5 Highlights from SharePoint Conference 2014

SharePoint Conference 2014 wrapped up last week. Microsoft used the big stage to announce some exciting new capabilities and paint a clear picture as to how they see the future of SharePoint.

It starts with their view of the future of work. Not farm labor but information work of course. That future is networked. It consists of individuals and groups collaborating using documents, discussions, chat and video in a fluid setting. People may be working from their office, home, on the road or all of the above and using a variety of devices. They need access and an ability to interact. They need to be productive.

I have to subscribe to this vision as this is exactly how we work at Edgewater today. The future is here.

Microsoft’s vision for the technology that should empower this future of work is a natural extension of their mission of supporting information workers, and with Office 365 it all comes together rather nicely. Your office apps and files, email, chat, video, meetings, groups, calendars, people, social interactions all available and integrated. Available from anywhere and on any device.

It’s not all there yet and as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are quite a few gaps to fill but they are rapidly working on closing it and the speed of cloud deployments will allow them to make it a reality pretty quickly. Unless they find a way to derail things again.

A few things that were introduced this week build on and extend these concepts.

officegraphThe Office Graph: Not a new concept in social networks and a core capability of Yammer, extended to the full Office 365 suite, this is at once exciting and scary. All my activities, connections, interactions are tracked and put into a graph format that allows applications to use this data for a more relevant and personalized experience. It has some great potential applications, some we’ll talk about next with the Oslo interface. On the other hand, not that there is any real privacy in the workplace but any semblance of it will be officially gone. “Did you read my memo from last week”? well, no more white lies as your manager can easily get a report of who exactly read the memo.

OsloOslo: a new tool / interface concept from the FAST search team combines search and the social graph to give you a FlipBoard like experience, bubbling up things you should know. If your close colleagues are all reading the same document, maybe you should too? If a specific blog post is generating a lot of comments, what discussions are very active? Natural language search across multiple data sources. Can definitely be very useful.

GroupsGroups: yes, interesting to think of groups as a new concept. In this incarnation (lovers of public folders rejoice) groups are a cross application construct for discussions. Integrated across Yammer, SharePoint, Outlook and office, the idea is that in many instances, group discussions are a better way to interact than email. The only concern I would have is the proliferation of groups. It may be good for people who are only part of a handful of groups and teams but many of us are part of dozens if not more groups and teams and the interface I’ve seen only included about 6. I hope it scales.

inlinesocialInline social experiences: in short, this recreates a way to have a Yammer conversation on files and other Office, SharePoint and even Dynamics entities. I love this feature. It is such a natural way to interact instead of emailing and allows all people with access to see the discussion.

Cloud Only? Finally, I think the big question on everyone’s mind was what will happen to the on-premise version of SharePoint. With so much focus on the integrative aspect of Office 365 and rolling new features on a weekly basis, will the local server be phased out? The official answer is that the on prem version will continue to be important and get a new version in 2015 and beyond. With such a huge existing installed base they have to. But the future is clear and it is definitely in the cloud.

Are eCommerce prices getting too dynamic?

This holiday season I was looking for a specific toy as a gift. I did a price comparison and found it had the lowest price at the Toys R’ Us site. When I went back to make the purchase just 2 hours later, the price has jumped up by 50%. Now I had to do my comparison all over again. That was frustrating to say the least.

This is the latest example of Dynamic Pricing. It’s been around for a while but mostly in scarcity driven industries like airlines and hospitality / entertainment. Here the rules of the game are clear, inventory is limited, it has an expiration date, securing a sale in advance has benefits and discounters can help you sell last minute excess inventory.

Now back to our dynamic pricing for $50 toys, other than a few highly desirable toys before Christmas, this is not a scarcity market. Special sale, timed sales, loyalty coupons and all these dynamic promotions are confusing enough but serve a purpose. Not being able to do a simple price comparison and place an order is annoying and will impact the buying decision. If there is always the possibility of a lower price just around the corner, then let’s wait.

Target had recently announced that it will begin price matching for all products, even against amazon but details on implementation are a bit fuzzy.

As dynamic pricing gets more widely used and noticed by consumers, how will they react?

Here are a few suggestions for retailers considering or implementing dynamic pricing strategies:

  • If the products you sell are of a limited quantity, knowing how many are there (at this price) is very helpful. What Orbitz does for example (only 3 tickets left at this price!) gives the consumer valuable information and an incentive to act fast.
  • If a price is reduced for a period of time, let the consumer know for how long it will stay at this price. Again, enables decision making.
  • Shop with confidence. While guarantees against future discounts are problematic, consider offering this to members of your loyalty club. The same way a great sales associate will tell you a sale is starting next week and he will hold the items for you so you can pick them up at the lower price, rewarding the best customers with price assurance and advance knowledge of sales will go a long way.
  • If you are putting an item below the competition, make it known. Consumers may doubt it but if they check and found it is true it will build trust.
  • Try not to put items that are dynamically priced into an email. Since you have no control over when the consumer will read the email, they may be viewing pricing that are no longer correct.
  • Feed the aggregators and comparison sites as soon as changes are made.

The key theme here is that dynamic pricing can be great if the buyers are given enough confidence and information to make decisions. Otherwise it may just make the the consumer even more hesitant to click the “Buy” button.

Time to Remodel the Kitchen?

Although determining full and realistic corporate valuation is a task I’ll leave to people of sterner stuff than I (since Facebook went public, not many could begin to speculate on the bigger picture of even small enterprise valuation), I’ve recently been working with a few clients whom have reminded me of why one sometimes needs to remodel.

Nowadays, information technology is often seen as a means to an end. It’s a necessary evil. It’s overhead to your real business. You joined the technological revolution, and your competitors who didn’t, well… sunk. Or… you entered the market with the proper technology in place, and, seatbelt fastened, have taken your place in the market. Good for you. You’ve got this… right?

I’m a software system architect. I envision and build out information technology. I often like to model ideas around analogies to communicate them, because it takes the tech jargon out of it. Now that I’ve painted the picture, let’s think about what’s cooking behind the office doors.

It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. When it comes to the enterprise (big and small) your company’s production might get done in the shop, but sooner or later, everyone gets fed business processes, which are often cooked in the kitchen of technology. In fact, technology is often so integral to what many companies do nowadays that it’s usually hard to tell where, in your technology stack, business and production processes begin. Indeed, processes all cycle back around, and they almost certainly end with information technology again.

Truly, we’ve come a long way since the ’70s, when implementing any form of “revolutionary” information technology was the basis of a competitive advantage. Nowadays, if you don’t have information technology in the process somewhere, you’re probably only toying with a hobby. It’s not news. Technology graduated from a revolutionary competitive advantage to the realm of commoditized overhead well over a decade ago.

Ok… ok… You have the obligatory kitchen in your home. So what?

If you think of the kitchen in your home as commoditized overhead, you probably are missing out on the even bigger value an update could bring you at appraisal time. Like a home assessment, due diligence as part of corporate valuation will turn up the rusty mouse traps behind the avocado refridgerator and under the porcelain sink:

  • Still rocking 2000 Server with ActiveX?
  • Cold Fusion skills are becoming a specialty, probably not a good talent pool in the area, might be expensive to find resources to maintain those components.
  • Did you say you can spell iSeries? Great, can you administer it?
  • No one’s even touched the SharePoint Team Services server since it was installed by folks from overseas.
  • The community that supported your Open Source components… dried up?
  • Cloud SLAs, Serviceability?
  • Compliance?
  • Disaster Management?
  • Scalability?
  • Security?
  • Documentation…?
    • Don’t even go there.

As you can see… “Everything but the kitchen sink” no longer applies. The kitchen sink is transparently accounted for as well. A well designed information technology infrastructure needs to go beyond hardware and software. It considers redundancy/disaster management, security, operating conditions, such as room to operate and grow, and of course, if there are any undue risks or burdens placed on particular technologies, vendors, or even employees. Full valuation goes further, looking outside the walls to cloud providers and social media outlets. Finally, no inspection would be complete without a look at compliance, of course.

If your information technology does not serve your investors’ needs, your CEO’s needs, your VP of Marketing and Sales’ needs, as well as production’s… but most importantly your customers’, your information technology is detracting from the valuation of your company.

If the work has been done, due diligence will show off the working utility, maintainability, security, scalability, and superior added value of the well-designed enterprise IT infrastructure refresh.

To elaborate on that, a good information technology infrastructure provides a superior customer experience no matter how a customer chooses to interact with your company. Whether it’s at the concierge’s counter, in the drive-through, at a kiosk, on the phone, at your reseller’s office, in a browser or mobile app, your customers should be satisfied with their experience.

Don’t stop with simply tossing dated appliances and replacing them. Really think about how the technologies work together, and how people work with them. This is key… if you take replacement appliances off the shelf and simply plug them in, you are (at best) merely keeping up with your competitors. If you want the full value add, you need to specialize. You need to bend the components to your processes. It’s not just what you’ve got.  It’s how you use it.  It’s the critical difference between overhead and advantage.

Maybe the Augmented Reality Kitchen won’t provide a good return on investment (yet), but… there’s probably a lot that will.

Is the 1-9-90 rule for social participation dead?

It has long been an axiom that getting people to participate in online communities is hard, and the 1/9/90 rule helped explain why. 1% will be die-hard content creators, 9% will participate and 90% will be passive consumers and sit on the sidelines.

A recent BBC study claims the old rules are dead and that a whopping 77% of adults should be considered participators in some capacity. Interestingly, GigaOm pounced and claimed the old rules still apply.

I think the BBC research is on to something and that the online participation patterns have changed. Few of the things may have contributed:

  • Consolidation: social networks such as Facebook and Twitter consolidate for us updates and posts from multiple communities and allow us to respond directly from there. You no longer need to go and check on 7 different communities to see what is going on.
  • Ease of content creation and sharing especially from mobile devices. Probably too easy if you ask me. if you allow it, your phone will post your location, the pictures you take and more without even asking. The success of Instagram is just one example. Being connected 100% of the time allows us to interact 100% of the day.
  • We are not anonymous anymore. It has been a slow change but if the late 90’s were about virtual identities and avatars, now we interact as real people. It may look like a small change but the whole nature of online interaction shifted from an outlet to interactions we wanted to have outside of our normal (and sometimes restrictive) social circle to where now most of the online interaction is with our social circle. More and more the online communities and social networks augment and extend our real relationships with people and brands.
  • While some people who came to the party felt a bit out of place and stayed close to the wall for a while. After some time you realize that keeping to yourself in a social setting is not very nice and that people actually notice. If you are part of the community, participation is now expected.

So if the BBC is right and we should be expecting more participation what does it mean for businesses?

Business social participation may still be closer to the old rules because they do not reflect a close knit social group but as more people become comfortable in sharing it will start to have an impact.

Internally, collaboration and social networking with colleagues will eventually follow the same pattern of heightened participation if you allow the same enablers. Aggregate and consolidate activities and updates so they are easy to access, make it easy to respond to them and embed interaction and sharing everywhere in internal web applications, sites, tools etc. Making sharing a social norm may not be too far off.

Externally, in addition to the brand enthusiasts and deal seekers there is now a potential in making a lot more people participants

  • Think about creating content that people would want to share. Too many websites and social media sites focus on the marketing side “what we have to sell”. Cool or useful things to do with the product or that are just related to the category will more easily be viral.
  • Many websites have added sharing and likes to their pages but few take it to the level of actually allowing specific questions or comments through social networks on content or products.
  • Think mobile sharing. From QR codes in trade show booths to special coupons for scanning or photographing in the store. Even my dentist has a promotion for getting free whitening pen if you scan a code and like him on Facebook. Brilliant.

Adobe, IBM, WebTrends, and comScore named leaders in Web Analytics

Independent research firm Forrester recently released their annual “Forrester Wave: Web Analytics, Q4 2011” report naming Adobe, IBM, comScore, and WebTrends as the current leaders of the web analytics industry. AT Internet and Google Analytics were also included as “strong performers” while Yahoo Analytics took 7th place as the lone wolf in the “contender” category.

Not surprisingly Adobe Site Catalyst and IBM Coremetrics stood out with the top two scores overall but WebTrends Analytics 10 and comScore Digital Analytix showed major stengths as well. Unica NetInsight, another offering from IBM did not make the list because of its inevitable fate to be merged with Coremetrics. In 2010, IBM acquired both Unica and Coremetrics. The Forrester report states, “IBM is incorporating the complementary and notable features of Unica NetInsight into a merged web analytics solution based on the Coremetrics platform.”

The full report can be downloaded from Adobe or WebTrends and will likely show up on other vendor sites soon.

Multi-Touch Attribution Campaign Tracking with WebTrends

This article is a follow-up to the webinar

All web analytics platforms have some way of tracking marketing campaign performance usually out-of-the-box or with a little bit of set up. Generally they all do a pretty good job of this and provide key reports to make important business decisions about which campaigns to invest more money in, which to reduce spending on, and which to get rid of altogether. But often these decisions are made without insight into the whole picture. Why? The answer is simply because most campaign reports are set up in the industry standard way of attributing all conversions to the last or most recent campaign clicked. This is and has long been the industry standard, but it is time for a change as this method ignores the fact that people often go through multiple campaigns before converting.

So what other attribution options are there? And why wouldn’t I want to attribute conversion credit to the most recent campaign? – There are typically 3 options for campaign attribution:

  1. Last Touch (Most recent campaign)
  2. First Touch (Original campaign)
  3. Multi-touch (All campaign touches)

Technically there are two options for multi-touch attribution. One option is to give full credit to all campaign touches and the other option is to give partial credit to each touch. For example, if 3 different campaign touches resulted in a sale of $30 you could credit each touch with $10. But for the purposes of this article we will focus on the full credit option. As for the question “why wouldn’t I want to attribute conversion credit to the most recent campaign?” – this is not really the right question to ask. The better question to ask is, “Do I have the best possible insight into the performance of my marketing campaigns?” The answer to that question is almost always “no” if you are only analyzing a single attribution method. So rather than replacing industry standard last touch reports, adding first touch and multi-touch to your arsenal of reports is the best course of action.

Fortunately for WebTrends users, there has been a great method for gaining insight into all campaign touches for quite some time although a little work up front is necessary to gain the full power of this. If you are already doing basic campaign tracking within WebTrends then the visitor history table is already turned on and with minimal effort you can set up two new custom reports which report on the first touch campaign and all campaign touches respectively. To do this you need to make use of two features of the visitor history table and create two new custom dimensions, one based on WT.vr.fc (the fc stands for “first campaign”) and another based on WT.vr.ac (the ac stands for “all campaigns”). Once you have the dimensions set up you create custom reports using those dimensions and whichever metrics you want applied. To make things easier, copy the existing campaign ID report and just change the dimension to base the report on.

The “first touch” report ends up looking nearly identical to the existing campaign ID report but the rows of data will be different since the revenue and other conversion credit is applied to the first campaign that referred the conversion as opposed to the last.

Standard Campaign ID Report Sample
First Touch Campaign ID Sample

The “all touches” report is where you’ll notice more differences. You will see some or many (depending on the date range you have selected) rows of data that have multiple campaign IDs separated by semi colons. To view only the data that contains multiple campaign touches just filter the report by a semi colon.

Multi-Touch Campaign ID Report Sample

So what do you do with this information? What does it all mean?
Spending some time with this new data will likely reveal some patterns you never had insight into before. For example, you may notice certain campaigns appear to perform poorly according to your traditional last touch reports but the same campaign’s performance as a first touch is much better, or vice versa. Since the first touch report is so similar to the out of the box campaign ID report it is fairly straightforward. The only difference is that the first touch gets the credit. The all touch reports are more complicated though. What I find most useful about this report is the ability to determine a campaign’s total reach and compare it to its absolute reach.  Take for example campaign ID 32. In the above screenshots you will notice that this campaign ID has $63,441 attributed to it as a last touch campaign, $35,839 attributed to it as a first touch campaign, and $82,036 attributed to it when you search for it in the all touches report (See fig. 4 below). What this data is telling us in this particular case is that:

  • $63,441 in revenue was most recently referred by campaign 32
  • Only $35,839 in revenue was initially referred by campaign 32
  • But overall campaign 32 at least partially referred $82,036 in revenue

As you can see, there can be very significant differences in campaign performance depending on how you look at the data. Taking the easy way out and looking only at a single attribution method can lead to less than fully-informed decisions being made about your campaigns. What if you were relying solely on first-touch reports in this example? That could lead you to reduce your budget on campaign 32 when in reality it was performing much better than your first-touch report told you.

Multi-Touch Report Filtered by Campaign ID 32

Ok, so all that is well and good but manually analyzing campaign IDs one at a time is a lot of work! Yes it certainly is using the methods I just provided as examples. But there is a much better way to approach this. Taking things a step further we can export each of these reports and combine them together in Excel using the campaign IDs as our key values. What we want to end up with is something like the following which will allow us to analyze first, last, and multi-touch all within a single interface.

Multi-Touch Reporting in Excel Sample

In part two of this article I’ll show you how to set this all up in WebTrends. But for now, follow the steps discussed in this article to get these super handy reports in place so you’ll be ready for the next part.

Your Company’s Social Debut

Planning Your Company’s Debut or Strategy in the Social Media Sphere

Corporations have long been regarded by the law as having “legal personality”-  which means they have rights, privileges, responsibilities, and protections just like humans (with some differences, like marriage).   It should come as no surprise then, that they’re acting like humans more and more – now they’re relaxing with friends, and socializing! As communication gets easier through digital technology, humans are now able to interact with corporate personalities.  And these personalities are just beginning to awaken to the new freedoms they can find in the digital landscape.

If you’re like me, and I bet you are, you are both human, and, also a part of bringing business personalities to the social scene. In this capacity, I recently attended SocialTech2010 in Jan Jose, CA, right from my desk in NYC.

As the Twitter stream flowed by rapidly with commentary and quotes from the speakers, I watched and listened to advice, case studies and stories from the experts on Social Media for Business. I came away with the recognition that Social Media for business is just like a big networking cocktail party!

Companies aren’t accustomed to acting as social creatures and the adjustment will take some time. We all had to learn social skills growing up; companies can do the same. There are a few things that etiquette would require of a cocktail party attendee and that’s the same strategy the speakers at SocialTech2010 are recommending:  Know who you are, be interactive and respectful, don’t gossip, be a good listener, and don’t be afraid to share yourself.

As businesses gain proficiency in this kind of interacting, they follow an arc towards maturity. Kathleen Malone of Intel outlined the following 5 stages of a Social Media Approach:

1)      Listen: In this stage a company finds out: What are people saying about my Brand and/or my field? Where are they having this discussion? Who are the major players and influencers?  Services like Radian6, which Malone says Intel deployed 18 months ago, make this possible.

2)      Analyze: This is the time to read the room/space, figure out what your angle will be when you eventually do pipe up. Which conversation will you enter? What are your expectations? Why are you going to participate?

3)      Create: This is the stage where the business comes up with something appropriate to say. To participate effectively in the conversation, Malone says your content should be: useful, interesting, human, “snackable” (meaning in bite size pieces, easily consumed), inspiring and should cater to egos and build community.  

4)      Engage: In this stage you go public and enter the conversation, getting your content out there in new ways and/or by participating in the conversations that already exist.

5)      Measure: Your social media approach is not complete without an understanding of how you’re doing. The internet is an amazing forum for measuring how people behave with your content, and you should use a variety of tools to understand the response to your forays. Measuring properly will provide insight on how to proceed, both in the ongoing conversation, and with the business itself.

Both Malone and Brian Ellefritz of SAP outlined the natural evolution of Social Media programs at large companies  – first there are what Ellefritz calls “Grass Roots” efforts, where excited individuals branch out in ways that are unpredictable and non-uniform. He says companies should encourage these exploratory missions. Leadership will begin to emerge internally, and informal education will get the ball rolling. Following the “Grass Roots” period, Ellefritz sees “Silos Form.” This may not feel 100% smooth, but is an important step, as “coop-eteition” (a kind of cooperating/kind of competing relationship, sort of like sibling rivalry that spurs each one on) sees different silos jockeying for position. During this step, Ellefritz encourages companies to “invest in leaders, not laggards”, and to get the players from various silos together to learn from each other.  Also, he says, “don’t wait too long for governance.”

The next evolutionary phase in a corporate Social Media Program is “Operationalizing” – where leadership becomes clear, channels become well formed and in alignment with the divisions in your business.  Tools begin to consolidate and more emphasis on measurement and results appears. By this point your business may have headcount devoted to social media, and content should become less problematic, less of a focus, because it’s running more smoothly.  During this stage it’s important to align and integrate silos, and focus on strategy, ownership, metrics and priorities.

After this shift, the next phase is what Ellefriz calls “Lifestyle.” This is when the Social Media program has engaged and competent employees and success is understood and positive outcomes are frequent. This is a level of Social Media implementation that is fairly rare in today’s scene, though Ellefritz points towards Zappos as an example of a company that may be at this level.

.. .. ..

The wonderful thing about participating in social media is that it lets your personality out! For a business that hasn’t previously seen itself as the kind of entity that has a social life, this might seem daunting at first.  That’s why Ellefriz’s evolutionary arc makes so much sense to me. The way I see it, people and businesses want more than ever to get clear on who they are, and who they want to be, in order to present themselves well, and to participate in Social Media conversations. The best advice is to be authentic. Just like at cocktail parties, the people you’re conversing with generally know if you’re “full of it”, or if you’re being sincere.  Your conversational counterparts like to be complemented, offered nuggets of useful information, and generally considered and included.

For businesses, (and the teams of people that perpetuate them) this will mean really focusing on what the goals are, what opportunities exist to communicate clearly and uniformly around these interests, finding “friends” out there to talk with, and owning up to the inevitable minor mistakes that are so easy to make along the way. Since SM is such a public sphere, the resulting increased level of transparency is going to make businesses change and open up in new ways.

Coachdeb:”RT @MarketingProfs: “When someone says they need a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy, I say… Wait! Take it back… What’s your story?” @scobleizer #mptech”

So, armed with the Social Media/networking party analogy and with the stages of approach and evolution path laid out before you – what are you waiting for?  Participate!

Here are 10 tips to consider as you get started:

1)      Go where the fish are – target engagement carefully where the conversation already is.

2)      Social Media is Local. The goal is to be uniform while being decentralized – Intel communicates internally with their 1000 “Registered Social Media Practitioners” with guidelines and trainings (some mandatory). Intel also has their own internal newsletter that aggregates Social Media content – Malone says this makes management comfortable as well as keeps everyone updated.

3)      Have a Content Calendar for the year to coordinate Social Media messaging across channels and people, and to keep it focused on your message. Kathy Malone said at Intel, 2/3 of the content that gets put out falls under the guidelines of their content strategy calendar.

4)      Consider in advance how to manage Social Media Risk. One of the most interesting things Jaime Grenny of SalesForce said at SocialTech2010 is that all their employee training videos on Social Media strategy (and how to use online video for B2B marketing) are up for the public to see on YouTube (here).  This level of transparency lets everyone know what to expect upfront.  Malone outlined a “prevention/detection/response” approach in which 3 teams worked from different angles to mitigate risk on the social media front. And experience teaches: “if you screwed up, fess up”, and be transparent.

5)      If your company is doing moderation of dialogue, consider having a light hand to keep the conversation honest – as Intel puts it, they let the good and the bad in, but moderate the ugly – mostly meaning profanity and non-constructive comments, and they’ve found their audience appreciates it.

6)      Build a business case for your business so you know why you’re entering into Social Media – not only will it legitimize your efforts internally, but it’ll provide clarity for your message. Will it extend customer service? Will it increase SEO? Can you use it to create brand advocates and champions? Can you collect ideas on where to take your product?

7)      To measure, use Context. As with all web metrics, in order to understand what’s happening you need to understand the context of your data, and compare it to a baseline to view trends. Knowing your goals will assist you in setting up context.

8)      People are the PlatformLaura Ramos of Xerox encourages us to get our people out there and seen. Show video of your thought leadership. Get your salespeople to share their stories and knowledge with the rest of your company and make them heroes. Build relationships, and let your existing customers create new business for you. Social Media Marketing is not about reaching many to influence a few but engaging a few to influence many!

9)      Social is relevant. Here are some StatsRené Bonvani of Palo Alto Networks says that FaceBook has a 96% penetration in enterprise, meaning that only 4/100 people aren’t using it at work! He also said that only 1% is posting on Facebook but that people are 69 times more likely to use FaceBook chat than to post.  Another impressive Bonvani stat: 69% of business buyers use social media to make purchasing decisions.  No matter the numbers, it’s clear that with the cost of communication dropping close to $0, as social beings, we’re using the web to communicate more often with more people, and in smaller chunks regularly.

10)   Social media has to be part of WHAT you do, not something else you do. Jeremiah Owyang in his keynote said that the only difference between the Social Site and your business is the URL. He says that in the radical future, websites will be dynamically assembled on the fly based on social profiles. URLs and domains won’t matter – the web will be sorted around people and contextual situations.  Because of this, ads will become useful content.  This is already evident.

So – Get out there and participate!

Edgewater Technology provides strategy, consulting, web metrics, and implementation expertise to help you focus on the best ways your company can engage in these dynamic communities and track your success!

Top Web Technology and Marketing trends for 2010 part 1 – Social Strategy and Infrastructure

I was at Barnes and Noble over the weekend and browsing through the business books section could see only 2 types of titles, books on the financial collapse and guides to social media marketing. Both are selling well I hear.

It’s good to see that after some significant doubts, corporate America and small businesses alike are engaging users on social media sites and twitting away. Unfortunately, what we often get is a complete schizophrenic approach. The corporate website is all law and order, control and command broadcasting carefully crafted and designed branding messages and product introductions. Then we have the social media wild west where everything goes, no rules exist and chaos reigns. Living with a split personality is hard and as Nestle recently found out, trying to enforce brand guidelines on Facebook can backfire at you.

As mentioned, there are a bucketload of books that will teach you how to engage and utilize social media, use it to form personal relationships and provide value add rather than just another outlet for PR.

I think a more urgent task we have is addressing the challenges of changing the purpose, structure and utility of public websites to adapt to the new social reality. Frankly, even after 6 years of “web 2.0” most sites are still pretty static brochureware, but the Social revolution is changing that quickly. Even though not every company will want to cancel their website and send users to Facebook instead as Skittles did for a few months, there is much to gain from trying to marry the two worlds.

The goals of the public website have not really changed: create a positive brand experience, attract and convert new customers, retain existing customers, make it easy to do business with you and provide great service anytime, anywhere. Now adding the social layer on top of that elevates it to a whole new level. It also requires a new and maturing technical infrastructure and tools to manage this experience.

Adding the social layer can take many forms but done right it will make every website more relevant, accessible, personal and effective. The tools to manage this new environment are still evolving and maturing but the next releases in all product categories will include a social integration layer.

Before embarking on the next iteration, every website owner must examine and decide: “How social should the company’s site be?”

Here are some guidelines for different models of social integration

  1. Divide and Conquer: create separate destinations for different types of interaction but make them distinct from the main site
  2. Complete control over brand experience: build the brand site into a social community
  3. Co-Promotion: link and syndicate content from site to social media, promote social media activity on site.
  4. Aggregation and context: aggregate relevant social media to site from multiple sources
  5. Integrate and Connect with Social Media: create a seamless experience and leverage identity and existing relationships

Of course, these modes are not mutually exclusive and can be used for different part of the site or in evolving fashion.

For more on these topics, I’m doing a webinar on 3/31/10 on best practices of social integration and will bring some examples. To register go here.

10 Actionable Web Metrics You Can Use – Part 2

Show your analytics results with gauges

In Part 1 of this post, I discussed 5 percentage-based metrics that can provide actionable insight. In Part 2, I will go over 5 index-based metrics that can also provide insight to problems that may need to be addressed in order to maximize the value of your website.

1. Campaign Quality Index (CQI)

This index measures how well targeted your campaigns are at driving qualified traffic to your site. Suppose 40% of your traffic comes from a particular campaign, but the traffic only provides 20% of your overall conversions. The CQI for this campaign would be the percent of conversions from the campaign (20%), divided by the percent of visits from the campaign (40%). A value of one means that a visitor from this campaign is as likely to convert (purchase, sign up, request information, etc…) as from any other campaign. A value less than 1.0 means they are less likely to convert, while a value greater than one means they are more likely to convert. If the value is less than 1.0, then you need look at the reasons. You can break this down to individual search engines, or even keyword groups for each search engine, and for each individual banner campaign or other paid campaign you use, including referral partners. Perhaps the targeting is not sufficiently narrow, or the message is not being carried through the site (high bounce rate). You will want to work with your SEM team and landing page design team to make the needed changes. When you make improvements, you can track their effectiveness by watching the index change. Ideally, your analytics dashboard should be created so that you can see the changes over periods of time.

2. New Customer Index (NCI)

This index is focused on transactions (not revenue) from new customers. It is defined as the percent of transactions from new visitors divided by the site percentage of new visitors. For example, if 40% of your transactions are from new visitors, and 60% of your traffic is from new visitors, your New Customer Index is 0.67. A value of 1.0 means that a purchase is equally likely to come from a new or returning customer. A value less than one (as in this example), means that a new visitor is less likely to become a customer. A value greater than one means that a new visitor is more likely to become a customer than a returning visitor. Your goal is to strive for a value of one or better. If the value is less than one, you will need to look at factors that contribute to a low value. To do this properly, you would want to create a New Customer Index for each type of campaign you run, and compare that to those who come to your site from direct entry. A low performing index for paid search or banner campaigns can mean that you are not targeting the correct market, or that your search terms are not correlated to those looking to purchase your product or service. If the campaign is a banner campaign, either the message is not on target, or the media partner you are using is not attracting the correct demographic.

3. Return Visitor Index (RVI)

This index is simply defined as the percent of return visitors divided by the percent of new visitors. A value of 1.0 means that your site has an equal distribution of new vs. return visitors. A value greater than 1.0 means that your site is more likely to attract return visitors, while a value less than 1.0 means your site is more likely to attract new visitors. Depending on your type of site and your effort on attracting new visitors or keeping existing visitors, you can see how effective your efforts are and can then focus on how to improve this index. If your goal is to encourage repeat visits, then you need to be concerned with how fresh or relevant your content is, or how effective any email campaigns are in getting registered visitors to come back to your site. Any anomalies need to be investigated. As an example, I once saw a huge jump in new traffic in a client’s site that was the result of an email campaign, according to the analytics report. However, the email campaigns were only to registered visitors, so in order to have received the email, you would have first had to have visited the site. Thus, the email campaign visits should show up as return visitors. What happened is that the email contained an offer for a free exercise DVD, and the link URL was hijacked and placed on a few deal sites. When visitors clicked on the link, they were attributed to the email campaign, as the link contained the email campaign code! By looking at the RVI, I was able to see that there was an issue that needed to be addressed.

4. Branded Search Index (BSI)

Organic search can consist of generic terms that relate to content on your site plus searches that include your company name or your brand name.  Each can be of interest to your search manager. If more visitors come to your site from generic keywords or terms, it means that your site is well optimized for content. If more of your search visits come from branded terms, it means that more people are finding your site by your brand name instead of from non-branded terms.  You can track this by creating a BSI metric. This is defined as the percent of visits to your site from branded terms divided by visits from non-branded terms. Values greater than 1.0 mean that you are getting more of your traffic from branded terms, while a value less than 1.0 indicate that generic terms are winning the organic search battle. Depending on your search strategy and goals, you can use this information to help adjust your optimization or brand promotional efforts.

5. Site Search Impact (SSI)

Site search is very important for many types of sites. Visitors who come to your site may use site search to help them quickly find what they are looking for. If they find what they want, they may be more likely to continue to reach a goal, such as a purchase or lead submission. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they may just leave the site. The SSI index can tell you the impact your site search has on your revenue. To calculate it, take the per visit revenue from those who use site search, and divide it by the per visit revenue of those who do not use site search. “Per visit” revenue is defined as the total revenue or lead value for the month, divided by the number of visits. If your SSI index is greater than 1.0, this means that your site search is making you money, compared to those who do not use search. If the index is less than 1.0, it means that your site search is costing you money, meaning those who use site search are less likely to either make a purchase or become a lead. This can be the result of not getting desired results from the search, or result pages that don’t satisfy your visitors’ needs. To solve this problem, you would then need to dive deeper into your site search report to identify and correct the issues.

Summary

Hopefully this two-part post on 10 actionable web metrics you can use has given you some insight into how to make your web analytics program more actionable. While some of these metrics are fairly easy to construct, others may require filtering, segmentation, calculated metrics and integration with offline data. Depending on your analytics tool, you may want to use a presentation package like Xcelcius to create and display your gauges and create a dashboard that can be shared with your site’s key stakeholders.

10 Actionable Web Metrics You Can Use – Part 1

Make your web analytics actionable

The end goal of a web analytics report should be to provide some guidance on how to take an action to improve how your website is meeting its goals. However, many analysts simply generate canned reports using their analytics tool and send it to their management for review. In this two-part post, I will share with you 10 different web metrics that can “at a glance” tell your management how well a particular campaign or goal is performing, plus provide some relevant actions that can be taken to improve the underlying performance of the metric.

In Part 1, I will look at five metrics that are expressed in percentages. In Part 2, I will look at five metrics that are expressed as an index. Ideally, these metrics would be designed to be seen as gauges on a dashboard, and some can have the ranges color-coded (green/yellow/red) to quickly show the impact of that metric. Here are the first five actionable metrics.

1. Campaign Margin.

If you are running any paid campaigns for an ecommerce site or lead generating site, you need to know your margin. In simple terms, your campaign margin is defined as your revenue from a campaign less its cost, divided by the revenue. Your goal is to stay as close to 100% as possible. You can create a report that shows the campaign margin for any campaign that involves external spend (banners, paid search, sponsorships, etc…), or an internal spend on employees’ time (social media marketing, forum and article posts, etc…). The smaller your margin, the less money you are making. With this metric, “0%” is breakeven. If you have a negative margin, you are losing money on that campaign. If you have a positive margin, you are making money. This type of margin can be shown as a gauge and placed on your analytics dashboard. If your margin is negative or near zero, you need to take action to look at why the campaign is costing so much or how you can increase the campaign’s effectiveness.

2. Percent Revenue from New Visitors.

This metric tells you how likely visitors are to order from you on their first visit, compared to ordering on successive visits.  In order to create this metric, you need to be able to segment your traffic by new vs. repeat visitors. To calculate the metric, take the revenue generated from new visitors and divide it by the total revenue.  If the percentage is more than 50%, you get more of your sales from first time visitors, If it is less than 50%, you get more orders from repeat visitors. If you see this percentage is low and you have limited repeat buyers, then perhaps you would want to do a better job to get a visitor to purchase on their initial visit. If you have a low percentage of revenue from new visitors, and you have a more expansive product line, then this metric is telling you that you get more of your sales from repeat visitors or customers, and you may want to focus on keeping your content fresh and maintaining campaigns such as email or social networking to keep your visitors coming back.

3. Engaged Visitor Percentage (EVP)

This metric is defined as the number of visits that contain an action or event that indicates engagement divided by the total number of visits. To use this metric, you must first determine what defines an engagement. This can be any of the following – visit a specific number of pages, visit particular pages of interest, subscribe or register to something on your site, post a comment, rate something, click on an ad, use a tool, navigate a map, download something, play a video, forward to a friend, or do anything else you wish to show engagement. By monitoring this metric over time, you can determine if your site is doing a better or worse job of engaging your visitors, if this is one of the goals of your site.

4. Utilization Factor (UF)

Some types of organizations have developed their website to encourage its users to conduct business through it instead of calling or submitting paperwork. For example, an insurance company may want claims to be processed via the web. A financial agency may want its brokers to process transactions via the web instead of sending in forms. If one of your goals is to encourage the use of your site to accomplish tasks, one way to measure this is to track the percentage of activities that are conducted on the web divided by the total number of activities conducted online and offline. This metric is a bit more complicated, as to do it entirely online you need to import the offline data into your web analytic program. You can also export the online data and create an Excel-based report that combines the online and offline data. Your UF can also be used to measure the percent of registered users who use the site to transact business. By monitoring the Utilization Factor over time, you can determine how well your efforts are to shift your transactions to the web. Specific actions can include training of your users on how to use your site to process transactions, or ongoing communications that remind your users to use the site.

5. Self Service Factor (SSF)

If your site is to be used to provide customer service, one of your goals could be to reduce the percent of customer service issues that are handled through the phone. Thus, the SSF would be calculated as the number of service issues that were resolved on the web divided by the total number of service issues (web + phone + chat + email). In order to do this, you would either need to import your offline data into your web analytics program, or export your online data into a spreadsheet to combine it with your offline data. If your company has a target goal for resolving service issues via the site, you can create a gauge that shows how well the actual percentage is compared to the goal, or color-code the result as red or green to show if the SSF is above or below the target. Part of your site’s optimization efforts would include analyzing the issues that are most often called in and updating the content on the website, or making the top 10 most frequent issues a sidebar on the customer service site.

In Part 2 of this article, I will show you how to use these five additional actionable metrics:

  • New Customer Index
  • Campaign Quality Index
  • Return Visitor Index
  • Branded Search Index
  • Site Search Impact