Connecting social media to business results

My former colleague Jill Hunley and I presented at a social media analytics conference a few weeks back.  We were talking about ways in which social media efforts can be linked to corporate results using Big Data analytics.

It’s nice to have others recognize the importance of this.  One of the audience members, Paul Costanza,  had this to say:

“A few outstanding presentations at the Social Media Intelligence Summit highlighted and validated this. The first was a session in which Jill Hunley of AVG and her former colleague Don MacLennan demonstrated that by integrating a set of social data inputs from online product ratings into its customer data analysis, AVG significantly redirected the product development map of one of its star products, AVG Mobilation.

Specifically, AVG determined that more than 90 percent of the product’s negative sentiment was due to just six product attributes. The most interesting aspect of these findings is that not one of these attributes was being addressed for correction by the existing product roadmap! This is the type of insight that marketers dream of providing to product development efforts.”

You can read Paul’s full blog entry here.

This blogging stuff is hard work!

The data analytics guy in me makes me check my blog stats regularly.  The conclusion: the less frequently I write, the less daily visitors I get.  Blogs at a cadence of 5 days or less create a much larger readership than at a slower cadence.

I struggle to think of something interesting to say every 5 days.  Especially given the workload at the office and the obligations of home life.  Maybe I’m not a born blogger?  😉

What do you want to hear about?

Stay tuned….

My parents are on Facebook; I’m outta here!

I’m not the first to write about how parents’ arrival on Facebook has driven their children elsewhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see some other social media site overtake Facebook in popularity amongst teens and young adults .  Just as Facebook did to MySpace years ago.

But for people over 25, Facebook is here to stay.

Being a teenager is about experimentation.  Teens go through phases of trying on “personas” through the cliques they belong to, the way they dress, their tastes in music, TV, movies, books etc.  A lot of those experiments are best forgotten, even if they form some facet of the future adult.

For example, I had the nickname “Bambi” in college when I wore my hair shaved to half an inch. I also wore Stranglers t-shirts with swear words on them.  The hairstyle and the t-shirts are gone now, but the music remains in my collection.

If you’re leaving evidence of one of those experiments online, you might prefer to forget about it later.  And you might also prefer others (read: parents) not to see the details along the way.  Hence, the reluctance to share Facebook with your parents.

So if being a teen is about forgetting , is being an adult about remembering?

I think the attraction of Facebook to adults is the ease of remembering by staying connected.  As an adult, friendships get left behind not out of embarrassment but out of practical necessity.  Getting married?  Your single friends might be superseded by couples.  Having kids?  You’ll probably hang out with other parents.  Moving cities?  It’s hard to keep in touch with your friends in the prior city.  Changing jobs?  Your old work friends will drift away.

Facebook helps keep you connected.   100 years ago, people were less mobile and had circles of friends that didn’t change much over time.  Today we change so fast.  But that doesn’t mean we want to divorce ourselves from the past.  Facebook plays a valuable role in helping us stay connected.

Has Twitter replaced your newspaper? And a corollary: search is dead?

I used to be very dismissive of Twitter.  “What’s its purpose?”, I asked.  Until I had the following thought…

A quick inspection of the Tweets I get suggests that about 70% of them contain URL’s.  Meaning, they are designed for me to go somewhere else for the full read.

Which led me to thinking: are Tweets replacing headlines in the newspaper industry?

Think about how we use headlines.  To quickly scan what we want to read.  And we probably read a small percentage of the articles in full.

What does this mean?  If I’m Google, I’d be concerned.

Google is the front door to a huge percentage of online content.  And they earn a lot of advertising revenue for being so.  But it’s the gateway to specific content that you’re searching for.  While search engines are tremendously useful, it’s not the only way we want to encounter online content.

Using the same analogy, Twitter is the front door to content you might want to read but aren’t searching for specifically.  Like how you scan newspaper headlines for something to read.

This would put Twitter in a powerful position if your business is to get your content read.  It’s not clear to me how Twitter intends to monetize its large base of users and volume of messages.  But you can imagine how it occupies a position between readers and writers, professional or otherwise.

For example, I use Twitter as one way to inform people about a new blog post.  And I noticed a lot of other bloggers doing the same.  If I was making a living from blogging (or journalism, or online marketing), Twitter would be awfully important as a means to communicate with readers.  And I might pay for the privilege.

Since I starting writing this post, I came across this article on the decline in search traffic.  Which seems to be the corollary.  Perhaps people’s use of the Web to acquire information is shifting, to one where the role of search is diminishing and the role of “headlines” (Tweets) is rising.  If so, Google’s dominance is ending.

More bloggery coming….

I guess I’ve assimilated too fast and adopted the European mode of not working in August.   Or in this case, not blogging.  To be fair, there’s been the small matter of welcoming a wife and son to town, looking for an apartment and moving in.  I’m sure a future post will be about the joys and travails of Ikea.

You might also be interested to know that while the “August = holiday” stereotype is true, people are busy on those days they do come to work.

Not to worry, dear readers.  More posts are coming soon.

Blog secrets revealed!

The analyst in me couldn’t help but do what I predicted in a prior post;  which is to analyze my blog’s statistics.

I started using the in-built analytic reports from WordPress.  (DISCLAIMER: none of the analytic tools I’ll be talking about disclose the identity of the you the visitor.  So, I don’t know who you are.  Please keep visiting!)

From WordPress I got the answers to basic questions like “how many people visited my blog today?”  But I wanted to know more about visitor demographics.  Within a few minutes of searching, I happened upon a couple packages called GetClicky and SiteMeter.  Voila!  They were now collecting information.

So after two weeks of using these tools, what do they say about you collectively?

You’re a diverse bunch.

You come from 12 countries and over 140 cities.  In just 2 weeks!  Like Kenya, Sweden, Jamaica, Vietnam, Australia, Israel and India.

I don’t know people from many of the cities (or countries!) in question, so it’s clear that my original mission of blogging for work friends & family also attracts a much broader readership.

A lot of you work from home, or at least visit me from home.

Over 50% of visits are from Internet Service Providers.  If you worked for a company of any size and visited me from work, usually your company’s domain name would appear instead.

What does this mean?  Maybe the work-from-home phenomenon is more pervasive than ever.  Or that you do a lot of surfing during leisure time at home.  Bad news for television networks as I wrote earlier.

A lot of you read multiple blog entries at once.

I suppose if you’re a first-time visitor, and you like what I write about, you’d be inclined to read on.  And you do.  Sometimes for 5, 10 even 20 minutes.  Though I worry about the essay-length of my posts and whether they should be shorter.

My biggest fan?

My biggest fan is….a nursing home resident in the Midwest of the United States?  I don’t know anyone in such a setting.  Could be an employee there.  Or a resident.  Which leads me to wonder: who is this person?  How did they find my site?  Why do they keep coming back?  Are they somebody of Czech descent that fled the Communists?  Or that has a daughter living in Prague?  Or has lost their faculties and somehow finds me interesting?  I’ll probably never know.

In the meantime, to quote the famous cartoon, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog“.

Is Twitter a road or a destination?

I wrote previously about social networking and why I do it.  Twitter is the one social networking tool I have avoided.  It just doesn’t seem to offer anything to me.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my attention deficit disorder hasn’t yet worsened to the point of requiring me to read Tweets all day long while sitting in meetings, eating lunch, playing golf or whatever.  I don’t (yet) need to process 140 characters as they arrive throughout the day.

What I have seen is a lot of Tweets driving traffic to websites such as blogs, social networking sites and media sites.  In this regard, maybe it’s a useful tool to touch a large network of people and drive them to somewhere else.  Maybe Twitter becomes the “push” (as in, I alert you) equivalent to Google’s dominance over “pull” (I find you, or it).

Hmmm, maybe now I know what I want out of Twitter.  Follow me on Twitter here and let’s see what happens.

“Push” technology.  Yikes, I’m reminded of Pointcast from the 90’s.  Still a pretty good app as I recall.

Twitter users out there: are you using it to drive people to sites, or to keep them informed using Tweets alone?

Creating the brand called Me (or, “a middle-aged dude embraces social networking”)

Originally, I started this blog to ensure that professional friends in Boston wouldn’t forget about me.  After all, it was my wife’s and my intention to return to Boston in a few years’ time.  And I wanted to be sure that my network of contacts remained alive and well.  I knew that this network would be a huge determinant of my future job prospects in Boston.

But blogging has grown into something more.

First, I realized that on Facebook, I have personal friends, family and some friends borne of business relationships.  And that many of my blog readers come from that community.  In fact, I occasionally post links to a blog entry on Facebook if I think those friends will enjoy it.

Then there’s LinkedIn.  My first foray into social networks years ago.  Here, a combination of close and less close business relationships.  And another source of blog readers.  So I occasionally post links to blog entries here, too.  But for different reasons, such as blog posts that are strictly business in nature.

Once I got my blogging underway, and experimented with driving readership from networks on Facebook and LinkedIn, I couldn’t help but be me;  I started measuring the blog traffic, using basic tools that come with the blog software. You think about what types of posts cause people to leave comments.  Or what days of the week solicit the most visitors.  Etc. Etc.

Then, the inevitable.

The narcissistic, indulgent, inevitable event: you Google yourself.  “Why can’t anyone find me on Google?!?”, you wonder.  Like it’s somehow important.  Then you start learning about search engines and how they do, or don’t, show you in the results.  “Who the hell are these other Don MacLennans”? It’s not like it’s a common name, after all.

By now, you realize the self-involved, slippery slope you’re hurtling down (how’s that for alliteration?).  And you must arrest your slide.

Why, after all, are you doing this?

And that’s when you realize you have entered the business of brand management.  Everybody has a brand.  We just call it “reputation”.  And we are constantly defining our brand on the basis of how we use social media.  Sure, uploading photos from the weekend, or teasing a friend online, are innocent acts of Facebook-ing.  But if you’re like me, you probably have members of your network that could somehow affect your business reputation too.  You start thinking a bit more clearly about which networks to join, who you connect with in each, and – especially – what types of information you expose about yourself.

The articles are starting to show up in the media about remorseful 20-somethings who have learned to regret the extreme transparency of their online lives.  In the end, something personal got held against them.

Another anecdote: an executive of a former employer made liberal use of the online world to espouse his religious beliefs.  And wrote in tortured terms about how he saw his spirituality as being intertwined with his work.  Please.  Unless you happen to agree with his religious sect, this is not a good thing for his reputation.

So there are downsides to the online world.  But what about the upside?

Back to my original premise about staying in touch with Bostonians.  It seems to be working.  And I realize that if I invest in learning a little about these tools, I can control how I’m seen in the online world.

Meanwhile, I’m connected with hundreds of people I would not otherwise remain in touch with.   They are friends for a reason;  I like them.  I just don’t have time for each one at frequent intervals.   Too many phone calls and emails required!

By blogging, I am also deepening my network’s understanding of me.  Presumably, they see me as somewhat thoughtful, or funny, or cool to know because I live in a cool city overseas.

Therefore, my “brand” is growing, and I am (mostly) in control.  I bet it pays off.