Data vs Insight: The Albatross Around the Marketer’s Neck

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We have so much data at our fingertips. Every touch, interaction, click, email, webpage view. It all results in data. Even when we walk from one room to the next our phones are counting the steps, movement, changes in latitude and longitude. We are measured to within an inch of our lives.

Some of this data is captured and reported back to cloud based servers scattered across the globe. Some of it isn’t. But do we know? Do we care?

I was speaking with John Dobbin yesterday about the Data Paradox. We have more data than ever before, but less understanding of what to use it for. We spend our time analysing dashboards and combing through spreadsheets in search of that elusive insight. Sometimes as a marketer I feel like Coleridge’s ancient mariner:

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

Data visualisation goes a long way towards solving this challenge. Done well, it can bring your data to life – tell a story – and foreground important details. But with almost every visualisation I see, I am always asking myself, “why”. Why is this important? Why did a change occur? Why didn’t a change occur?

Take a look at my recent TwitterCounter graph below. It shows follower/ following counts over the last month. You can see there are a couple of spikes in terms of follower numbers. But you can also see that “following” numbers remain on an even trajectory. Just the simple act of looking at this graph reminded me of the actions that I had and had not taken over the last month. It made me check back to see what I was doing on March 7.

And on March 11, clearly I did something to arrest that growth. But the following week I was growing again. Not as steeply, but strongly.

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Correlation vs Causation

Again the question of “why” raises its head. What I am interested in is not the correlation but the causation. At the book launch of Martin Lindstrom’s new book, Small Data, he suggested that it is the small data that drives causation and that big data shows the correlation. So with this in mind, I looked to the small things.

  • Ahead of the first spike in follower growth I started using Meet Edgar to more consistently tweet. Prior to that it was randomised and scheduled or ad hoc. It was not a function of what I was saying, but the fact that I was saying it.
  • The second spike built on the earlier week but benefited from my appearance on DisrupTV with GE’s Ganesh Bell and Constellation Research’s Guy Courtin.

While the big data revealed the trend and the results, it was the small data. The personal data. The insight, that actually revealed the causation. As Martin Lindstrom suggested, and as I have written previously, small data – the known unknowns of the marketing world – tell the story we are waiting to hear. The question is whether we are listening for a story or searching for data.

For Many B2B Marketers, It’s Time to Set the Foundations

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For all the how-to guides, blog posts on best practices, tips and tricks, there is a simple reality to modern marketing that we often overlook. In our rush to use the technology, spend our budget and brief our agencies, we forget that good marketing is established on firm foundations.

A recent study by B2B International found that the top business challenges relate to growth:

  • 62% of marketers are focusing on growth
  • 59% of marketers are driving / needing innovation.

But in the area of out performing the competition, there are two significant weaknesses:

  • Sophisticated segmentation
  • Unique selling proposition.

In the research, on 43% of respondents indicated that they were using a sophisticated approach to segmentation. This means that almost 60% are leaving the door open to their competitors who double down on segmentation, audience analysis and journey mapping.

Furthermore, B2B marketers are rating their USP as a weak 6.3 out of 10.

Yet on the surface, all these things are under the immediate control of the B2B marketer.  Growth and innovation have tactical and strategic elements and can be tackled through short and medium term activities (yes, this is where those blog posts and tips and tricks can come in handy). Segmentation and analytics is a burgeoning field, and while skilled practitioners may be hard to find, they do exist. And there are great sources of training, conferences and even courses available in convenient online formats.

Messaging and the strengthening of your value proposition can be hard work – but again – there are agencies who can help, freelancers and brilliant techniques that can help you land on a compelling and differentiated messaging architecture.

But the data in this report makes me wonder whether we are looking at the right things. Are we valuing the right things. And are we looking for answers everywhere that we should not? I am convinced that the best marketing investment we can make is in our own skills. And that we should seek out a deep appreciation and understanding of the foundations of modern marketing, get back to basics and make our customers delightfully happy.

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Surprising differences between B2B and B2C marketing

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The Econsultancy and Adobe report on  “B2B Digital Trends 2015” is based on a survey of more than 800 global B2B digital marketing professionals. Seeking to understand the key priorities, trends and challenges for B2B digital marketing, it contrasts the B2C focus to reveal  similar priorities – but with a couple of key differences.

First up, the “no surprises”:

  • B2B marketers focusing on content marketing and customer experience
  • B2C marketers are excited by mobile (at 16% they’re way ahead of their B2C counterparts at 7%)
  • Personalisation and big data battling it out for 3rd spot.

There are, however, some interesting aspects relating to B2C content marketing and mobile:

  • B2C marketing differentiates experience through personalisation not content. With a limited focus on the customer journey, B2C marketers are choosing personalisation and big data to differentiate their offerings from their competitors. In my view, B2C content marketing still provides great value but needs to be rethought and reimagined (ie it’s simply not good enough to “digitise” media).
  • Mobile is hot for B2C. Not unexpected. BUT just as B2C marketers need to improve their understanding of content marketing, B2B marketers could learn a great deal from B2C mobile strategy. “Future ways of working” initiatives are transforming today’s businesses. Built on a platform of social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), mobility is obviously a key pillar of this transformation. Expect to see more traction than the research would suggest.

Finally, some surprises:

  • B2C need greater focus on marketing automation: These days, marketing at scale requires automation. It also requires strong analytics and customer journey mapping. Not paying attention to these areas actually opens the door to market disruption by faster moving competitors.
  • Location based services scrapes the bottom of the barrel. In last place, I wonder whether marketers simply don’t understand the promise and opportunity of location based services. Considering customer experience ranks as the second most important category, there appears to be a disconnect between what customer experience can be and its method of delivery. Location services bring these together via a range of devices including smartphones, beacons, wifi and analytics. As marketers build more practical digital experience, I expect to see these figures improve.

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By the Numbers: Facebook in Australia

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Screenshot 2015-04-17 09.09.23No doubt you’ve seen them huddling around the bottoms of buildings, near the entrances and exits. On the benches and in the cafes. Their eyes are downcast, their heads bent, shoulders hunched. A decade ago you’d be right to think that these people were spending their morning or afternoon break smoking. These days, the crowds are revolutionaries. But they are not “card carrying” – their weapon of choice is the smartphone – and every status update, share and connection is laying waste to the traditional models of business, networking, socialising and culture. In fact, these changes are impacting almost every aspect of the way we live – in what we call the 5 Cs of Digital Disruption.

The digital revolution is a different style of transformation. It is not a revolution of technology but one of behaviour. Certainly, the technology has had an impact on our lives – and will continue to do so – but the profound changes are in the the WAY that we think, act and behave. And increasingly this includes a technology component.

In Australia – the facts and figures tell the story of pervasive behaviour change. The Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet shows – as at February 2015 – just how much time (and attention) is being spent online. But it’s not just “online” – there are so many ways in which we can consume “online” content and engagement these days – from smartphones and tablets to PCs, smart TVs and Internet of Things devices.

Diving deeper into the statistics, Facebook Australia advise that there is more to the numbers (and that the numbers are larger):

  • 1 out of every 3 minutes on mobile is spent with Facebook properties – messenger, Facebook and Instagram
  • More than 13 million Australians use Facebook every MONTH
  • More than 10 million Australians use Facebook every DAY
  • On average, more than 9 million Australians access Facebook via mobile
  • 32% growth in the last 12 months

Facebook shared some slides you might find useful for your next presentation:

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Australian Social Media Cheat Sheet

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Update: High quality image here. PLUS check out the update to the Facebook stats.

Detailed statistics and information on social media in Australia continues to be a challenge. While there are pockets of data here and there – we rarely see a side-by-side comparison of user data and benchmarking information. So it is great to see this cheat sheet available. Shared by the folks from Reinventure (over on LinkedIn), it compiles (mostly) Australian data from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter – with Pinterest data pulled from global data.

The infographic provides some great high level stats, pros and cons for each of the platforms and some useful comparison benchmark data. The data appears to be current as at February 2015 and includes sources like Social Media News, YouTube press statistics and DirectTarget.

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The First Rule of the Consumerverse

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Let’s face it, big numbers are sexy. The bigger they are, the more business leaders, marketers and yes, even economists, become excited. So any report on social media that delves into those massive network numbers is bound to cause a flurry of activity. But the big numbers are not what should be interesting us in the latest Global Web Index report on social media engagement. The first rule of the Consumerverse is:

“It’s the little numbers that matter most”.

But before I explain why, let me share the big numbers with you. According to GWI:

  • Over 170,000 internet users were surveyed across 32 markets
  • Data is collected in the last six weeks of every quarter, making this Q1 2015 report as up-to-date as possible
  • Stratified sampling ensures that responses are representative of the internet population aged 16 to 64 in each country
  • Outside of China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account (indicating a plateauing)
  • Tumblr and Pinterest continue to show impressive growth
  • The average internet user has 5.5 accounts and is active on three platforms
  • More internet users now visit YouTube each month than Facebook.

Now, these are fascinating figures. But the dot point that drew me in most was the last one. In bold.

Why is this important?

It comes down to one of the basic tenets of online participation – what we call the 1% Rule:

  • 90% of users are “lurkers” – read, consume and observe
  • 9% of users intermittently produce content, engage in comment or discussion
  • 1% of users create content.

The GWI report highlights this gap – the participation gap. The figures – on the surface – indicate that internet users have a growing preference for consumption. We visit but don’t contribute. But this has always been the way.

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But what if we turned the big numbers inside-out?

  • Only 18% of internet users DON’T visit YouTube
  • Only 27% of internet users DON’T visit Facebook
  • Both are approaching saturation points in terms of consumption
  • YouTube still offers significant room for contribution growth.

In my recent presentation, experience is the currency of your brand, I talked about the importance of understanding your customer journey and overlaying that with your business’ sales cycle. This is often a challenging task. But it reveals important insights.

What we call “engagement” is the most trafficked element of the customer journey, yet is often disconnected from the complete picture. It operates in isolation from the sales cycle – from the technology (devices), spaces, channels and processes that deliver business and marketing outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Start by looking closely at your own “little numbers” and find the insights they reveal. It’s the first rule of the consumerverse.

Is TV Dying or Are Its Best Years Still Ahead?

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We’ve been heralding the death of TV ever since we plugged a 2.8k modem into our phone lines. Sure it meant we couldn’t make a phone call while “online”, but we were living the future. It just required some patience. Or maybe an overnight download. But the possibility of downloading a TV show that had just screened in the US was tantalising – so when modems leapt to a powerful 28.8k rate, it felt like the world had become a fraction of its former size.

As usual, however, the future takes its own sweet time to arrive.

Decades later, we still – as a population – continue to make massive personal investments in ever-larger flatscreen TVs and home theatres, keeping our “second screen” relegated to our laps. But the CONSUMPTION behaviour has changed. We’re not just watching free to air TV. Screen Australia tells us that 50% of internet users from all walks of life are watching movies and TV online.

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Based on a variety of Nielsen data from 2014, this infographic by Anthony Calvert reveals some interesting changes in the way that Australians CONSUME content. My favourite insights are:

  • We like our content local – There are 16 Australian YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers
  • We watch what our friends watch – While TV advertising and word of mouth rank highly in helping us discover new shows, 36% use social media to learn about new shows
  • We’d watch more with the NBN – No surprises here, but 51% say they’d watch more online content if they had a faster connection (ADSL 2 sure beats 28.8k, but is a far cry from the speeds offered by fibre)
  • We like free, but could and would pay – If Apple has done anything at all, it surely has conditioned us to pay for use.

So … with this shifting behaviour, how do you feel about the future of TV? Is it on its last legs – or are there a few more laps left in the beast?

The Sum of All Your Social Media

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What happens when two of your social media friends get together? Well, this week Sum All, the social media dashboard and Buffer, the social media management tool, hooked up to share some salacious social data. By working together they were able to compare the the effectiveness of posting frequency. And they came up with some pretty interesting insights.

For those who are active on social media, the recommendations may come as a surprise. After all, it’s easy to schedule or post  multiple updates to run WITHIN AN HOUR – not just across the course of a DAY. But it seems for the most part, that INFREQUENT posting may be the most effective route. For example:

  • Twitter: probably the noisiest of the lot, Twitter can explode on a particular topic. Just look at “today’s” fascination first with llamas and then later, with #TheDress. Research suggests that the level of engagement begins to decrease after only the THIRD tweet each day – and that means #TheDress flooded most people’s quotas
  • Facebook: there’s an ongoing debate over the Facebook newsfeed algorithms and the level of organic reach, but the research also indicates that two posts is the max point for “Likes” and comments
  • Blogging: perhaps the most interesting of the stats – is that doubling your blogging efforts from around once a week to twice a week doubles the number of inbound leads. And here we were thinking that blogging had died a quiet death

The big question is …

As with all research, there will always be outliers – and exceptions to the rule. But for those who actively manage brands on social media, how do you find this correlates with your experience? Have you tested for post frequency? What about time of day? Or “best day” for posting? My thinking and experience suggests:

  • B2C brands may need to post more frequently – especially where there is a customer experience / service angle
  • Brands that are in the early stages of growth will always take effort to establish a follower base. Activity can ease off as community activity begins to increase
  • Standard time of day posts still tend to work when your audience is receptive – during work breaks and in the evenings (note this can be challenging where your audience is comprised of shift workers)
  • Some channels work better on weekends. And yes, that can mean email too. Be sure to test all opportunities to engage.

 

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Data is Eating Marketing: Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015

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Data. It’s out there. And there is plenty of it. We create data with every status update, photo shared or website viewed. Each search we make is being monitored, sorted, indexed and analysed. Every purchase we make is being correlated, cross-matched and fed into supply chain systems. And every phone call we make is being logged, kept, passed on for “security purposes”.

There are so many kinds of data that it is hard to keep up with it all. There is the data that we know about – the digital items we intentionally create. There are digital items that are published – like books, websites and so on. There is email which creates its own little fiefdom of data.

There is also the data about data – metadata – which describes the data that we create. Take, for example, a simple Tweet. It is restricted to 140 characters. That is the “data” part. But the metadata attached to EACH and EVERY tweet includes information like:

  • Your location at the time of tweeting (ie latitude and longitude)
  • The device you used to send the tweet (eg phone, PC etc)
  • The time of your tweet
  • The unique ID of the tweet.

But wait, there’s more. From the Twitter API, you can also find out a whole lot more, including:

  • Link details contained within the tweet
  • Hashtags used
  • Mini-profiles of anyone that you mention in your tweet
  • Direct link information to any photos shared in your tweet

There will also be information related to:

  • You
  • Your bio / profile
  • Your avatar, banner and Twitter home page
  • Your location
  • Your last tweet.

There is more. But the point really is not about Twitter. It is the fact that a seemingly innocuous act is generating far more data than you might assume. The same metadata rules apply to other social networks. It could be Facebook. Or LinkedIn. It applies to every website you visit, each transaction you make. Every cake you bake. Every night you stay (you see where I am going, right?)

For marketers, this data abundance is brilliant, but also a distraction. We could, quite possibly, spend all our time looking at data and not talking to customers. Would this be a bad thing? I’d like to think so.

The question we must ask ourselves is “who is eating whom?”.

In the meantime, for those who must have the latest stats – We Are Social, Singapore’s massive compendium is just what you need. Binge away.

With Social Media We Are All Swinging Voters Now

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State and Federal elections are a galvanising moment in our society for many reasons. It’s the chance for the masses to “have their say” about the policies, processes, interests and focuses of the political rulers, an opportunity to change what is – for what will be, and it sets in train a framework that governments and bureaucrats will use to make decisions in the years ahead.

For political parties contesting the election – there were tried and true methods to become elected. Before the 1980s, the approach was to set out an agenda – a vision – and to sell that in to the public through a rigorous series of public meetings, television appearances, letterbox drops and, of course, media. In the 1980s this changed. Rather than setting out your public agenda, a “small target” approach was adopted, with political leaders avoiding policy detail at all costs. Policy direction and costings would be announced at the “appropriate time” – meaning close to the election so that the opposition would have limited chance to respond or to argue with the details.

Throughout this time, the public heavily relied on two groups – the media’s political analysts and the parties themselves. For it wasn’t just the opposing parties who struggled to understand the broad range of policies, economics, social impact, and business and tax implications contained in party policies. The public were largely left out of the debate – included only when forced to by media campaign or protest. Most of the policy setting was accomplished well ahead of the election cycle through lobbyists, fundraising dinners, speeches and industry consultation. For while the public voted for the political parties, without joining a party, there were few avenues through which we could exercise our democratic rights with any force.

With a relatively controlled environment to operate within, political parties became experts at managing marginal seats. Those seats that were in jeopardy come election time drew the focus and attention of all parties – vying for the voters who had not yet firmed their voting decision. As a result, marginal seats received not just attention from politicians but also resources, investment, policies designed to appeal to voter interests and so on. But the 2015 Queensland Election has shown us that much has changed.

Social Media is the new Political Hustings

Just as social media has “democratised” the media, it is also democratising democracy. Finding a new voice, new influencers, analysts and commentators, social media is giving a new sense of mobility to voters. As the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 indicates, business and government are facing a challenge:

For the first time since the end of the Great Recession, trust in business faltered in the last year, signaling the finale of an era of recovery for business.

Trust levels in business decreased in 16 of 27 countries. The majority of countries now sit below 50 percent with regard to trust in business.

In fact, the credibility of spokespeople – a government official like, say, a  Premier or Prime Minister, sits at the lowest end of the spectrum at 38%, while “a person like yourself” commands 63%. Academic or industry experts rank higher still at 70%.

How does this play out in reality? A quick review of social media using the Hashtracking service shows massive spikes in conversation and engagement coming from non-mainstream media around the #Qldvotes hashtag.

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Professional and “citizen journalists” from Margo Kingston and Tony Yegles’ No Fibs website led the charge – connecting Twitter and longer form commentary sourced from the community. But there were plenty of individuals joining the debate. Kiera Gorden garnered almost 100 retweets and 45 favourites for one tweet alone. With her over 4600 followers (each of whom can be assumed to have 100+ followers), the network impact can be imagined. Turned into votes, this could be enough to change the fortunes of a sitting member or even a government.

Self proclaimed “swinging voter”, Sir StanDeSteam (obviously not his real name), was exceptionally active through the weekend’s election, tweeting and retweeting conversations, discussions and articles.

The shift in trust here shows the challenge that lays in front of all political parties – not just those in power:

  • We prefer and prioritise people like ourselves
  • A vast majority distrusts elected officials

And understanding that our news consumption, engagement and discussion around politics has shifted out of the hands of the broadcast media and into the hands of the population, means that electorates can – and seem determined to be – more volatile. We are, in effect, exercising our social judgement effectively, rapidly and in a volatile manner.

The Abbott Government’s massive investment of over $4 million in social media research indicates that they are taking this change seriously. But we are yet to see anything like a shift in policy. Either they are listening to the wrong conversations, unclear of their own digital objectives or simply inept at taking insight and translating it to action.

Revising the 4As of Trust in Social Networks

Just as businesses and organisations have been struggling to come to grips with the realities of the digital revolution, so too, political parties and governments must accelerate their use of, understanding and strategic opportunity available through social networks. The first step is building trust – the very thing that most politicians squander too early and easily. Only by taking a strategic – not a knee jerk – approach to digital (and not just social) media can politicians begin rebuilding their social and political capital.

There are elections ahead. They’d best get started now.