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 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.

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.


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.