Dead End Digital

April 20, 2011

Digital marketing has long been about the click – from email to web, from banner to experience, from home to interior, from a share to the page. But many of the experiences being “sold” to consumers have been dead-ends. Social media can change that. With social, the click is just the start. What follows can be an immersive, persuasive and engaging experience where consumers can opt-in to get information relevant to their interests from brands who want to talk to them.

Does recognising this change, and working to fufill on it mean that traditional ROI tracking is dead? To paraphase Peter Drucker – the purpose of the company is to generate profit. So I’d say no. Ultimately, we are looking at driving sales for our clients, if not now, then later. I can’t prove to you (yet) that social activity equals more sales and that to increase sales, you need to spend in the social or online space – but as a marketer I intuitively believe that better relationships between brands and their consumers, leads to better business.

Online Marketing – Measurement, Evaluation and Counting

July 19, 2010

Spotted over the weekend:

Not everything that can be counted, matters and not everything that matters can be counted.

Excellent summation of the state and challenges to measurement in the online marketing. Too much counting, not enough mattering.

Quote paraphrased from Albert Einstein.

Crisis Communications: Response is paramount

February 16, 2010

The problem is never the problem, the response to the problem is always the real problem. Tom Peters.

When you’re communicating in a crisis, especially one that’s online, we have to remember that we’re always being watched and that people will judge us on the actions we take as well as the rationale for those actions, no matter what the outcome.

Via Andy Sernovitz’s Damn! I Wish I’d Thought of That!

More on crisis communications via com.motion University:

Canadian Facebook Demographic Breakdown

December 15, 2009

Cross posted from the com.motion blog. I wasn’t going to post this here, but the edits (see below) made a simple post, much more compelling:

I just performed the following top line analysis of the Canadian Facebook user base for a client and thought you’d find it interesting.

Age Band All Male Female
13 – 17 1,604,040 (4.82%) 752,500 (2.26%) 822,900 (2.47%)
18 – 24 3,881,880 (11.65%) 1,826,560 (5.48%) 1,938,560 (5.82%)
25 – 34 3,887,000 (11.67%) 1,721,260 (5.17%) 1,939,160 (5.82%)
35 – 44 2,413,700 (7.25%) 1,017,700 (3.06%) 1,240,940 (3.73%)
45 – 54 1,483,400 (4.45%) 540,480 (1.62%) 844,560 (2.54%)
55+ 1,044,320 (3.14%) 391,420 (1.18%) 552,200 (1.66%)
Total 14,087,280 (42.29%) 6,131,280 (18.41%) 7,255,080 (21.78%)

The more curious among you will likely see that totaling the “male” and “female” cells in each age band will not equal the “all” cell nor that totaling the “all” column will equal the total number of Canadians on Facebook – this is simply because not all users declare themselves as either male or female or declare their age. Even online, one has to have some level of privacy.

EDIT – based on feedback from Rita Ferrari we’ve added in the percentage of the population which each cell represents, based on a total Canadian population of 33,311,389 per the World Bank, World Development Indicators.

EDIT #2 – Todd Lucier has run a second analysis, building on our own, which maps the number of Facebook users in each demographic age band against the total number of Canadians in that age band. The graphs are interesting and reproduced below with kind permission:

image image

Finally, the raw data:


In defense of ShareThis

February 8, 2009

Over the last few days I’ve read some criticism of the “ShareThis” button you see on so many sites. The button allows one or two click posting to a slew of social news and bookmarking servces.

From SEOmoz‘s critique of the excellent Guardian Football’s “chalkboards”:

The share code is poorly implemented – if you click share on the widget then it takes you to a generic page full of digg and reddit links etc. I think the chances of this page going hot on digg or reddit is minuscule. I mean most of the US doesn’t even know what soccer is let alone care about individual boards. I think this could be vastly improved by targeting the mediums people ARE likely to share them on, such as email (there’s no easy way of emailing multiple people about your chalkboard and there’s no tracking of how many emails are sent), facebook etc. Since forums are big business in the football industry I think it would be great to offer a ‘lite’ embed code which is pre-formatted for forums which just shows an image of the chalkboard and links through so that people can embed them all over the place.

Then on Peter Imbres’s Point Oh!’s attack of the social media news release (found via Todd Defren‘s Twitter stream):

The obligatory social bookmarking links.  If Steve Jobs issued a press release about how he was the offspring of two government baboons, I still don’t think enough people would Digg the release enough to drive any traffic.  I still don’t understand why these social bookmarking sites are being pushed on people when the content doesn’t justify it.  Case and point: the total amount of people who click “Digg” for this release is a whopping zero.  Want to know how many “Technorati’s on this release”?  Spoiler alert…zero.

Both miss the point in spectacular fashion.

The point isn’t how many people have or will click to save/tag/submit, the point is making it easy for them if they want to save/tag/submit. For the price of inserting a ShareThis button (about one hour to set up an account and then to actually copy-paste the code into a template) you have a powerful SEO tool that could generate many, many backlinks and much more traffic.

Will it be implemented on news releases that have no news value? Of course.

Will it be implemented and never used on some releases? Of course.

Will it be put on blog posts that do not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being saved or tagged? Of course.

Is it worth the time to put it on just in case? Of course – the marketing game is all about persuading people on the margins. If this button pushes one or two or three people on the margins to tag/save/submit the article or news release or blog post, then it is well worth the investment.

As Andy says, you need to remove all barriers to sharing.

For that reason, I am long on the ShareThis button.

Recession Proofing Your Job in Internet Communications

October 26, 2008

Apparently the recession is here. For a long time. Apparently.

As an agency dude, I’m worried about clients slashing budgets sometime in the near future and forcing my employer to look at how to cut its own costs.

So as an Internet communications consultant, what can I do to prove my worth to my clients, my potential clients and my employer?

Lots has been written on the recession, on recession proofing your job, your role, your department, your business, your aunt’s cat and whatever else will take a hit and for the most part, advice centers on proving value. Yes, it’s that concrete.

Esoteric, conceptual advice aside, I read some excellent, concrete advice (for me and my role) in an interview with an executive recruiter called Bruce Powell on One Degree.

Bruce, co-founder and managing partner of IQ Partners Inc, gives this sage piece of insight which easily turns into advice for digital marketers looking to recession proof their jobs:

Without a doubt, the most sought after skill sets over the past year have been:

  1. SEO & SEM
  2. Specialized email marketing skills (i.e. dynamic content & CRM integration)
  3. Social Media

Search, email and social media. Data and analysis, more data and analysis and something shiny which can also generate, you guessed it, data and analysis.

Search engine optimization and marketing both produce and rely on a tonne of data – what keywords are you using? how are they performing? why are some doing better than others? how is my ad testing? why is this copy doing better than this ad? what keywords drive the highest conversion rate? All of this data can be analysed and fed back into the cycle to prove ROI and to safeguard your job.

Email marketing demands segmentation upon segmentation. Data used and analysed to generate more data to be used and analysed to generate more data ad inifitum. How can I get this segment to click-through more often? does this segment open more emails – why? how can I apply this to another segment? how can I get more people to send to a friend? why did this segment have a larger conversion rate than that segment? how can that segment be drawn into this segment? Data begetting data which can be analysed and fed back into the cycle to prove ROI and safeguard your job.

Social media is a bit more difficult. It’s still relatively new and relatively shiny. It’s still more fun than email marketing and search – but harder to prove ROI. Monitoring for people bad mouthing your brand, and knowing when to reach out to them in a correct and smart way can allow you to prove ROI and safeguard your job.

As McKinsey’s latest quarterly update said:

“The Web is the most measurable medium in the history of marketing. Now all that’s left is figuring out how to measure it.”

If you can figure out what to measure, how to measure it and then how to improve on it, you will have recession proofed your career. Not just your job.

I asked Twitter “how are you recession proofing your job” and my colleague David Bradfield (blog | twitter) succinctly said:

working my ass off

I was trying to focus on more on output, not input, but it is a point well taken.

Danny Brown (blog | twitter) says:

“Not being afraid to take risks and refusing to stand still. The work is out there – you just need to adapt to what’s needed. :)”

In a moment of symmetry, Danny is owner of Press Release PR, which provides SEO press release and SEO friendly content.

Following the money to online communications predictions

August 10, 2008

Online marketers are a lot like parasites, feeding off of the innovations of others. Innovations that are largely funded by the largess of venture capitalists which are, ironically enough, also seen as parasites, much of the time.

So, if we’re to take a look at where online communications is moving, and I’m *slightly* interested in this, we need to look at the technical innovations that will be possible and in order to see that, we need to follow the money – what companies are VCs funding now that will be mature enough for marketers to take advantage of in the future?

CNET has a piece entitled “Venture capital investing: What’s next?” which should provide a glimmer of insight into what platforms and services we’ll be using down the road.

I strongly advise you to check out the whole piece, rather than just my take on what I saw as the key findings:

1. Data and data flow – analysing relationships between Web sites and how people use them will be big business. My colleague Neil Johnson is talking a lot about developing a fledgling measurement model for organizations to fully measure the ROI of all their online marketing activities from a holistic point of view.

2. Follow the money – the amount of data available to companies and consumers will mean e-commerce should improve. Think Amazon on steroids with various aggregator sites tracking your expenditure and seeking out ways to save you money.

3. Hyper-advertising/marketing – again, the data will drive incredibly personalized advertising and marketing offers. We need to continuously up our own game of how and when to reach our clients’ consumers and what we say to them when we do. We are moving towards a market segmentation of one.

4. Mobile – this is a U.S. article, where wireless data rates are exponentially cheaper than here in Canada but Canadian marketers should still watch this space to see what happens in the new iPhone-era. I thought mobile was going to be the next big thing in Canada when I came here three years ago so forgive me if I don’t hold my breath

5. Inter-connectivity – open APIs are hot right now (think Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) but what happens when Web sites are able to speak coherently to each other about their users? Right now there’s a space for the management of APIs, but the big may well be some sort of open standard that leads to one *true* view of the customer – see point #1.

The BMBY Take

The big thing that I’m taking away from these is that the ability to take the myriad data from all available sources, to remix it and manipulate it into easily digested packets and then to draw meaning from this data will be invaluable in the very near future.

Decisions will be made based on the data available; not by the gut feeling of the person in charge.

The next few years should be fun!

Enterprise Search – How Far Until We Hit Warp Speed?

July 22, 2008

I’m currently working with a colleague on doing a whole bunch of stakeholder consultations for an intranet redesign and a common thread has emerged.

Enterprise search sucks.


I’ve done consultations for intranet overhauls a for two clients and in both cases, this has been the one thing on the lips of the people I’ve talked to. In fact, at iStudio, when we ask “what is on your wish list for the new intranet?” some people can barely wait for us to finish before telling us how bad the internal search tool is compared to, say, Google.

Which goes to show just how high Google has set the bar in terms of search.


Businesses that need large intranets tend to operate in a data driven environment and are therefore well known as uber content producers. So, while the value of the intranet grows along with its knowledge bank, the harder it becomes to find what you need. In 2005, research firm Gartner estimated that “80 per cent of an organization’s information is unstructured data (such as Word documents, presentations and rich media files).”

Therefore, it is vital for an intranet’s search engine to accurately and consistently locate information – including archived and unstructured data. If there is a huge amount of content, all of which has an associated cost, and no sophisticated way to find that content, organizations are essentially losing or significantly degrading their content investment.

Along with the frustration of not being able to find what you know is saved on the intranet, other costs associated with poor quality search include duplication of efforts around documents (such as creating new documents after not finding existing ones), time spent searching for documents/pages and the need to rectify mistakes due to the wrong SOP being used.

Working with one client, we got our own data saying that an incredible 98 per cent indicated they could only find information “most of the time” or “sometimes.”

Why So Bad?

Why is internal search so sucky? Certainly there are some really good, high quality search products out there – former client BEA’s AquaLogic Interaction Search product springs to mind – and the motivation to make a killer enterprise strength search product is well documented: It has been reported that Ford Motor Company yielded $4m pa (U.S.) in productivity benefits simply through employees finding information more easily – showing the tangible benefits of high quality search. (sorry, no linky for this one – but it is a fact. I even put it in a client report so it must be true.)

But the main reason internal search engines are so bad is, ironically, the lack of data to work with.

Think about Google – the search Behemoth (which competes with current and former clients of both iStudio and FH) currently indexes an astounding 700 trillion pages (according to my colleague Neil) all of which are subject to the complicated PageRank algorithm to give you precisely the right results for your search.

Even the most complex and convoluted of intranets that I’ve seen won’t have any where near that sample size to work with.

What’s more, the most important thing about data in the “real” world is that it’s importance is defined, in part, by the amount of links into that page. Within the enterprise, it seems, that sort of interlinking just doesn’t happen.

So when I search on my clients’ intranets, I get a list of all the pages which contain all or part of my search query – there’s no authority algorithm to filter my results for me. As a result, the bigger the intranet, the more useless the search function, until the intranet hits a critical mass (which is never) or starts to interlink more heavily (which is unlikely).

A Solution?

Given Google has set the search bar so high, it’s on natural to look to the company for a solution. Well, perhaps not directly to Google, but to the company whose patent Google infringed upon on its way to making a brazilian dollars – Overture.

Here’s my solution. It’s a little more work than slapping down a few hundred grand on a search system that likely won’t work but less work than actually building on that does.

Each department that has a presence on the intranet must define the top X amount of documents within it’s content area and then assign key words to those documents. So far you’ve just cleaned up the meta data.

Now, give each department a set amount of “credits” and have them assign a budget of credits to each document. If you have 10 documents and 100 credits you can either give each document 10 credits or you can assign more resources to one particular document – this resource allocation will imply the authority or importance for each document.

Now, when you conduct a search, you can get not only the “organic” search results, but you also see the “sponsored” search results, based on the credits, alongside them.

What do you think? Will this fly? [insert Star Trek joke/pun here]

The convergence of digital and traditional agencies continues

April 15, 2008

Good to see that this post from a couple of months ago is starting to come true.

I predicted that PR agencies would start buying up smaller digital agencies and bring them (and their talent) in to bolster their digital consulting and production capabilities.

And it’s happening. In Canada, as the Environics Group purchased Sequentia Communications and in the U.K. as Edelman acquired Spook.

No doubt this will continue apace as offline and online communications remain on course to be fully integrated into each other.


**Disclaimer: Environics and Sequentia are both competitors to Fleishman-Hillard and iStudio in Canada, while Edelman is a global competitor to Fleishman-Hillard.

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