Sep 12

A Personal Challenge: Ad Planning School Assignment

Well its been a while since I’ve written in here.  A lot has changed since my last post. Over the last 3 month’s I’ve  moved to Montreal to test my wits  (and language skills!) at Edelman Digital as a Senior Analyst reporting into their New York Office. Getting used to a new location/job…. I think that is reason enough for a bit of a blogging hiatus!

Anyways,on to the meat of this blog post. Since starting in the Marketing/Advertising/Digital (or however you would call it)  industry I guess you could say I  haven’t had very much interest in the mechanics of the different social media channels but was more so interested in how  people react to actions on these channels and simply why people do the things they do on the net. After reading “Truth,Lies & Advertising: The Art Of Account Planning” I hit a bit of a ‘AH HA!” moment in so that to do well in marketing you need to have an understanding of what your customers do and why they do it. Particularly in Digital this is a combination of understanding online conversations and actions along with  your audiences offline actions and feelings. Through reading the book I came to an understanding that while my reporting  on the numbers side of agregate online actions was strong,  to truly be good at what I’m doing I need to get a better understanding of the whole picture.

Stumbling quite randomly on a tweet from @Robertc1970 I came across the “A[P]SOTW Assignment” which peaked my interest in so much that its a challenge to look at the whole picture of online and offline consumer interaction. The intro to the assignment is found below and the full spec can be found at Rob Campbells site. 


So in general why am I posting this here? Well I figure by blogging about my process and research I can piece together my thought process. Also simply by making my process public it forces me to go through with this, rather than say I’ll do it and push it off.

Anyways, wish me luck with this! I think my big challenge will be balancing time as perhaps I already have a lot on my plate as it is ( new city, new language, new job… yikes!)  I really want to give this a go as even though I probably don’t stand a chance at winning this it will be a good exercise in stretching my brain a bit.


Jun 12

The Next Big Tech Battle: It’s Not About Single Devices Anymore

This week Google had its big I/O conference where it announced many of the new products it has coming out in the next few months. Two of the big surprises of the conference were the Nexus 7 ( a 7 inch tablet) and the  Nexus Q ( a cloud powered television media system). Most puzzling is that these products don’t particularly add anything to the Google’s core competency which is selling advertising but digging deeper you’ll see that this is part of a larger play to stay in the game against two other big rivals.

Android, IOS and soon Windows 8. What do they all have in common? Initially they were all platforms (or in Microsoft’s case based off a platform) for mobile phones that have since expanded into tablets and now television set top boxes. All three firms are making pretty heavy investments into products that most likely do not have high profit margins.  But in addition to this, products along all three of these company sets will be connected to a central content system where users can buy apps, video, audio and image (books/magazines) based content.

Ah ha! So essentially what the plan for these three is owning the media distribution system and making profit off of any royalties generated from the sale of media content. Where previously the war was over which computer operating system a person used or their search engine now the fight is over where they consume their content from. With content moving away from traditional sources such as cable providers, book stores and news-stands, being able to own an ecosystem that allows people to purchase media where ever they are is a big move with potential for a lot of profit.

Where will things go from here? So far Apple has the strongest foothold with iTunes entrenched as the first to launch. Can Microsoft and Google catch up being later into the game? Absolutely! Microsoft has the advantage of being a leader in the console gaming market which places them in a strong competitive position to Apple TV. As for Google, they are currently # 2 in the smartphone market using an open system where as long as it’s an Android powered device it will work with Google’s content distribution systems.  The big marketing move for all these players will be to get consumers to purchase into their whole line of products making them the primary content provider.

It will definitely be interesting to see where things go for these three firms and how competitive factors will come into play. Will cable providers and the big studios choose sides like in the fight for Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD? Or will they  move to limit things all together? What will happen to single device manufacturing firms such as RIM ? With the technology industry moving so fast the next year or two will be ones to watch to see where the cards land.

May 12

There is No Magic Bullet in Social Media Measurement

Recently  a post from Avanish Kaushik was put before me for consideration. The post was “Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value” and in reading it I personally found some flaws with his overall approach which I wanted to address.

Measurement Isn’t So Simple:

Knowing how complex websites and search are, Avinash should know that good measurement cannot be simplified into a few key metrics across everything and everyone. Despite this he tries to do just that with his proposed 4 metrics for measuring social media.

Different companies have different goals for what they want to achieve in Social media and assigning metrics that don’t take this into account can potentially side track these initiatives. For example in the case of say Avinash’s Conversation rate  it doesn’t speak to the quality of the conversations that a firm may want to see or the  overall goal of the content they put out. With such a focused scope these metrics don’t  take into account the many other variables that can be tracked on corporate social media channels.

The size of the fan base does matter:

Another downside I see with the type of measures that Avinash suggests is that it does not take into account the audience that the company taps into. Without taking into account a firm’s fan base an even grounding is not created to ensure a comparable measure across fan sizes. Instead what more often than not will happen is that these measures will present  a constantly increasing ratio because a larger fan base often results in more engagement.

Outside of large spikes when there is a fan base drive or large campaign, a measure that does not take fan base into account will most likely continually go up in a linear fashion. The downside of this  is that it’s not easy to discern what proportion of a fan base is engaged. As a result there is no clear way to determine whether an initiative was successful.

Measuring Awareness Still Matters:

Much like with television or radio advertising, simple exposure to social media messaging still has an effect on consumers whether they act on this immediately or if this changes their habits further down the road. While this makes sales attribution difficult, measuring how far your content reaches  is still important. Unfortunately for Avinsash’s framework it does not take content exposure into account. By knowing your content reach you are a better able to compare and contrast initiatives to see if there was a discernible change in a firms end outcome as a result of marketing messaging.

With developing field like Social Media to make broad statements like “the 4 best social media metrics” in my opinion is harmful. What this does is it has the potential to close people’s minds to other alternatives and  more meaningful approaches. That’s why beyond the fact of perhaps not being too public with my work (for confidentiality reasons of course…) I won’t say that one measure stands above all the rest.   Instead my answer will continually be that measures need to be formed based on the end user’s goals and what they are trying to better understand.



Apr 12

Determining A Brand’s Active Facebook Fan Base

A topic that isn’t discussed very often is the idea of active vs. inactive fan page users. When we are looking at a Facebook fan page’s user base this isn’t necessarily a true representation of who actually has an interest or may even see this page’s content (in recent months the metric of user unsubscribes has been removed from Facebook Insights). Compared to Twitter where someone who doesn’t like your content can immediately unfollow, on Facebook the function of removing yourself from a page is much less obvious and often not the first action a user will take to remove content from their stream.

So how should this be measured? First of all it’s in my opinion that Facebook should be providing this data as ultimately they offer the function of fan page unsubscribes. As this is unfortunately not the case then the only way of going about this is determining a proxy measure. On the top of my head the only solution (I’m open to others if anyone has an idea!) is developing a tab hosted survey with an email opt in for allowing a follow up survey to be sent.

My idea regarding this type of system would be that a first initial survey would be administered through the fan page with a request to be able to email the participant in the future with a follow up survey. In a selected time period (of say 3-6 months) the follow up email would be sent where fans would be asked if they are still subscribed or recall any content from this page. I admit that there are some weaknesses to this type of approach:

  • Low initial user response rate: Most people dislike surveys. Without a substantial incentive only the most active of your fans will likely participate meaning that you won’t get a fully representative sample.
  • Low follow up rate: It is very likely that a large amount of survey participants will not respond to your follow up survey meaning that you won’tt get a fully accurate representation of your initial sample.

After getting some sort of idea how many users from a page are falling off I would go about developing a fan degrade rate. With that I mean along with measuring how many users become fans of your page you would also have a  stand in variable for calculating approximately how many of these fans become inactive over a period of time. An example of this sort of calculation would be ( current fans + new fans) – (current fans *fan degrade rate)= current active fan base. A note about taking this approach is that the survey data needs to be renewed on a consistent basis to ensure that the degrade rate is kept up to date.

Strategic Implications:

By understanding the rate of which your fans are becoming inactive a brand can understand when it needs to put into place initiatives to increase user involvement (such as user appreciation giveaways etc.) but they can also have a better idea of the overall growth of their fan base. If it’s being calculated that there are more fans unsubscribing than fanning (a sign of a mature fan base) the brand needs to take a look at what steps (if any) they need to take moving forward.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.