Why Predictive Analytics is Better than Stuffing with Turkey

thanksgivingthanksgiving predictive analyticsYum. Maybe I’m just channeling Thanksgiving — which is only a few days away, but this title just jumped into my head as I was working on today’s edition of Analytics in Action. What do predictive analytics and stuffing have in common — probably nothing, but you know the yummy goodness of stuffing with your Thanksgiving turkey, right? It just makes you all warm and fuzzy inside (not to mention sleepy because of all the tryptophan in the turkey).

Well, that’s the awesome goodness you get when doing predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics recipe

Just as everyone has their favorite stuffing recipe, every business has its own recipe for predictive analytics — what to measure.

If you want to learn more about putting together a predictive analytics recipe for your business, I’ve collected some resources for you:

  1. HBR’s Predictive Analytics Primer
  2. Information Week’s Big Data Analytics: Descriptive versus Predictive versus Prescriptive
  3. Forbes: How Big Data Helps Stores Like Macy’s and Kohl’s Track You Like Never Before
  4. Forbes: 5 Steps to Master Big Data and Predictive Analytics in 2014

That’s because businesses have different goals, different available metrics, and different consumer types. So, what do you need for your predictive analytics recipe:

Data

Data is the bread that forms the bulk of your predictive analytics. Without good quality data, your predictive analytics recipe falls short, just like your stuffing isn’t very good without good quality bread.

To predict what customers WILL do, you need to understand what they ARE doing and why they’re doing it. I think an example helps, so here’s my 4 factor model of social media performance:

Social media performance = amplification X sentiment X marketing intensity X close rate


Using this model, a firm gathers metrics for each factor:

  • social media performance (achieving conversion goals like clicks, downloads, purchases)
  • amplification (engagement such as shares, likes, RT … results in amplification)
  • sentiment (how do customers and prospects “feel” about your brand — usually in terms of positive, negative, and neutral emotions)
  • marketing intensity (assesses your digital marketing efforts ie. # posts, $ on digital advertising)
  • close rate (which is pretty self-explanatory – what % of visitors to your site buy (or subscribe, depending on your goals), what percentage of email readers click on a link, etc.

Notice some metrics are actually computed from a variety of sources, rather than a single metric from a report. For instance, to calculate amplification, you’ll need to add up engagement on whatever social media platforms you use plus the shares directly from your website.

We commonly refer to these metrics as descriptive statistics because they describe what occurred. While descriptive statistics are useful, they’re just not enough to optimize your business strategy. Hence, collecting descriptive statistics related to amplification (engagement across social networks) really helps show which times of day and days of the week perform best for creating engagement — especially when you use systematic testing as input for these descriptive stats — they’re not as powerful as using metrics as input for predictive analytics.

Inferences

Sure, you can build a predictive model directly from the data, especially when you have so-called “big data” through a process of data mining, these models often perform poorly — for more on this stay tuned for my next post.

Data mining is a process of data reduction based on correlations. If you remember your college stat class, you’ll recall that correlation is NOT causation — meaning that just because 2 things change together, they aren’t necessarily related. A perfect example of this is the old adage about the correlation between the economy and hem lengths — a robust economy tends to feature shorter hem lengths, while a poor economy features a longer skirt.

If there were a direct correlation between hem lengths and the economy, we could fix the economy by requiring shorter skirts. Unfortunately, hem lengths don’t cause changes in the economy nor does the economy affect hem lengths. Instead, the popular notion is that both trends result from optimism, which isn’t part of the model.

Anotherspurious correlations problem with data mining are spurious correlations — relationships that don’t have any meaning. Here’s a hilarious example of a spurious correlation (see more here):

Instead, we need to develop inferences based on our understanding of consumer behavior. For instance, my 4 factor model is based on a similar model used to evaluate sales person performance that’s been tested many times. Since sales person performance is somewhat like social media performance, it’s a valuable inference. Testing will show how well the 4 factor model actually predicts social media performance.

For instance, Vera Wang uses a predictive model to send more highly targeted emails resulting in 63% fewer emails, 101% higher CTR (click-through rates), and 275% higher conversion rates. Not bad inferences.

Statistics

Next, you take your inferences and build statistical models — usually employing regression analysis (or related techniques like logistical regression — logit). Statistical models turn inferences in useful insights to guide strategic planning. Basically, regression uses historical data to assign beta weights to the individual factors (variables) in the model. These weights not only let you know which variables have the greatest impact on your outcome variable (goal), but allow you to predict goal achievement from various strategy scenarios.

Going back to the Vera Wang example, they likely looked at goal achievement (CTR and conversion) across recent emails sent to their email list. They predicted which types of list members responded to which types of messaging. Then, they customized their messaging sending each member the type of message most likely to motivate them to respond positively.

Car dealers use predictive analytics the same way. They know how long owners of particular cars keep their car. Using this data, they purchase vehicle registration data for owners who are nearing the time when they’ll trade in their existing car for a new one. By selectively reaching car owners likely shopping a new car, they reduce costs and increase returns from their marketing efforts.

Sharing insights

A key element in your predictive analytics recipe is sharing insights. Statistics do NO good if they’re stuck with data analysts rather than reaching decision makers, which is where predictive analytics turn into profits. Otherwise, your predictive analytics are just novelties.

Changes to 2014 predictive analytics

If I were writing this post a few years ago, I’d finish without adding this section. Predictive analytics used to depend entirely on quantitative data — numbers. Now, with the explosion of social media, we need to think about how qualitative data — words — predict the future of a company. Even my 4 factor model contains a qualitative component — sentiment. Sentiment comes from coding utterances from forums, social networks, even customer service calls to score the overall sentiment related to your brand.

But, you can drive even better predictions without coding qualitative data — using tools like nVivo and Hyperresearch to create insights directly from qualitative data. For instance, I might use something like cluster analysis to create groups of customers based on similar utterances. Groups who buy my product for gifts or special occasions require a different marketing tactics than consumer groups who buy my product as a routine part of their weekly shopping trip. And, the represent a distinctly different CLV for my business.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing firm operating at the intersection of marketing and social media

 

photo credit: Sugar Daze via photopin cc

 

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The Future of Facebook

facebook likefacebook likefuture of facebookWhat is the future of Facebook?

I really love the symbolism in this image because I think it reflects what the future of Facebook looks like — Zuckerberg dwarfed by the brand he created.

The future of Facebook: Advertising

Ever since Facebook went public in 2012, pressures to produce revenue pushed the social network toward a business model relying more heavily on ad revenue and less on social interaction. As late as Aug. 2008, Zuckerberg is quoted as saying:

I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did … In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today.

Yet, now, in 2014, advertising revenue appears the exact model adopted by Facebook. Despite this, the average value of each Facebook user (to Facebook) is less than $2, with women being worth a little more than men and US users worth a bit more than users elsewhere, according to AdAge.

Driving Facebook’s advertising model, organic reach on the platform is nearly wiped out and, industry analysts and Facebook insiders, predict organic reach on Facebook to disappear later this year, according to Facebook insider, Brian Borland.

Declining organic reach forces brands to buy advertising on Facebook, which is a good investment (especially giving the enhanced targeting opportunities through Facebook Ad Manager), but it’ll put tremendous pressure on smaller brands. Small brands are not only pay a higher percentage of their revenue on Facebook, but their smaller fan base likely translates into higher advertising costs as Facebook uses a bidding process similar to that used by Google Adwords meaning smaller levels of engagement result in higher bids to reach a brand’s audience.

Small businesses, who flocked to Facebook as a way to compete with the big brands despite limited advertising budgets will certainly feel the pinch under Facebooks new advertising-driven business model.

 The future of Facebook: Stores

Facebook tried Stores a while back, yet this form of ecommerce, F-commerce, never really took off because users go to Facebook to interact with their friends, not buy things. In fact, when you look at the top F-commerce storefronts, you find them heavily loaded with pop culture icons like Lady Gaga, Starbucks, Justin Bieber, and other entertainment properties, such as TV shows and movies, and sports. No big surprise there.

Smaller brands, under $100,000 have more potential on F-commerce sites than the big brands, according to the New York Times. So, while big brands are closing down their Facebook storefronts in favor of richer websites, small brands, especially those with a niche market and loyal following are doing well.

Of course, F-commerce happened by accident rather than design and it’s not clear how such sites contribute to the future of Facebook unless they support their stores with advertising.

Monetizing the future of Facebook

According to NASDAQ, Facebook’s future is bright. Facebook’s first quarter profits jumped 72% mainly due to increasing advertising revenue.

However, their recent acquisition of WhatsApp, for whom advertising is anathema, questions the stability of advertising on the platform. WhatsApp, which costs Facebook $16 billion shows no immediate signs of improving monetization at the behemoth.

And, while each change in the Facebook platform brought cries from users dissatisfied with the changes, usage is under increasing pressure as newer social platforms, such as SnapChat, eat into Facebook’s user base — especially younger users. Concerns over privacy and Facebook’s heavy handedness in forcing users to adopt products, like Facebook Messenger, and new layouts, put pressure on consumer usage and point to consumers reaching a breaking point.

Time pretends an 80% drop in Facebook users based on a contagion analysis model from Princeton researchers. Certainly the precipitous decline of MySpace, which dominated the social networking market before the ubiquitous availability of Facebook, followed such a pattern of rapid spread and an even faster decline.

So, what’s the future of Facebook. My own personal belief is that the Princeton researchers are likely right and I certainly don’t own any Facebook stock nor would I advocate purchasing any. I do, however, think the decline will not be as precipitous as predicted by the contagion model and will likely be a slow attrition rather than an avalanche of users defecting to the next big thing in social networking.

Your turn

What do you see as the future of Facebook?

Has your Facebook usage declined or increased over the last few months?

Do you find yourself spending more time or joining other, competing social networks?

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

Of course, Facebook controls its own future, to an extent.

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How A Great Story Spreads Your Content?

A great story always had the power to drive engagement, promote word of mouth, and help spread your message.

Remember the old commercials for Country Crock Margarine where you only saw the hands of the actors. Over a series of commercials we saw the couple move from dating to marriage to parenthood. We almost felt we were part of their lives.

What makes a good story

Well, for 1 thing, emotion. Take a look at this infographic and you’ll see how much emotion spreads your content across social networks.

In fact, a study shows a single emotions drives 2.9 more hours on your content than a similar post lacking such emotional charge.

But, why does emotionally charged content drive more sharing than other types of content?

The answer lies in understanding WHY users choose to share content. Users share content because it makes them look good in the eyes of their social network. So, content that is interesting, insightful, useful, informative, surprising, or unusual get shared more because it makes the sharer look good to their social graph.

Content also gets shared based on WHO posted the original content. Users use sharing as a way of building engagement with the original poster, to pay them back for help they received from the poster, or to show everyone that they are like the original poster as they believe sharing these posts repays to poster or makes them look like they’re as important as the poster.

How to create a great story

Create a killer headline

As reported on this infographic, most people read your headline, but only a few read the content. Having a killer headline attracts attention and gets spread more, which translates into more readers.

Create killer visuals

Visuals drive emotional engagement much more than words — remember a picture paints a thousand words. It’s especially important to use an intriguing visual as your feature image as this image gets shared with the headline on social networks, except Twitter. On Facebook, it makes sense to post manually by sharing the IMAGE with a link to the article rather than simply sharing the link. This ensures your image is prominent in your post.

For example, take a look at the feature image for this article. It’s a great example of a visual that begs folks to read and share. The pimpled out john is from a campaign by Roto Rooter to celebrate the birthday of John Crapper — inventor of the modern toilet. The image, which showed the fancy john being given away to those entering the contest. The image was SO intriguing, the company garnered tons of free publicity when they appeared on morning talk shows, in the Wall Street Journal and other places where folks couldn’t resist sharing the image.

Content length

Folks share longer articles more than short articles, according to the NY Times. Just make sure to chunk your posts to make it highly scannable so readers can skim through the post and only read what they find interesting.

Emotion

Notice results from a Moz survey showing which emotions tend to generate the most sharing. I think it’s a little dangerous to generate negative emotions, since the halo effect might case the emotion to transfer to your brand, but positive emotion is  good thing.

Other factors

The amount of engagement a post generates correlates with more sharing. Folks like to run with the herd plus a lot of sharing is social proof that the post is a good one.

Content also determines sharing. Folks share science articles the most, so taking a science slant on something is always a good strategy. Failing a science article, post things folks find surprising.

Keep storytelling in mind

People love stories. Especially when they can relate to the folks in the stories. So, use people to tell their stories. Make the people multidimensional, so they’re not just sharing stories related to the brand. Go back to what made the Country Crock stories so engaging — the people were real (even though we only saw their hands) and their story resonated with us.

This brings up an interesting question I raised on the Social Media Marketing Tribe Facebook group (BTW, this is an open group and I invite you to join) — should you share personal information or just brand information on your social networks. I didn’t get a lot of votes (please add your votes), but the majority said, “Yes, its ok to share some personal stuff”.

I think sharing personal stuff helps build engagement and create a good story about you and the brand. Now, that doesn’t mean I want to see what you had for lunch or your cute cat pics, but I’d like to learn about YOU, not just your brand. I encourage my community managers to be “real people” when managing social networks for my clients. They should share personal stuff, then try to relate it back to the brand. So, when one of my community managers got engaged, I suggested she share it on the pages she manages for our client — a meme t-shirt brand. We brought it back to the brand, but also sharing some memes related to marriage and relationships with the post. Keep the selling very soft and the storytelling very large!

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete social media marketing strategy or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel or  create your brand — online and off.  We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. Let us create your story. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

 

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Pinterest Metrics for Success

pinterest metricsPinterest introduces analytics a few months ago. But, as with other prominent social networks, which metrics matter?

For instance, many still look at vanity metrics on Facebook and Twitter — things like the # of Fans/Followers. Now, while there is SOME slight advantage in having a larger network, most of that advantage melts away when your social network isn’t engaged.

Let’s take a look at this infographic to see which metrics really matter on Pinterest:

Pinterest Metrics for Success

First, let’s take a little detour to look at how Pinterest works. First, folks create boards and pin pictures to the board — just like you might have posted exam dates and messages from your friends on the bulletin board in your room at home or in college. And, just like those bulletin boards, things pinned stay up there forever — well a few days or so, which beats the average length of time a Facebook post or Tweet stays up there.

But, just like Facebook and Twitter (and all other social networks) the key is the more engaged your audience, the longer your pin stays visible.

So, the Pinterest metrics we care about track engagement: metrics such as likes, comments, clicks — which reflect your micro conversions and macro conversions. 

You can also see which specific pins are the most liked, commented on an clicked. Again, micro and macro conversions.

Another important set of Pinterest metrics are those reflecting reach, which includes followers (for a low-level of reach) and repins (which amplifies your original pins).

Velocity reflects how many pins show up on your pin boards per week (since others likely pin to your pin boards, as well) and helps you figure out how many pins you should put up per week by tracking the change in short-term engagement at different velocities.

Possibly one of the most useful Pinterest metrics deal with influencers. This metric is often hidden in many other social networks, but is prominent in Pinterest metrics.

Why is it important to know who your influencers are? Because it presents all kinds of opportunity to build on this influence. For instance, maybe you want to email influencers to thank them for engaging with you of find some other way to recognize their interactions. Recognition tells folks your value them and encourages them to continue engaging with you. Knowing your influencers is the first step toward keeping them. Also, if you understand who your influencers are, you can figure out how they became interested in your brand, which helps create more influencers.

Other Pinterest metrics are also valuable. Take a look at the list in the infographic and let me know what you think. How’s your Pinterest campaign going?

Not on Pinterest yet? Not happy with your results? We  can help. Whether you need a complete social media marketing strategy or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

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Getting Customers to Your E-Commerce Store

ecommerceThis is a guest post by Carlo Pandian

Attracting people to your e-commerce store isn’t as easy as you might think. Chances are, by the time you’re reading this, you’ve splashed out on the platform that’s best for your product and you’ve invested in some good networking opportunities. Now, all you’ve got to do is wait for people to hunt you out, right?

Wrong. Just because your store’s on the virtual High Street, it doesn’t mean that anyone’s going to pop in. So now is the point where you need to pull out all the stops and invest in some online strategies.

 Selling without selling

The obvious way to let people know about your e-commerce store is to plonk an advert on a social networking site or fire out a few links to your site on Twitter. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work. People see social networks as places where they can go to escape the media bombardments that the rest of the world keeps throwing at them. In fact, most people resent those adverts, seeing them as encroaching on their social space and time, and there’s even software available that allows people to block adverts entirely. What you really need is to build up a relationship with your customers, so that you can sell to them, without actually selling to them.

Get blogging

The best way to bring customers to your e-commerce store is to blog. Blogging doesn’t have to be a glorified advert. But what it does have to be is engaging and well thought out. Good copy will lead people to read your blog and, in turn, lead them to your website. While your blog entries ought to have some relevance to your product or service, they can almost be about anything – as long as you create value for the visitor.

And, be authentic. Through letting people know how you feel about certain subjects, you’re letting people in on the way you think, establishing a connection without any contact. In essence, through blogging, you are creating and maintaining your brand identity – but without the hard-sell. People tend to respond negatively to hard-nosed sales techniques but, if they are drawn into a thoughtful and interesting article, you can get your brand message across under the radar.

Your e-commerce store is more than a shop

The trick is to stop thinking of your e-commerce store as a shop in any sense of the word. Instead, you should view it as a content site. You can put up video tutorials, articles, blogs and galleries – as long as it’s interesting. Some of your content could even be a little contentious, as long as it’s not crossing any moral lines and as long as you are able to substantiate your argument. Anything that gets people talking is a good thing. You can link these blogs to your Facebook and Twitter or LinkedIn pages, so that those who do follow you will see the content and, if it’s thought-provoking enough, share it. In essence, your potential clients will also be acting as your publicity offers, sharing your posts and commenting on your copy. Once you’ve established that valuable connection, you can start to ask people if they want to be on your newsletter. Again, the content is vital; press releases, news and commentary might feel like fluff, but good copy brings good results.

Author: Carlo Pandian is a keen observer of the start-up world, and I have previously collaborated with blogs such as Dynamic Business, Business2Community and Under30CEO. Business, technology and accounting software such as Intuit Simple Start are his main areas of expertise having worked before for a tech start-up (job ads aggregator Adzuna.co.uk), a web marketing agency and graduating in Management at the University of London.

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