Archive for ‘ROI’

September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]

science-of-marketing

August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

September 15, 2012

Talknowledgy Episode #98: iPhone 5, fake sex site profiles, caught with pot, & more

The top story in this episode is the  largest tech story of the week – The iPhone 5 announcement. We take a look at the new features, upgrades, and how it stacks up to the competition. On the legal side, Apple may not be able to sell their new device in the US for long due to alleged infringement on Samsung’s and HTC’s patents. The phone, by the way, is due out September 21.

We also chat about people being caught behaving badly online. Law enforcement officials are using photo sharing sites, like Instagram, to track down and persecute people who post images of themselves using drugs. And in the “Creepy or Awesome?!” segment we share our thoughts about an Ottawa restaurant owner plead guilty to creating a fake sex profile site to get back at one of her customers for writing a bad online review of her restaurant.

We discuss anonymous comments – are they better than using Facebook for your comment system?

Phil drops into the Social Media Breakfast Ottawa to chat with Collin Douma, Global Digital Planning Director at BBDO New York, about how the digital age is putting an end to demographics. (Phil may have incorrectly identified Collin’s title in the podcast, and he regrets the error).

Finally, our viral video this week is courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live as he claims to have the first iPhone 5:

If you liked the show, feel free to subscribe to this blog or our RSS feed to make sure you’re always up-to-date with Talknowledgy.

September 5, 2012

Social Media ROI for Higher Education [Stats]

This week marks the return to classes for many students here in Canada and around the world. It’s great to see the kids skipping off to class, the school buses making their rounds, and freshmen on college campuses moving into residence, eager for new experiences. It’s also a great time for colleges and universities to connect with their students and make them feel a part of the community and, at the same time, to lay the foundation to recruit the next round of students.

I’ve worked at a post secondary institution for nearly 7 years (6 of those in the Marketing and Communications department). As the leader of our social media planning and execution strategy, I often had conversations about the return on investment (ROI) of social media. We batted around questions like: “Isn’t social media just something else to add to my to do list?”, “Why spend thousands on outdoor bus advertising when digital marketing is easier to track and less expensive?”, “How can other departments of the school take advantage of social media”, and of course “What is the ROI of social media?”

The last question bugged me the most. Maybe because it’s hard to answer, maybe because it’s the go-to question for social media non-believers, and maybe because the same people who are asking us to put a dollar figure on social media couldn’t identify the ROI with any of the other communications tools in their office. I would think, “What’s the ROI on that pen set on your desk?”, or “Explain to me the ROI of giving every employee a laptop,” or “what’s the ROI on company-specific email addresses?”

But ROI is important, and we should try to establish some benchmarks to measure our successes and failures. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research agrees, and has been watching social media usage trends at US colleges and universities since 2007. In their latest study (2011-12), their research shows that social media cuts costs for the Recruitment/Admissions Office.  Consequently, many schools are planning to increase investments in social media initiatives as a way to better reach their target audience.  Their news release highlights the following key findings:

  • Traditional media is becoming less important/used. Schools report spending 33% less on printing, 24% less on newspaper ads and 17% less on radio and TV ads. One third of schools say social media is more efficient than traditional media in reaching their target audience.
  • 92% of undergraduate admissions officers agree that social media is worth the investment they make in it and 86% plan to increase their investment in social media in the next year.
  • The most useful tools for recruiting undergraduates include Facebook (94%), YouTube (81%), Twitter (69%) and Downloadable Mobile Apps (51%).
  • Less than half of those surveyed have a written social media policy for their school.  In the 2009-10 academic year, 32% had a policy. That number increased to 44% in 2010-11, and stands at 49% in 2011-12.
  • 29% of the schools surveyed report having NO social media plan in place for their Admission Office, and an additional 15% report not knowing if there is a social media plan in place.
  • 78% of schools say that social media tools have changed the way they recruit.
  • Umass has created a rudimentary infographic with more details if you’re interested in learning more about this study.

Although these findings provide a good look at where colleges and universities stand on the marketing side of social media, there’s still work to be done to get a better picture of the post-secondary industry’s use of social media. I’d like to see further studies that focus on social media use and how it affects: student retention, customer service, campus life, and learning inside (and outside) the classroom.

August 29, 2012

A look at the new Klout score and features [Screenshots]

New Klout scores and features have rolled out through the month of August, and I think its a step in the right direction. From the beginning of Klout, there have been people who have rightly questioned the importance, relevance, and accuracy of measuring social influence with an algorithm. Instead of getting defensive of their product, Klout focused on improvement. A few updates have been released over the years, but the one from August 2012 seems to be the most promising. Essentially, there are three elements to the latest update:

Discover – A rudimentary beginning to a Klout/social media dashboard. You get an idea of what per cent each social network contributes to your Klout score. For me, I’m about 80% Twitter dominant, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot of new stuff here. They continue to display your 7-day, 30-day, and 90-day Klout score movement, number of mentions, likes, followers, friends, +1’s, connections, etc. All this is interesting, but not overly helpful.

Moments – This is a list of all the interactions your accounts have had over the last 90 days. It includes likes, mentions, followers gained, RT, +1 in Klout, and so on. You can scroll back for three months to see what pieces of content were most engaging to your audience. On each “moment” there’s a curious little meter that consists of five green balls. The more engaging your content is, the more balls will be turned green. It’s a decent, chronological overview, but I’d like the ability to sort by highest and lowest ranked pieces of content, rather than having to scroll through and look at them all.

New Klout score – This is probably the most important part of the August 2012 update. Now, Klout uses significantly broader data sets and signals, from less than 100 to more than 400, to analyze  and calculate your online influence. They have also increased the number of data points analyzed on a daily basis from 1 billion to 12 billion in an attempt to deliver a more accurate and up-to-date score for Klout users. They now include many more actions from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more, and for the first time they incorporate Wikipedia. Klout even published the key things they measure for each network. Here are the highlights (pulled verbatim from this post).

  • Facebook:
    • Mentions: A mention of your name in a post indicates an effort to engage with you directly.
    • Likes: The simplest action that shows engagement with the content you create.
    • Comments: As a reaction to content you share, comments also reflect direct engagement by your network.
    • Subscribers: Subscriber count is a more persistent measure of influence that grows over time.
    • Wall Posts: Posts to your wall indicate both influence and engagement.
    • Friends: Friend count measures the reach of your network, but it is less important than how your network engages with your content.
  • Twitter
    • Retweets: Retweets increase your influence by exposing your content to extended follower networks.
    • Mentions: People seeking your attention by mentioning you is a strong signal of influence. We also take into account the differences in types of mentions, including “via” and “cc”.
    • List Memberships: Being included on lists curated by other users demonstrates your areas of influence.
    • Followers: Follower count is one factor in your Score, but we heavily favor engagement over size of audience.
    • Replies: Replies show that you are consistently engaging your network with quality content.
  • Google+
    • Comments: As a reaction to content you share, comments also reflect direct engagement by your network.
    • +1’s: The simplest action that shows engagement with the content you create.
    • Reshares: Reshares increase your influence by exposing your content to extended networks on Google+.
  • LinkedIn
    • Title: Your reported title on LinkedIn is a signal of your real-world influence and is persistent.
    • Connections: Your connection graph helps validate your real-world influence.
    • Recommenders: The recommenders in your network add additional signals to the contribution LinkedIn makes to your Score.
    • Comments: As a reaction to content you share, comments also reflect direct engagement by your network.
  • foursquare
    • Tips Done: The number of suggestions you’ve left that have been completed indicate your ability to influence others on foursquare.
  • Klout
    • +K received: Receiving +K increases your Klout Score by an amount that is capped in every 90-day measurement cycle to protect the integrity of the Score.
  • Wikipedia
    • Page Importance: Measured by applying a PageRank algorithm against the Wikipedia page graph.
    • Inlinks to Outlinks Ratio: Compares the number of inbound links to a page to the number of outbound links.
    • Number of Inlinks: Measures the total number of inbound links to a page.

For more reading about this update, and other Klout projects, check out their blog :

What do you think of the new Klout score and feature roll-out? If your account hasn’t been upgraded, login to preview.klout.com and take a look around.

August 23, 2012

Want to know some stats about YOUR Instagram account? There’s an app for that.

Since October 2010, Instagram has been one of the fastest-growing social networks in history. By the end of March 2012, it had about 30 million iPhone users, and, since the release of the app on Android, Instagram user numbers have balooned to 80 million.

Like all Android users, I’m new to Instagram but really enjoying the experience. After getting to know the tool a bit, I began to think that it was missing two things. First, a browser-based interface that would allow the user to manage photos, comments, likes, and account settings from a laptop. Instagram users know that almost everything usually has to be done with your smartphone, which isn’t always the easiest task.

The second thing about Instagram that left me wanting more was a lack of stats. Initially, I went searching for the “total views” a photo had received  Knowing this stat would give me an idea of the types of photos my followers are most interested in, and also how successful my sharing tactics are.

After a bit of Googling, I came across Statigr.am – a brower-based app that gives you dozens of stats about your Instagram usage, essentially filling in both of the gaps that were bothering me about Instagram. Statigram helps you keep track of:

  • Reading, posting, and responding to comments
  • Liking photos
  • Following and unfollowing other users
  • The number of photos, likes, comments, and followers you have
  • A month-by-month analysis
  • Your tag usage – i.e. the most popular tags associated with your account
  • The most popular filters you use
  • Your most liked and most commented on images
  • Best time to post
  • Photo lifespan
  • Follower growth
  • And so on…

They even have extra functionality that includes: the ability to create a Facebook Cover image out of your instagram photos, Instagram follow buttons for your website / blog,  an RSS feed,  a public URL, and a toolkit for brands to help them setup and monitor photo contests.

And it turns out that I’m not the only one looking for the functionality and statistics Statigr.am offers: just last week they announced that they have reached the 1 Million user mark and are still growing.

Let me know: Do you care to learn more about your Instagram stats?

UPDATE: Since the publication of this post, Statigram changed its name to Iconosquare.

February 15, 2012

4 conclusions on Social Media ROI [Video]

This week, I was invited to participate in a unique event put on by VIA Rail and the Fairmont Royal York on the opening day of Social Media Week: Toronto 2012. The event spanned the entire first day of the conference and was focused on discussing the business case for social media:  in other words, the “social media return on investment” (ROI). Social media bloggers from Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Kingston gathered on VIA’s recently restored Glen Fraser Lounge car to debate topics centred around social media, community management, client relationship management, mobile marketing, customer service, and of course ROI.

The “pre-conference” aboard @VIA_Rail ended with a great 2-hour speaker panel and Q&A session at the @FairmontRYH. The speakers included academics, entrepreneurs, C-level executives that were seasoned media, PR, and marketing leaders from both the public and private sectors (learn more about the speakers). Some tried to explain ROI with mathematical formulas, some took the “trust me it works” approach (then asked for the ROI on a toilet), but all of them provided examples of where they saw ROI for their particular brand(s).

After 8 hours of constant talking about social media ROI, I came to a few conclusions (for now) about calculating social media return on investment:

1. Social media ROI is difficult to do properly, but it’s completely doable. There’s no magic formula, or straight-forward way, to calculate social media ROI that applies to each case. The first thing you really need to understand is how social media is used in your industry, then figure out what you want social media to do for you. If your goal is to have  a Facebook page for your business, you have already failed. If you plan to use a Facebook awareness and acquisition campaign to drive traffic to the eCommerce section of your website because you know that customers referred from Facebook are more likely to make a purchase than those referred from Twitter, you’re off to a great start. Those are the outcomes you are looking for.

2. You don’t need to measure EVERYTHING. Once you know what you want to do, you now have to measure your efforts to see if you are working towards achieving those goals. It’s important to find the “right metrics” to demonstrate the effectiveness of your tactics, and, as importantly, to help you make decisions. If you measure everything, and draw no insight, then you wasted time measuring for the sake of measuring.

3. Measuring social media ROI requires a tailored solution. After reading my first two points, you’re probably thinking, “OK, what do I do now?” Well, it’s time for the hard work, so start thinking about your goals. Start answering some of the tough questions. What do I want to achieve? How can social media help me deliver on my business plan? What business function can social media assist with? What are the costs if I don’t engage? What are the costs if I do engage? Do I work for a social organization? What are my competitors doing? If we implemented social media, what would it look like? What is our content creation strategy? How far do we go with content curation vs. creation? How can social media be tied into the DNA of your organization and to your existing business practices? Etc. etc. etc.

The good news is that there are people out there to help us do this. Academics, business leaders, strategists, and entrepreneurs lose sleep about this each night, and many of them are for hire to help organizations thrive using social media. And don’t be shy, most organizations need some level of specialized help with this. One thing that is certain, measuring YOUR social media ROI is not easy, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

4. It’s all about influence. At the end of the day, we as social media participants (including brands) want to be influential. We want to be able to drive consumer behaviour, influence legislation, promote our personal brand, make connections, etc. You can’t do them all, so you need to pick what your want to have influence over, and tailor your social media strategy to achieve that.

The video clip below is just one of the presentations at the Social Media ROI: Myth or Reality evening event at the Royal York. This clip features Dr. James Norrie, who presents his quadratic equation for measuring ROI that revolves around leveraging the power of your “captive community.”

Social Media week is where social media becomes even more social. It is a 5-day conference that takes place in 21 cities around the globe.  Each year, Social Media Week attracts more than 60,000 attendees across thousands of individually organized, and mostly free, events. It’s a great collection of minds, from the casual social media user looking for more information on their newly forming passion, to business and academic leaders who share their latest insights on the future of communication and ROI for business. And, of course, there are a lot of us nerdy bloggers.

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