Thursday, July 1, 2010

DO WEB METRICS MEASURE UP?

As a media buyer deeply entrenched in the online world, I’m often struck by the paradox that exists between the near-universal consensus that the Internet is the most measurable medium in history and the sheer volume of conflicting data generated by online measurement companies. How is the web really counted?

As chair of the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ new Canadian Digital Advisory Committee, I’d like to offer some perspective on the state of online audience measurement. And I’d also like to comment on some exciting trends that aim to end the historical disparity—and confusion—between the differing measurement methods, trends that will greatly benefit online marketers.

There are three generally accepted methodologies used to measure Internet usage: panel, census and hybrid.

The panel-based measurement method, such as that used by comScore MediaMetrix, recruits a sample of Internet users, tracks their online behaviour and then applies their habits to the larger Internet population with complicated weighting and algorithms. Because panels track the habits of actual people, they provide valuable user demographics, an important component when evaluating sites for media plans.

There are some areas where panels may falter, including coverage of niche sites and work traffic. And publishers are occasionally concerned about how a firm like comScore defines a website, i.e., which URLs are part of the domain definition.

Websites that target a unique or regional market may not be accurately represented on a panel. These websites still serve up valuable audiences, but if only a few panel participants visit them, the data may be inconsistent from month to month and not accurately reflect the sites’ true audience, causing it to be overlooked by buyers.

There is also some concern that panels may have less-than-complete coverage of the traffic generated by people visiting sites while at work. Given the volume of workers that spend their days connected to the Internet, this could have a significant impact on a site’s overall traffic stats.

The last area is related to the domain names that are counted as part of a site’s overall traffic. When panel-based measurement firms gather the data for a website, they must determine which domains to include in the aggregate numbers for that site. This may seem like common sense, but in reality many website publishers use a variety of third-party companies to deliver content throughout their site. The third-party content may be branded to mimic the original website and a visitor may never realize they’ve navigated away from the initial domain. So, who gets to count that traffic? The website the user sought out or the website that ultimately delivered the content, even if the user never realizes they left the original site?

Websites that use analytics tools, such as Omniture, are measured according to the census-based methodology. This method does not provide any of the valuable demographic information, but it does have the distinct advantage of tracking almost 100% of a site’s traffic, regardless of the visitors’ locations, including home, work and mobile.

The census method’s greatest downfall, however, is that it focuses on tracking machines, not actual people. This leaves us without beneficial demographics and can lead to some duplication in the data. For example, if someone deletes his cookies every day, that person could be counted as a different visitor every day. If someone uses three devices to access the same website (home computer, work computer, mobile phone), that person could be counted as three visitors.

This is why it’s important to recognize a clear distinction between panel measurement and analytics. The former measures people; the latter measures machines. Apples and oranges, I’m afraid.

The hybrid, or unified measurement, method is the next-generation technology available for measuring online audience and it shows significant promise. Purveyors of the hybrid method say that it incorporates the positives from the panels and analytics software and combines them to create a new web measurement tool that tracks nearly 100% of traffic and provides detailed user demographics.

While only recently introduced by comScore MediaMetrix, the unified approach has been well-received by many of the website publishers and digital advertisers I’ve spoken to.

ABC’s new digital committee has created a forum for leaders in our industry to gather and educate ourselves on the future of digital media, the methodologies used to measure it and the best way to ensure digital media delivers for our clients. As Neal Lulofs, ABC’s senior VP, communications and strategic planning said, the need for a standardized and up-to-date model of digital measurement was the primary motivator for creating the committee. Because I believe it serves such an important role for our industry, I volunteered to serve as its chair.

In addition to the state of online measurement, the committee also discussed ad operations workflow challenges; the explosion in e-reader and mobile devices; and ABC’s current and future reporting options, including the recent change that allows magazines to better accommodate new devices like the iPad.
If you’d like to share your thoughts about online measurement and anything else related to digital media, please drop me an e-mail at ted@58ninety.com. To learn more about the Audit Bureau of Circulations' Digital Advisory Committee which meets regularly in New York, please contact Neal Lulofs, SVP Communications and Strategic Planning at neal.lulofs@accessabc.com.

Originally Published in Canada's Marketing Magazine.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Social CRM: Brand Advocacy and the Evolution of the Loyalty Program

Advocacy: Another Key Metric in the Loyalty Equation

In our February 7th post we talked about the coming revolution that is Social CRM and the profound impact measuring, quantifying and integrating these conversations into CRM profiles will have in establishing the value of Brand Advocacy. It is the concept of rewarding these advocates that we want to focus on in this post. In particular we will examine the evolution of the Loyalty Program in a world where Brand Conversations and behaviours associated with Brand Advocacy will be considered alongside purchase behaviour as prime drivers in establishing the components of program currency.

Loyalty programs have long been centered on a group of metrics primarily linked to purchase behaviour and with good cause. Consumption of goods and/or services is what drives a business forward and thus it is logical and appropriate to reward consumers for behaviours which directly contribute to this key business metric.

However what if someone is a relatively light consumer of a product or service but in some way personifies the core values or is a major advocate for said Brand? Is it in fact not possible that this individual may be worth more to the brand for his or her potential influence over a multitude of others than even the heaviest of users?

The Age of the Influencer

We are living in an age when the power of an individual to influence others (both positively and negatively) is becoming an increasingly major force in the Brand Marketing Ecosystem. Just as multi-level marketing firms celebrate and reward their most productive and influential distributors, so will Brands and their corporate owners recognize and reward their greatest advocates and by necessity, their greatest critics. This recognition is a public opportunity for Brands to celebrate their customers and to create and share content across the Social Influence Media universe. It also offers a terrific public relations upside. Loyalty Programs will accordingly evolve into mechanisms for rewarding not only consumption behaviour but also the Brand Advocacy of prospects and customers. Consumption will no doubt remain a key metric for determining customer value and currency or reward levels but there can be no question the metrics of Advocacy have fundamentally changed the Loyalty Equation forever.

To this end it is our view that the term Social CRM should be evolved to Social RM, because in the world of Brand Advocacy, Relationships are a currency of their own. These relationships will increasingly influence the metrics of Loyalty, whether one is a customer or a prospect.

Dual Sides of a Single Coin

Looking ahead, savvy practitioners of Social RM will come to view a Loyalty Program as a key pillar in building additional intimacy, understanding and dialogue with their customers. Indeed Social RM and Loyalty Programs are highly complementary and may well be viewed as most effective when paired in an integrated manner. Additionally, methodologies such as the STREAMED AND UNSTREAMED TAGGING PROCESS which we discussed in our last post, or tools such as the intriguing WECANDO.BIZ offer an unparalleled and rich opportunity to provide value and reward customer or prospect behaviour in the days, months and years ahead.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Social CRM: Mining The Real Power of Social Influence Marketing

The Revolution Is Beginning

There is a growing buzz around the concept of Social CRM and with good cause. CRM and Loyalty Marketing Programs have long demonstrated the power of creating a currency and then segmenting, targeting and rewarding people on the basis of preference and needs. The rise of Social Influence Media has given even more meaning to the potential inherent in the concept of one to one marketing, but thus far it is rare to see real discipline applied to the scientific management of conversations or their integration into CRM initiatives let alone broader corporate marketing efforts.

Integrating Brand Conversations

Integrating Brand conversations into customer database profiles fundamentally enhances and changes the CRM proposition. Traditional measures of brand health such as equity, awareness or loyalty and broader business metrics such as consumption or sales may now be complemented by a measure of Brand Advocacy. In a world of Social CRM it is possible to both ask and answer whether somebody who may be a light user can actually be worth more to a marketer than a heavy user by virtue of his or her Advocacy and the impact this Advocacy may have on the consumption habits of others. This equation is game changing. By better understanding how Brand conversations impact core brand and business metrics, marketers will be able to dramatically rethink their creative and media mixes and to engage and reward the right individuals as never before.

Don't Just Listen: Tag, Integrate, Measure and Reward

Taking the monitoring of Brand conversations to the next level and integrating them into new or existing customer profiles requires an understanding of the power of the the Streamed and Unstreamed Tagging Process. Streamed Tagging occurs when a customer or prospect chooses to interact with brand content in the online space and shares some basic personal data such as that required to use Facebook Connect. These interactions and personal data are then captured and mapped against Brand conversations that this same individual may be having and integrated into the CRM database for mining and measurement. Unstreamed Tagging represents an enormous opportunity for marketers but is quite labour intensive. It occurs when a prospect or customer is overheard, usually via a Social Media monitoring tool such as Radian6 or trucast and is engaged by the Brand or Community spokesperson. After opening a direct, authentic and relevant conversation with a prospect or customer, the spokesperson can manually tag the individual for follow up or re-engagement later, offer to send them information on the product or service or, with permission, even add them to the database. Unstreamed Tagging is an enormously powerful and appealing tactic to marketer and consumer alike: just think how good you felt the last time someone responded to a comment you made online in a timely and sincere manner. (If you have not had the pleasure as yet, try it. Done well it is truly rewarding.)

Listening, measuring and rewarding the actions of your most valuable prospects and customers in a scientific yet authentic manner is a testament to the power of the coming revolution called Social CRM.

It is indeed an exciting time to be a marketer, a prospect or a customer.



Next week we will explore in greater depth the concept of rewarding prospects and customers and the relationship between Social CRM and the evolution of the the Loyalty program.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

On The Value of 'The Brand Website'

In the 16 days since the beginning of the year we have been exposed to several questions about the value of a Brand Website. So, we ask, Should the Brand Website die?

For three key reasons we say no:

1. Social Networks are Brands unto themselves, created and driven by a singular need to control conversations and monetize them in what is fundamentally an uncontrollable and largely unmonetizable environment. Is it necessarily true then that the benefit of being in the middle of the conversation (or worse still disintermediating it!) is worth surrendering control of your Brand by outsourcing ownership of your customers? Is it really a good long term strategy to outsource your media assets and in some cases the majority of your Web presence to a third party that has no idea or concern as to who you or your customers are?

2. Brand Websites are effectively an oasis for your highest value customers and prospects. Compelling brand experiences can have a significant impact on competitive switching and in influencing purchase intent. No matter how clever a Social Influence Media Presence one may construct, it can never be as compelling as an experience that lives in a dedicated and artfully constructed environment or perhaps more importantly, an experience that utilizes the full range of options available to marketers in the Digital space.

3. This is not a zero sum game. A great Brand Website does not preclude having a smart and savvy SIM presence. In fact it demands it. The two are complementary and together are a shining example of the ageless principle of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. Change the mix by all means necessary, but in doing so, let us all remember that extreme swings on the basis of fashion rarely result in outcomes that respect our customers.

TXZHHUHP3UX6

Friday, April 25, 2008

The First One

Hello Angels:

It begins with a chap named Chad whom I met as a result of my client whom we shall call Austin in order to protect his prim yet still Rudyard Kipling- like, elegant adventurer identity.

Well, I guess he could be considered an adventurer if you consider hanging out in a first class cabin with somebody else's dog an adventure. Austin has had many adventures it seems, all of them entertaining and engaging as he is a personality of great wit, intelligence and possessed of a ready smile.

But we will leave these for another day, given that we will undoubtedly need filler to disguise the literary bankruptcy which is intrinsic to your humble scribe herein. Specifically, that would be me whom you may call Bosley, or "The Name."

It is worth giving more than passing notice to the term "engaging" by the way, as this is a word we shall explore in some measure, perhaps until one day the contents of your stomach are violently expelled in abject frustration.

You have that to look forward to then.

Last night Chad inspired Austin to assign me "The Name. "

I mean I fly all the bloody way down from the hoary northland to assist my client and his brain trust with a take no prisoners, rear guard tactical offensive and wind up with the same moniker as some lapdog of a Hugh Hefner wannabe, whom NOONE EVER EVEN SAW!! playing mamma bear to three of the hottest women Aaron Spelling has ever put on television.

People, where is the dignity, the nobility, in that I ask you?

Austin framed this singular honour by saying I was their rock. This made me promptly start sniffing corks, licking bottle caps and generally drinking anything but the industrial cleaner they use to clean up whatever interesting things men do to each other in places like that.

Chad left quickly, but not before Austin had his Creative Director, Dr. Cheek snap and email a cozy photo of the two of us looking like the Snuggle Bear before the dry cycle is complete, to anyone he could think of, including another client whom we shall call, Ms. Jones.

Now the bloody thing will be printed in colour and mounted on an outdoor board just in time for the annual creative awards.

Can't wait to see the copy.

But Bosley I am, and, all kidding aside, I am deeply touched and honoured that I can work and have such fun with these talented and brilliant individuals. The name will stay and I will publish under it until one of the two people who ever read this trash finally finds me and puts me out of our respective misery.

To be clear, I consider it the highest honour to be at an airport, drinking, alone again, but to have enjoyed spending time with Austin, Dr. Cheek and The Wise Man so much that I am actually tearing up like my mother watching The Way We Were, BEFORE she started screaming at Robert Redford for wrecking the marriage. Mom, I love you, but you definitely had that one wrong; I mean look at who he was married to...yikes!

Next Topic...The Engagement Matrix.....Long live the day job.


Night Angels,

Bosley.