28
Apr 12

Why Isn’t Digital Marketing Doing More?

Having been in the trenches of the digital industry for a few years now, I’m starting to note that my optimism has begun to slow a bit. Based on general industry observations and recent conversations I’ve been having  the feeling that the industry has begun to slow down has started to fall on me.  As a specialty that often touts itself as game changing and disruptive I feel we haven’t been pushing enough of those boundaries lately.

Time To Demand Better!

Recently Facebook insights was down for nearly a week and this was the second time this year alone that this has happened. The biggest shocker for me has been that this didn’t make news at all and no one really spoke out about it. Instead everyone went on their way and hoped that Facebook would get to eventually fixing this problem. When we are looking to provide data and insights to our clients how is this acceptable?

From what I’ve observed, social networks and tool suppliers haven’t been doing a lot to really push the envelope. We haven’t gotten any closer to understanding our fans. We don’t have a better understanding of what our initiatives deliver. More often instead I feel we are left with ambiguity. The reason this isn’t changing is because we aren’t making it clear about what we want. As an industry we haven’t been putting any pressure on our suppliers who are instead themselves setting the agenda.

Demanding Better Of Ourselves!

As practitioners I feel we could push the envelope more as well. The race for fans still continues and we have yet to come to the determination of when we  don’t need any more fans! In terms of engagement we understand how people engage but we aren’t delving much deeper into why. To build better results we are asking people that follow us to “Like” or “Share” but we aren’t developing any better understanding of whether messaging resonates with our fan base or even if who we are advertising to are really the right people at all.

Looking Outside The Walls:

My feeling is that a lot of the time as individual firms we are looking to build our own buzz and aren’t bringing anything useful back to the industry. When I read the latest article from Ad Age or Mashable I’m rarely excited or blown away by a firm’s latest research report. Truthfully I’ve been more excited by what’s come out of the realms of academia and development.

When I’m reading academic journal articles such as “Consumer’s decision to shop online: The moderating role of positive informational social influence” or “Consumer Tribes: membership, consumption and building loyalty” that’s when I sit back and think ‘Wow that’s one more piece of understanding I have about how people work!”. With more resources and less hurdles to go through I don’t understand why we aren’t able to continually deliver ground breaking consumer research.

Time for Personal Reflection:

A potential problem with writing a post like this is that just about anyone can yell out “hypocrite!” and ask what I’m contributing. What I would have to say is that in the early part of this year I’ve been looking at ways at expanding my skill set and strengthening the work I do.  This year I don’t plan to read any of the countless social media books that have come out. Instead my goal has been to read more on topics outside the industry such as branding and research. Something I’ve also been spending a lot of time on lately is work in the social listening realm. I’ve been more active in asking questions on how things operate on the tool side and on developing stronger methodologies internally.

So this is my rant and a bit of a call to arms for digital marketing practitioners of all stripes. We’ve promised that what we do is ground breaking and innovative, let’s make sure that this is what we actually deliver!


11
Apr 12

Analysing The Replublican Leadership Race Online (PART 2)

So perhaps this is a little less relevant with Mitt Romney now essentially the winner of the Republican leadership race but in accumulating the data (all 669 posts for February and March) there were some interesting findings that I felt were worth writing down. So here goes part 2 of my GOP Facebook analysis.

In this analysis I looked at only per post engagement counts and the content of the post. I didn’t take into account the size of the respective fan bases in evening out engagement as a rate (that may come later…).

To analyse  basics we’ll have to look at what content came out on top. Looking at the top 10 posts out of the data set it broke out as follows: 5 posts from Ron Paul, 3 from Mitt Romney and 2 from Newt Gingrich. I suspect that  a small fan base and high posting frequency were reasons why Rick Santorum fell off this list.

What was the highest scoring piece of content overall? Well it wasn’t hard hitting political rhetoric or an announcement of a big win. It was something that showed a softer side of the candidate that the general public general doesn’t see.

 

My initial count had this post at more than 80K engagements ( likes,comments, shares) and the highest of each individual engagement category. Interesting enough anniversary content also rounded out the top three posts with #2 announcing the anniversary of Mitt Romney and #3 as a follow up post to Ron Paul’s picture. Looking through the remainder of this content I think candidates missed an opportunity to differentiate themselves as more of a person rather than an icon. This may have opened up more people to their messaging.

There were also some interesting findings on a per candidate level that I felt were useful enough to share:

Mitt Romney: The common thinking among those who want to use edge rank for the highest reach  in achieving the highest post reach is to use photo content as it generally receives more engagement. Well looking at Mitt Romney’s content that may not be the case in all situations. In looking at Mitt Romney’s top 20 posts only three of these were photo content. Instead fans of this page were most affected by brief but resonating status posts positioning Mitt Romney as someone with strong leadership skills.

 

Ron Paul: Outside of his 1st spot post it was interesting to see Ron Paul’s tone. Out of the 4 candidates the tone of this page was much more first person like the candidate was writing it rather than someone on his campaign. In terms of data trends it looked like “Like” and “share” engagements were more common with “comment” engagements occurring less often. Perhaps some conversational content would have been useful to spur on response and increase post engagement.

Newt Gingrich: Out of all of the candidates Newt Gingrich made the most use out of photo content including vivid imagry and strong messaging within the photo itself. Placed along with strong calls to action such as “ Can we get 5,000 likes for an UNHAPPY Obamacare birthday?” Newt Gingrich was able to boost his engagement despite having a comparably small fan base (296K vs 925K for Ron paul and 1.5 million + for Mitt Romney).

 

Rick Santorum: Ignoring the data itself the sheer amount of posting was what really surprised me about the Rick Santorum page. Of a total of 669 posts recorded, the Rick Santorum page came in with 316 (47%) posts. To put this on a per day perspective that’s approximately 5 posts a day. In looking at this data on a by fan base perspective it will be important to see whether what seems to be over posting had an effect on engagement or not.

Looking at the data, Rick Santorum did not seem to be in the running when it came to the volume of engagements his posts received. Looking down the list his first post doesn’t register until 107th position. Arguably he did have the smallest fan base ( 188K) but it’s still interesting to see that none of his content particularly stood out especially as there seemed to be so much effort put towards it.

 

Part 2 of this set of posts looked at the bulk count of metrics but didn’t take into account the relative fan bases and only touched upon the different content variables such as content type. In the next post I hope to dig a bit deeper in seeing where the Candidates stood in terms of how engaged their fans were and who in the end of it all was most engaging. Stay Tuned!

ADDITIONALLY: As the data I used turned out to be a giant data set I’m hoping to make it accessible for download via a Google doc for any interested party to check it out. Once I’ve added fan base estimates and I’ve cleaned up the set I hope to have this going.


04
Apr 12

Analysing The Online Race For The Republican Nomination (Part 1)

This post is part one of a multi-post series that I’m currently putting together. While not exactly a relevant news story for most Canadians I came across the Facebook pages of the American Republican party leadership candidates and after some digging saw some trends that I wanted to investigate and see if there were potentially some learning’s that can be applied elsewhere.

This first post is a simple one to start things off. Looking at the publicly available fan and demographic data from each candidate I came across some interesting observations:

Internet Popularity ≠ Real Life Action:

Currently in the delegate count the standings from first to last are Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul. Organized by Facebook fan base this is dramatically different and goes as follows: Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum. Romney simply by being the front runner in the race dominates in terms of fan membership but whats more interesting is Ron Paul is beating both Gingrich and Santorum while being last in terms of delegates earned. This points towards Paul having a strong presence online but a weak ability in converting this following to actual votes.

Fan Base Demographics Are Split Amongst The Candidates:

Another interesting finding I had was that fan base demographics were spread across the GOP candidates. Perhaps as expected Ron Paul attracts more fans aged 25-34 lending to the idea of his internet fame. On the other hand Romney and Gingrich are more popular among users 45-54 leaning more on the older side of the spectrum. Comparatively Santorum is able to bridge a bit more of a gap with his popularity among the 35-54 demographic. If Santorum uses this demographic spread to his advantage he may have an edge over the other candidates in terms of building awareness for his platform.

Growth Is Starting To Decline And One Candidate is Losing Steam:

My last bit of observation to share is of the slowing fan growth amongst the candidates. Over the month of March fan acquisition has  sees a progressive drop off  among all candidates with Romney then Paul leading in most fans gained.  A stand out in this slump has been Gingrich who has started to receive nearly no new fans. With talk suggesting that he drop out of the race perhaps his momentum has come to a halt.

Like I had mentioned this is the first post in a sequence. As I begin to get my full data set together and get deeper into the results I’ll begin sharing more. Stay tuned!


29
Feb 12

Brand Impressions vs. Brand Experiences

At the recent Facebook Marketing conference Facebook presented what most likely will be how the firm will operate its site for the next few months. While the most visible change to the general public will be the inclusion of the Facebook Timeline on branded pages, Facebook also placed an emphasis on expanding its capabilities for paid ad space on its online and mobile platforms.

Impressions vs. Engagement:

A key point of focus for digital marketers has been encouraging consumer engagement with brands rather than blasting out messaging. With the recent changes in its insights platform and expansion into how brands can promote itself through the site, Facebook seems to be disregarding this idea by placing brand impressions at the forefront.

Potential for Backfire:

As even brand page content has now become potential ad space, consumers will become continually exposed to branded content but also may become dis-engaged. As brands begin to fight their way onto user’s newsfeeds marketers may see a potential backlash where consumers decide to unlike pages to decrease the onslaught of content aimed towards them. This will be because while the content will have higher visibility it may have little relevance to the audience it hits.

Getting back to basics:

My thought on this is that it’s a move backwards towards pay and spray advertising and away from the relational marketing that I personally hold in higher regard. As a consumer a brand creates little to no interest to me by continually exposing itself through ads and promotional activities. Instead I have higher affinity for a brand and its product when I feel a sense of value from the relationship it has built  and the worth that I place in using the product. While through advertising I may see the brand more often, it probably won’t change my opinion when this advertising provides me with no demonstrable value.


23
Jan 12

Doing Measurement Right From The Start!

This post got its inspiration from  Building Data Into The Stuff That Agencies Make written by @kevinrothermel where he spoke about integrating data into the work that agencies do. I thought this was an important idea and perhaps something that is not often thought about enough when awesome and creative works of advertising, public relations or marketing are put in front of consumers.

In considering how to integrate data to effectively measure a campaign or initiative (as well as to ensure that measurement is most effective overall!)  it is in my honest opinion necessary that it is put in place from the very start! I don’t mean the first day of the campaign or when all the pieces of the initiative are starting to come together but starting when the very first utterance of the initiative is said long before it is even decided what is going to be done.

Measurement At The First Meeting:

All marketing and even more generally communications efforts have a goal of what they are to achieve. This is the basis of what the measurement initiative should be. In the end the firm wants to measure how effectively their efforts work to achieve the end goal. Having this goal set out clearly and  understanding of how measurement can be integrated will spark everything to come.

Reviewing Past Data:

Remember all of those reports you had from previous campaigns? They aren’t something that should be put on the shelf once you have reviewed it at campaign end. They should be categorized and brought out every time you start to plan an initiative. Why? Because they hold the key learnings that you can form your strategy around. From this data you can see what worked, what didn’t and what can be reused in your work going forward. Without consulting with what you previously did you doom yourself to repeat the same mistakes.

Realizing Your deficiencies:

With your goals and your plan nearly in place  you can begin to realize if measurement can be done thus allowing the project to move forward. Simply put, if you can’t measure an initiative based on its goals then it should be highly questionable if it should go forward. If you don’t know whether something did great or completely flopped there is no way you can go back to your stakeholders and prove that you didn’t waste their money.  Some limitations in measuring a campaign can be technical (does the technology exist to measure this?) or can be as a result of  a strategic or tactical issue where the campaign is improperly aligned or perhaps the campaign goal set at the start needs to be revaluated as its either not defined enough or just unrealistic.

Improving The Visibility Of Measurement:

The point in all this that I’m trying to make plain and simple is that measurement needs to be given as much attention as everything else. Effectively measuring your work cannot be done when measurement is brought in as an afterthought because then its effectiveness is compromised. When its brought in at the start of the process it is then kept at top of mind and as a result allows any opportunities or potential difficulties to be considered. In a continually competitive landscape measurement isn’t a nice to have but a must have to prove your work.


01
Jan 12

Considering Authority vs.Influence in Online Outreach

To start the post off, the basis for my thinking comes from a presentation and resulting conversation by Jesse Hirsh from Metaviews regarding “The Future of Authority” given at the Academy of the Impossible. This presentation consisted of brief look at how we as a society currently view authority and how this affected the events of the past year. As part of this discussion a comparison of the current thinking of online influence against the idea of authority caught my attention because it was directly relevant to what is currently being done in terms of marketing products online through social channels as well as to the whole idea of individual influence and its measurement (example: Klout).

What I took away from the presentation is that the concept of being influential vs. being authoritative is the difference between generating awareness of a specific topic vs. generating action on it. When you are ‘influential’ the information you share has a larger reach than the average person. This is in comparison to being considered an authority where a person’s audience is likely to place trust into and act upon the information they distribute. To put it even more simply you can say that one person is really good at sharing a message but the other is trusted enough to have their message actually listened to.

After considering the difference between influencer vs. authority the question then becomes why do marketers place so much emphasis on influence? When the supposed promise of social media is to reach the most targeted audience as possible why is the focus still on the more traditional ‘pay and spray’ approach? My inference is that the focus is still very much on being able to see how many eyeballs an effort can generate (something tangible) vs. reaching someone with authority and the change in opinion/potential for future sales generated by those that trust them (something not as easily measured). To not be active in reaching those with authority though is something I find puzzling as isn’t the end goal of marketing to generate sales rather than have users simply know about your product?

To conclude I’m not saying that marketers should do away with influencer outreach as awareness generation is still important. When considering where marketing dollars are going though it is also important to consider if you can use your limited resources to positively change people’s minds about your product than simply having people exposed to it. To keep this post from going overboard I’m completely disregarding the implementation aspect of taking such actions for now (I’m thinking about it!). Watch for a post on that topic to come up very soon!  I’m interested in what others have to think about this  topic though. If you have an opinion feel free to share it in the comments or by sending a tweet to @kevrichard.


28
Dec 11

Kevrichard 2011 in Review

Note: This is more of a personal post and a bit of a departure from what I normally write here. This is a continuation of my year in review post of 2009 (alright I skipped a year…) and perhaps something that’s  important for me to do as just a personal exercise more than anything else.

So my life in 2011, looking at it as a whole I can’t really make a judgement on whether it was a good or bad year. It had some positive aspects and some negative aspects. I guess I can say that it’s been a year of growth and personal understanding more than anything else.Ending off from 2010 I came in from a point of uncertainty. I didn’t end the year off with a bam … maybe more so a little bit of a whimper so coming into 2011 I didn’t know where I was going. I think I’ve been fortunate enough that moving forward from that rough patch others saw particular talents and set me on a course for personal success (hat tip to those involved).

Moving forward with this shift in focus I would say that 2011 became more so about learning the business of social than just being elbows deep in data. While previously I was doing a lot of behind the scenes analytics work I started to see the whole picture. I dealt with client, client/project managers and whomever else was along the way in delivering the end project. While 2010 was very much the year of ‘the quant’ where I learned  quantitative analysis and technologies, 2011 was the year of ‘the business man’ for learning client needs and what it would take to properly deliver them.

This past year I think I also came out of my shell a bit and took some risks. Something I pat myself on the back for is signing up for a mixed martial arts gym. Going in I was anxious as hell. This was something I didn’t know the first thing about and I felt  out of my element. I had a bit of experience with Kick Boxing so striking I nervously did but being involved in the first few times of grappling classes (where the goal is taking down and pinning the other person) I felt like I was going to break myself. What was the result in the end? I stuck it out, had a lot of fun and continued going to classes. While I haven’t been going as much as I’d like to, my goal for 2012 (or early 2013) is to get my white level shorts demonstrating my seriousness to learning about the sport.

OK so this was a Halloween picture (and I never get bloody) but this is me in my MMA wraps. Picture credit: @vivve

Additionally I think I brought something out of myself that I had a feeling for but with the proper actions it  became much more evident. After hitting a few work projects “out of the park”  an opportunity came up where while I was considered a junior for, with the support of people I respected I dived into. Without going into massive detail, my task was to put together a presentation with my own discretion for direction in what became a one night marathon session. The end result was a bit rough in presentation style and content but overall came out solidly and became something I was proud of.  It demonstrated skills I didn’t normally get to exercise and showed an area for personal growth which I enjoyed but had not kept on my radar until recently.

Positivity unfortunately comes with negative aspects and at times this year I had some ‘bumpy’ parts. One of the things I look back on for this year that I didn’t follow through with as part of my goals from 2010  is the building and maintaining of relationships. Especially when things got less than ideal I did find myself  less likely to reach out to people or be as socially active as I normally have been. Note to friends: if you’re feeling like I haven’t been in contact with you in a long time feel free to ping me and call me out on it!

My attempt at Movember. While it was an awesome mustache, without superior campaign implementation (something I potentially could have done) I would have fund-raised a lot more for the cause.

 

When times in life got rough I also regretted that  I sometimes didn’t stick to my guns and instead became more  passive. Staying true to your values has always been something I’ve respected of people around me. I feel it says something about your strength of character and presents true leadership abilities. Anyone with some knowledge of political history knows that the truly memorable leaders were those who held what they valued close to their hearts (Trudeau is one of my idols). I really felt like I reverted back to old habits and let things pass over me with just a whimper rather than speak out about things. I definitely need to take note that this is not where I want to let things go to moving forward.

A year consists of 365 days so while my post is long it definitely didn’t cover everything, like how my weight ballooned a bit… *sigh* As I’m getting older I’m finding while things don’t immediately seem to match together, looking back at things as a whole events seem to somehow become pieced together and make more sense. This year I feel I got a bit deeper of an understanding of myself and knowledge of changes I hope to put in place in regards to what I do and how I operate. While some predict 2012 as the ‘end of the world’ my prediction is that 2012 is a year where things get serious and more so where we’re going to see people jump into action.

 

 


04
Dec 11

What Facebook Should Do With Gowalla

With the rumour out that Facebook is looking to purchase location based social network Gowalla,  discussion is beginning about what the social network could use this new asset for. While Facebook’s location based services haven’t yet caught on, for myself and I’m sure many other data focused marketers the potential of having a successful location service which is tied in with Facebook has been the subject matter of maybe a few dreams!

The Potential For Location Based Data

In a recent update of its systems Facebook has improved the insights dashboard that fan page owners can use to analyse their efforts. Companies can now have a more in depth look at how and how much of their fan base and Facebook users in general interact with the brand generated messaging  being  put out. Adding data from a location based service could add an even deeper (and more meaningful) additional layer to these new features.

There is a large list of potential benifits to measurement and analysis that location based data could create (I’ve had some time to think about it) but in regards to Facebook and fan pages I can think of particularly two scenarios of how location based data could be used when thinking  about brands with retail locations:

Analysis As To What Drives Fans To Purchase: Businesses could potentially see the correlation between the traffic to their stores and the content they had posted during a particular time frame. In the case of for example a product announcement,  a company could potentially measure check ins to the company’s stores to see if there was an increase in visits and linking it back to the firms sales data they could determine if against past product launches there was an increase of decrease in sales.

Determining Where Your Fans Shop: For retail chains knowing the makeup of your customer base on a store by store level is another potential use. By taking a look at the demographic data of users who have checked in, the firm can see if a particular type of customer is more likely to shop at a certain location. From this data  the firm can also have a look if there any particular purchasing trends among this sub set. Looking at this data in a time series could additionally provide insight as to if particular promotions or products should be added or augmented to fit the particular grouping of customers.

In the next few weeks we’ll see if the rumours of Gowalla’s acquisition by Facebook are true or if a few news sources  have to maybe review who they get their info from ;) . None the less, for companies on Facebook and otherwise tapping into the databases of  location based services still hold a lot of potential for improving their results. As brands continue to look deeper into the data that’s available through social media and online sources cwe’ll have to see if these location based services will come into play.

 

 

 


24
Nov 11

Why I Sometimes Don’t ‘Like’ The Like

At times I have a bit of a love /hate relationship with the ‘like’ on Facebook posts and spread across the web.  I think we can all agree that it is an action, it’s a sign that someone’s awake or at least somewhat conscious of what they are clicking. What it isn’t? A sale of product or a sign that the user has just done about face and has professed their love  of your brand. Overall though there seems to be a sort of fixation on this simple engagement.

Like this if you like Puppies!

Asking users to like something does have its tactical uses. Those who are a bit educated about the ins and outs of the Facebook news feed know that a user engaging with a source’s content frequently equals a higher relevancy score to the content source. Throwing up a piece of content that is generally enjoyable and asking users to like it means that the relevancy score is  bumped up a few spots and fans are just a bit more likely to see your content. Does this mean you should flood your feed with “LIKE THIS!” content? Well if that’s the sort of depth you want your brand to have then go for it! What this won’t do is sell your product or improve a users thoughts on certain attributes of your product unfortunately.

Time to throw away the ‘like’?

Am I asking people to ignore the ‘like’ completely? Absolutely not! Should the like engagement be considered along with other factors? Yes!   Compare it to consumer response (what are people saying in the comments) , the propensity of users to like your key messaging compared to other content  and I could go on…. Measuring channel success  in my opinion means measuring how you are changing people’s perception of your brand and product. Are people more likely to talk positively about your brand and as a result  increasing sales because of WOM? Has your brand gone from being seen as stale to something that people have feelings for? And lastly at the end of it all have you been able to track increased dollars going into your firms bank account?  At the end of the day changing minds rather than encouraging clicks should be the end goal, not the afterthought.


06
Nov 11

Can I Get Dirty With Your Data?

The initial steps of data analysis; Collecting data from various sources, ensuring the accuracy of the data and then putting it all into a legible format. Doing the grunt work of social media analytics (or really any data analysis) is not the most fun or glamorous part of the process but through my experience I’ve learned that having this level of intimacy with your data is an important  part of in ensuring the delivery of solid insight and analysis .

Getting In Close With The Numbers

Having to compile the different parts of your data puts you at a level of closeness with it that is not as easy to get otherwise. Entering in each source and dealing with all the tools you see almost instantly when there is a gap or significant change within your metrics because you see all the data points in front of you. Compare this with just getting summary data and you just get a snap shot of the entire picture of what is happening. Let’s just say this is like taking your data out for the day compared to having a quick phone call with them. One is much more effective in getting your desired result than the other.

Dressing up your data. Picture C/O Exey Panteleev

 

Having Your Way with The Data:

When all of the grunt work is done and your data set is put together and prettied up you tend to already have a sense of what you want to explore when you actually go and do your analysis. You’ll know where all the sweet spots are and try to determine why things happened the way they did. Experiencing all the parts of the data as a whole rather than in separation there’s a better understanding of the linkages and causes of change in the data. You are better able to see where something went up as a result of X or Y action. By having your hands in everything means you are able to get in there and push the right buttons to get the best end result.

Growing Old Together:               

In my work there have been some data sets that I’ve dealt with for a LONG time, sometimes since their inception going months back. Much like a long term relationship with a person you can get a read on when things are going as per usual or even great but you can also see when there is a significant drop off or unexpected event. In this sense your mental set is more finely tuned to see the trends and linkages within your data store. When your data set is mad at you, you know almost immediately to do something to fix it!

The 'sexy' end result. Picture C/O @BenLucier

 

Setting Yourself Up For The “Money Shot”

When all is said and done, the data is all in and you’re fully into writing the report, by knowing your data you are able to tell the right story and enter in the best summary metrics to share with your client. In the end, the job of an analyst is to see the data and make sense of it in the best way possible for your specific audience. Your “money shot” in all of this is when your client is sent off with the best insight and recommendations that they can take action on. When they are happy that they are seeing improvement in their operations or learning something useful that they can apply to their business this means increased results and profit for your organization. Essentially  something people will pay to see ;) .