We no longer refer to analytics in the traditional way.  We call what we do “forensic analytics”, since we are looking for clues and patterns that will lead to insights that can solve problems or shape behavior for our clients.

Within the world of forensic analytics, we work in 3-D.  There are three critical views necessary to build a meaningful perspective on how a market is being shaped.

  • #1 – History – we want to know what the patterns of behavior have been over a 1-3 year period….or longer..
  • #2 – Present – what is happening today/this week in a key country or region?  What do people care about, overall?
  • #3 – Location – what is happening at the store/event level?  What is igniting passion at the point of sale/customer decision?

Said another way, we look deep, daily and door-to-door.

Our clients already know the first two well.  The third capability is now available via unique lens technology provided by our partner, SnapTrends.

We can place a lens over any location anywhere in the world.  More importantly, we can place lenses, proactively, over locations where we know we’ll want to turn them on someday.

You can build a global location-based network for your company or organization that can be turned on when you want it.

We’ve spent the better part of a year ensuring we can build the right ways to catch this data, so that it can be useful to our clients and it matches up with historical and present data.  After all, if you just get a lot of info, who cares.  It has to be filtered so we tease out what insights are relevant and actionable and it needs to relate to our algorithms and models.

Now it does and our first four products are ready to go.   The first is Retail Radar, the second is Political Radar, the third is Event Radar and the fourth is Workforce Radar.

All four have these traits in common.

You identify “where” you want to measure.  For example, place a lens over all retail stores in a country or region or at your event sites or voting districts.  There is no limit.  You decide what you want, we create the lenses and then we only turn them on when you need them.

You measure “what matters” at the store or event or facility level.  You’ll learn what content and topics are catalyzing passion and driving behavior.

Our model will then help you determine “how” to follow-up.  Do you want to follow-up via social media, e.g. follow key people on twitter?  Or do you want to share important content in near real-time to fuel conversation further?  Where should the insights go, since different insights go to different people in your organization.

Finally, you can analyze “why” a trend is developing.  What message or content is accelerating or decelerating in importance at the store or event or district level.

There is a lot more to share, but…..

  • Imagine if you outlined all locations and events that matter to you for the year, so you could learn what was happening and have it sent to your laptop or tablet or phone.
  • Imagine if you could tell what was actually happening at the store level to see if passion and action is happening and figure out what is happening in Store #1 in Atlanta vs. Atlanta vs. Georgia vs. Southeast vs. U.S.
  • Imagine if you could track all of your company’s physical locations to ensure that no sensitive information was being shared publicly.
  • Imagine if you knew of an issue occurring at one of your facilities as soon as people start talking online or you could drop a lens over any issue in real-time to learn faster than those gathering news of the issue.

There are many scenarios to imagine.  We’ve thought of most of them and you will think of others.  We’ll save that information for our next conversation.

All the best, Aaron Strout, Michael Westgate & Bob Pearson

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An open letter to all W2O Group Team Members

We’re an interesting company.  We don’t hesitate to share all we know with the world via blogs, books and presentations.  Yet, we maintain a humble spirit.

We don’t focus on our own headlines.  We focus on innovating faster than our peers.  We don’t give up until we have created a unique advantage for our clients.  We excel because our work is excellent.

Every year, there is an election that no one thinks of as an election.  It’s the rankings of the top firms in our industry.

Clients tell us who is good and who is not with their actions and their pocket books.  So rankings do matter.

In 2011, we were ranked #30 in the world for communication firms, based on $47MM in revenue.  For 2012, we just learned that we are now the #25 firm in the world with revenue of $62MM.

We moved up five places with a growth rate of 30% that is well ahead of our peers.  The only firm in the top 25 that grew more than us is one we’ve never heard of, BlueFocus PR Group, from China, with 38% growth.  We’ll have to ask Chris Deri for more perspective on what this firm is doing right.

We often reflect on the fact that our firm is filled with amazing people.  You are talented, hungry and never satisfied.  You pride yourselves on doing a better job or creating a better solution than the competitor across the street.  We hear the drum beat of competition without ever having to say it.  It’s inside of us.

This year, as you know, we’re likely to finish with our best year ever.  Our goal is to reach $80MM in fee.

That could vault us another five slots to #20 in the world.

That has a nice ring to it.

Thank you for all you do every day.

Thank you for choosing to be different.

Thank you for pragmatically disrupting the status quo….one day at a time.

Thank you for making W2O Group what it is today and driving us towards what it will become in the years ahead.


All the best, Bob & Jim


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One of the key findings of the Social Oncology Report was that cancer conversations have become increasingly fragmented, specific and sophisticated. The number of journal articles posted to PubMed has increased 349% since 1999 – and the number of cancer-related conversations has exploded in similar fashion. As those cancer-specific conversations continue to grow, we wanted to take a closer look at the physicians who are driving them. This is the third in a series of posts on the subject, which hone in on conversations about breast cancer, gynecological cancers, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and lung cancer. You can see the first four, Doctors and Social Oncology: Trends in Physician ConversationsDoctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most active in leading online cancer conversationsDoctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most mentioned by their peers (skin cancer edition), and The MDs most mentioned by their peers (lung cancer edition) through the links above.

In our last post, we talked about the importance of physicians who are the most active in driving conversations about a topic area, because it isn’t just about health – or even cancer – anymore. Our healthcare conversations have become increasingly specialized and complex. Today, we’re going to go a level deeper and begin looking at which doctors are talked ABOUT the most – by their fellow MDs – in the context of a lung cancer. I’ve already sensed a little skepticism from some folks about the validity of this measurement – so let me tell you why I think it’s important.

Most of us are familiar with influence-rating tools like Klout or Kred. I think that, at some level, those tools have validity – but I don’t think that they are particularly sophisticated.  What’s much more interesting to me than knowing someone’s general, overall influence … is knowing how their peers see their influence on specific topics. And that’s what we’ll be looking at for the next few days. There’s still a level deeper to go, so stay with me – but for now, let me introduce the physicians who have been most-mentioned by other doctors on the subject of prostate cancer.

As you hover over the “Image Capsule” below, you can connect with links associated with each doctor & connect with them. Most importantly, the “Share” icon in the upper left can be used to share this capsule with any of your social networks or to embed it in your blog or web site.

For more information on the MDigitalLife Social Oncology project, please visit There, you’ll find the report itself, links to a series of expository blog posts, interviews with cancer experts from the #ASCO13 Annual Meeting, a full series of infographics like the one above, and media articles covering the study.

HUGE thanks to my W2O Group colleagues Rami Lazarus, Franco GalimbertiKayla RodriguezAlim LeungScott Kramer and Matt Snodgrass for contributing to these amazing image capsules.

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Change brings ambiguity and challenges to our lives. So we don’t like it, and our natural reaction is to fight it. But while we may try to resist change and bristle at the stresses that it brings to our lives, we are also its primary drivers.

Consider, for example, the devices we use and the services we’ve come to expect. Were those available to us some five, 10 or 15 years ago? Most likely, many were not. Imagine a world today without smartphones, 24/7 online shopping, or the ability to watch TV programs whenever we want.

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” this is what a cell phone looked like:

It was so expensive that only millionaires like the fictional Gordon Gekko could afford one. By the way, the reception wasn’t that great, and it weighed a couple of pounds. Not very convenient.

So what happened? It was consumer demand – ours – that drove the development of technologies and capabilities we take for granted today: a smartphone in the pocket, an HDTV at home, and a hybrid car in the driveway.

No, we didn’t explicitly ask for the many modern devices and conveniences we now take for granted. We never demanded the remarkable smartphone apps that allow us to accomplish a range of tasks that were never before possible. But their development and evolution were driven by our unceasing and insatiable desire for smaller, faster, higher quality, cheaper, more convenient, and easier.

Choices become expectations

These are some of the components of change. Consumer choices become expectations and then demands. And they impact you, no matter your profession. By the way, these are your demands and expectations, and my demands and expectations.

On Monday morning, we go to work to face the unrelenting pace of change. What passed for quality work a few years ago is unacceptable today. It’s practically a firing offense.

As soon as we settle into “normative” behaviors and attitudes as deliverers of services and goods, along comes a competitor that does it better, faster, or cheaper. And we have to match it or beat it, or else we and our company will be left behind.

Our boss’ demands seem greater and more oppressive than ever before. But then, so too are his boss’, as well as the CEO’s demands, and the demands of shareholders for ever greater returns on investment. And those ever-increasing returns come from you and your team’s ability to create and deliver better products and services.

It’s not just our everyday devices like smartphones, TVs and the Internet. It’s health care, transportation and every other component of modern life. Consider just health care.

We’ve seen such amazing advances in our lifetimes. Diseases of our youth or our parents’ youth have been either eradicated or controlled, allowing continued life for many people who before would have been condemned to an early death or impairment.

The health care field – pharmaceuticals, devices, and delivery – continues to improve, continues to impact our lives in ever impressive and heretofore untold ways. Again, those advances are only possible because of people’s ability to adapt to and leverage change. But we have so much further to go, so many horrible diseases to conquer. And that means change and more change.

We build our societal growth and advances on what went before. That is the essence of continuous change: constant improvement on what we now have.

It’s a never-ending cycle, and you’d better get used to it. It’s only going to come at us faster. Then again, we could revert to that shoe-sized cell phone. Somehow, I doubt we will.


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My colleague, Michael Westgate, did a very cool analytics review of the top bands that will perform at Austin City Limits in October, 2013.  Via Michael’s work, we already know which bands are most likely to be the hits six months from now.  We’ll keep tracking and refining our view, but we won’t do it in the more traditional way.   We’ll use our own algorithm to judge how each band is picking up influence across 107 metrics in ten channels of online communications.

The algorithm enables us to judge real overall influence and to do it over a long period of time.

And that is where the rather obvious point has hit me that crowdsourcing and predictive analytics are cousins and have been all along.

One of the common mistakes made to judge behavior is to study how a person travels online from site to site.  Somehow, we think, if we can see where they are going on a single journey, we can judge what they like.   That’s a bit of a crapshoot.  It’s what you would expect of a linear-focused advertising world geared to get you to buy something.

One individual’s journey is just that……one individual’s journey.

Now, if we follow, let’s say, a million of this person’s friends, making a similar journey, I would argue we could start to see patterns that are meaningful.  For Austin City Limits, we are and will be looking at millions of data points over time.

The crowd is predicting who the leaders are.  We don’t need to guess.  As summer festivals start, it will become even more clear.  Since ACL is the last of the summer festivals, we’ll know exactly where to spend our time.  And yes, we all go to ACL so we really do like that benefit!

What is even more intriguing is that we can validate our data by dropping a lens over summer festivals pre-ACL.  We can then see what folks are saying publicly, via mobile phone, by band.  This technology, from our partner, SnapTrends, shows activity by band at last year’s ACL.

The crowd always knows what’s next.  The trick, however, is following the right crowd.  Austin City Limits is easy.  But if we want to know which features of a computer will drive its sales a year from now, its more sophisticated and, as a result, far more important that we get this right.  One of the best examples I’ve heard on selecting the right crowd relates to the space shuttle.  Ask all of the residents of Florida how much fuel is in the space shuttle and they have no clue.  Ask 300 rocket scientists and they will get within an ounce.  Tracking the right people matters.

It is one of the reasons why we are building a software and a services firm together.  We need to innovate how we monitor the cloud, so we can make the right decisions on the ground.

Meanwhile, out of Michael’s top 20, my personal favorites so far are Eric Church and Atoms for Peace (RadioHead’s Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea and Beck’s Joey Warnocker).  My only problem is Michael’s algorithm doesn’t really care what I think…:)

Check out his post to see more of the top 20.

All the best, Bob


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Our industry is undergoing a tectonic shift.  It looks subtle on the outside, but its impact is massive.

A new type of consulting firm is emerging, that we call S²aaS, in an industry that only had one S previously.

Within our firm, we like to say that we are in the process of creating a software firm within a services company.

It’s not a question of if…it’s a question of how.

Clients want relevant insights for paid, earned, owned and shared media, anywhere on earth, anytime of the day, for as far back as it may matter to understand an issue.

  • Technology is allowing us to see what people say at the store level via their phone right now, while algorithms enable us to know who has driven share of conversation for the last five years.
  • Customers are making decisions on their own terms.  How we reached them in the past is decreasingly effective.
  • Competitive advantage will go to those organizations who are expert at identifying issues, opportunities, trends and competitor actions more quickly than their peers.

Hardware (physical labor), alone, is incapable of harnessing this combination of data and insights.  Software helps solve the problem.  Yet, in an industry where customers decide whether a brand is truly relevant, it will always be a combination of software and hardware (our brains) that wins in the marketplace.  Neither alone is enough.  Together, we enter a new age of strategic insights.

It means that communications leaders should look at the programmer in their office like they have looked at the creative director for years. They are the new artists, who can create solutions that were unimaginable a few years ago. Programmers are realizing that without the insights of client-facing teams, they will not build what is most relevant to the market.  It’s why we have creative and digital together.  We want our artists to know each other exceptionally well.

And all of us, when we strive to provide the best client service, will realize that fluency in software and “hardware” will lead to the best ideas and solutions.

The result is the emergence of the S²aaS consulting firm run by communications engineers. We are providing “software and services as a service”.  We’re in the cloud and on the ground.

Of course, none of this happens without two key ingredients.  Innovative clients and entrepreneurial agency teams.  When we were selected this week as the digital agency of the year and the specialist agency of the year by The Holmes Report, it made us realize why we are so fortunate.  It’s simple.  We work with some of the most innovative clients in the world and we are building a team of super smart entrepreneurs who believe in pragmatically disrupting the status quo.  This formula is leading to the creation of a S²aaS firm of the future.

Our goal is to help redefine the future of our industry day by day, client by client, as we figure out how to create software that makes a difference and “hardware” that knows how to achieve the right results.

We’re just getting started…time to get back to innovating with our team.

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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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Well, it has happened. The W2O Group — a digital powerhouse — is dropping one of the last vestiges of the analog world … the business card.

Doing its part for the environment, the W2O Group and its agencies and partners (WCG, Twist Mktg, BrewLife, Health 360, NextWorks) will no longer be issuing printed business cards to staff. I think we all knew this day was coming. I mean, think about it … of the standard stack of 1,000 business cards you’re issued, how many do you typically use? Unless you’re selling products on a showroom floor, probably not many.

Here’s a list of ways I’ve been using my business cards as of late:

  1. Holding an air conditioner louvre in place
  2. Toothpick
  3. Unnecessarily fattening my wallet
  4. Note pad
  5. Leveling an uneven table
  6. Ninja throwing star

And when I do pull a business card out of my wallet at a meeting, it’s the wrinkled, frayed, ugly card that’s been in the wallet far too long — not a good first impression.

What do we really need out of the use of a business card? The transfer of contact information. Over the past decade the number of ways of doing this digitally is innumerable (LinkedIn, Facebook, SMS, MMS, E-mail signatures, Bump, Flock, FullContact, et al). So why the printed card? Has it become the skeuomorph of introductions? Lobbyist from Dunder Mifflin? Who knows?

Whatever the reason, it is done. So the next time you run into one of us at a conference or meeting, prepare to be Bumped!

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When we are planning “what’s next”, we are really looking to transform how we work, how our team works and how our company or brand is shaped.

I’ve found that the power of 3 and 3 is very helpful in thinking through how to stay true to your vision, yet execute today.

Here is more on what I mean.

Each leader needs to be thinking of “3 and 3” as they go to work.

  • What is their 3 year vision to transform their function and their individual capabilities?
  • What is their 3 month plan to accomplish this goal?

This is a very simple concept, yet it is proving powerful as I speak with leaders.  Here is why.

Most leaders rely on their company to tell them what the vision should be for their area…they don’t realize they need to participate 100% and ensure they are building the most powerful business.  If you do this, you realize you have to terminate certain processes, add certain skills you don’t have and much more.  And, if your 3 month plan doesn’t get you to your 3 year vision, then you are just working, not working smart.

If leaders buy into the vision for their company, they have achieved the easiest goal on earth.  Intellectual buy-in happens first and is relatively easy.  Physical change often takes 6-12 months to start to take hold.

So, to avoid this wait, we ask leaders to think of what they will do each quarter, in granular detail, listing out what they will do each week to transform their team.

Related to this is how leaders transform themselves.  In addition to the 3 and 3, we should ask ourselves these questions:

What new information will I read to learn?…..or will I keep reading the same information you have for years?

  • What new skill will I improve?…..or will I just assume we will all transform magically?
  • Will I play the role of detective with our team and ask them questions, continually, to help them open their minds?…or will I be quickly satisfied if everything is fine and avoid stretching yourself and your team to think differently?
  • Will I imagine competitors preparing to eliminate the need for us in the market?….or will I just assume everything will work out because it always does?

It’s actually quite exciting and liberating to know that transformations are all about what we choose to do.

An equally important point is to relate what holds people back.  When leaders choose not to lead, they manifest behavior that sounds and looks like this.

We would move forward, but the vision isn’t clear.

We’d like to get that done, but this place is too bureacratic

I’m not sure my boss is on board

If we just had X or Y, we would go do this.

These are the actions and statements of the mediocre manager, not the leader.  They occur in every size company.  I hear them too often.

My message back is the above….take control and be the agent of change.  Stop waiting for someone else to do something.

The ability to transform yourself and your team is completely in your control.

All the best, Bob

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