Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Analytics Grounded in Goals

November 12, 2009

hockeygoalGetting into any business today means getting into the Web business. As an online marketing expert put it in a presentation to my Theory and Audience Analysis class this morning, “It’s sort of weird now if you’re a business and you’re not on the Web.”

Look at or listen to any advertisement. Chances are there’s a url somewhere in there. Companies count on the Web to make them money. Show them how to do it, and you’re likely to make some yourself.

Enter Web analytics, which is what Mark Tosczak, an account supervisor at RLF Communications in Greensboro, N.C., came to talk about. With its acronym-laced jargon, sophisticated-looking charts and rapid pace of change, Web analytics can seem intimidating. Smart business people regularly mix up basic terms, like hit, page view and site visit, Tosczak said.

Those executives know analytics better than they probably realize, however. At analytics’ heart is Business 101. I’m talking about goals. Specific, measurable, verifiable, achievable goals.

Tosczak offered five analytics commandments that revolved around these most fundamental of management fundamentals. He stressed to evaluate results — pay-per-click ad click throughs, for example — not activities — PPC ad views — and added the always helpful reminder to never put all of one’s faith in machines.

Settling upon a goal, Tosczak said, can sometimes be the most difficult part. A manager sees that competitors are on Twitter or reads some press about the microblogging service and decides “My company has to be on Twitter.”

Yes, like Hansel in the 2001 comedy “Zoolander“, Twitter’s “so hot right now.” It is in my world. It seems that whenever I need a generic social media example, I go with Twitter, as I did here. Man, that cute little bird really cast a spell on me. Oh well, Flutter will be along soon enough.

Anyway, point is, Twitter is not necessarily relevant to company X’s world. And, even if it is, it’s not enough to just “be on it.” It’s a medium. Just like a magazine. No business person would in his or her right mind say “We’ve got to get into magazines” without offering specifics, but some business person somewhere every day says this with regard to social media.

After some prodding, a company might decide that it wants to use Twitter to drive traffic to its Web site. OK, that’s a goal, but it’s not specific. How much traffic? What kind of users? What kind of content should users see? What should they do once they get to the site?

Analytics advisers can then tell a company whether the goal can be recorded by current software, whether its accuracy can be tested and whether it’s realistic. If the suits need convincing, the consultants should tie it back to money. That’s something business people never have difficulty understanding.

Open Your Ears Before You Open Your Mouth

October 22, 2009

listen2Yesterday I posted about how businesses tend to delegate social media tasks to their youngest workers and that how young people use social media in their personal lives may not translate to  — or may even clash with — how to use it successfully in the business world.

I added that solid writing is the foundation of solid social media marketing, again, a skill students may not develop, or not develop appropriately, through day-to-day social media use.

Listening is also important, added a peer of mine who’s researching the future of social media.

“From what I have gathered from my research and informational interviews, the mistake made often by companies attempting to utilize social media for the first time is their lackadaisical approach,” he commented. “Social media management includes listening to the groundswell, responding, and being willing to make changes per the feedback received.”

As part of our Interactive Writing and Design coursework, three of my classmates and I are developing a microsite to promote a local jam band’s forthcoming album. The band has used MySpace and Facebook with some success, but is unfamiliar with Twitter.

Immediately, my teammates and I had some ideas about how the band could use social media to achieve its goal of playing in a popular Mid-Atlantic campout music festival. Why not get its active base — it drew several hundred people to a self-hosted festival on a friend’s farm — to talk up the band in places and in ways other fans and festival bookers would notice?

We’re anxious to get to work — the band’s needs seem to jibe remarkably well with what we’ve been learning in our grad program — but know first, we must listen.

Part of our homework is doing literally that — listening to band’s music. Half our group is checking out the band’s tunes, Web site, social media pages, digital press kit and anywhere else the band’s mentioned online. The other half is visiting festival Web sites and the sites of bands who’ve played in those festivals.

We’ll absorb our respective areas as much as we can, then compare notes, looking for overlap between the band’s existing identity and what’s valued in the external spaces.

Newsflash: Funneh Cat Site Iz Serious Bizness

October 12, 2009

Spend enough time on the Internet, and odds are you played a part in circulating a meme. Yes, you probably did, even if you didn’t know that’s what it’s called.

A meme (rhymes with theme), Merriam-Webster tells us, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” On the Internet, every time you forward, repost or retweet you could be giving life to a meme.

YouTube is filled with memes, like the one parodied on last week’s episode of “The Office.” You might know them better as “viral videos.”

Media scholar Henry Jenkins calls such communications, which can also take the form of music, still images, catch phrases, even clothing, “spreadable media.” “Meme” and “viral” understate the role of the audience, he says.

Whatever you call them, memes can make you a lot of money. The just-released low-budget horror film Paranormal Activity built a marketing campaign around them.

Ben Huh has built an empire around them.

He’s the guy behind wildly popular user-generated meme sites I Can Has Cheezburger?, FailBlog.org, spinoffs I Has A Hotdog! and My First Fail and several others.

Just over a year ago Huh told a Web 2.0 Expo NY audience (video above, presentation .pdf here) some of the secrets of his success. My classmates and I, it turns out, would have said roughly the same thing. And our speaking fees are much lower.

Asked by our Theory and Audience Analysis professor to list qualities that, as Jenkins would put it, make media spreadable, we honed in on many of the same aspects as Huh.

Memes, we said, tend to be simple, discussable, brief, relatable and easy to share.

Huh, earning his speaking fee, I suppose, captured the first two elements in a single soundbite.

“We perceive Web. 2.0 as this complex environment, where there’s lots of filtering, lots of stuff going on,” he said. “But really what it boils down to is there’s two people sharing a piece of content or an experience.”

Think of it as the “Hey, dude check this out” test.

Brevity, meanwhile, is at the heart of the irreverently captioned cat pictures, known as Lolcats, on I Can Has Cheezburger?, where the goal, Huh said, is “to make people happy for just 5 minutes a day.”

The importance that content be relatable explains Huh’s early discovery that many of the submissions to I Can Has Cheezburger? aren’t explicitly about cats. They’re about eBay, drinking too much, everyday annoyances or whatever else users deem topical.

Finally, what really helped I Can Has Cheezburger? take off, Huh said, was the lightweight tool that enables virtually anyone with an Internet connection and basic computer proficiency to upload their own captioned photo. It took a part-timer less than a weekend’s work to put the widget together, but it’s a big reason Huh’s site went mainstream when others like it did not.

“We try to lower the bar for content creation,” Huh said, “because the more you allow users to remove the technology… the better content you get.”

Some tips from Huh that apply to any Web company are to consistently update your site — I Can Has Cheezburger? features six new posts every day, the first coming as East Coasters are arriving to work, he said — and, this will sound familiar, “Groundswell” readers, to listen to your audience. I Can Has Cheezburger?’s handful of full-time employees spend much of their time interacting with users, Huh said.

What’s that? Time for one more Lolcat? I thought so.

The Molecule As a Social Media Metaphor

October 7, 2009

chemName a social media app and you’ll likely find it on Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism. There are nearly 200 social media icons on Version 2.0 of the colorful conceptual map, intended to assist organizations in applying social media to their brands.

Every industry needs an encyclopedia. Daily newspapers have the Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. Such exhaustive resources can be invaluable — in the case of the E&P Yearbook, locating potential employers is how I used it — but are too cumbersome for everyday use.

To fully make out the Conversation Prism’s icons requires a large monitor. Or, for $20, you can buy a 22″ by 28″ poster from theconversationprism.com.

With some study, advanced users can make sense of it. They recognize most of the icons and have used enough of the tools to know how they relate to each other. But the average business person will be overwhelmed: “Yeah, it looks pretty, but what do I do with it?”

A second shortcoming is that the Conversation Prism does a poor job of illustrating the crossover between different tools. For example, I’ve embedded a YouTube video on this blog. WordPress and YouTube are at opposite ends of the prism, however, suggesting they don’t interact.

An alternative metaphor that addresses these deficiencies is a chemical molecule. Think of the models from chemistry class (pictured above). Social media advisers would only need to present to managers the tools they’re most likely to use, and the relationship between them would be clearer.

Say a rock band wants to use Twitter to promote its music, videos and fan-produced photos. The “molecule” for such a campaign would have a Twitter atom at its core and music, video and pictures atoms branching off of it. Electrons within each atom would comprise the individual tools. Pandora, Seeqpod and Last.fm for music, for example.

The hands-on assembly of the molecules would engage the manager on a level staring at a chart just can’t. Plus, social media chemistry models would make for fantastic conversation pieces. Sit them on an executive’s desk or trade show table and you’re bound to get people talking. Conversation. What you’ve been going for all along.