers are racing to new digital medium at breakneck speeds to be early adopters of the next best thing and are literally addicted to digital. Our obsession is so ravenous that almost half of smartphone users will wake up in the middle of the night to check for digital updates. It’s not their fault really, in fact I include myself in this frantic race to get the newest browser, the latest app, or to connect with nearly anyone who asks. Heck, I downloaded the Owner’s Manual to a Hyundai on my iPad within seconds of watching a TV commercial just because I could. I have no idea what data Hyundai now has on me and if or when I’ll start receiving ads or emails containing must-have offers for a car that I probably won’t ever buy (although it looks sweet!). My point is that we’re on the precipice of a substantive change in the way that consumer data is collected and utilized. If we (and by “we” I mean we digital measurers, organizations and institutions) don’t get our acts together in the first quarter of Q1 then we will have regulation forced upon us.

In my opinion, the number one most critical component for even getting off the ground with privacy protection is education. We must educate consumers, organizations, developers and governments to have a meaningful conversation about privacy. If we fall short of that, ignorance about how data is collected, how it’s used, and who uses it, will continue to be vilified by consumers and media sources that don’t know What they Know.

To that end, I’m working on a concept that I’m calling the Privacy Apogee.

Those of you who are up to speed on your celestial mechanics will know that an apogee reflects the furthest point of orbit from earth. What I seek to explore is the farthest point of ethical data collection from a consumer. My working diagram above depicts your average consumer at the epicenter of privacy and the way we track his digital activities using technology that extends from innocuous to invasive. My plan is to flesh out this concept with current tracking capabilities and potential consumer benefits. Moreover, I intend to create a blueprint for accountability. Ultimately the goal is to produce an infographic that conveys several things:

    For consumers – The Privacy Apogee will illustrate data tracking capabilities that exist today and highlight some of the benefits of opting-in to these tracking practices.

    For developers – It will offer guidance on what methods of data to collect and how to communicate data collection, storage and utilization practices in clear language.

    For organizations – The Privacy Apogee will illustrate just how far – is too far – by showing what’s technically possible and what’s morally ethical.

In creating this work, I hope to educate and inform the masses by offering a public service that will open some eyes to the critical imperative for self-regulation before we have governmental mandates forced upon us. The Privacy Apogee will illustrate current technological capabilities for tracking consumers’ digital actions and offer both positive and negative repercussions of those actions.

So back to you Captain Blackbeak…I’m listening and this is what I’m doing to create change. It’s a change in perception. A change in education. And a change in direction for our industry. But like you, I cannot do this alone and need the support and mindshare of our industry. With the help of my partner Eric and the industry #measure pros out there my goal is to crowd source this idea to ensure that I’ve fully considered the technology capabilities and the benefits of tracking practices, So I need your help. The Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics is one part of this, but I’ll be working to define the pros and cons of data collection and the methods by which we accomplish our task. Stay tuned for more, as this is just the beginning…

But in the meantime, what do you think?

Published on December 27, 2010 under Web 2.0

Santa Puts Aprimo Under the Tree!

2011 is shaping up to be the year of big marketing. And luckily for us measurers, smart marketing is founded in data and measurement. With IBM’s recent acquisition rampage and now Teradata’s plans to buy Aprimo, there is unprecedented choice for integrated enterprise marketing solutions. Teradata announced today it’s intentions to buy the Enterprise Marketing Management leader for $525M with a closing date anticipated for sometime in Q1 2011. It’s a smart move in my opinion because the days of big data management and the ability to harness the consumer data firehose for elevated marketing are upon us.

On the executive briefing this morning, I pointed a question by asking if this acquisition was a response to IBM’s recent buying spree and the answer was a definitive no. Bill Godfrey, Aprimo’s Chief Executive Officer, quickly pointed out that Aprimo’s technology set covers 8 categories and that only one competes directly with the IBM/Unica offering. He iterated, “This is not a copy-cat move” with mild umbrage. Mr. Godfrey went on to eloquently explain that the merger pursues an independent strategy that brings a unified platform covering a very broad end-to-end spectrum of functionality. While the story sounded familiar, it’s a good one. It leverages the database storage and business analytics capabilities of Teradata and layers the marketing management and operations proficiency of Aprimo on top. This enterprise-ready integrated solution fuels a marketers’ paradise where insights are churned from data, which pumps intelligent life into automated marketing. All this happens within a closed-loop system that improves over time. Sounds rosy doesn’t it? To paraphrase Teradata’s CMO Darryl McDonald, “The combined solution will help accelerate revenue generating campaigns and leverage data for strategic insights and quick response.

Keep in mind that this isn’t entirely new territory for Teradata who has been offering marketing products to its customers for some time. With IWI (Integrated Web Intelligence) and TRM (Teradata Relationship Manager), it’s already servicing digital data integration and intelligent marketing to it’s customers. Yet, it will be interesting to see how many existing clients and new organizations adopt this complete functionality. My hunch is that this stack is not for the feint of heart nor the bootstrapped organization. It will work best with deeply integrated datasets, stored within big iron and activated using some complex Marketing Resource Management capabilities. All things that both Teradata and Aprimo excel at. But fair warning: Mom & Pop shops need not apply. However, if you’re a large enterprise looking to accelerate your marketing prowess, then this may be the solution you’ve had on your wish list all these years.

While integrating these technologies may take a while, and the promise of an end-to-end solution is no trivial pledge, I’m bullish on the deal. This is a step forward for marketers because it has the potential to deliver the ERP system they never had. It still doesn’t cover everything, but the combined solution sure does handle some critical moving parts.

Congrats to everyone at Aprimo for building an attractive offering and to Teradata for recognizing it. And Happy Holidays to all!

Published on December 22, 2010 under Web Analytics Tools

Phew…!

Phew. It’s been crazy weeks for me lately. At the moment, we just put up the tree, kids are all quiet and I’m drinking a glass of red. It’s one of the rare moments these days that I have in solace…and it’s gone…the littlest one is squirmy with hiccups.

Okay, I’m back. Made a bottle and made the hand off to Mommy. I haven’t blogged in a long while and there so much to say but I just haven’t had time. So here’s the johnlovett highlight reel for Fall 2010:

  • We welcomed a new baby into our home. And that makes three. Three boys that is. I always thought the jump from one kid to two was really no problem. But, I can tell you that increasing the number of kids another 33% 50% is a big jump indeed. [The 33% designates the percentage of quantitative reasoning skills I've lost in the past month.] Our house is busier than ever with an 18-month old climbing the walls and an eldest brother at five running the show. Everybody is happy and healthy so I’m immensely grateful for the lack of sleep and craziness.
  • I’m writing a book for Wiley on Social Media Metrics. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve got the story in my head and know what I want to write, yet cranking out 40 page chapters every other week is really tough. I’m nearly half way through my manuscript and I love the way its coming together. Although, if you’ve got a social analytics story of smashing success, miserable failure or sheer brilliance, I’d love to talk with you. I could always use more.
  • My business is off-the-charts busy. Looking back on twelve months since joining Demystified and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a great year and the work I’m doing is motivating me to maintain work-a-holic proportions. Since Labor Day I spent 8 weeks on the road visiting clients, working on changing our industry and speaking at events from coast to coast with a business trip to Italy as a big November finale. I made it home with four days to spare before the baby was born. Whew.
  • And I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Who knew that chaos could be so rewarding? I always knew this was the case, but I love my job and I truly love the #measure industry. As measurers of digital medium, our roles are about to become indispensable. We’re on the precipice of a big data explosion and we’ll have the skills to float to the top. Big data is going to rush like a flood over enterprises and marketers alike and we measurers will be ready to slice and dice our way to sensibility. I like our chances.

More to follow on all these topics as I’m working three concurrent projects, writing two white papers and working through book chapters at present… Oh, and it’s my turn to change diapers, so I’m out.

Talk to y’all soon.
John

Published on December 16, 2010 under Events

My Letter To The C-Suite

The following originally posted in Exact Target’s 10 Ideas To Turn Into Results report. It’s part of their Letters to the C-Suite Series and this is my letter…

To The Executive Team:

Do you even know who your customers are anymore? Chances are, you probably don’t. You
catch fleeting glimpses of them as they open your emails or pop onto your website for a quick
visit. You might even momentarily engage with them when they drop into your store to browse
around or see your products firsthand. Or maybe you meet them ever so briefly as they feign
interest in your brand by “liking” something you posted on Facebook.

If you’re doing it right, your business is collecting feedback across many customer
touch points.

But you only really hear them when they shout from the rooftops, irate and full of vim. That’s
probably where you begin to learn what’s on their minds. But do you even know that it’s the
same person who was showing you all that love during your last promotion? Probably not.
In actuality, few companies really know their customers. Whether your customers are end
users or other businesses, how they interact with your brand, where they discover new
information, and how they communicate is changing at an astounding rate. Customers
are increasingly unaffected by traditional marketing conventions, and their tolerance for
redundant messaging, static content, and conflicting brand information is nonexistent. They
don’t see your organization like you do—in departmentalized silos of categories, products,
business units, and operating divisions. To them, you’re just that brand they either love, hate,
or treat with ambivalence. That is, until you knock their socks off by impressing them with your
service, support, and relevance. Yet, to really deliver value to your customers, you need to get
to know them. This starts by remembering the interactions you have with them and building
off of these activities.

Digital communication is the new reality, and treating customers through digital channels is
synonymous with how you’d treat someone you meet in person. Listen to what they’re saying
and respond with appropriate dialog. But most importantly, remember these things (because
upon your next conversation, your customer might just remember you):

• Your memory of customers exists at the database level.

• By maintaining customer profiles and appending them with attributes that contain history,
activity, and propensity (among other things), you can truly begin to have meaningful
interactions.

• To do this effectively, the database must contain information from all your touch points.

This includes transactional systems, web analytics, call centers, mobile devices, social
media, ATMs, stores, email systems, and whatever else you’re using to reach out.
Bringing your data together through integrations enables you to achieve a holistic picture of
your customers. A little scared by this? Well, you should be. Customer behaviors are going to
fundamentally change the way you engage with your audience. If you’re not equipped, they’re
going to take their conversations (and their wallets) elsewhere. By integrating your data, you
open opportunities for new customer dialogs.

Take my word for it—it’s happening NOW.

Your Agent For Change,
John Lovett



Published on October 22, 2010 under Analytics Culture, Change Agent

Acquisitions Aplenty! comScore Buys Nedstat

We’re certainly on an acquisition hot roll here in our cozy little measurement industry. This week marked yet another buy-up of a web analytics company, Netherlands based Nedstat, was acquired by comScore. The sale price was reported at $36.7 million USD, which brings the tally of measurement buy-outs including the $1.8 billion dollar Omniture acquisition last year to nearly $2.5 billion dollars by my count. Those are some good multiples on revenue since my Forrester Web Analytics Forecast didn’t peg market spending to hit even $1 billion until sometime in 2015. Granted Omniture, Unica and to some extent Coremetrics were offering more than just web analytics in their product portfolios. But regardless, measurement technologies are all the rage these days and finally, big businesses are taking note of the value of web analytics.

Foreshadowing

Some might say that comScore and Nedstat, while serving similar industries for different purposes, were running on parallel paths and that an acquisition was a plausible outcome. But before I dive into that hypothesis, first I’ll toot my own horn by mentioning that I went on record predicting this one. The good fellas at Beyond Web Analytics interviewed me on the topic of market consolidation just after the IBM acquisition of Unica and we had a good chat about it here on the podcast. The closing question asked me to look into my crystal ball and guess who would be the next acquirer in the analytics market. While I didn’t guess that it would be comScore, I did speculate that there are some very interesting and valuable technologies that exist in Europe. I mentioned both Webtrekk in Germany and Nedstat as companies that would make appealing acquisition targets. Clearly comScore must have been listening (c’mon, I jest). But one of my clients across the pond also mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Nedstat’s CEO was quoted in a German newspaper as saying that there is no longer a place for a dedicated web analytics company in this environment. I’ve been saying this since early 2009, but coming from a chief officer of a successful technology operation…Foreshadowing indeed.

The Red Herring

So, bright and early on morning of the acquisition my friend Jodi McDermott reached out to me on the news by pointing out the press release on the deal and I owe her a big thanks for that. When we spoke later that morning along with Magid Abraham, comScore founder and CEO the first question Jodi asked me was…”Were you surprised?”. Now, the dirty little secret is that analysts can never show surprise, but heck yeah I was surprised that comScore was the buyer!?! I didn’t anticipate comScore because of their Unified Digital Measurement (UDM) solution which currently handles over 500 billion transactions per month and is growing rapidly. So, they already had their own tag based measurement solution. Additionally, just under a year ago comScore announced a strategic partnership with Omniture to deliver a newly created Media Metrix 360 solution predicated on UDM that would leverage a hybrid combination of Omniture page tags and comScore’ panel based measurement.

It was brilliant actually, and demonstrated the first significant attempt to bring together advertising measurement with site-side data. Yet, just a month after this partnership was announced, Omniture was snatched up by Adobe, and I can only speculate that the momentum on the partnership was stymied. Don’t get me wrong, Media Metrix 360 still exists, and clients like Martha Stewart and the Wall Street Journal add marquee status to the initiative. Thus, I would expect that comScore will support Media Metrix 360 by continuing the partnership with Adobe’s Omniture Business Unit as well as continue development on their own proprietary solution. Whatever they choose to do, these efforts – their own hybrid UDM tags and the Omniture relationship – created a red herring for me that had me looking elsewhere. Now the real question is… Was Nielson surprised and how will they counter? Sorry friends, my crystal ball is not that good.

The Plot Twister

I saved the best for last because here’s where the plot starts to get really interesting. comScore has stated that its acquisition interests in Nedstat are to better serve the media and publishing industries. Web analytics and site-side measurement has long been focused on the transaction and sites that don’t have traditional online transactions are left to quantify success by custom fitting solutions to meet their needs. With most web analytics solutions you’re forced to follow the conversion funnel through to a transaction (or not) and attempt tie things together or launch remarketing efforts from there. But when there’s no transaction at the end of the visit, then many traditional web metrics have very little resonance to the business.

Nedstat has long been focused on key topics like engagement and rich media measurement – metrics that matter to publishers. Now with the acquisition by comScore who has a stronghold within many media companies (not to mention a reserved line item in their budgets) they can create a very different value proposition for media companies looking to quantify metrics for their advertisers as well as optimize the experience for their visitors. I tend to agree with Magid who stated that this new paradigm for publishers is likely to create a natural segmentation in the market. With stalwart web analytics firms (albeit in their current incarnations) Omniture, Coremetrics and Unica are working towards an analytical system that feeds marketing automation. Now we’ve got the potential for something entirely different.

For these reasons I’m bullish on the acquisition. We have a new opportunity for web analytics where site-side measurement meets audience (panel based) measurement. It’s the collision course that many have been talking about. And it sets the stage for propelling measurement into next generation devices, apps and mobile platforms that don’t have transactional elements. It’s still too soon to say how this will play out, but I applaud Magid, Gian and the comScore team on their vision for creating a new measurement paradigm. And a big congrats goes out to Michael, Michiel, Fred, Ulrike and the entire Nedstat team for building a globally attractive solution. Bravo.

But these are just my thoughts…I may be way off…I may be crazy. Readers, do you agree that this new duo can impact enterprise measurement on a new level? I’d love to know what others think.

Published on September 2, 2010 under Web Analytics Tools

IBM buys Unica in $480M Deal

So the beauty of one public company buying another is that they usually hold an analyst call to explain the rationale. Props to IBM for holding this call just two short hours after the news broke and for giving a few of us a chance to pepper them with tough questions. On this call, Craig Hayman, General Manager of IBM Business Solutions (within the IBM Software Solutions Group) and Yuchun Lee, Founder and CEO of Unica shared an insiders’ perspective on the deal. In fact, Craig even shared the code name “Amaru” which was his secret squirrel moniker for referring to the deal internally before it was done.

So here’s the scoop.

The IBM acquisition of Unica was largely driven by a recognized need for enterprises to get closer to their customers by understanding their experiences and interactions across a broad network of channels and customer touch points. They’ll accomplish this by using analytics technologies, building single view profiles of customers and delivering marketing process improvements.

Sounds a little like markety-speak doesn’t it? Well, regardless it’s still a pretty good story and one that I hope IBM is able to pull off. It’s actually similar to the one that Adobe told after the Omniture acquisition with perhaps more of an automation spin.

What does this mean for Web Analytics?

When Joe Stanhope of Forrester fame deftly asked how IBM planned to rationalize the overlap between NetInsight and the recent Coremetrics acquisition, the response was dominated by the word “synergies” which they see a lot of between these firms. Yuchun rightly went on to describe NetInsight as only one product in the Unica portfolio and that Coremetrics and Netinsight served different segments within the web analytics market. He explained that NetInsight has strength in the on premise solution market (which they do) and that their ability to leverage web analytics within an online datamart was also differentiated (while not entirely unique to the market at large, it’s true when compared to Coremetrics. NetInsight uses a relational database construct for storing and accessing clickstream data). Yuchun also pointed out that Coremetrics has strength when it comes to collecting high volume, high transaction data. This is a result of Coremetrics robust infrastructure that they’ve been building to collect and deliver this data at scale without incurring exorbitant expenses (and they were doing a damn good job of this).

All in all, the comments about the synergies concluded by stating that both tools would accelerate the benefits of deep customer insights for IBM’s clients. None the less, it will be very interesting to wait and see which features and functions emerge from a combined solution of two web analytics powerhouses.

What does this mean for IBM?

As much as I’d like to think that analytics is the epicenter of the business world, this deal is about multi-channel campaign management and marketing automation. IBM is without question on a buying spree. They snatched up SPSS, Coremetrics, DataCap, Sterling Commerce and now Unica in short order. Presumably this is all part of IBM’s strategic growth plan that earmarked a whopping $20 billion for acquisitions through 2015. But from a web analytics perspective, this acquisition didn’t occur because of the NetInsight product. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the technology, but Unica’s campaign automation solutions and interactive marketing prowess within the marketplace surely made them a tasty morsel for IBM to gobble.

The newly acquired Unica technology will sit within the Software Group business – or more specifically – IBM Software Solutions Group. Yuchun will own the BU within the software solutions group. And this group also holds Websphere Commerce, Coremetrics, Cognos and about a bazillion other software solutions. But as we learned on the call today, Craig Hayman will work to build out frameworks and the connections between these multitude of solutions.

What does this mean for clients?

So, when I look at the big picture, my speculation is that IBM is furthering the bifurcation of the marketplace in yet another direction that separates the “haves” from the “have nots”. What I mean by this is slightly different from what Eric described in his bifurcation of analytics market as a separation of tools based on the level of experience for each user. He puts technologies like Adobe Omniture’s Discover and Coremetrics’ Explore into the exclusive camp of highly skilled analysts who are capable of performing true analysis on digital data sets. The rest of the population is left with simpler, yet still capable tools (not meant in a disparaging way) like Google Analytics that are intuitive and require little training to begin garnering insights. While I agree with Eric, a new twist in this divide can also be developing on a financial level.

As we know, Google Analytics is free and enterprise analytics can quickly run into six – even seven – digit figures in a hurry. My thoughts on this financial divide and IBM’s perpetuation of it stem from Sam Palmisano’s scoff at the notion of consumer technologies dominating the enterprise. Clearly the IBM acquisition moves dictate that a set of tools designed for the professional marketer will be vastly different from the solutions accessible to consumers on the street. Thus, I see this as yet another wedge in the bifurcated divide between large enterprises, the ones that typically purchase software from the likes of IBM, Oracle, and SAS, and small and mid-sized companies who are forced to use a different toolset primarily because of price.

So at first blush, if you’re a big enterprise this all sounds pretty good. IBM and Unica join forces, which isn’t too much of a stretch as there’s also some history here…IBM is a Unica customer using campaign management, marketing resource management and other services to bring about a “marketing transformation” within their own organization (at least that’s how Craig Hayman put it). And Unica has also been OEM’ing IBM solutions for some time. The acquisition extends the growth trajectory that Unica was already on and helps to bring together IBM’s end-to-end story that they call “Blue Washing” (Err…hope that code word was okay for public consumption).

But, the acquisition also acts as a good milestone for IBM who is assembling all the key ingredients for a leading enterprise solution – Sterling Commerce is connecting to the back end – Coremetrics offers deep insights into customer behavior and segments – and now Unica delivers a marketing management solution. It’s hard to argue that they’re not connecting a very compelling story for marketing professionals.

Yet, if you’re a mid-sized business or even a small organization…the IBM “Blueness” may have just distanced itself even further into the stratosphere.

Published on August 13, 2010 under Web Analytics Tools

Webtrends Acquires Transpond: Analytics, Meet Apps

The burning question on many a web analyst’s mind today is likely…Who is Transpond? That’s the question I asked when I first learned of Webtrends’ plan to acquire the San Francisco based application development platform vendor.

Today the acquisition closed and word is out. At first glance, this may sound like a left turn for web analytics and perhaps it is. But in my mind it’s an interesting acquisition that’s headed in a positive direction. It also demonstrates that Webtrends isn’t afraid to make bold moves and assert its innovative position in the social analytics realm.

Transpond_blog_copy

The History

Transpond was founded in 2007 as iWidgets, back when widgets were all the rage (here’s a view from the Wayback Machine). The company got off the ground with a $4M investment in early 2009, but found that they were limited by their chosen iWidgets moniker and went through a rebranding exercise in the Summer 2009 to become Transpond. All the while, they’ve been providing application development tools for companies to build and deliver apps on mobile devices like the iPhone or Android, web platforms like Facebook and even TV apps for connected televisions. Transpond offers do-it-yourself development of applications such as quizzes, polls, games and interactive commerce for distribution across multiple digital channels. They also provide development support if you’re looking for some expert dev resources to really make your apps sing. Under the new ownership of Webtrends all of these capabilities will be folded into the Webtrends Apps offering and presumably reporting will become available within the Webtrends Analytics 9 interface.

What’s in it for Webtrends?

So, you may be asking yourself, why is Webtrends interested in this company? Well, the way I see it, Webtrends is tuned into the fact that more and more organizations are developing content that will live and breathe off-site. That is, apps that are not contained within your primary web presence. Whether it’s on a mobile phone, Facebook or the next new platform, users are interacting with your content and each other off-site. That’s a domain that web analytics has traditionally not been able to capture without some fancy footwork because most web analytics solutions rely on tracking contained within the pages of your primary web sites. While tracking within apps is not new either, this acquisition opens up the possibility of integrating behavior with applications that exist off your site into the data soup that is digital analytics. It’s really a logical extension of the analytics technology.

Why is this Cool?

What’s also really appealing about this technology from a development perspective is that the platform allows company’s to build apps and deliver them across multiple platforms in a consistent manner. Thus the ability to build it once and delivery to many, in whatever format they choose to consumer the content. Plus, when you bake in measurement and analytics to the apps, then you really have a means to evaluate interaction and compare across channels.

While this is certainly a new direction for web analytics acquisitions, I for one like the purchase and look forward to seeing Webtrends execute on the delivery of this new solution. Webtrends has the distinction of being one of the first pioneers in web analytics out there and also as the last independent vendor left standing. I’m pleased to see that this old dog ain’t afraid to learn new tricks.

Congratulations go out to Alex, Casey, Justin and the Webtrends team on the innovative move and to Peter Yared and Charles Christolini of Transpond for closing the deal.

Published on August 10, 2010 under Web Analytics Tools

Web’s Goldmine – or – Consumer Jackpot?

This weekend the Wall Street Journal produced a well researched article called The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets. Apparently, it’s the first in a series of articles about Internet tracking practices. It’s entirely informative and chock full of quotes, anecdotes, video and interesting visuals. I highly recommend giving this article a read if you subscribe to the WSJ, or encourage you to join the discussion on their blog. However, I take serious issue with the bias inherent within this first article. The author, Julia Angwin uses phraseology like “the business of spying on consumers”, and “…details about her, all to be put up for sale for a tenth of a penny”. Clearly, the conclusion drawn by the author and presented to readers is that tracking solutions are spawned from malice. I vehemently disagree.

While, it’s true that some tracking can be used for devious function, the majority of uses are fully anonymous and serve to benefit end users exponentially. The reality is that media fragmentation, facilitated by the Internet, has forced advertisers to compete for our attention. To do this, they’re hocking their wares in a significantly more relevant way. By serving up advertising content that’s based on activity, propensity and preference, they are saving us from the irrelevant fire hose of most advertising. Without being coarse, I find that the fact that some consumers are self-conscious and sensitive to advertising that’s targeted to their browsing activity as trivial. It’s trivial compared to the the benefits that targeting delivers to the rest of us.

I’ve got more to say on this topic, a lot more in fact, but I’ll stop short for now. My closing thought is that, while the author of the Web’s New Goldmine may see the art and science of tracking as a boon for advertisers… I see it as a significant win for consumers. A jackpot perhaps. I hope and expect that my online and offline interactions with brands will get increasingly better and more relevant as my interactions continue. Tracking will enable this to happen. But, that’s just me…I’d love to know what you think.

Published on August 1, 2010 under General Web Analytics, Web 2.0

 


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