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Insights From Ragan’s Measurement Conference Mar 21

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 Feb 25

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.

Power in Partnerships: How BuyCostumes.com Partnered With Other Brands to Build Collective Awareness Oct 22

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

More Doesn’t Mean Better Jul 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Jun 19

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 May 24

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 May 21

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.

Facebook Measurement: Six Metrics That Matter May 11

In an interview with Inc.com this week, Peter Shankman told us why we should consider tossing out our social media metrics. While I agree with his point that many marketers focus far too closely on new fans and followers and far too little on context and reactions from existing fans and followers, I certainly can’t endorse a full “toss out your metrics” approach (though, reading closer, it appears that Peter Shankman doesn’t truly endorse this approach either).

So which Facebook metrics matter?

Measurement is important, but measurement that is targeted at arbitrary numbers without context or goals is useless. For example, knowing that my total Facebook fan base increased by 10% last month doesn’t give me much context around my so-called “success,” but a few additional bits of context will make this much more meaningful:

  • Say my fan growth from the month before was only 2%—what caused this month-to-month increase?
  • Was there a particular day when growth jumped, or was it a steady increase over time? If it happened on one particular day, what did we post about or do that day that was different from other days?
  • Where are new fans coming from (advertising, like stories from fan timelines, etc.)?
  • What is the demographic make-up of my existing fans? True story—we worked with a brand that saw a spike in lost Facebook fans last October. It turned out that the majority of their fans are young males, and they were promoting Breast Cancer Awareness month, which didn’t resonate with this section of their audience. Make sure your messaging aligns with your fan base. Lost fans can be just as telling as new fans.
  • What is the context and sentiment of fan responses on my Facebook Page? Many marketers focus simply on quantity of comments and likes and consider them all “good numbers,” but we recently started digging deeper by pulling Facebook comments into our system to tag for relevancy, context and sentiment. It turned out that a decent portion of comments were self promoting, inappropriate or negative. If you don’t know the context around reactions, how will you shape future messaging to make sure it is relevant and resonates with your audience?
  • What type of media does my fan base engage with the most? I love using PageLever.com to evaluate clicks and photo views—this is another great way to tell what content is resonating with existing fans (do our fans engage more with text, videos, photos, polls, links, etc.?).
Image via Sean MacEntee under a Creative Commons license

 

Loudpixel Hangout: Could Air Travel Customer Service be a Game-changer? May 11

Have you ever tweeted an airline or an airport with a question or concern? In this week’s Loudpixel Hangout, the team is talking about the rise of mobile customer service and the industry that could set the standard for everyone.

Articles of Note:

The Power of Celebrity Apr 26

I’m not an athlete or sports fanatic by any means but last week, news that someone I have always admired, Pat Summitt, would be stepping down from her position as head coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball program grabbed my attention. After first announcing in 2011 that she was diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia, Alzheimer’s type, Summitt made the decided to move into the role of “Head Coach Emeritus” in order to focus on her health. Coach Summitt’s performance in a game was as captivating as the performance of her players. She exuded strength, control, intelligence, and respect, and symbolized those attributes for players, industry pros, and fans across the country. While Summitt will continue to serve the Lady Vols in an advisory capacity, she took a big step in confronting the seriousness of her disease by relinquishing her current role. In doing so, she brought her reality to the forefront of media coverage.

In the midst of last week’s tragic celebrity news (Dick Clark died of a heart attack; Levon Helm succumbed to throat cancer), I was curious as to what kind of attention a celebrity’s public medical struggles brought to related national causes. Summitt’s story opens up questions about her diagnosis of Early Onset Dementia, Alzheimer’s type, a disease which is hard to pinpoint without the help of genetic counseling or testing. Her announcement of her resignation as head coach on April 18th did in fact cause a spike in general conversation referencing Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. The spike carried through the 19th and tapered on the 20th (additional spikes seen in the graph on April 11th and April 22nd were generated by a tweet from @UberFacts suggesting the use of marijuana as a preventative supplement).

 

Perhaps the more interesting data was the spike caused by Summitt’s announcement in relation to her specific diagnosis. As inferred from the chart below, daily conversation referencing Early Onset Dementia, Alzheimer’s type, is relatively low, and while Summitt’s announcement only increased conversation about the disease for a couple of days, the story is out there and may serve to promote awareness in the future.  Any time a celebrity (particularly those who are generally regarded with high esteem) announces an illness, it reminds us that no one is exempt from life-altering health issues. The good news with stories likes Summitt’s is that often foundations and awareness campaigns emerge from personal experiences (Summitt has established the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund). For researchers who are working diligently to find cures or alleviants to rarer conditions like Early Onset Dementia, the publicity that comes from celebrity initiatives could make a significant difference in funding. Never underestimate the power of a celebrity, especially when that power can be used for good.

Data for this article was gathered using Radian6 software.