The Loudpixel Blog

Insights From Ragan’s Measurement Conference

Washington DC Metro - Measurement conference
Image via ChrisDag on Flickr

I went to Ragan’s Measurement Conference in DC yesterday (I originally went as a guest, but I was thrilled when Mark Ragan asked me to jump into an impromptu lunch panel and share my own thoughts with other attendees). While I was there, I jotted down a few of my favorite quotes:

“People are a little stressed because there’s no ‘insights’ button on their dashboards…insights are a human activity, not a tool activity”
Don Bartholomew

“Having access to numbers doesn’t mean you’re saying something smart.”
Andy Weitz

“(don’t fall victim to continuing to do something just because) we do what we have always done.”
Rohit Bhargava

“If you’re only listening for your own brand name, you’re missing an opportunity. Listen to the category.”
Rohit Bhargava

Ultimately, the running themes aligned with my core beliefs around social media listening:

  • No tool is perfect; they will still require human intervention to draw actionable insights.
  • By the same token, “big data” is exciting only for its potential, but data is nothing without insights.
  • Social media listening is about more than monitoring and measurement. The insights that can be pulled from listening can be incredibly powerful in forming product and communications strategies.
  • There’s no “one size fits all” measurement plan, but we as an industry do need to move more toward general standardization (e.g. transparency, the death of advertising value equivalencies).

Free Social Media Analytics Webinar: Thursday, February 28

allie siarto social media analytics webinar

I’m hosting a free webinar on social media analytics this Thursday, February 28 at 12:00 PM ET.

We’ll walk through five steps to start monitoring and analyzing the constant current of social media conversations about your organization, competitors and industry to start uncovering opportunities, threats and insights.

Whether you’re a part of a Fortune 500 company or simply looking to improve your personal brand, I’ll share tips and tricks help you better understand the opportunities and insights available through social listening. Don’t miss out.

You will learn:

  • How to set objectives for social media listening
  • How to use social media insights to improve business practices and customer communication
  • How to listen to social conversations that matter and remove spam posts from the mix
  • How to start getting better sentiment and context from social media data
  • How to improve your own content based on social media trends

Can’t make this time? Sign up, and you’ll receive the recording after the webinar is complete.

Sign up to attend.

Loudpixel is Hiring

Application submissions are now closed. Please check back for future opportunities.

We’re thrilled to have two new positions open at Loudpixel. Want to be a part of an energetic small company that works with with nationally recognized brands? We’re changing the face of  market research, and we want you to help us.

Social Media Research Intern

Loudpixel is seeking a Social Media Research Intern (10 hours per week) to support social media brand monitoring and analysis for nationally recognized brands. The internship may be set up for credit, and will be created on a rolling four month basis from the start time, with potential to continue beyond that date.

Responsibilities will include:


  • Support analysis of social media posts
  • Support maintenance of relevant keyword/search terms
  • Support analysis of broad trends in online conversations
  • Marketing and new business support

Requirements: We will train our intern on the ins and outs of monitoring and research, but those who have personal or professional experience in social media listening, research and/or doing social media programs for other companies will be ideal candidates for this role. Candidates who have been through Michigan State’s New Media Drivers License will be given priority.

Location: We are looking for an intern in the Lansing, Michigan area, though we will be remote until September, 2013. Most communication and training will be virtual.

Pay: $10/hour

How to Apply: 
Submit your cover letter and resume to Allie Siarto at allie (at) loudpixel.com.

Social Media Research Assistant

Loudpixel is seeking a contract Research Assistant (50-75 flexible hours per month) to support social media brand monitoring and analysis for nationally recognized brands.

Responsibilities will include:


  • Analysis of social media posts
  • Maintenance of relevant keyword/search terms
  • Analysis of broad trends in online conversations
  • Marketing and new business support

Requirements: We will train our contractor on the ins and outs of monitoring and research, but those who have experience in social media listening, research and/or doing social media programs for other companies will be ideal candidates for this role.

Location: We are looking for a contract Research Assistant in the Lansing, Michigan area, though we will be remote until September, 2013. Most communication and training will be virtual.

Pay: $18/hour

How to Apply: 
Submit your cover letter and resume to Allie Siarto at allie (at) loudpixel.com.

About Loudpixel: 
Loudpixel is an East Lansing-based monitoring and research consultancy that works with companies and brands to deliver unbiased social media monitoring, measurement and insights research.

Hacker News on “Data Intelligence”

Well said, @xnomagichash, well said.

From Hacker News:

…Ultimately, no matter how many pretty charts your product displays and fancy map reduce jobs transform the data into “intelligence”, unless someone can immediately take action based on what decision the analytics tells them they need to make, it’s not really “intelligence” in the thinking sense, but “intelligence” in the military sense.

In my day job, I develop software to fit a big data + intelligence niche market. No matter how many pretty charts I’ve been forced to make (to better sell the software to CEOs), the people who make the decisions based on the data we provide don’t care about visualizations AT ALL. They want our software to tell them what to do. Period. And if the software tells them to make a bad decision that costs them money it’s our fault (unless they can’t execute the decision due to safety laws, which happens), no matter how many charts they could have double checked to see if the decision was sane.
Dashboards and charts are all well and good, but ultimately a simple display that unambiguously tells you what to do (like the bicycle barometer) is much more powerful.

Referencing The Bicycle Barometer

Power in Partnerships: How BuyCostumes.com Partnered With Other Brands to Build Collective Awareness

Partnerships between companies to sponsor social media promotions (e.g. contests, giveaways, etc.) are all the rage these days, and for good reason. A partnership is, by nature, a give and take, and in the social media sphere, shared exposure can give a brand the boost it needs. Of course, you don’t want to partner with just anyone. In the case of brand-sponsored promotions, a co-sponsor should be one that logically connects with your brand in some fashion (similar demographics, complimentary products, overarching themes, etc.).

With Halloween upon us, the costume superstores are in full swing. The industry is extremely competitive and heavily based online. Not surprisingly, most of the bigger names have made social media marketing a top priority.

In order to compete with other guy, companies like BuyCostumes.com have to bring their A-games when it comes to marketing efforts. This particular supplier’s PR team has been studying up on what works and what doesn’t in terms of social engagement. Their most obvious social wins of the season came in the form of partnerships.

The Facebook Photo Contest

In case this isn’t already hammered into your marketing code, visualization is key, and with the rise of smartphone photo-sharing apps, brands have the opportunity to simultaneously put products and customers in the spotlight. The BuyCostumes Facebook page set up the “Fun Size The Movie Costume Photo Contest” which invited fans to upload a photo (in costume, of course) to its contest page in exchange for entry to win a $250 Visa gift card or Hollywood Movie Money® passes to see the film Fun Size.

This is a smart initiative on several fronts:

  • It involves prizes other than the brand’s own products that are appealing to its Facebook fans (this is where picking the right partners is important)
  • It’s fun for the participants
  • It requires votes from “friends” which means potential increased exposure and new fan engagement.

The Twitter Hashtag Contest 

In another savy move, BuyCostumes.com linked up with AMC’s The Walking Dead in the “6 Days of Zombies” contest. This promotion asks participants to first follow @BuyCostumes and @WalkingDead_AMC, and then to “tweet what you’re doing to prepare for the Apocalypse with hashtag #6daysofzombies.”

Between the official contest dates (10/11 through 10/16), 465 posts referenced the #6daysofzombies hashtag, and the potential Twitter reach equaled 327,929 (not including 12 collective posts from @BuyCostumes and @WalkingDead_AMC). Not bad for a short contest, and here’s why:

  • It’s a smart partnership (zombies and Halloween costumes naturally go together)
  • It’s fun for the participants
  • It required participants to follow both sponsors’ Twitter accounts, which automatically increased exposure for the brands

Social media is constantly morphing and it’s tough to stay on top of your competitors. That’s where partnerships come in handy. You can potentially widen your net much more so than you could with a solo initiative. In the end, it’s a win-win; you’re helping yourselves and each other.

 

Images via the BuyCostumes.com Facebook page

Which big corporations are tweeting about Isaac?

If you’ve ever been in the path of a tropical storm or a hurricane, you know that the days leading up to landfall are extremely stressful. Structures need to be boarded up, there are flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non-perishables to buy. Everyone is rushing against the same deadline. We wanted to take a look at which larger companies utilized Twitter to make preparation days a bit less stressful for consumers in Isaac’s projected path.

Between August 26th and August 27th, approximately 3, 335 posts referenced going to either Walmart, Target, Home Depot, or Lowe’s to purchase items in preparation for Isaac. The highest volume of posts referenced Walmart; the lowest referenced Lowe’s (posts can contain mentions of multiple companies):

It’s no surprise that Walmart is the leader in Twitter updates related to the storm (they also have the most social mentions overall), but it’s puzzling as to why other superstores apparently neglected the opportunity altogether. At the time this article was published, there were five Twitter updates regarding the storm from Walmart and  three from Home Depot. Neither Target nor Lowe’s posted any updates regarding Isaac via their Twitter accounts.

It should be noted that smaller supermarkets and hardware stores are just as busy during these times, but it’s interesting to see which of the larger businesses are staying on top of news relevant to storm-area consumers. Brands focusing on relationships via social media outlets is all the rage. Giving customers a heads-up about store hours in times of crisis is part of maintaining a relationship, right? In this case, Walmart and Home Depot are on top of their games.

More Doesn’t Mean Better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What “more” really means when it comes to analysis software

As the number of social media users grows, so do the the number of social posts. Within these posts are a wealth of opinions related to purchasing behavior. Naturally, it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to collect and analyze that data in order to enhance marketing campaigns, product development, and customer service. If you’re dealing with a significant amount of online conversation about your brand, then it’s perfectly logical to buy into a software that will aggregate the data and present it to you in a format that makes it easy to filter. In fact, the race is on between popular analysis platforms who want your business, but be careful when you encounter the “more is better” idea as it relates to automated analysis features. Increased dissection of data can be invaluable if conducted properly. What may actually be available to you within these products is keyword-related data that’s not necessarily associated with relevant content.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when testing social media analysis software:

  • Most analysis platforms display automated sentiment which does not pick up on things like sarcasm or innuendoes
  • Demographic information will be more relevant within a sample set that has been manually tagged for context. First, remember that not everyone gives out their gender, geographic location, and list of hobbies (this is especially true when it comes to social platforms other than Twitter). Second, while it’s helpful to get an overall idea of the demographic groups talking about your brand, it’s even more helpful to know what they’re saying.
  • Nothing can replace the human eye. While software has come a long way with the ability to filter by keyword (“and this,” “or that,” “not this”), none of them are fool-proof. Be aware that you’ll still have to be on the look-out for little things that fall through the cracks.

If you know going in to purchasing that social media analysis software can’t do all of the work for you, then just pick the one that works best for you and your team. In the end, it’s about getting the insight you need to further your brand’s success.

 

Image via luckey_sun

Publish or Perish: A Guideline for Producing Better Content

It’s not just an academic phrase

If you don’t publish, you won’t literally perish, but the more you resist refining and sharing your ideas, the less exposure you’ll receive. Outside of academia, “publish” isn’t tied as heavily to hardbound books and white papers (though, of course, those exist on the business side and are highly encouraged). Depending on the specifics of your field, publishing might mean churning out relevant, enticing content on a blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account. It might mean rounding out a brief study or interview for a trade journal, or sharing timely, intriguing videos about your brand on YouTube. Whatever the case may be, the most important aspect of the publishing process is to get started. Of course, you’ll want to make a good impression no matter what the medium. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of putting yourself out there, take a look at these basic guidelines for producing quality content and making you (and your brand) look your best.

  • Brainstorm. You probably have a trove of ideas in your head that have been swimming around for some time. Write them down, sort them by your level of interest, and try to determine a reasonable timeline for turning them into content.
  • Share. Even if you’re running a solo operation, it’s helpful to get a second opinion. This may not be the case with daily tweets and Facebook posts (though it’s always good to get thoughts on posting style), but when you’re stuck on finding an angle for an article or just the right design for a video, an extra thinking cap can be a huge help.
  • Edit (and then edit again). First, after you’ve spent a solid amount of time on a project and have a working draft, you need a break. Walk away, recharge, and prepare to edit. Published content often needs multiple revisions. We recently completed a project at Loudpixel that was edited by four people. Each person found different revisions after multiple reviews before reaching a final draft. Never underestimate a fresh set of eyes – they are always welcome in the editing process.
  • Promote. In the case of personal/company blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and YouTube posts, actually publishing your content is up to you. However, in order to spread the word about your latest masterpiece, you need to promote yourself across various online platforms, and send pitch letters and press releases if necessary. So much is floating around in cyberspace that it’s hard to get yourself noticed. Think about who would be most interested in your content, and make them your targets.

Everyone is longing for creative thought. If you’ve got one, you should consider publishing it. Not only will you build your own presence and credibility—you’ll also gain the confidence to keep going.

 

Image via joe.ross

Insights & Action: Gut Feelings vs. Metrics

Why they both need a reality check

When looking at a stream of social media conversations to understand your consumers, do you go with your gut based on the individual posts that you read, or do you take the time (in most cases, vastly more time) to quantify each conversation trend in order to understand what matters to your people as a whole?

When ROI formulas and the latest data analysis software are constantly challenged, it can be difficult to put your faith in metrics. When it comes to audience research, hunches often overpower thorough research (we’re all being pulled in so many directions these days—who has the time anymore?). So which path is the most trusted? The truth is that both instinct and data have validity in the digital marketing world, and both have major faults which must be acknowledged:

Team Instinct:

Think“Go with your gut.” It’s a worthwhile piece of advice, but there is a difference between making a decision based on years of experience and understanding versus rushing to judgement based on a few tweets simply because you don’t have the time to thoroughly examine the data. Yes, metrics can be tedious, but they can also point you in the right direction.

For example, we saw a spike in tweets last month related to boycotting a brand that we work with (it’s very common to see threats of boycotts these days for everything from advertising on the “wrong” show to creating messaging that doesn’t resonate with everyone). Our guts may have told us to sound the alarm bells and go into full blown crisis mode, but on closer examination, this “trend” actually  made up less than 0.4% of total conversations about the brand. Had we reacted too quickly, we may have brought unwanted attention to the other 99.6% of our audience.

Team Data:
CalculatorThe numbers don’t lie, right? Well, that’s not entirely true. We know that automated sentiment is notorious for its flaws and “likes” don’t always translate to increased profit. Data needs to be put in context when reviewing trends.

For example, a recent client chose to follow the lead of a successful campaign by one of its competitors. The competitors’ social media response rates and sales soared because the campaign fit the persona of the brand, while our client’s efforts struggled to leave the ground. In that case, the client should have gone with both data and instinct; just because data points to the success of your competitor does not mean it’s a good formula for your own campaign. Go back to old campaigns, including print and television ads, and see what worked for your audience and brand persona. With a little finesse, these (perhaps) dated but core ideas will translate well to the current digital stage and will, potentially, lead to positive recognition and ROI.

Ultimately, you need to pull from both your gut and available measurements to craft a successful campaign. Remember that there is always room for improvement in both cases; make sure your gut check is not a hasty decision, and see that your analytics come from a well-crafted, trusted query. When it comes to strategy, combine what you think you know with hard data for a clearer picture of the next steps.

Images via J Skilling and Dottie Mae, respectively

Five Basic Principles of Social Media

Now is arguably the optimal time to get your company invested in social media. Facebook has just successfully passed over 900 million users, while other social media outlets are also continuing to grow. For anybody who has tried or is trying to get the most out social media, remember that there is a large market to capture, and a place for every niche to be successful.

For those of you that have a Twitter account or Facebook fan page, you may have realized that it isn’t easy to get your status update or tweet noticed. At any given second there are more than 700 status updates, and 600 tweets. It might seem frustrating when your posts go unnoticed, but you are on the right track. The goal is to build a community that shares and responds to your posts. To achieve the benefits of a strong customer base and the ability to recognize what your company may or may not be doing successfully, start by applying these five basic rules to your social media approach.

  • Timing is important. First, go back and read Lesley’s post on the importance of timing when using social media. If you don’t already, take advantage of when your users will be reading through their newsfeed or timeline. Use your social media outlets when you think your audience will be reading. Think about and analyze your own daily schedule. When do you find yourself on Twitter or Facebook? For me, I tend to read my Twitter and Facebook feeds the most when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I don’t know about you, but I am not one that will scroll through my timeline or newsfeed for more than 5 minutes (no matter how interesting a post may be).
  • Know your audience. How many of you see a tweet or post that is getting a lot of traffic and think: “Hey, I was going to tweet that earlier,” or “I was just thinking about that.” More than likely, that’s by design. Social Media pros spend time getting to know their audience and what they want to hear. If you’re aiming for a successful social media campaign, it is your task to cater information and updates to your users. Use hashtags on Twitter, or post pictures along with your status updates on Facebook. Make sure you do everything you can to not only make your posts stand out, but reach out to your audience. There are millions of social media users, so make sure you aren’t trying to capture them all. Start small and work through your niche to reach a bigger market as you progress. Starting with a core community is key, especially an active and responsive one.
  • Be personable. I cannot stress enough how important it is to reach out to your users. Almost every company relies on customers, so why not thank them or help them when they need it? Whether a post is bashing you, or giving your company a compliment, make sure that customer is acknowledged and addressed. For example, a few weeks ago I tweeted about a website that I found extremely helpful, so I figured I would share it with my followers. This particular website’s Twitter handle has a very large number of followers, thus I wasn’t expecting to get any acknowledgement from them. However, within a few minutes they tweeted back. They thanked me, and acknowledged me – something that no other company I have tweeted to before has done. At the time, I was not following them, but after they acknowledged me I decided to repay them with a follow. When social media outlets are your main methods of reaching out to users, make sure that those users are both heard and appreciated.As a side note, be mindful of your tone when you respond. No matter how much you might want to respond with sarcasm or anger at an unreasonable customer, handle all interactions responsibly; people will appreciate it.
  • Promote others. One of the best things about social media is that it easily enables us to network. It is extremely important to not only promote yourself, but to praise others for relevant accolades, even your competitors. There is always more to learn, and the best way to do that is by being open minded. Retweet and share those posts that you found funny, interesting, or both. You will be able to grow and maintain relationships with those you have respected and acknowledged. I am a firm believer that those you reach out to will likely do the same for you down the road.
  • Get Technical. Take advantage of tools such as Google Analytics and use them to your advantage. Google Analytics can be used for almost every social media outlet and it’s free. Although, it might not always be an easy task to decipher the data, it can be extremely helpful. The data is a wealth of knowledge; it’s just a matter of taking the time to figure everything out. These tools will let you know what strategies your company, website, or social media platforms might need to change. It is up to you to take advantage of the endless resources out there. In the end, this is what differentiates a good marketer from a great one.

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