Are You Measuring the Right Things?

white scaleWe have a fascination with facts and figures. The Guiness Book of Records is perhaps, the pinnacle of achievement in this sphere – showcasing the remarkable and the banal, cheek by jowl. There is the world’s tallest man, the world’s oldest woman, and the world’s heaviest burger. They are all jammed together in a collection that catalogues our obsessions and our foibles. Each record is given equal footing with the next in line.

But when it comes to marketing, especially online, it’s important to differentiate. It’s important to highlight – and focus upon – those measurements that are most important to your (or your client’s) campaign. This is as important for the future of the work that you do as it is for the agency or client that you work for – for in the constant justification of marketing effort we turn to statistics or various versions of “ROI”. But how well do you understand what the investment is? How well can you explain the underlying business levers that are driving the need to communicate, advertise or connect? Against which top line figure are you measuring your results (and no, it’s not about reach, frequency or recall).

Richard Huntington has an excellent rant on this very subject – be sure to read it all:

So long as the digital community clings to its obsession with accountability over effectiveness it will remain in the unedifying position of creating engaging brand fluff on the one hand and highly measurable but largely pointless direct response advertising on the other. If that sounds like a future to you then fine but I’d suggest changing the fortunes of a client’s business is a finer ambition to hold. And that is going to need proper measurement.

Just because we can measure a broad range of digital interaction doesn’t mean it is worthwhile or even necessary. Understanding the core drivers of your (or your client’s business) will point you in the right direction – but there are simpler ways to find out. Ask the CFO.

Micro-transactions and Why Twitter Will Transform Your Brand

Oui je sais je suis grave...Over the last three months or so, there has been an amazing upsurge in the use of Twitter. This micro-blogging platform that allows you to broadcast to your personal network (and to the world) in short, 140 character blasts — has been growing at a phenomenal rate over the last 12 months — and seems set to continue its upward climb. In August last year, Mashable reported that Twitter had experienced a 422 percent growth in visitor numbers over the previous year — with 2.3 million web visitors. This, however, does not take into account those who access the service through third party applications such as Twirl or TweetDeck.

Read more on my article on this topic over at iMedia Asia.

Planning for Context over Planning for Placement

When we are looking to plan and execute a digital campaign, increasingly there is a need to look at not just WHERE we place our campaigns, but the context into which we place them. This is not just being driven by the rise of the “social web”, but by a transformation in the way that we view the relationships between agencies, clients and consumers.

In this interesting presentation by Don Epperson from Havas, he looks at the way in which their agency is transforming. In effect, they are following the model that has worked so well for Google.

By working from a single source of analytical data, Havas is able to aggregate a a whole lot of data based on actual behaviour. The trick is, rather than collecting data on a campaign level, the data warehouse captures information at a cookie level; meaning that the micro-transactions can be measured, tracked and aggregated. Then, by using an online advertising marketplace, the individual preferences of the people interacting with the system (banners/placements etc) can be auctioned to advertisers in a very granular way. This is what Don claims, is the agency of the future:

The agency of the future is going to act very much like the large ad networks today … we have to have scale in terms of reach, we have to be able to turn … data into knowledge …

All this, in turn (I am sure), feeds into their planning process – meaning that campaigns and activations become more targeted, more valuable to the consumer, and more meaningful to the client. It’s much like the potential on offer with Pure Profile.

As Matthew Mantey explains in this excellent post, Banners – Do They Work?, there is a mountain of data and insight to be found in even the simplest digital advertising campaign – so imagine what happens when you magnify this by a factor of 10, or 100, or 100,000:

Run one with even cursory tracking and analytics and you can find a mountain of insights.  Obviously click-based conversions is the unrealistic grail you'll see, but if you set a cookie window, you'll see all of the view-based actions as well.  You'll know the optimal exposure frequency level.  You'll see the search patterns, branded and unbranded.  You'll see format and message trends.  You'll see geographic detail.  And you'll probably find out that who you were targeting aren't the same demo that are interested in your stuff and coming to your site.

Is this the agency model of the future? Using technology to combine insight and targeted content within a permissible context sounds like the holy grail. The challenge would be putting the right pieces and partnerships together.

However, as I delve more into the concept of social judgement, I have a feeling that this sort of opportunity is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, taking this insight and opening it up to a social component during campaign activation could be where the REAL opportunity lies.

Make Your Own Social Media Case Study

Over the past few weeks I have noticed a spate of demands for social media proponents to share their case studies. Michael Watkins asked whether anyone is doing anything with social media other than just talk, and Laurel Papworth responds by listing her favourite Australian social media projects. But the issue runs deeper.

On the one hand, as Mike Zeederberg of Profero explains, “… one of the key strengths of the social media space – if you're not part of the target audience, you'd never even know a campaign was running … no wastage, no mess, no fuss”. But many agencies (and the clients they work for) are often restricted from publishing details of their campaigns – competitive advantage being what it is. At best, such details are disclosed during conference presentations or worst, during closed one-on-one pitches for new work. All this leaves most of us guessing at the effectiveness and ROI.

So what’s an agency to do?

In this interview with Michael Kordahi, Heather Snodgrass, Greg Brine and Iain McDonald explain how an idea was transformed by a Twitter conversation and spawned a great online competition. In the process, the competition demonstrated the way that SEO and social media (in all its guises) can quickly and convincingly produce measurable results for an brand/product/service – or even an imaginary dinosaur – the Velociroflcoptersaurus.

As it turns out, the competition was fanned by Happener’s Markus Hafner and ultimately won by Nick Homes a Court (click here to hear how Nick’s strategy was developed and executed). A quick Google search yields almost 7,000 search results for a word that previously did not exist. Not bad going for a competition that started at the beginning of January 2009 and ended two weeks later.

It goes to show just what can be done (and demonstrated) when you approach it creatively. Nice.

Your Own Digital Media Dashboard

Measure 45When I first moved into an official marketing role some years ago, my first major project was to consolidate all collateral – from brochures and presentations right through to the company’s website. There was plenty to do, and I was given a free reign.

And while I was busily creating collateral, print ads, presentations, Flash animations (oh yes, it was the time for it), direct email, newsletters and anything else that I thought would generate demand, I soon realised that I needed to get smarter about the way I was working. I wanted to make sure that I was producing material that was the most effective – I realised I needed to pay attention to measurements of all kinds.

I started to track the number of collateral downloads that were made from the marketing intranet. I counted print runs, scrutinised industry magazine circulations and optimised email mailouts. I watched the most popular intranet and website pages and followed the paths that people followed into and out of the sites. I analysed the keyword search data and familiarised myself with the most popular inbound linking sites.

mini dashboard Blog StoryI plotted all this data in a spreadsheet. I updated it monthly (or weekly during campaigns). It was my own marketing dashboard. Interestingly, no one really asked for this … and I didn’t share it – but I knew that it would come in handy at some stage. Sure enough, the day came – and the questions – “what is the value of marketing” and “what is our ROI”? And as I took our executives through my dashboard I could see the lights turn on.

The main point is – that even if you are NOT being asked for the measurement of your marketing efforts – you should still be measuring your efforts regardless. For it is best to take the lead in such an effort.

Of course, it is also much easier these days to collate data, share and report on it. These digital media dashboards can draw upon readily available data – and as KD Paine explains, many of these tools are freely available:

  • Google: Sign up for alerts based on your product and service names; and install Analytics to understand your traffic.
  • Twitter: See what is being said about you and your company in 140 character bites. Or even engage with your customers one-on-one.
  • Conversations:
    • If you have a blog, try the conversation index (which is a surprisingly good, simple indicator)
    • Track, monitor and promote your feeds via Feedburner
    • Backtype can help you track your own comments as well as product/service mentions (as does CoComment)
  • 1000 ft views:
    • Quarkbase gives you plenty of data on your site and the people who use it
    • Quantcast uses a small piece of code to aggregate audience segmentation data

Once you have all this material, the next challenge is to turn it into insight (see also how to find the gold in digital measurement). You need to figure out with all this data, what is working, what is not, and how to adjust accordingly. Oh, and make sure where you are spending your effort directly links to your company’s strategic objectives – otherwise you may well face a very uncomfortable conversation. It should be a whole lot easier with the right data at your fingertips!

UPDATE: Chris Brogan shows how you can Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes (essential for creating what Jeremiah Owyang calls a "listening post")


When Todd Andrlik put together the Power 150 list I was amazed. He brought together a series of available metrics to rank 150 of the top marketing blogs in the world — not only was the approach sound, but the effort involved to identify, calculate and so on would have been a significant amount of work.

Later, when the Power 150 came under the auspices of Ad Age, it expanded to cover several hundred marketing and related blogs from across the globe. And while the calculations and rankings have become automated, Charlie Moran from Ad Age continues to refine and grow the list as a great resource.

However, with the growth of Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms, the conversations and discussions have shifted away from the more static blogs. Not content with the asynchronous comment-and-respond discussions offered by blogging systems, we are now turning to all-in, open conversation on Twitter. Mack Collier, for example, now spends a significantly larger amount of time on Twitter than he does on his blog … and he is not alone. And this is where the Power 150 loses a little of its shine — as it only covers blogs, it is missing more of the "conversation" than it is covering.

Recently, Armando Alves, built upon the Power 150 to produce the Twitter Power 150 – a ranking that assesses the top 300 blogs together with the Twitter accounts of the bloggers – to produce a single score across the blogging and micro-blogging formats. The change in rankings is amazing. Seth Godin, who unassailably leads the Power 150, but does not use Twitter, scrapes into the top 150 at #144.

Be sure and take a look at the full list over at Armando's site. What do YOU think? Is it a game changer? Is it a more relevant way of quantifying marketing's social media conversations?

Eat.Sleep.Blog Episode 9

This is the next instalment of the intermittent Eat.Sleep.Blog conversation between Paul McEnany, Sean Howard and Gavin Heaton. ESB is an occasionally NSFW discussion on the current state of marketing and branding. (You can even join the ESB Fan Page on Facebook!)

Eat, Sleep, Blog #09 from paulmcenany on Vimeo.

Running at around 45 minutes, the focus of this episode is on the power, potential and challenges presented by new “community services” such as Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect. We discuss:

  • The sudden appearance of Friend Connect on blogs such as Armando Alves’ A Source of Inspiration and Paul’s Hee-Haw Marketing (1:46)
  • Google needing to accelerate their partner network to catch up with Facebook (2:20)
  • Is the future of websites “social” and do these services change what we consider a “destination site”? (4:00)
  • Will the benefits of “group sourcing” rather than “crowdsourcing” transform “influence networks”? (6:00)
  • What is the power of “where our friends are and where they choose to respond”? (7:30)
  • Sean explains the value of services like Gigpark (8:10)
  • Recommendation engines and influence segmentation (10:00)
  • Where is the point of monetisation and how does aggregate data work for marketers? (12:00)
  • Why semantic evaluation will not deliver the answers that marketers want (but think they can extract) (14:00)
  • The need for human interpretation of data to extract insight (20:00)
  • Will social media, influence networks and reputation engines scale in a useful way? (21:00)
  • Can we predict who we trust? (23:30)
  • What happens when the Internet REALLY explodes as a network with the mass adoption of technology across the world – and what does this mean for “scale”? (25:30)
  • Is the semantic web a survival mechanism for the Internet? (28:00)
  • Will the web simply become another form of TV measurement? (30:30)
  • We send a shout out to our #1 fan, Mack Collier (33:00)
  • A new world of privacy (36:00)
  • The uselessness of website T&Cs (40:00)
  • The attractions of the Dallas Waffle House (47:00) – yes, it goes downhill quickly!
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Influence and Popularity in Social Media

When I started writing this blog I sought out the experts. I looked for various posts on how to write a blog, how to make my posts interesting to my readers (all three of them) and how to increase traffic. I searched Technorati for marketing related blogs and topics, wrote comments across the web and tweaked my blog design. At some point I happened across Mack Collier’s list of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs and my jaw dropped. I could not understand how someone could possibly build such high Technorati authority rankings – it seemed a world away from where I was in my thinking.

This list became my essential reading list. I used each of those blogs to learn, and their authors generously engaged me in their discussion of topics. But as the number of blogs within the marketing or social media category has exploded, these lists have begun to be used as an indicator of not just popularity but influence. But measuring influence is quite difficult … after all, not all of our interactions are online. How do we measure the off-web commentaries and discussions that occur in agencies around the world? Or worse, how do we determine how far and wide our thinking (words and images) reaches beyond the ever expanding edges of the web? (For example, I am sure I have seen David Armano’s influence ripples in presentations given by people who have never even visited a blog!)

There is a very real difference between blogs that I would consider popular and those that I would consider influential. As Shel Israel points out, there is a significant difference:

Suppose I were a political blogger and I had an audience of just three followers. Those followers were very engaged because they read everything I posted. They commented often. They took what I said and quoted me to other people in other conversations. But there were only three of them. Therefore I would be ranked lower than chopped liver in all the ranking systems. The catch is that those three readers were the President of the US, and the heads of China and Russia.

Influence, in this example, requires an intimate understanding of your readership – after all, we don’t know WHO reads unless they admit it by commenting or sending an email. In thinking through the concept of influence, and what I have been calling the Democracy of Action, it seems to me that influence is built on twin axes of popularity and reputation (I am borrowing from Gartner’s magic quadrants slightly here). Where your blog’s popularity and reputation are both high, you have “social influence” – and the capacity to create contagion and instigate action on a large scale. However, where you have a popular blog but lower levels of reputation, your blog is likely to fall into the “hype” category. 

Perhaps controversially, I am thinking that these distinctions refer directly to Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties”. Social influence and its impact on action is determined by a large number of “weak ties”. So those blogs which are built around an identity which is well-known to its audience (strong ties) is less likely to carry social influence. These quadrants would appear as shown below.


The “niche influence” and “awareness” categories I fairly self-explanatory. Lower levels of popularity but high levels of reputation indicate influence within niche audiences; while lower levels of both reputation and popularity indicate awareness is low and interaction is emergent. 

How does this thinking play with your own understanding? Am I missing something? Is this too simple? Would love to know your thoughts!

UPDATE: Mike Arauz expands on his comments with a whole post, adding a z-axis to the diagram. And Dina Mehta weighs in, transforming the discussion to encompass the changing behaviours of both consumers and brands.

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It’s Not Time to Cut Through But to Cut Out

As I have grown older, I have been amazed to realise that the more I know, the greater is my capacity to learn. Not only can I quickly absorb new information and transform it into knowledge, I can also direct this towards business and branding opportunities. Even where I come in contact with some completely foreign information, my brain scrambles to find a connection that allows me to contextualise it.

But what about you? Do you find that your capacity has increased over time?

Angela Maiers provides a great explanation in this 30 minute class. She leads us through the different types of connections that we can make so that our memories can be stimulated:   

  • Easy – the simple connection can be made because of our exposure to a topic. There is no work involved here. A common topic will add a new layer over the knowledge schema that we already possess – and the information will be readily accessible to you in an instant.

  • Dig – while a piece of information may not have an instantly recognisable hook on which you can make a connection, a small amount of digging into your own knowledge will help you. This will require some effort, but will also help turn a piece of new information into actionable knowledge.

  • Impossible – when we are introduced to an alien concept, we are faced with an impossible situation. There are no EASY ways to make sense of the information. Digging provides no context and no prism for understanding. When faced with the impossible piece of information, our natural instinct is to begin to memorise, to rote learn – but this is a mistake, for without providing some personal context to this information you will not be able to retain and apply this knowledge. It will gradually fade from memory.

In the last 10 minutes of this video, Angela shares an approach that allows us to begin creating NEW memories. She explains the technique for creating the first thread of retained knowledge upon which you can build additional context.   


  • Chunking: After reading/absorbing a piece of information, the main ideas are categorised by the ideas that they invoke. This is not about collecting facts. It is about finding one or two words that connect and explain the overall concepts.
  • Joining the dots: Once you have the “big ideas” you then need to make connections between them. You need to write them down. You need to establish a narrative between them.

Now, think about this from a branding and marketing perspective. Have you ever wondered why some things stick and some don’t? In general, the information that comes to us through advertising is “impossible”. We are hit by facts and assaulted by images. These all seek to CONVINCE us.

However, if we are each subjected to 5000 marketing messages per day, the blink of an eye that acknowledges each new message will instantly erase the previous one. This means that those marketing messages that are mediated, that come with BUILT-IN context, are more likely to anchor in our memory (hence the use of popular music/spokespersons) – and this plays particularly strongly for digital/social media.

And in a time of increasing financial uncertainty, brands will be looking not to CUT THROUGH but to CUT OUT. It won’t be a matter of your brand standing out in a crowd, but of eeking out some space in which it can create meaningful context in which your consumers can participate. Those brands who have begun experimenting with social media will have an advantage in these tougher times; and those who have not will need to accelerate their engagement by hiring agencies and consultants who have a deep understanding of hands-on brand activation in the digital/social media space.

Interesting times? Sure … but really, as Angela Maiers says, it’s about making connections.

How to Thrive in a Slow Down

DSC04560I can remember watching the Twitterstream a couple of weeks ago as the global financial crisis deepened. Here in Australia, we sit on a strange timezone precipice, where as our Monday ends, it is just beginning in the US … and a small band of locals would stay up late just to watch the first few minutes of trade in New York. There is an odd sense that we are, in some small way, witnessing history in the making.

But while the macro story is being played out thousands of kilometres from my computer screen, the impact has yet to really hit. However, there are some things that businesses can do to begin focusing their marketing efforts right now, before the shockwaves seep into our businesses. John Rosen has an excellent and detailed post that advises an initial three steps:

1. Be clear about your strategic objectives. Understand the financial measures that you are focusing on, determine the most important long term relationships, maintain your product/experience viability and figure out which competitors you should attack directly.

2. Understand your brand from a competitive point of view. Look at where the value rests in both the competitive and non-competitive environments; and do the same from a premium brand offering perspective.

3. Re-evaluate and adjust your marketing. While this sounds obvious, check out John’s list of “Do’s and Don’ts”

Craig Wilson, however, suggests that we may well be at a turning point for both the types of marketing that we do and the agencies that we use to plan, create and execute. In this great, and far reaching post, Craig outlines the state of affairs, the issues at play and makes some suggestions for where we might be heading.

Social media may well be rising at the perfect time. As consumers grow increasingly weary of broadcast advertising, and have more control than ever over the media and content they wish to consume, social media offers a subtle new direction for marketers to build relationships and brand.

The social media revolution that we have been asking for, may well materialise more quickly than even Julian Cole would have anticipated. Not only do a variety of indicators suggest that digital and social media related marketing will increase (taken in large part from the traditional marketing budget), the economic circumstances will sharpen the focus of all marketers – ensuring that campaigns and promotions receive ever greater scrutiny. And with a bevy of measurement tools at hand, digital analytics are likely to become very popular on both client and agency sides.

So, how do we thrive in this slow down? Adapting to change … evolution … new thinking and innovation, of course. Think change management and business consulting mixed in with marketing. Think the end of your agency as you know it.

But don’t rush … take it in, for as Craig says:

We may really be at one of those unique times in history, a turning point that forces change and massive innovation. New economic realities will necessitate reinvention for old media and marketing businesses to stay relevant, and will result in the rise of new media options and new marketing thinkers.

Look around you, at the media landscape today, the agencies that feed them and the marketers whoa re their clients. Take it all in. Make a mental snapshot. It may be the last time it ever looks like this.