We kicked off our 2nd annual Movers & Shapers event (last year known as Geekfest) on Saturday here during SXSW. This one featured several people I’m lucky to call friends. As Bob Pearson mentioned, we chose this list of speakers because many of them are shaping the future of business in this digital age.

Thanks to our clients, partners and sponsors and W2O employees who made today (and our other #SXW2O events) possible. Below are a few highlights from each of the speakers.

  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie
    Javier discussed activating a storyline paradigm (see his pre-interview here). When he and the team thought about how to move AbbVie in the storytelling realm, they knew they had to approach things differently. That’s why they created StoryLab.  For AbbVie, StoryLab = Content Development + Media Relations + Digital + Measurement. Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at just over the 9 minute mark to see Javier’s session.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Michael Jarjour, CEO, ODH, Inc
    Michael joined us to talk about how Data is Improving Mental Health. He sat down with our own Bob Pearson to discuss Michael’s passion, how we transform behavioral and health. Key challenges in behavioral health are resource constraints and highly fragmented data. Mentrics is a tool that combines ODH’s risk assessment data along with data of the complex care patients to find out which patients are most at risk.  From a data perspective, payers are the most important component. How does the risk stratification process work? Michael explained that the ODH team had worked on the solution for four years. It identifies the high-cost patient population to track cost drivers over a year. The goal is to help health care providers figure out which patients are at risk and provide insights into the kind of treatment that can best affect outcomes. It’s about identifying 1) which patients need the most help 2) what kind of help do they need? 3) How can we help? Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at about the 23 minute mark to see their discussion.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing, Sysomos
    I’ve known Amber a long time. She’s someone I’ve always had a great deal of respect for. Now even more so after hearing her talk about embracing imperfection. Everyone talks about transparency and authenticity. Amber nails both. She lives and breathes social engagement and analytics. Much of her talk centered around Impostor Syndrome. It refers to “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud.” In 2011, she was riding high when Radian6 was purchased by Salesforce, she had a successful book and was well-known for the social engagement work that she was a part of. During her next step is when she starting struggling those negative feelings of self-doubt. Especially as so many of her peers in the social space appeared to be at the top of their game. That period led her to do research on the topic. She quickly found in her interviews that Impostor’s Syndrome affects everyone… men, women, all ages, etc. Even extremely successful people like best-selling author Stephen King. Bottom line, Amber’s currently focused on making this topic as her next book. I hope she’s successful on that front and applaud her for having the courage to share with the folks here at our event.  You can check out Amber’s session at about the 39 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Ray Kerins, SVP Head of Communications & Government Relations, Bayer
    Ray’s topic of discussion was the Criticality of Intellectual Property. Ray did something I wasn’t expecting. He made a talk about IP pretty lively and engaging. He started his session by acknowledging that most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear about patents and IP. He defined IP as the set of laws that protect individuals and companies who have created a unique product or thing. It’s important to all of us because it protects innovation. Ray cited one of the most difficult aspects of IP is the un-evenness of laws around the world. While those in the United States are decent, several countries outside the US have very weak laws, and in some cases, those laws can be difficult to enforce. Ray is a board member of the US Chamber of Commerce and he’s also a member of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). GIPC’s sole responsibility is to make sure the IP laws around the world help protect innovation created in America. According to Ray, IP creates job. He referenced several reports compiled by GIPC. One such report is the International IP Index, which ranks the world’s countries in terms of levle of IP protection. In other words, to track the places where counterfeiting is the biggest problem. Surprises? Venezuela is the country that currently ranks the highest on that list. India is #2. Another surprise? China currently ranks  17th on the list. Ray attributed China’s going down on the list (improving) to the Chinese government’s active efforts to strengthen their IP laws and enforcing those laws. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 50 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Michele Skelding, SVP Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce
    Michele’s topic was The Next Big Thing? Disruptive Innovation in ATX. Michele has lived in Austin for the last 20 years and has worked in technology for most of that time. She joined the Austin Chamber of Commerce about three years ago with the goal of bringing her tech expertise to the city. Michele mentioned that the average age in Austin was 33. The city has a population of about 1.9 million people, of which 415,000 are students. What’s one of the most important things the city can do to keep those students here? Create jobs that they’ll want to stay here for. As a city, that means we have to be on target with our business benefits. Add it all up and Austin is expected to be one of the fastest growing cities until 2025. Michele ended with a plea for those of us in Austin to get engaged in terms of the future of the city. Along those lines, she mentioned recent headlines where Austin proposed city ordinances are creating barriers for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in this city. One more thing: Thanks to Michele for making the introduction to Hugh Forrest and making that PreCommerce fireside chat possible. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 1 hour 27 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur in Residence, UploadVR
    Robert is another person I’m fortunate to know pretty well. Robert’s book Naked Conversations (that he co-authored Shel Israel) had a big impact on me when I was gearing up to take the reins at Direct2Dell back in 2006. Robert’s one of the best in the business about what’s next in technology. Look at his other books as an example. Age of Context focused on how sensors and big data will continue to impact business. He and Shel are currently working on their third book called Beyond Mobile. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is not surprisingly one of the main topics that book will cover. Fresh off the news that he’s joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence, Robert dove right into the topic of virtual reality and augmented reality. He discussed companies like Magic Leap and Meta that will play a part in the future, as well as other established tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google. This technology is already showing up in our world… self-driving cars use sensors and tons of data to map the world around them. Heavy machinery company Caterpillar is already using AR to help train mechanics on repairs. According to Robert, augmented reality (where we interact with virtual objects superimposed on top of real-world objects) is going to have the biggest impact. We’re still 3 – 5 years away from the truly ground-breaking stuff that will occur has hardware gets smaller, faster and cheaper. It’s coming though, and in my opinion, there’s much to look forward to. You can check out Robert’s session at about the 1 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy
    Patrick’s topic was The Future of Healthcare is Closer Than it May Appear. Before becoming an industry analyst, he spent over 20 years in the tech business, focused on things like product management, product marketing and strategy. For 15 years he served on the board of St. Davids’s Medical Center and the Austin Heart Hospital (where he also chaired the board for five years). Besides sing the bureaucracy first hand, he was struck by the number of people so passionate about helping others. He mentioned that we spend over $3 trillion dollars in Healthcare annually. An estimated 90% of that goes toward chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. And an estimated 80% of those could be prevented with better healthcare along with personal responsibility. He also said the biggest issue in healthcare is the disconnect between payment and service. During the session, he called out that Moor Insights was welcoming Yuri Teshler to lead the Healthcare vertical  You can check out Patrick’s session at just over the 1 hour 58 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Natanya Anderson, Sr. Marketing Director, 365 by Whole Foods Market
    Natanya talked about the Mandate to Innovate, which is a good topic for her given how much she has done inside the walls of Whole Foods before taking on the charter to expand their 365 effort. She touched on disruption and called out Whole Foods’ recent investment in Instacart as an example of how Whole Foods is working with innovative companies instead of against them. Figuring how to innovate inside a big brand was something she struggled with at first. Her light bulb moment came when she spoke at the Foresight & Trends Conference about 18 months ago. She spoke to many people there who were part of innovation groups, or in some cases, even innovation business units. Many of them spent time analyzing trends to help figure out what areas lend themselves to innovation within their respective companies. That’s when it hit her. Instead of thinking, “How do I get that (innovation) job?” She realized the better question was, “How do I make innovation part of my job?” She started by establishing a mandate to innovate for herself. That’s when she starting actively looking for places where Whole Foods could innovate. Then she extended the that intention to innovate to her entire team. She found that some people on her team were more receptive to it than others. The tipping point was when she tied innovation to the team’s goals overall and they worked as a group to figure out how to measure the innovation part of their efforts. Hint: It wasn’t ROI. You can check out Natanya’s session at just over the 2 hour 14 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography

Check back soon to learn more from other speakers and what amazing insights they offered at Movers & Shapers!



Lionel Menchaca currently serves as Director of Corporate & Strategy at W2O Group. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter at @LionelGeek!


Learn more about W2O Group:  About  Work  Contact.


In case you weren’t able to livestream our 5th Annual PreCommerce Summit here in Austin, here is a quick summary of one of the sessions. First off was Chuck Hemann and his presentation on how to scale analytics within an organization, globally. Not an easy task for sure, especially within such a large brand like Intel. He offered some really helpful tips below and you can also read the transcripts from a previous interview we did with him.

  • Strong commitment from senior leadership
  • Willing and able partners in the GEOS
  • Metrics Standardization – framework that works everywhere
  • Common taxonomy for all media channels – content, paid social, search, ec.
  • Global capabilities stack
  • Stakeholder commitment to read, optimize on a similar cadence
  • Embracing the connected network versus hub and spoke

He concluded by highlighting how Intel is tackling this challenge:

  • The ability to work with even more speed
  • Bringing the data sources together to tell a comprehensive story
  • Protruding data in more challenging markets
  • Tools and Insights training
  • Developing analytics muscle memory and talent

Next up was Amber Naslund with an inspiring story about storytelling. She did this so effectively by sharing her professional journey from when she first started blogging, to joining Radian6, consulting for a few years and then to her current position with Sysomos.

My biggest takeaway from her session was when she talked about purpose; and how storytelling, whether personal or professional, should have purpose. Without it, storytelling will not inspire others and be doomed to fail. She said that one reason her consulting company failed was this lack of purpose.

The session concluded with Kip Knight who discussed brand storytelling. He started off his talk highlighting some pretty cool examples of campaigns where storytelling was the pinnacle – Allstate, Flo from Progressive Insurance, George Zimmer from the Men’s Warehouse, Most interesting man in the world – Dos Equis and the infamous Etrade Baby.

He then talked about H&R Block’s “Get Your Billions Back” campaign, which referenced the $300 billion dollars the IRS delivered in tax refunds in 2013. The campaign featured a bow-tie wearing spokesperson and H&R Block tax preparer, Richard Gartland and provided expert tax preparation advice to ensure clients receive the maximum refund possible from the IRS.




 chuckChuck Hemann (Global Analytics Manager – Intel) – Scaling Digital Analytics Around the Globe Bio: Chuck Hemann is the Analytics Manager for Intel. Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including, digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was the Executive Director of Analytics at Golin where he was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin, he was the Group Director of Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London.

Amber NaslundAmber Naslund (SVP, Marketing – Sysomos) – Storytelling: Individual vs. Corporate Bio: Amber Naslund if the SVP of Marketing for Sysomos, a social intelligence platform. Amber’s 15+ years of professional expertise spans nonprofit management, corporate communications, marketing, professional services and social business strategy. She is the former president of SideraWorks and VP of Social Strategy for Salesforce Radian6, where she advised Fortune 500 companies, such as L’Oreal, Dell and American Express. Amber is also the co-author of the best-selling social business book, “The Now Revolution.”


Kip KnightKip Knight (President, US Retail Operations – H&R Block) – Who Speaks For Your Brand? BIO: Kip joined H&R Block in 2012 and currently serves as the President of U.S. Retail Operations. Knight’s 30-year career has included senior management and marketing positions with P&G, PepsiCo and eBay. Knight started in marketing research at Burke Marketing Research and has since worked in over 65 countries. He is the founder of the U.S. Marketing Communication College at the U.S. State Department that trains diplomats on marketing strategy and implementation. Knight is currently on the Board of Directors at Quiznos.

For more information on our SXW2O events and speakers, please visit our website:

chuckAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Third up is Chuck Hemann, head of analytics at tech giant, Intel. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was Executive Director, Analytics at Golin where I was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin he was Group Director, Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London, in addition to key client relationships with P&G and Verizon.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] How did you end up in the field of analytics?
[Chuck Hemann] Probably like a lot of people in the field of analytics I ended up in it sort of by accident. My undergraduate and graduate work is all in political science, and during graduate school I did do some of that work both in DC and at home (Cleveland Rocks!). If you love the study of human behavior, you would love to witness the political environment every day. What I realized, though, is that profession had a limited shelf life for me. Twenty hours a day for weeks on end didn’t sound like much of an existence. When I moved back home I sent my resumes to a bunch of communications firms thinking there were some natural parallels between the political world and communications. During that process Dix & Eaton brought me in for an interview and said they were looking for a research assistant for their media research team and, because I needed a job, I took the opportunity. Two years later is when the social media listening boom hit and the rest as they say is history…

[AS] I’ve heard you’ve written a book. Tell us about that? Anything you would go back and change if you could?
[CH] It is true. I have written a book. Ken Burbary and I set out on the journey to give marketers an analytics book that they would feel comfortable reading. To that point most of the analytics books on the market were written for people like us and while they were valuable, they weren’t terribly useful for the marketer who wont be diving into Google Analytis and doing deep web analytics anytime soon. It’s a great question on whether or not there is anything we would go back and change. If I had to answer I would say there is probably two things in particular: 1. We had to talk about tools but discussing digital analytics tools in this sort of environment is a crapshoot. Most of the tools we talked about are still around but in varying degrees of stability; 2. I wish we would’ve talked more about digital media measurement. We do have a few chapters on it, but I think we could write a whole book on that subject – how to develop the framework, how often to measure, what should you measure, how should those insights be applied, etc… (No, before you ask, we’re not contemplating a book on this. My authoring days are over).

[AS] Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on going global and some of the challenges associated. Can you share some pre-session thoughts?
[CH] One of the big challenges that my boss gave to me was help drive the idea of being a data driven organization. Intel (like a lot of brands) has more data than we could ever reasonably use, but what we needed to start doing is figuring out how we got insights into the hands of people executing media programs on our behalf. And oh, by the way, do it across digital media, paid social, organic social, SEM, SEO and That’s not a small job in and of itself, but it was made even bigger when she said, “everything we do needs to scale to our geographies.” Crap. How do we go about tackling that problem? During the session I’m going to talk a little bit about that problem, a little about how we’re thinking about it, a little about what we’ve already done and a little about the challenges we still face. I wish I could talk more about these things, but I only have 10 minutes.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[CH] I’m not sure I would use the word “rising” because I think Storytizing is already here to stay. If you cannot tell your brand’s story across paid, earned and shared channels then your digital story falls flat. Integration in particular isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. It’s mandatory.

[AS] If you attended SXSW last year, what was your biggest takeaway?
[CH] I did attend SXSW last year and I think the biggest takeaway for me is similar to what many said following the event which was it feels like it’s getting more intimate. Events like PreCommerce are sprouting up all over the place, and I for one am not planning to spend much time at any big parties. I’d rather the networking be more focused.

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[CH] I would love to see the trend above continue as it makes for a much better event experience. To be honest, I’ve not been keeping up with the buzz around SXSW leading up to it (I’ve been busy scaling globally) so it’s a little difficult to answer… My guess though is we’ll see as much if not more chatter around the proliferation of mobile and the (seeming) retreat on the rapid expansion of catch all social platforms. There are new social platforms popping up all of the time, but the ones that are popping up are very niche to fit a very particular use case.

14 Posts to Take You Into 2014

A year ago my colleague Aaron Strout did a nice wrap up of the most interesting/appealing posts of 2012 on this blog. As Aaron noted, reviewing which posts resonated over a period of time can be informative to better understanding the interests of customers/employees/followers. By collecting the top performers in one place, I’m hoping to provide you with some relevant content you may have missed during the year. Like last year, you’ll notice some themes here – rankings, how-to’s, and analytics-based posts, in particular, continue to resonate.

In 2013 we’ve seen a marked increase in the frequency and number of colleagues contributing to this blog, which is great. And, with 50+ posts having over 2,000 views each, we had to be more restrictive with this wrap up than in the past. As a result (and with a goal of keeping it to less than 15), this year’s list is ranked based on the number of post views – with a minimum of 3,600 views required to make the cut. Of course, there are a ton of other great posts and I encourage you to go back and read these from Bob Pearson, Jenn Gottlieb and Jim Weiss. (Selfish plug, you might also want to read my post-ASCO blog post.)

This year’s list brings us some familiar faces – like Chuck Hemann and Brian Reid as well as some new comers to Common Sense such as Michael Brito and Michael Westgate.

So here it goes – our top posts from 2013 to take you into the New Year:

And the number 1 post of the year – with over 35,000 views…

#SXSWPickUpLines by Aaron Strout (35,847 views!)

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and that you’re looking forward to more engaging content in 2014!  What do you think? Are there topics you’d like us to cover? Interviews you’d like to see?  If so, please let us know in the comments below.

During Social Fresh West earlier this year I had an opportunity to present on how brands can more effectively use data to inform customer service efforts. Brands like Samsung, Comcast, Bank of America, Zappos, Delta and many others have improved customer satisfaction over the last several years by making themselves available to questions and complaints being posted online. Those same brands are measuring their efforts in very interesting ways. Those metrics run the gamut from traditional customer service metrics like resolution rate and time to metrics that may be more focused on the social channel itself like sentiment. While there is variability from brand-to-brand on how the social customer service programs are executed, there are two common characteristics worth highlighting.

  1. Business Metrics — Tracking metrics like sentiment and resolution rate are fine, and definitely needed to gauge the performance of a social customer service program. However, what is most critical is tracking how likely the person raising the issue is to recommend the brand to a family member/friend/colleague, and how likely they are to work with the brand again. The brands who actively manage social customer service programs track these metrics religiously.
  2. Constantly using data — The best brands use data to inform home base for the social customer service program, and then are constantly looking at the types of questions and complaints people are raising in order to maximize the program’s effectiveness. It isn’t as simple as putting up the outpost, and then measuring periodically. It’s critical to be gathering data in real-time, feeding insights derived from the data back into the team executing the program and then taking action on those learnings. It’s not dissimilar to any other digital marketing campaign in that way.

If you want to check out my presentation on this subject to the Social Fresh audience I have included it below. Also below is a short video of me describing the talk in some more detail. Hope you enjoy it!


Do you remember way back to 2006-2007? What specifically do you remember about those two years? Where were you working and what were you working on? I remember working for a more traditional (I don’t even know what that means anymore) communications agency doing research for our media relations, crisis communications and investor relations teams. The primary focus then was on evaluating the performance of media campaigns and events using metrics like impressions, message resonance and number of mentions in key mainstream media outlets. There was some element of the role that required real-time analysis, but generally speaking we were evaluating those campaigns and events after the fact. It wasn’t bad. It is just what was common practice.

A funny thing happened as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube began to explode: The number of companies that were created to help brands and agencies understand what was happening on those networks also exploded. Companies like Radian6 and Sysomos were the industry leaders, and early pioneers of a new approach to gathering and analyzing stakeholder behavior online. They offered users the ability to track share of voice, keyword trends, volume trends, sentiment and influencers. If you were working in the digital marketing industry then and saw those tools you would have never guessed they would have grown to this point, or achieved the kinds of valuations that they now command. To be fair, both companies helped show us that there was more to learn about our stakeholders behaviors than we analytics pros were getting through the traditional tool set.

Fast forward six or seven years and the tool set has evolved tremendously. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of tools out there that companies and agencies can use to gather online data about its key stakeholders. We have evolved beyond relying on a social media listening tool to answer every question, albeit not far enough. There have been great advances in search, content and audience analytics over that time. There have also been great strides toward the integration of traditional market research and digital/social research. As quickly as a new social channel pops up, so too does a new tool that gives analysts the ability to harvest and analyze that data.

Because the industry is moving so quickly, I don’t think we take enough time to document where we want it to go and what we need from the tools. So, beginning today, I am going to document in two parts where I think the industry needs to move and what we need from the tools. Part one, or what you are about to read, offers a point of view from the analyst perspective. Part two, what you will read later this week (I hope), will offer a point of view from the marketers/communicators perspective. Here is where I think we need to go from the analysts perspective:

  • Cleaner data – Anybody who uses a social media monitoring tool can tell you that a lot of the output from these tools is spam. Now, part of that is a function of how much spam there is on the Internet but going through a dataset that is 75%+ spam (and we have seen higher) is a time consuming task. It distracts from the real job of an analyst, which is to interpret the data. It also makes it very difficult to analyze behavioral trends over time because the analyst is constantly wondering if the dataset is clean or it has been biased by the introduction of more spam. What analysts really need is a tool with a smart spam filter system that learns over time as data is collected.
  • Integrating data sources – Social media listening can tell us a lot about how consumers are behaving, but it does not tell us everything. What were to happen if key stakeholders were talking in limited volume? Would you be able to develop insights based on a few hundred conversations in a 12 month period? That is a very likely scenario if you represent a niche B2B brand today. We analysts need to be better at pulling data from all aspects of the data supply chain (content, audience, social media monitoring, search and influencers) to understand the complete picture of how our stakeholders behave online.
  • Truly understanding PESO behaviors – At W2O Group we refer to the integrated media landscape as PESO — paid, earned, shared and owned. What the tool set allows us to do today is understand shared and owned media activities very well. Unfortunately, the integration with paid and earned media analytics platforms is lacking. Point #2 and #3 here are related, and it is something we need the tools to deliver desperately. In the meantime, though, approaching research projects with the mindset of understanding behaviors across PESO is a helpful place to start.
  • Assist colleagues in seeing the value of digital/social data beyond the communications context – Ken Burbary and I originally met in 2008 after we started a Twitter exchange about the value of digital and social data to the entire enterprise. Five years later we wrote a book together, and five years later we are still talking about the need to expand. It is one thing for the analysts among us to deliver insights on key communications questions, but is is another thing entirely to deliver insights that may help product development, customer service, HR or sales. Even if we aren’t asked for it, that is what we need to deliver more consistently.
  • Understanding audience segments at a deeper level – One of the questions analysts are often tasked in answering is understanding how a company’s social community is behaving. When we are asked that question we often approach it from the standpoint of understanding that behavior on the company’s shared and owned properties. That is only one part of the equation. The other part is understanding what ELSE those people care about. You, the analyst, already know that they have liked your page. Do you know what else they care about? At W2O Group we call this forensic analytics, and I think we analysts need to take the next step in understanding consumer behavior at a deeper level.
  • Training the next generation of analysts – Many of the people who work in digital and social analytics today came from the traditional research realm because they saw an opportunity to advance their career in a new, and interesting area. Because analytics has become so hot there are a number of people now entering the industry who don’t have as much context as they will need as their career unfolds. It is on us analysts who have been in the space for several years to develop a rigorous set of standards that can be followed by the next generation.

What else? What else do we analysts need to do to ensure the industry is evolving and keeping up with communicators’ needs? Again, later this week I will offer up a perspective on where the analytics industry needs to go from the marketer/communicator perspective, but in the meantime I look forward to hearing from you.

One of the questions I am constantly asked during conference presentations is, “what are some free tools that you might recommend for the non-enterprise customer?” That is a hard question to answer only because every business has different needs and resource challenges. My typical answer is that the business should explore lower cost alternatives with the enterprise tools that we typically talk about. Many of those tools do have small-to-medium size business pricing if you ask them.

That said, there are a number of free-to-inexpensive tools that you can use for quick analytics needs. If you are a smaller business there is a good chance you have heard of, or are currently using some of these. If you are an enterprise business you might think some of these tools do not work for you. You would be wrong. Some of these tools, like Google Trends for example, provide valuable (and quick) information on how people are reacting to your brand online. Other tools, like Simply Measured, are used by enterprise clients every day to measure the effectiveness of social media channels versus benchmarks and competitors.

Google Trends and Simply Measured are two of my favorite free-to-inexpensive tools currently on the market. What are some others? Below you will find a list of my top 10. Is there every free-to-inexpensive tool that I like? No, it is not. Are these the ones I have used most often over the years? Yes, it is. You may have a tool that you use regularly that isn’t represented below. Feel free to let us know what that is so we can all expand our tool vocabulary.

Top 10 Analytics Tools You Can Use Right Now

With the 2013 version of SxSW Interactive in the books, it’s time for a look back on highlights, key trends (or lack of) and links to some of the awesome content we collected during the several events that we hosted during the event.

For starters, there really weren’t any big technologies that shined through at this SXSW like we’ve had at past events. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but likely more of an indication that it’s becoming harder and harder to break through all the noise at SXSW Interactive. There was a larger corporate presence than ever this year and that will likely be a continuing theme over the next few years as companies continue to embrace, grow and operationalize social, digital and mobile into their corporate DNA.

Social Commerce Summit

For W2O Group in particular, we had a very successful set of of events that kicked off with our Social Commerce Summit on Thursday, March 7. During this six hour event, we had 19 speakers each give 10 minute TED-like talks. The talks covered a range of topics including love, marriage and creating brand passion. We know it’s a lot of content but we hope you’ll take the time to watch the video (or at least read the highlights in the blog posts) from the speakers below.

We also had a few nice write ups from the event by former PR Week/current Holmes Report writer, Aarti Shah (here) and friend of W2O, Lisa Grimm (here).

In particular, we would like to thank our sponsors, Sysomos and BazaarVoice, for making all of our events during SXSW possible. They were (and are) great partners.


W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

While there weren’t any breakthrough companies this year at SXSW, we did have a number of themes crop up during our Social Commerce Summit and then again during our Live from Stubbs podcast tapings during our open house on Friday, March 8. In particular we heard a lot about big data, mobile, analytics and the operationalization of digital across the organization from many of our speakers/guests. There was also a significant amount of interest in our partner, SnapTrends, technology that provides for location-based analytics, a topic that W2O is quite bullish on.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be embedding the Live from Stubbs videos in blog posts on our Common Sense blog. In the meantime, you can check out all of the videos on our Youtube channel here. You can also read my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty’s summary of our interview with Youtube’s Jeben Berg, here. When Kyle is not podcasting he is the VP of marketing at local analytics firm, 21CT who was kind enough to sponsor our Live from Stubbs videos. I would also like to thank local video production and strategy company, UPG for all of their brilliant work with both the Live from Stubbs videos as well as recording/editing all of our Social Commerce videos.


Of course SXSW wouldn’t be what it is without a party. And party we did at our 4th annual Geek-a-cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (ranked best BBQ in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine). Fortunately the rain held off this year allowing us to eat fantastic BBQ, enjoy the brilliant music of local favorite, Monte Montgomery, share a few beverages, take funny photos in our photo booth and play a little Corn Hole out behind the tent.

This short video shot and produced by UPG does a wonderful job of summing up this fabulous event.


We also need to thank Natalee Norwood and Spoiled Doves for producing our Geek-a-cue. Without all her creativity, foresight and elbow grease, this event wouldn’t be what it was. Thank you to Aaron and Stacy Franklin and the Franklin staff for use of their venue and all the mouth watering BBQ they served up with smiles on their faces.

Digital Brunch

Capping off the week, we hosted a digital brunch at our East Austin offices. In spite of threats of rain, the springing ahead of the clocks and a lot of hung over SXSW attendees, we still enjoyed over 125 visitors to our new offices. The petting zoo, chair massages, drinks (alcoholic and caffeinated) and gourmet brunch courtesy of local restaurant/catering company, Dai Due, probably didn’t hurt.

Biggest thanks of all go to the dream team at W2O Group of Erin Disney, Stephanie Layton, Blaire Borochoff and Katrina Hallowell for their months of hard work putting these events together. Huge props also go to our CEO, Jim Weiss and President, Bob Pearson for making these events possible. Last but not least, a shout out to all of our W2O Group employees who volunteered/attended as well as our clients for being an integral part of our SXSW experience. Thank you!

Last but not least, we also had a little fun with our #sxswpickuplines this year. Details are here. Video that put the cherry on the cake is below.


Over the last five years I have been a part of hundreds of social and digital media research assignments for clients of all industries and sizes. There are nuances to each project, industry and client that make the research side of my brain excited with the process of exploration. That process is simply a series of steps that analysts follow to read and analyze the data, and then develop insights based on knowledge of the business and the data to inform a strategy and tactics. Those insights are what clients pay us for. Well… not entirely.

Let us take a step back for a second and explore the process we use to arrive at the insights development phase.

  1. Business input – An old colleague of mine used to tell clients that they will always know the business better, but the reason we were brought in was because of our expertise in translating the business into the written (or digital, in this case) word. Every project starts with a debrief on where the business currently stands, where it is going and what are the steps being taken to get there. It is critical for analysts who may come in and out of a particular industry or client situation to have the business context when reviewing the data. Without that context, the insights could totally miss the mark.
  2. Initial research – We always start with an initial research phase in order to hone keywords and test initial assumptions. It doesn’t need to be structured.
  3. Hypothesis development – Before you go into anaphylactic shock after reading the word hypothesis, you should know that I don’t mean it in the very literal, high school science class way. If you would like to format your hypotheses that way, be my guest. However, when I say hypothesis all I am referring to is a brief statement detailing what you as the researcher are expecting to see after the business input session. It can be something as simple as saying like, “the majority of conversations will be taking place on Twitter.” That’s a perfectly fine statement and it helps frame the research in such a way that you do not end up with 500 slides of data and no clear story or direction. More on this in a moment…
  4. Research/Analysis – This is where the analyst takes everything he or she learned during the business input session, initial research and hypothesis phases and applies it to the actual data. For the purposes of this post, just know that this is where the bulk of the work happens, particularly in industries that receive quite a bit of attention online.
  5. Insights development – After the analyst has gathered all of the data, he or she can start to develop insights based on what they learned during the business input session and in the data gathering phase.

Clients and internal teams alike are always looking for this insight, right? It is where the rubber meets the road. It is the basis for the development of our communications strategies and tactics, right? While it is certainly the goal to uncover that golden nugget of an insight that forever changes the business, sometimes confirming an initial suspicion can be just as valuable. For example, what if during the business input session your client or key stakeholder told you that there was some negativity about the brand. That the brand image itself had been tarnished in some way. What if during your research you confirmed that yes, in fact, there was a negative stigma attached to the brand? Would that not be valuable for the brand to hear? Obviously, it is your job as an analyst to help the team translate that finding into an action plan to counteract the negativity, but you have just confirmed their gut instinct.

What if you were conducting this same kind of social media research for a B2B company and the client or stakeholder told you that nobody is talking about the brand online and you then demonstrated that through your research? Would that not be valuable to hear? Again, it is incumbent upon you (the analyst) and the team to develop an action plan to counteract or grow the volume of conversation (if desired).

There are going to be those instances where finding the truly amazing insight in a set of data will not happen. Trust me, I have been a part of several projects over the last several years where that is the case. In those instances, confirming initial gut instincts can be just as valuable if translated into an action plan. Don’t forsake confirming your instincts in search of the magical insight elixir. If you do, you might be disappointed.

I do not think I have seen anyone run any kind of correlation between the explosion of social media and the subsequent explosion of social media listening tools, but I think it’s safe to assume that the two are related in some way. From 2007 (when I was first exposed to the tools) until the present day, the application of listening tools has also evolved. At first companies were using tools like Radian6 and Sysomos much like they were using Factiva and Cision — to read and respond during a time of crisis. That’s a perfectly fine application, but it is only about 1/10th of the power these tools posses.

It is only over the last two years that we have truly seen listening tools used to its full potential by brands, and even that adoption is limited to the usual suspects. What do I mean by using tools to the full potential? I mean gathering conversation data in real time to change content to meet the community’s needs. I mean gathering real-time feedback on your product(s) and feeding it to the product development team. I also mean using listening data for proactive customer service outreach. How many of those applications are you currently undertaking today? Granted, not everyone of them will make sense, but the bottom line is if you are using a listening tool for only corporate reputation you are not getting your money’s worth.

So how do you turn your existing listening program into something that offers much more value to your organization? At last week’s Explore Social Media in Minneapolis I outlined seven steps. Here they are:

  1. Think toolbox, not tool – There is not a data capture tool on the market today that will serve all of your needs. Listening tools are powerful, to be sure, but they do not capture everything. Think about what combination of tools — customer service, web analytics, search analytics, conversation analytics — you need to be successful.
  2. Develop a social intelligence supply chain – Using the toolbox above, how do you route and display information within the organization? This is a critical step that is most often overlooked.
  3. Institutionalize standard metrics and models – Presenting the same metrics and using the same approach to data gathering is essential to delivering actionable insights and ensuring overall credibility.
  4. Determine the right reporting cadence – There are different models for different audiences. For example, if you are presenting to an executive audience then it makes the most sense to roll up data every quarter. If you are using the data for real-time content, though, it may make more sense to present findings every week.
  5. Using analysts to hand code data – While the tools are becoming more sophisticated, nothing yet replaces the analyst who understands the business and the tools.
  6. Protocols for crises – If you are familiar with your issues, know what drives share of conversation, know who the influencers are, know who you would talk to in crisis, know the top search words people use then you are in good shape. Do you know all of those?
  7. Build a team who understands the business – This goes hand-in-hand with #5, but having analysts who understand the tools and the business is absolutely essential. It’s the only way you will develop actionable insights.

Those are the primary building blocks to building an effective social media listening program at your organization. If you would like to see more of my presentation to Explore Social Media the deck is below.



Data overload is real. Yes, this is coming from the guy who has said on more than one occasion that the biggest problem in digital analytics isn’t too much data, but rather too few insights. I still believe that to be true, but in this case I mean marketers are bombarded by research (saving for a moment any editorial commentary on whether that research is good or bad) that attempts to identify cross-platform digital trends. Think for a moment about all of the various blog posts you have seen over the last few months presenting data about how Facebook Timeline is performing (or not as the case may be). Those posts alone are enough to leave marketers wondering what works, and who spiked the punch of researchers claiming to have answers to a “problem” that is entirely too complex to answer by aggregating unrelated data points. Oops, editorial commentary slipped in there…

There are, believe it or not, reliable sources of trend data out there for marketers to reference when making strategic and tactical decisions. One such piece of research was just released by Edison Research and Arbitron called, “The Social Habit.” During BlogWorld & New Media Expo in New York this week, Tom Webster, VP of Strategy for Edison, presented some of the top-level findings from this year’s report. This report, by the way, is in its 20th iteration, which likely means it has delivered significant value to its consumers over time. At any rate, Tom delivered the data in a very useful way with some high-level findings for everyone in the audience to take back to their jobs. What did I find valuable from the study? Quite a few things, including:

  • Social networkers check their profiles often – Of the survey participants, 66% of people checked their social sites daily, with 25% checking their Facebook page at least five times per day. What does that mean for brands? One of the things that initially popped to mind was the importance of optimizing your content for day of week and time of day. Now, I’m not advocating that you use the existing data on this subject, as most of it is improperly aggregated and not useful. If you haven’t done this research for your brand, it is now time to start.
  • Understanding the mobile experience is critical – It will come as a galloping shock to nobody that people utilize their mobile device to access social sites. What may come as a surprise, however, is that 33% of people view Facebook most via phone. The number is slightly less for Twitter (25%), but still substantial. How important is mobile for social networks and brands to get right? Answering “very important” would be a pretty good response.
  • Visual content is king – By now we have all likely encountered the statistic that about 65% of people are visual learners. The people who are active social networkers are no exception to that rule. In this survey, 55% of social networkers have “watched video clips or other Internet video programming from YouTube in the last week.” When looking at the general population of this survey (online Americans aged 12+), the number is still a staggeringly high 37%. Have you taken a look at your YouTube channel recently? If not, now would be a good time.
  • Users of social networking sites are following brands now more than ever – This is one that you might expect wouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone “in the business,” but when Tom talked about this during the presentation I was stunned. Consider that over the last two years brand-following behavior has almost doubled, with 79% of Facebook users following a brand and 9% doing the same on Twitter. To assume your customers aren’t watching you on those channels is folly, yet there are still those brands that doubt the value of social. Knowing that the customer is watching should be a powerful motivator for those skeptics.
  • Facebook does impact buying decisions – In this survey, 47% of respondents said that content on Facebook had impacted their buying decisions. If you are managing a brand page right now what are you doing to ensure that you are delivering the right content at the right time to drive that conversion? No, it isn’t all about the sale, but when so many openly admit to being influenced by what they see on a platform how could you not pay greater attention?
  • It is not all about the coupon – THANK GOODNESS! Respondents were asked in the survey why they enjoyed following a brand, and 56 times they said coupons/discounts. Now, that was the number one answer, but only about 16% of the responses. Also frequently mentioned were a favorable opinion of the business or product, learning about new products and content/ideas. Please retailers; do not fall exclusively into the coupon/discount game. This survey shows that your Facebook consumer cares about a lot more than just a 10% savings this weekend.

Those were just some of the key highlights that I gleaned. To download the rest of the data all you need to do is head over to and enter some quick information. Hopefully you get as much out of the report as I did.



Over the last few years communicators have had a ringside seat to the biggest shift in their profession since, well, the creation of broadcast television. Consider for a moment that Facebook has now crossed 900 million users , Pinterest reached 10 million unique visitors faster than any standalone site ever, and Twitter has 140 million active users and what communicators are faced with now is a burgeoning community of creators not consumers. Sure, the largest online population is still those who consume content but the numbers of people who contribute and share is growing substantially. This has several implications for communicators, not the least of which is factoring in new channels into the mix.

The other, and this is less something we can control is the number of people looking to break into this business for companies or agencies. Unfortunately, the social media space is moving at a pace that far outstrips the availability of quality talent. I don’t mean to be unfair about this, but the number of people who have executed social media campaigns for the Fortune 500 is small. It isn’t a matter of setting up a Facebook page or managing a Twitter account. The best social media professionals are part marketer, part behavioral psychologist, part businessman/woman and part number cruncher. Ah numbers. You knew I was getting there eventually, right?

If the talent gap in social media is huge, the analytics talent gap in those spaces is equally as big. Whenever you tweet, like, comment or click you are creating a data point for someone to analyze. It is not that simple, though. Analyzing those top-level metrics is only one part of the equation. Can you take those metrics and turn them into a communications or business insight? Many people know how to collect data and put it into a presentation. Fewer people know how to collect the data, put it into a presentation that highlights insights that improve the business or a communications program.

This is not going to be a trend that slows down, by the way. I am seeing a greater number of agencies and companies looking to hire directors and vice presidents in the hopes of raising their respective games in this space. Will it work? I suppose only time will tell, but hiring a leader of analytics DEFINITELY makes sense. Unfortunately, as someone who has been looking to fill these roles at three agencies I can tell you that they do not grow on trees. Most of us have various backgrounds that do not necessarily scream “analytics.”

How do we make sure that we have a greater talent pool to pick from? Well, colleges and universities are starting to do that for us by creating analytics programs, but there is still more the existing community can do to combat the problem. Some of those things include:

  • Understanding what goes into a proper analytics job description. Knowledge of social monitoring tools is important, but not nearly the only thing we should be looking at to evaluate candidates. The ability to navigate Microsoft Excel, using web-based tools like Google Insights and optimizing presentations are also important.
  • Have an open mind. There are not a lot of people who have extensive experience in social analytics. Sometimes you have to step outside of your hiring comfort zone to hire the right person.
  • Some skills DO NOT show up on a resume or LinkedIn profile. Are you naturally inquisitive? If the answer is yes, and I can snuff that out in an interview (you would be surprised) you have a big leg up in the process. When was the last time you saw “naturally inquisitive” on a resume? I know I haven’t. This speaks a little bit to bullet #2, but the skills of an analyst don’t easily translate to the traditional resume or LinkedIn profile.
  • Evangelizing on behalf of the space. If you feel comfortable blogging or speaking on the topic of analytics and are currently employed by a company or agency, do it! Potential employees need to hear from people already in the space more often than they do. Those of us already doing the work are extremely passionate about it. That passion translates. Trust me.

The talent gap in social analytics isn’t going to close overnight. Neither will the talent gap that my friend Jim Storer talked about within the community/social strategist ranks. There are some tangible things we can start to do, though, to close that gap. Some of those things I have highlighted above. Others will come over time as the existing talent pool gains more experience. The situation isn’t dire yet, but it will be if we don’t start addressing the problem now. What do you think? For those of you in a hiring position, are Jim and I crazy?

How many times have you read a blog post or seen tweets over the last two years arguing that conferences have no value? That all conferences are good for anymore is networking? Or, my personal favorite, speakers are bringing old, stale content to audiences instead of fresh ideas. There is a shred of truth to all of those comments. Conference attendees typically see the same speakers at every show who utilize very similar content in their presentations. What is interesting is that you often hear these charges levied by those who do a lot of the speaking. Interesting, huh?

Over the course of 2012, I will likely speak at over 10 events across the country. When I am speaking at events I often have very little time to pay attention to the other speakers. I try my best to focus on speakers before and after my talk, but it is hard. Before my talks I am focused on the key talking points I want to convey, and after my brain has shut down after being “on” for an hour in front of a few hundred people. If you speak at a lot of events, I am sure you can come here and confirm that feeling.

Last week I had an opportunity to attend an event in Knoxville, Tennessee called Social Slam. I wasn’t speaking, but I had heard enough good things about this event from people I trusted that I looked into it. With the good fortune of a few open days on the calendar I booked my ticket to Knoxville. This was the first time I was attending an event and not speaking in quite a long time so I was looking forward to soaking up the content. Let me tell you right now the content did NOT disappoint. A few things I am taking away:

  • Tom Webster makes volumes of social data approachable – Tom and I come at analytics problems from two different backgrounds, but I think we eventually come to the same conclusions. That said, Tom is much better than I am at making data approachable. I have seen him speak on a few occasions, and yes, Tom speaks at quite a few events, but I don’t think I noticed just how approachable he makes this subject until I had an opportunity to truly listen.
  • 50 huge ideas in 50 minutes – There is very little variety in session formats these days. Either we have a solo speaker, a keynote or a panel. At Social Slam Mark Schaefer put together easily the most innovative conference session I had seen in a few years. The 50 huge ideas in 50 minutes concept was five speakers each with 10 minutes providing big ideas on their area of expertise. For example, Stephanie Wonderlin gave 10 fantastic ideas to make video marketing more approachable. During the same session, Stanford Smith gave some great ideas for how to improve your blog. Bottom line was that these sessions were great for the audience and the speakers. A number of people came up to each of the speakers afterwards asking for additional advice. As a speaker, there’s nothing better than getting follow-up questions after your talk.
  • Breakout sessions appealed to all audiences – Right after lunch, there were three different panel sessions all focusing on varying levels of expertise. In one session, D.J. Waldow, Stanford Smith, Stephanie Wonderlin and Marcus Sheridan provided useful tips for getting started in social media. In another Sam Fiorella, Eric Pratum and Sean McGinnis dove into the interplay between social and search. Finally, Jay Baer, Amy Kenly, Clinton Bonner and Gary Schirr talked about using social media to drive product innovation. Any conference organizer will tell you just how difficult it is to appeal to the varying skill levels of an audience. These three sessions did just that. There was literally something for everyone.

Before I go any further, I wanted to give kudos to Mark Schaefer, the volunteers and all of the speakers for putting on a spectacular event. Social Slam opened my eyes to the value of conference content again. As a result of this experience I know I will be looking for more opportunities to attend events and not speak. This field is too new for us to stop learning and only speak. I would encourage you to do the same by finding the Social Slam equivalent in your area.



We all have our bucket list items. Whether it is jumping out of an airplane, running your own company or traveling around the world, there is a good chance you have several items you would like to accomplish before all is said and done. For me, one of those items is writing a book. I started down this path once before, but for a lot of reasons the time wasn’t right so I gave up the pursuit. Now that I’m back in Austin and more settled, the timing couldn’t be better to pick up the pursuit once again.

That is a lot of build up for me not to say what I am sure you have already guessed – I am joining Bob Pearson, Aaron Strout and Spike Jones in the WCG book club. What makes this even more exciting is that I am doing it with my good friend Ken Burbary. There are few people I respect more within the digital analytics, social media and digital marketing worlds than Ken, so when this opportunity arose he was my first call. What are we going to be writing about you might be asking? Well, digital analytics, of course! The title of the book is still being finalized, but the premise of the book is that companies are faced with a mountain of digital data that is largely underutilized.. Similarly, those same companies struggle to find and utilize tools that help them gather and analyze data. Those are just two of the items we will be tackling in this book. Some of the other issues we will address include:

  • Measuring social media – We will be covering multiple digital analytics topics, but would be remiss if we didn’t tackle this 800lb gorilla in the room. Ken and I approach analytics from different backgrounds (but similar perspectives) so you should expect to see very practical social media measurement advice in this book. How do we create integrated measurement plans? What are some metrics companies can use to measure success on paid, earned and owned channels? Is there more to the world of measurement than ROI? These are just some of the social media questions the book will answer.
  • Elevating listening within the organization – The first time Ken and I collaborated was back in October 2009 when we introduced the Social Analytics Lifecycle. The premise then was that listening data has utility beyond public relations and marketing, and I think I can safely speak for Ken when I say we still feel the same way now. That being said, the number of organizations capitalizing on listening data in this way is minimal. This book will give you some tips and tricks to elevate listening within your organization.
  • Understanding, measuring and defining influence – This isn’t a book on influence, but to not tackle some of the tools, processes and algorithms available on the market would be a missed opportunity in our opinion. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this topic and our hope is that we can turn the boat around.
  • Paid media analytics – The book is far from written, but there’s a very good chance that we will be preaching INTEGRATION throughout. While the world has been hyper-focused on social data (rightfully so in a lot of respects), we have missed an opportunity to bring in paid data to make the social story stronger. This is one of the many reasons I’m excited to be partnering with Ken on this book as he has spent the last several years focused on this topic.

That is just a quick sneak preview. We will be covering these topics and more in great depth in the book. For those of you wondering when it is going to be released, it is tentatively scheduled to be released in early January of 2013. Both Ken and I are very pleased to be working with Pearson on this title, especially after they successfully launched Jason Falls’ book several months ago.

I would be remiss if I left off perhaps the most important aspect of this book. Ken and I have decided to follow the lead of Michael Brito and donate the proceeds of the book to charity. Ken’s charity is the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association, and mine is Superhero Kids. I’ll let Ken talk about RSDSA, but Superhero Kids is a local Austin organization whose mission is to provide funding for the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families during treatment. I can’t imagine a more deserving local charity that assists kids with cancer.

There are too many people to thank for pushing me toward this pursuit. Needless to say if you are one of them, you’ll be hearing from me throughout this process with a word of thanks. We’re looking forward to this book, and hope you are looking forward to reading it.

This was an exciting week within the halls of WCG. The analytics team, now approaching 40 people, was assembled in Austin for two days of training and development. It was the first time that the entire group has been assembled to talk about our models, our work and, most importantly, share our collective experiences with the goal of producing high quality work for our clients.

The WCG analytics team has grown tremendously over the last three years. When I joined the team in January of 2010 we were in a small office outside of downtown and there were only a handful of us doing analytics work for clients. Now, the team brings a wealth of experience beyond social analytics. We have a strong, and diverse team now with skills in web analytics, search, and traditional market research. These new team members have come in and built on our strong footprint in social analytics.

These two days in Austin have left me super-charged to be back at a firm that places such a high value on analytics. WCG is unique because everyone has bought into the idea that analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. It’s one of the reasons I was excited to rejoin the firm back in January. Want the rest? Well, here you go…

  1. Executive leadership has a deeply rooted belief in the power of analytics Jim Weiss, Bob Pearson, Tony Esposito, Diane Weiser, Paulo Simas, Gail Cohen, Jennifer Gottlieb, Leslie Wheeler, Craig Alperowitz and a host of others at the senior leadership level believe analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. They’ve invested time and energy in helping to build analytics models that benefit clients, and also position the firm as an innovative thought leader in a very crowded space. For someone who works in analytics and had their value challenged frequently, having senior leadership approval is a comforting thing.
  2. Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson – I know I mentioned Jim and Bob above, but I want to call them out separately for taking a chance on me – twice! I asked to come back to a place that I left, and they welcomed me back with open arms They have also given me a simple mission: “Help us do great work for our clients and continue to innovate.” How can you not be charged up by something like that?
  3. The best analytics team in the business – As I mentioned above, the team has grown and added some incredibly strong people like Tim Marklein, Seth Duncan and Amy Jackson. If you don’t know them, you should. Keep watching for what the analytics team develops. Shock and awe doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  4. Brian Reid – There are not many people in communications whose opinion on the media I trust more than Brian’s. It could be because he was a writer at the Washington Post, but more likely it is his intense curiosity to understand the evolving digital landscape. I have had some great discussions about the topic of online influence with people who you might know better than Brian, but I’ll tell you that few (if any) will make you rethink your stance on the topic more than him.
  5. Everyone who has welcomed me back or believed I could make a difference when coming back – Again, it could be seen as cliché to say that it feels like I never left, but it’s true. It really feels like I never left. This group of people is literally too long to list, and I’d be afraid of leaving someone off. If I haven’t thanked you in person yet, rest assured that I will at some point soon.

So there you have it… I could literally list 60 reasons why I am happy to be back at WCG, but that would make for the longest blog post in history. It’s great being in a place where I feel like I belong. Lets keep doing great work for clients, and making some serious thought leadership waves. It is time to GO. AHEAD.

The amount of data available to social media practitioners is staggering. Think about it for a second. If you visit a Facebook page you have created a data point. Clicking “like” on a post creates another data point. If you find an amazing piece of content and share it, you have created another data point. You can start to see the point, right? To not use data would be a crime because there is so much of it available. Of course, the amount of data is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because we can make smarter decisions with our budget, but it’s a curse because we have to do a significant amount of work to develop insights from that data.

Data availability isn’t a problem for social analytics professionals. In fact, it’s the reason most of us are employed. No, from my perspective there are three big issues facing social analytics professionals. They are:

  • Scaling listening across a big enterprise – The importance of listening to social conversations is widely understood at this point. What isn’t as widely understood is how valuable that listening data is across the organization. While most listening efforts start in public relations and marketing, the data would likely be available to HR, sales, product development, strategic planning, etc… Unfortunately, setting up the infrastructure to funnel data to other parts of the organization is hard. When you’re talking about a large organization the process is even more difficult. However, social analytics professionals need to continue pushing that agenda forward. Right now, we’re only capitalizing on a small percentage of the data’s true value.
  • Measuring social media – This is likely to be a problem for the foreseeable future as we look for a standard approach that all can implement. Don’t hold your breath. If we can learn anything from the debate over traditional media measurement it is that the chances of landing on a standardized approach is small. We are beginning to arrive at a set of best practices, but standardization isn’t likely any time soon.
  • Bringing more rigor to influencer identification – At WCG we have built our own proprietary algorithm to measure influence. There are a number of other tools available on the marketplace that are loaded with challenges (you don’t need me to name them for you). The bottom line is that we need as much rigor as we can possibly manage when developing an influencer list. It’s no longer acceptable to download from a tool and engage. What shape that algorithm takes in the end is still to be determined, but analytics professionals need to be pushing, innovating and changing.

I had the opportunity this week to discuss these issues in more depth during a talk for Social Media Club Seattle. I’ve included the deck here in case you would like to see more of my point-of-view. What challenges are you seeing from an analytics perspective?

Social Media Club Seattle Presentation

View more presentations from WCG

WCG’s Chuck Hemann, Director of Analytics, spoke yesterday at the Social Fresh Conference on how organizations can use listening data across multiple business units, not just PR and marketing. Today, social media strategist Nate Riggs sat down with Chuck to discuss this topic further and find out more about how enterprises can use social media insights. Thanks Nate and Chuck!

Chuck Hemann on Social Business Design at Social Fresh East

Nate’s post:

Raise your hand if you are listening to conversations online about your brand, competitors or industry? Over the course of the last several years the number of people who would raise their hand after getting such a question has gone up considerably. Whether it’s using free alerts setup through Google, or a paid solution like Radian6, chances are good most of you are doing some listening.

Back in 2009, Ken Burbary and I were discussing how listening data moved throughout the organization. Our hypothesis, and one that I think is still valid today, was that companies were underutilizing listening data. The visual we created, called the social analytics lifecycle, argued that listening data had applications in strategic planning, product development, customer care, sales and many other parts of the organization. Some were more strategic applications and others involved using the listening data for tactical implementation.

What we were talking about back then is still valid, but adoption within companies has been much slower than we anticipated. Why? The easy answer is that scaling ANYTHING at a large company is very difficult. The other part of that answer is that most companies don’t have a strategic approach to listening. What does that look like?

  • Goal setting – What are you actually trying to achieve by listening to consumer conversations? You’ll likely get varying answers depending on the part of the organization you ask, and that’s OK. But far too often we’re launching blindly without an idea of what we’re trying to achieve.
  • Internal resources – Listening isn’t something that just magically happens. Resources internally need to be identified. In an ideal world, listening is an extension of your market research activities so the function lives within that group. If it’s not market research initially, that’s OK. All that you really need to get the ball rolling is someone who understands the goals, tools and can successfully turn data into insights to champion the value across the organization.
  • Picking a tool – There are literally hundreds of tools on the market, and picking one tends to be an arduous process. However, if you’re goal is to eventually scale listening beyond PR and marketing that limits the number of tools you can effectively use. One final public service announcement on picking a tool – DON’T BE THE COMPANY THAT PICKS A TOOL WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING YOUR GOAL OR HAVING RESOURCES IDENTIFIED
  • Developing a response matrix – You’ve all seen those flow charts for positive, negative and neutral comments, right? Before you start using listening data for engagement, you’ll need to develop one. If you need an example, check out this one from the Air Force.
  • How other business units come on board – Most listening programs start in PR or marketing, but eventually others will want to be invited to the party. At the outset, decide how those other business units will come ‘online.’
  • Develop your reporting approach – This includes not only how often you’ll be reporting, but also what will go in the reports themselves. Best practice reports attempt to identify who is talking, what are they saying, when are they saying it, where they are talking and, to some degree, why they are talking. Think about it as the five W’s of social media listening.

Those are some really simple steps to begin the scaling process, but ultimately it’s a cultural shift within companies. You have to want to listen to what your customers are saying. Or, if you’re in human resources for example, listening to current and prospective employers.

I’ll be discussing this topic in more depth at next week’s Social Fresh conference in Tampa, Florida. If you’re planning to be there, please come up and