Aaron Gray // Greater Returns


Musings on Web Analytics, product strategy + other stuff.

Thoughts on Salesforce acquiring Radian6

I smiled when I first read that Salesforce had acquired Radian6.  I love trying to piece together what a company’s product strategy is, and who they buy is a pretty good data point.

I think this one is particularly interesting because Radian6 crosses over a couple of significant user communities…#measure people and #Social people.  So, the #measure people (my background is in #measure, obviously) are wondering “Is Salesforce getting into the analytics space? Are they going to get into marketing measurement? Optimization? Who else will they buy?”  For the #Social people, this is a pretty natural fit.  Social CRM is a huge deal, and lots of people are trying to figure out how to do it right.  The best use cases I’ve seen for social CRM are on the customer support side, rather than on the sales side.  We all know that people like to bitch about bad customer service on twitter (I’m guilty, I’ve done it).

A few years ago, I participated in Jeremiah Owyang’s future of social measurement summit (sorry, I don’t remember what it was actually called) at Xerox PARC.  One of the other participants had a particularly brilliant use case.  He worked for an enterprise IT products company.  He set up a program for monitoring twitter and specific forums for users complaining about, or asking for help with problems with their products.  They’d then engage that person and send them a link to the solution in their knowledge base.  Brilliant!  Solve the problem and engage the customer where they are.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.  I know, right?  Duh.  But it was a big deal back then.  A revelation.

It was an especially big deal that they weren’t bothered by issues of licensing or if the user had “bought support.”  They realized that if someone is having a bad experience with your product, and they’re talking about it in the social mediasphere, you better offer help.  Unless, you don’t want people to love your product.  At the time, I was working at a company that cared more about making sure they didn’t give support to anyone who hadn’t paid for it than they did about creating a community of zealot customers.  It was good, and refreshing, to see someone who realized that social media was changing the customer support model.

Anyway, that’s what I think this Radian6 acquisition is about.  It’s about better managing customer relationships.  It’ll be interesting to see if Salesforce crosses over more into marketing automation and optimization or into analytics.  My hunch is they’ll move in any direction that will help them solve the core problem their customers have: turning leads into sales, and managing the resulting customer relationship.  That would mean marketing automation and lead nurturing solutions are on their radar.  But straight analytics solutions would not be.

So, #measure people… the question on everyone’s mind…will Salesforce buy the last remaining independent analytics vendor?  I wouldn’t bet on it.

Filed under: Industry Observation, Social Measurement, Web Analytics

Wrap Up – Social Media Club PDX Event

You missed some great speakers and lively discussion last night if you were not at the Social Media Club of Portland’s event, hosted at Webtrends.  Three speakers, each representing a social media monitoring tools vendor, presented their wares and answered questions from the audience.

Chase Reeves, Director of Marketing at Iterasi
Chase presented Iterasi’s PositivePress application, which allows PR pros to track “earned media” online, and has the benefit of archiving your mentions in its system, so you can always go back and see it.

Margaret Francis, VP of Product at Scout Labs
Margaret presented Scout Labs‘ social monitoring, reporting and workflow management application, highlighting their powerful tools for generating abstractions of the data quickly and easily, allowing strategic planners to easily understand the prevailing mood around a brand, and act accordingly.

Justin Kistner, Sr. Manager of Social Media Marketing at Webtrends
Justin presented Webtrends’ integration with Radian6, showing how social can be measured as a part of the traditional marketing funnel, and that social marketing can be optimized for conversion (not just traffic), like any other marketing tactic.  Justin also demonstrated Webtrends’ upcoming release of Facebook page and app measurement.

Thanks to the Social Media Club of Portland for organizing the event and inviting me to moderate.  I’d love to do this again!

Filed under: Events, Social Measurement, Social Media

Three Tools That Make it Easy to Measure Social Media

I will be moderating a panel discussion on social media measurement tools at the next Social Media Club of Portland (SMCPDX) evening event.  The panel, happening on Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:00 pm, will include speakers Margaret Francis, VP product at Scout Labs; Chase Reeves, director of marketing at Iterasi; and Justin Kistner, Sr. manager, social media marketing at Webtrends.   Each panelist will present on relevant tools available from their respective companies and will then stick around for an audience Q & A session.

I’m looking forward to what should be a very lively, impassioned discussion.  More information is available at the SMCPDX website.  Register for the event on Upcoming.

Don’t forget to check my Plancast stream to see where else you can find me.

Filed under: Events, Social Measurement, Social Media

Why Sentiment Matters in Social Media Measurement

I originally posted this piece more than a year ago, but it remains relevant given all the attention on social media, social media marketing, and social media measurement.

Sentiment marketing, the practice of engaging consumers directly with the express purpose of influencing consumer opinion about a brand, is coming fast. Sentiment marketing is being enabled (or, maybe more accurately, made necessary) by the proliferation of social media and the inherent trackability of the conversations that occur between consumers online.

The goal of sentiment marketing is to drive continuous improvements to consumer sentiment about your brand. You could argue, of course, that sentiment marketing is just PR; same practice, new channel. It’s related, for sure. But this is different. A radical change has occurred Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Marketing, Social Measurement, Social Media

The Registration Page Will Disappear – Where Will Your Leads Come From?

At the Internet Strategy Forum Summit 2009, happening today in Portland, Jeremiah Owyang posited in passing that registration pages will go away as a result of the advent and growth of identity management and single sign-on solutions.

Identity management solutions allow people to log-in to sites using credentials and social network profiles they’ve already created elsewhere. Key providers of identity management solutions (and holders of users social network profiles) include Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, myspace, AOL, Windows Live ID, as well as various OpenID providers.  From an end-user perspective, the value is obvious, and the experience is simple:  I already have a log-in and profile at Facebook, let me use that log-in (and my profile info) to log-in to your site; I don’t want to fill out your registration form.

Jeremiah’s point was that, because of the adoption of these solutions, the way site operators collect leads from the site will change as a result.  Without a  registration form, you won’t be collecting email addresses and other lead data and passing to your CRM, at least not in the same way. This piqued my curiosity, as lead capture is a key part of digital markeitng operations and analytics.  As it happened, I was sitting next to Tore C. Steen, VP of Business Development at JanRain.  JanRain, a Portland company, is creator of the open source libraries that power most implementations of OpenID.  JanRain also offers a product called RPX, a SaaS offering that makes it easy for site operators to integrate any or all of the OpenID, OAuth, or proprietary identity management systems into their site.

My big question to Tore was “what data is made available to the site operators who adopt an identity management solution on thier site?”.  Jeremiah was right…how site operators collect leads is going to change, but wow, what a postive change it will be.  The data available to site operators, from the big players especially, is almost stunning.   Think about the about the information about me stored in my Facebook or Plaxo profile – name, age, sex, email address, interests, etc.   Most or all of that data (depending on the specific player) is made available to site operators when I log in using my Facebook (Plaxo, etc.) credentials.  And, everytime I log back in to your site you get updated profile information from the identity provider I used to log-in.  Most surprisingly, site operators can also access the list of user IDs of my friends and connections.  What marketer doesn’t want that?

As a site operator and a marketer, letting customers log in to your site using an identity management solution has significant benefits:

  • Customer experience: End-users like it because it eliminates registration friction on your site
  • Registration volume: registration rates will go up due to eliminated friction
  • Data Accuracy: Data is kept up-to-date as users update their social network profiles
  • Data Richness:  There’s no way I’d give you all the data in a registration form that you’ll get from my Facebook profile

The value prop to site operators and marketers is clear.  This is certainly the way of the future – the registration page will disappear.  Marketers will need to form new data strategies around the types of data that are going to be available from the identity providers.   It may not be quite as easy as pasting a form on your site, and using a Salesforce.com plug-in to collect it, but the robustness of the data should more than make up for the little additional effort and planning required.

I really like the JanRain RPX solution, too.  There are too many identity management providers to try to integrate them directly on your site.  With RPX, you simply deploy the RPX solution, select which identity providers you want to support, and JanRain brokers all the data transactions and registrations for you.  I think they’ll have a nice buisiness.

Filed under: Marketing, Social Media, web 2.0

Sentiment Marketing is Coming – and it Looks More Like Direct Marketing than You Think

Sentiment marketing, the practice of engaging consumers directly with the express purpose of influencing consumer opinion about a brand, is coming fast. Sentiment marketing is being enabled (or, maybe more accurately, made necessary) by the proliferation of social media and the inherent trackability of the conversations that occur between consumers online.

The goal of sentiment marketing is to drive continuous improvements to consumer sentiment about your brand. You could argue, of course, that sentiment marketing is just PR; same practice, new channel. It’s related, for sure. But this is different. A radical change has occurred: consumer conversations and the dynamics of consumer influence (word of mouth) are happening on the network. Word of mouth, influence, and shifting consumer opinions now happen at lightening speed across intertwined networks of connected people. This is fantastic if you are the purveyor of a darling brand, and can be hell if your brand has some tarnish. There are multiple upsides, though: sentiment and influence can now be measured directly and in real time; you have the opportunity to engage directly with consumers and influencers to impact sentiment.

If You Can Track it, You Can be Accountable for It

Practically speaking, this means that marketers can now directly attribute to their work both positive and negative changes in consumer sentiment. With measurability and attributability will come accountability. Marketers and advertisers will increasingly be held to account for their impact on consumer sentiment. The days of being able to defend lack of measurability and hide behind “it’s a brand effort” are numbered.

This brings brand marketing and PR a whole lot closer to direct marketing. Direct marketers have been able to easily track and measure the performance of their work, in real time, allowing them to make midstream adjustments to programs that under perform. Direct mail, infomercials, call centers, and e-commerce are all deeply measurable, and the people who do marketing in those areas are held accountable for their performance. Brand marketers, on the other hand, if doing any measurement at all, have relied on dubious backward-looking analysis of past programs and consumer attitudes that provides little actionable insight that can be put to use in tweaking today’s efforts.

More than Buzz

Many people are talking about measuring buzz. Companies have been built around the concept. Buzz isn’t new, however. The PR folks have always been able to measure buzz; it’s nothing more than media mentions. It’s equally simple to measure buzz online by counting mentions in the blogosphere. But buzz isn’t a particularly useful metric. What is useful is being able to measure against your goal. Remember what it is? It’s all about sentiment, and changes in sentiment over time. The goal of sentiment marketing is to drive or maintain positive consumer sentiment in the same way that a direct marketer drives for a continuously increasing conversion rate. (Or, in the case of a crisis, your goal is to slow and reverse the potential onslaught of negative consumer sentiment.)

Buzz doesn’t help you quantify performance against this goal. Think about it. If you’re Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol cyanide crisis in 1982, your buzz numbers for Tylenol are through the roof. But that’s probably not a good thing. You’re getting attention for all the wrong reasons. Or, are you? Maybe the sentiment of the buzz is positive because everyone is impressed that Johnson & Johnson is doing a great job getting the word out, pulling Tylenol off the shelves and has generally behaved like a great corporate citizen should. The only way to know is to measure sentiment.

A Slow Trickle

That’s an extreme example, for sure, but it illustrates the importance of sentiment over buzz. In truth, a crisis isn’t what brings down most brands. It’s like the slow drip drip drip of water onto concrete. Hard though the concrete may be, the dripping water will slowly erode it away until it’s worn a hole right through. Similarly, the slow trickle of un-noticed, un-engaged negative consumer sentiment can wear a hole in your brand that can be difficult or impossible to repair.

And that’s where the real value of sentiment marketing is: understanding current consumer sentiment and trends; and finding and engaging in the right consumer conversations to keep sentiment needle moving in the right direction and, if you can’t prevent the unforeseen crisis, building up enough positive sentiment to cushion the impact of one so that you might survive.

Filed under: Marketing, Social Measurement, Social Media

Eric T. Peterson Doubts the Importance of Twitter

Eric Peterson spoke at Web Analytics Wednesday last night at WebTrends HQ in Portland. As usual, he was engaging and animated. I’d say there were about 30 people in attendance, and Eric kept the attention of every one of them. The question and answer session went on for 20 to 30 minutes.

Afterwards, a smaller group of us, including Eric, went to Dragonfish for beer and sushi (Eric’s treat — thanks Eric!). Eventually the conversation turned to Twitter. I found myself in the unexpected position of being the only one in the room who a) uses Twitter; and b) actually understood what Twitter is, how it is used, and it’s potential value to the marketing organization.

Eric actually went on record with this statement (paraphrasing here): “Twitter has no value. You can’t measure it. It’s just a bunch of people talking.” (Cue uproarious laughter.) Eric’s a friend of mine, so I’m poking fun at him here. But seriously, I think he’s missing the boat.

I can think of a way that Twitter is immediately measurable with web analytics, and some ways that it can be measured or support future measurement outside of traditional web analytics.

Use it as a viral or direct marketing tool. Use a URL minimizer (or smallerizer, as I like to call them) such as Twurl for all embedded links. Twurl has built in measurement, allowing you to see click-throughs on all your links. It’s just an experimental tool at this point, but there are a lot of things it’s creator, Rick Turoczy, could do with it. Of course, you could put a web analytics campaign tracking code on the redirect URL to track response and subsequent site behavior, too. Seems pretty measurable.

Use it to mine past or monitor for present conversations occurring about your brand. Track those conversations across the social mediasphere as they start on blogs, move to Twitter, and then end up back on the blog again. Use this as a component of buzz measurement. Go a step further and score sentiment. Are people talking positively about your brand or negatively about your brand. Identify the influencers and model the conversations. Are you trending in a negative sentiment direction? Does a negative comment from an influencer change the sentiment of those in their sphere of influence? Twitter’s APIs provide access to a massively rich source of data about conversations about your brand, and even provide the FULL TEXT of the conversation. We’re not too much engineering effort away from being able to mine that data, follow the conversations to other social platforms, map out who’s influencing who, and get notified who you who you should be engaging and why.

As I write this Chris Grant and John Hawbaker are having a conversation on Twitter about the the engagement model Eric Peterson has proposed.

Regardless of measurement, though. Twitter is important for the same reason that blogs you don’t write are important. Your brand has an online community whether you choose to participate in it or not. (I read that somewhere, but I don’t remember who said it. Citation, anyone?) Participating allows you to impact the conversation.

Update: Forgot to mention, Eric did create a twitter account from his iPhone last night while he was arguing its unimportance. Welcome aboard, Eric. 😉

Filed under: Social Measurement, Social Media, Web Analytics

Tracking Your Reputation Online

Over the last several days I’ve been doing some research and experimentation with tracking reputation online. I’m a little surprised at the lack of tools to do what I think should be done. (I know, product opportunity.)

There are a lot of solutions that track “buzz”. But buzz is one dimensional. It’s fine and useful to know that 95 blog posts mentioned you last month, or that 35 forum discussions mentioned your brand. But what does that really tell you? If you believe that all PR is good PR (I do not believe this) then I guess that’s all you need to know. Here are a few things that are missing in the solutions I’ve seen so far:

Qualitative Information: Were the mentions of my brand in a positive context or a negative context? Am I trending positive or trending negative? Is that spike in buzz last week due to that bad press about my brand, and is it fanning the flames? Do certain social media environments tend to favor my brand while other tend to disfavor? I don’t expect the solution to know this, but I want a way to easily score or mark each mention, and then report on it.

Collaboration / Ability to operationalize acting on data: This esoteric sounding requirement is really just me saying “I need to be able to do something with this data, now. It’s not good enough to just have it sitting there”. In my vision of a healthy internal online reputation management program you’ve got people throughout your organization ready to engage and contribute to discussions throughout the social mediasphere. As you discover new discussions that warrant engagement, you need to be able to assign those discussions to people in your organization, allow them to update their progress on a particular assignment, and collect important information about the engagement such as details about key influencers (like other channels of engagement key influencers use). In other words, if I discover a conversation about my brand on Twitter, and that leads me to a blog post from that same person, and it turns out that person is a key influencer, I need to keep track of the channels that key influencer uses. If I later find out that this key influencer is a regular contributor to an online forum, I need to be able to keep track of that detail, too. Why? Because key influencers are people I need to develop a relationship with. To have a relationship with them, I need to know where to follow them. By the same token, I need to be able to treat some mentions as just aggregate noise. I don’t care about the person, and I don’t need anyone to engage, but I want to score it and report on it. Then, don’t show it to me again.

Categorization & Reporting: Going back to my first want, I need to be able to categorize each mention for reporting and analysis purposes. Aside form the pos/neg score (which isn’t a category), I want to tag each one for the products or topical references made that are important to me. Is it about one of my products? Is it about the company in general? Is it about the industry in general? All of this detail doesn’t really do anything for me at the individual mention level, but when you aggregate mentions, and the start looking for correlations between various attributes and your positive/negative score, you are suddenly armed with real insight that can help you form or reform your strategy for reputation management.

Lastly, I want this tool to be a rich internet application (RIA). I’m already living in my web browser, I don’t want another desktop app, even if it pretends to be a browser. My browser is highly personalized to my work style. A browser based app allows me to leverage my browser setup, rather than making me move back and forth.

For sure, I haven’t see all the tools out there yet. So far my experience has been on the extremes: internet applications that are too simplistic; and desktop applications that aren’t really built for what I’m trying to do.

If you have any experiences to share in this arena, I’d love to hear them.

Filed under: Marketing, Social Media