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!


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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.

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One of the questions that Ken Burbary and I get asked most often is why did we write Digital Marketing Analytics? There are a number of reasons why, but the most important reason is that we wanted to give public relations and marketing professionals the roadmap to build a best-in-class digital analytics capability. Said another way: developing an approach to understand how your current and future customers are behaving online. Can you imagine a communicator saying they do not want to know how their customers are behaving? Can you imagine them saying they do not want to develop more targeted communications programs?

Analytics is a subject that is slowly being embraced by communicators, but still strikes fear into the hearts of many. What you will find in this book is that we approach analytics concepts at a 101 and 201 level. Sure, there are some things tailored for the 301 or 401 level, but those are few and far between. It is not written in analytics-ese, though there are some concepts that could be foreign to you. As Greg Gerik said in his review, do not skip the early chapters. They provide the foundation for the rest of the book.

In addition to the basic analytics concepts what are we hoping readers take away from the book?

  1. How to create your analytics toolbox – Unfortunately, there is not an analytics tool that solves every use case, or gathers every bit of digital data. You will need a search analytics tool, a social media monitoring tool, a content analytics tool, an audience analytics tool and probably an influencer analysis tool. These technologies will help you gather data in order to develop insights on how your customers are behaving.
  2. Digital data case studies – Ken and I have worked with a number of Fortune 500 brands to implement both small and large scale digital analytics programs. Throughout the book you will see examples of how companies have used digital data. In some cases we can’t give you specific names because of client sensitives, but know that what we outline in the book comes from direct experience with large companies.
  3. Measuring digital programs – We know measurement is top of mind for marketers, and in the middle of the book we will give you everything from a standard reporting cadence to how to construct your scorecard. Every company is different so do not necessarily take verbatim what we say in the book as gospel. It is meant to be a guide.
  4. What is next for digital analytics? – We had to close out the book with a little bit of the geeky stuff, right? Toward the end of the book we talk about social CRM, mobile analytics, and what is next for a field that is changing as often as you and I change our socks.

Writing this book has been a great experience, and we hope you get a lot out of it when you read it. If you wanted to learn more about what is in the book and what some of our latest thinking about digital analytics is, we have created this very cool image capsule below. It should speak for itself, but hover over the various icons and you’ll see everything from the video previewing our book, to a recent digital analytics trends presentation on Slideshare. Thanks to the awesome folks at Nextworks and Erin Disney for creating it. Oh, and if you happen to be in the Austin area and do not have plans on Thursday night feel free to drop by the W2O Group offices for a book launch party. We will be signing books, and offering free food and drinks. Come one, come all.

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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

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