MAD Perspectives Blog

Hey Big Data, Don't Forget We're Human!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Every where you turn, there is more data. Social networks provide data revealing consumer likes and dislikes (and it would be nice if Facebook created a thumbs down button!). Analytics firms promise to crunch this data and provide insight to drive sales, marketing and product strategies. Netflix produced "House of Cards" based on its analysis of their subscriber data. That success led to them to produce new episodes of "Arrested Development" and "Orange is the New Black" - neither of which has had the same impact as House of Cards. So, is that data really as revealing as we think?

As always the devil is in the details. While the data itself can highlight trends it also includes a lot of "noise". By this I mean that is hard to sift through the incredible volume of data to find the meaningful insights that can influence meaningful actions. Companies, large and small, are looking to data to help them improve their business. Whether it is to reduce the cost of doing business or to drive an effective product launch, companies must rationalize their decisions. Data is the key. It is tangible. It cannot be disputed. Or, can it?

The interpretation of data requires more than analytical tools. It requires an understanding of context. How many times have we read quotes or seen video snippets that infer a meaning different than what the speaker intended? It is the same with analyzing data. Structured data is easier as it is typically machine driven data, derived from content stored in databases. Unstructured data, such as that found in social networks, blogs, audio or video files presents new challenges. Often this data reflects thoughts that are a reaction to other content. Understanding the relationship between these different types of data is critical to gleaning the most relevant insight. As Colin Powell once said "Experts often possess more data than judgement."

So how do we apply judgement to analysis of structured and unstructured data to guide strategies, tactics, actions? We don't leave it solely to data collection tools or data analysis programs. We remember to use our common sense and intelligence when looking at the data. Yes, filtering that data is hugely helpful and the tools that can help with that sifting are big time savers. But individual or group knowledge cannot and should not be neglected. It is this insight born from experience that drives innovation, creativity as well as pragmatic action. As your business incorporates social data, subscriber data and other big data into its planning and decision making processes, don't forget to be human and remember there are humans on the receiving end of those decisions who can make or break your business.

What's your perspective?




Convergence Creates Opportunities

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 15, 2013


Any time industries converge new opportunities arise. Nothing surprising about this. As TV consumption continues to shift towards viewing on mobile and tablet devices, opportunities arise all along the value chain for managing, delivering and monetizing that content. Of course, revenue is the goal for content providers, and the key barometer for success is revenue, which is still primarily tied to advertising. Sure, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and others can charge a monthly subscription, but that is a small portion of the revenue surrounding televised content.

As content is distributed in a non-linear fashion, new opportunities exist for brands, advertisers and technologists. As second screen TV augments the TV viewing experience, content providers provide new opportunities for brands and advertisers. Industry watchers such as Nielsen, eMarketer, PWC and others, all agree that consumers are social while enjoying their favorite TV programs. They also agree that this social activity is enable by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. As a result, Zenith Optimedia predicts mobile advertising growth from $8.6B in 2012 to 29.4B in 2015. This represents significant growth from 1.8% to 6.1% of global advertising spend.

This revenue growth will drive technology investments to enable improved back-end content management, creative workflows and data analysis - all with the goal of driving greater consumer engagement and interaction. Creative minds will develop complementary marketing programs leveraging alternate channels. The New York Times recently shared its plans for an in-app mobile ad experience to promote Showtime's original series Ray Donovan. The ad includes a show trailer allowing viewers to tap on the trailer to obtain further information about the program.

This innovative approach represents the flexibility allowed by new devices, new consumer behaviors such as tapping a screen and integration of technology, promotion and brand.  As a result of its focus on fan engagement, second screens provide the data necessary to justify brand investment. As the second screen nurtures conversations around televised content, it also capture data reflecting sentiment, demographics, fan desires and actions taken. This data is the goal for media properties, enterprises and brands as they explore the use of social and/or mobile solutions for connecting with target customers or consumers. This data drives revenue for content providers as they pursue brands and advertisers, but it also drives revenue for technology firm with solutions for data capture, analysis and storage.

All along the value chain, new opportunities are emerging. It may be the telecommunication network that enables online or mobile connectivity, or the tablet manufacturer and their app store, or the data analytics software that uncovers the meaning behind all our social conversations. Each of these companies is capitalizing on the opportunity presented by market convergence. As magazine publications create enhance their online presence with video or enterprises create digital channels to improve brand awareness, it is the convergence of technology and market demand, in an increasingly digital society, that is creating opportunities for improved revenue, customer experience and brand awareness.

What's your perspective?



Seek Actionable Data Within Big Data

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before anyone pursues a marketing, sales or product strategy, they collect data. It is data about the market and its trends or needs. It's data about the prospective customer - who are they, where are they, what are their needs? It's data about competitors, their products, their go-to-market strategy, their offer. We collect all this data, and more, to validate our goals and align our strategies.  We desire sales leads, web traffic, sales. We want to understand our position relative to the market, customers and competition.

We've been collecting data for ages. We have gigabytes and petabytes of data, but often we don't know what to do with it. We know we should be utilizing it to support marketing plans and product roadmaps. We collect even more data by deploying social media monitoring solutions, but we can't prioritize actions. We are buried in data - yet Big Data is the Big Buzzword across every industry. The IT industry loves it as it provides them with new solutions for their customers. The promote storage, business intelligence and analytics. Manufacturing, financial services, media, consumer goods and hospitality businesses are interested in any opportunity to better understand their customers and sell more products or services.

So, now we have all this data. What are we going to do with it. Is it even the right data? Can we analyze the data to prioritize customer requirements and then adapt product, marketing and sales strategies to meet those requirements? If we're trying to sell widgets, do we understand how our customers are using those widgets? Have we collected the data that will tell us how our customers want to sell them widgets? This is the potential power of Big Data.

The who, what, where, why and when is the holy grail of Big Data. Understanding the context of that data is the challenge that must be overcome. Sifting through the mounds of data to eliminate that data which is irrelevant is critical. Using human skills to assess the meaning behind a Facebook post or Tweet and then correlating that to other comments can reveal the actionable data (note, not Big Data) needed to develop the right programs to influence customer behavior.

Data has hidden narratives that with the right analysis reveal the story that will compel customers to take action. We can capture and map the data, but we don't always see the underlying story. There is great value in data driven content creation. Social media provides even more customer touch points. It provides marketers with the ability to intelligently segment their customers based on contextual and cultural insight. Don't just settle for a Big Data solution. Consider what data you really need to drive tangible results. Take a step back and consider what kind of data can really impact your strategy.

What's your perspective?



Get Smart About Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 28, 2013


There have been a number of blogs (here's one from Harvard Business Review) since the new year reflecting a sentiment that companies should reduce their social media presence. If taken out of context, one could conclude that social media doesn't work and that companies are only just realizing this. This is not the case. BUT, it is evident that companies must integrate their use of social media with existing marketing tools to improve the customer experience. Finding the right balance has forever been the challenge of marketing organizations. It's understanding your company goals (which may shift depending on the maturity of your business), the needs of your customers (which vary depending on where they are in the buying process) and your budget (which sadly is never big enough).

REAL VALUE REQUIRES INVESTMENT

Those companies who have made public statements about shutting down social sites have done so because they did not understand the demands of social media. The value lies in the ability to engage in real time conversations with customers, to extend the interaction beyond face to face meetings and website visits, to gain insight about the issues most important to customers.

Just like the stock market, where understanding the strategy, management team, financials and markets is important to making investment choices, social media requires investment. In this case its understanding how social media complements existing marketing programs. If your goal is to increase sales, then aligning social media to lead generation efforts makes sense. This could mean using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to alert customers to a product launch webinar, to meet key executives at an upcoming conference or to trial new software/services using a special code only available through social networks.  

The investment takes the form of both time and budget - and both are related to the human resource required to define the social strategy, create content and manage your social presence. Social media is more than simply posting intriguing 140 character tweets with links to more information. It's about listening to customers who are sharing their needs, concerns and goals. Their thoughts can guide your investment.

FIND THE BALANCE

Social Media will never completely displace traditional marketing programs. Customers still want to read data sheets and white papers, engage with execs to understand product roadmaps, get hands-on product demos, compare competitive offerings. Social media is simply another option for sharing much of this information while assessing customer sentiment. The goals of companies will vary. Early stage businesses must incorporate social media to create market presence, while mature companies use social media to remain relevant. Companies manufacturing infrastructure products such as steel, farm equipment or pipelines use social media to educate and inform while technology companies add lead generation and customer support to the social media mix.

Many companies are using social media to extend their touch points with their customers. With travel budgets under constant attack, any opportunity to maintain contact with clients is welcome. Social networks provide an opportunity for ongoing casual contact, keeping your company's name in front of your customers even if your sales representatives cannot be present.

GET SMART

Social media is not dead - far from it. However, companies are putting more thought into how they can best use social media, in combination with other marketing solutions, to achieve their goals. Managing the programs, understanding which solutions fit best given company goals and customer need and aligning resources (financial, human and time) require teams to get smart. For larger companies, there are integrated marketing platforms to help manage programs. Smaller companies will often align manpower alone. In either case, more time is now spent preparing to use social media.

For some interesting statistics regarding B2B use of social media, check out Penton Marketing Services blog.  It re-affirms the point that social media is not dying!

What's your perspective?





Social Network Enabled Customer Support - It's a High Wire Act

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 21, 2013

The decision to engage via social networks is not a casual one. Or, at least it shouldn't be.  As evidenced by the recent decision of a Charter Communications to cease its social media efforts related to customer support, social media is not easy.  There is a misconception that social media is "free".  Sure, it doesn't cost anything to create a Twitter account or a Facebook or LinkedIn Page.  However, an investment can be made in branding these sites. More importantly and investment MUST be made in aligning the right resources - human and other.

Charter's challenge was related to resourcing and responsiveness. Their decision was a wise one considering that they did not dedicate enough resources to managing their social customer support channels. If a business does not have the resources or tools in place to listen, monitor and react to issues raised via social networks, they should not use them. Especially when it customer to customer service. Any customer who posts a concern about a product or service on any social network, is looking for an immediate response. The answer may be provided by another customer, but the company must also respond. They must acknowledge the concern and take action to address the concern. 

Good social support often combines traditional methods with social solutions. Support communities are just that - a forum for open discussion of concerns shared by many. The benefit is that the community often resolves the issue on behalf of the company, based on its collective experience. A good community manager will thank the member who provided the answer and perhaps point the community to further information about the particular challenge. If the concern is larger than what can be resolved online, the community manager must facilitate the transition to a phone discussion with the right resources to solve the problem.

Social media has change the face of customer satisfaction. It has introduced a new level of urgency - a demand for immediate resolution of any problem. A customer support model that incorporates social media is a high wire act. It demands a balance of core strength - meaning a deep bench of expertise to solve a range of customer issues, and artistry - meaning the vision to understand how to blend traditional, online and social tools to serve the customer. 

Many will argue that companies MUST incorporate social media into their support models. Just as many are correct in delaying their use of social networks for support. These are the companies that recognize that they don't have the right resources in place to deliver the level of support their customer will demand. Or these are customers in industries that have been slower in their adoption of social media. These companies will slowly build their capabilities and when they are ready, they will take their first tentative steps. 

What's your perspective?



Social Media + Big Data = Demand for Analytics

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 01, 2012

The technology watch word, regardless of industry application, is BIG DATA. Whether it is patient data in the health care industry, customer data in high tech or consumer data for packaged goods companies the collection of data and the storage of that data is attracting a lot of attention. Every storage company is touting the value of their products and their ability to store your valuable data. Why the focus on data? Perhaps it is because even more data is now available about our customers, be they business or consumer. Where is this data coming from? It is found in every social network, blog, video and slide sharing site.

Even as I was roaming the exhibits at the International Broadcasters Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam, last month, I noted the attention to BIG data and social media. The broadcast industry, like others, is rife with data. In its case, the data is internal - meta data - describing every media asset. And, for the first time, thanks to social media, broadcasters are able to directly gather data about their audience. Why? Because their audience is tweeting, updating, liking, gaming and interacting about their new, sports and entertainment programs. Rather than having to rely upon the insights of Nielsen, broadcasters can tap into the volumes of social media to understand the needs and demands of their audience.

Extrapolate this for every industry. Companies will collect, gather and store petabytes of data about their customers - raising the next big challenge - how to analyze and gather actionable insights from social monitoring tools and data gathered via other sources. Big data is not so precious, unless there are analytics to help companies understand the hidden value. Analytics will extrapolate the information necessary to support business strategies, marketing programs, financial decisions and R&D. Just as social networks will continue to evolve, social analytics companies such as NetBase, Evolve24 and Kontangent will emerge to disseminate meaningful insights beyond volume of likes, sentiment of comments and numbers of followers.

Storage companies, large and small, are hailing the importance of big data. they provide the hardware to store the data and the software to optimize the storage of it and manage the access to it. Social media will influence the rise of BIG data. Your social media plan must consider the volumes of data that will be uncovered and what to do with it. While social media efforts are often owned by marketing, the impact on IT resources is often neglected. Big data forces a collaboration between marketing and IT.  With that collaboration will come the assessment and use of analytics tools to create real value for companies engaging in social media strategies.

What's your perspective?





Social Media is Killing My Productivity!

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 23, 2012


Productivity: the ability to generate, create, enhance of bring forth goods and services. The economic success of nations has been defined based on productivity. 'Advanced' countries are those who used to lead in productivity. Why? Because they had invested in technology innovation, which help create efficiencies. According to a Harvard Business Review blog in May 2012, the United States enjoyed the greatest productivity increase from 1980 to 2000 thanks to the deployment of enterprise-wide IT. However, technology only improves productivity if it is aligned with changes in how work is done. The bottom line on productivity is to maker more using less.

Enter social media. Loss of employee productivity is one of the most frequently mentioned fears when considering adoption of social networking platforms. Executive perception has been that social networking is a recipe for disaster.  

  •      -  Employees will waste time or share proprietary corporate data 
  •      -  Corporate networks will be invaded by viruses and bandwidth will be maxed out
  •      -  Time will be consumed without a clear ROI

As mentioned in last weeks blog, fear is a powerful inhibitor. Given the current economic environment the focus on productivity is intense. In fact, global productivity has been in decline for the last few years. Corporations often capture revenue per employee as an indicator of efficiency and success. With overall productivity in decline, it is easy to imagine the fear felt by senior executives when faced with an unfamiliar communication platform that has infiltrated businesses by way of consumer adoption and success.  Social media was not originally designed for corporate use!

However, the rapid adoption grew due to a desire by customers for real-time, authentic engagement. Now, companies have the ability to adopt social media for external communication AND internal collaboration. Yet, the fear remains. How can businesses overcome the productivity concern? Be smart.  Align your use of enterprise 2.0 platforms (e.g., Yammer, Jive, NewsGator) or outbound networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) with how your business works. Every company has its own way of getting things done. These platforms should augment and simplify those processes. They may displace existing tools, requiring a learning period for new users.

More importantly guide employees on the usage of the tools. Keeping productivity as your target, consider advising employees to:

     - schedule time for managing social engagement
     - turn off notifications that may overwhelm your desktop
     - separate personal and professional use of social media

True social media aficionados will argue that meaningful engagement means listening and responding in a timely manner. However, not every organization can afford to dedicate personnel to monitoring social media full time. Barry Moltz blogs about how to Calm your Social Media Anxiety, with a focus on brands and consumers. His advice is also relevant to users of internal social collaboration platforms.

For those companies embarking on the use of social media to increase internal collaboration, understanding how and when to engage with colleagues will be useful. Many employees are already feeling overwhelmed due to persistent layoffs that increase existing workloads and existing platforms that can distract focus from the matters at hand. Most corporate employees are already a slave to their email inbox. Help them understand how enterprise micro-blogging can reduce their inbox clutter by resolving easy to answer questions quickly and allow others to see the answer to that question without creating and exhaustive email distribution list.

The fear is real. Concern about productivity is rampant. However, with a little education, patience and common sense social media can become a differentiator that improves collaboration, communication and ultimately, productivity!

What's your perspective?




The 4 Bs of B2B Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 25, 2012

It's all about business for any company engaging in social media. Sometimes we forget that these platforms are a means to an end. That end is revenue. All the effort to win fans, followers, interactions, comments and click-thrus is part of a comprehensive effort to increase visibility, generate leads and sell products.

So, why is social media so important for companies selling products and services to other companies? It's all about the 4 Bs.  

#1 - Business Intelligence:  Social media allows companies to share content and capture data. Various tools and platforms exist to discover, analyze and assess this data. Individuals and companies gain knowledge about the demographics of their customers, affiliated industries, emerging topics, key trends, competitor activities, opinions regarding products and services, and more. Social media provides additional insight that can help companies create and sustain powerful relationships with their customers.

#2 - Business Development: Revenue is the life blood of all companies.  Without it, a company will eventually disappear. Therefore any tools to simplify or accelerate the acquisition of new business, whether from new clients or existing accounts, are welcome. Social networks provide companies with additional channels through which they can identify prospects, learn about companies and individuals. Platforms, like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Branchout or Zerply, can help users figure out how to connect with key decision makers or influencers. Individuals can learn more about them via blogs, tweets, status updates, presentations or videos.  56% of B2B marketers acquire new business partnerships through social media (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report). Imagine that first meeting with an understanding of what's been top of mind for that individual based on their social commentary!  

#3 - Business Relationships: Once a relationship is developed, it takes effort to maintain it. It's not always possible to enjoy face time with contacts. Social networks provide an alternative method of staying in touch with colleagues, customers and competitors. It's possible to congratulate contacts on promotions or job changes, make introductions for peers seeking new roles and comment on shared content. Here at MAD Perspectives, we reach out to connections on a regular basis, simply to catch up with old business friends.

#4 - Business Conversations: Social networks are all about engagement. They provide a platform to discuss topics of mutual interest, ask & answer questions, collaborate on new ideas, share content and to learn. Entrants into a new markets can learn about local business culture, business priorities and key competitors. 62% of business technology decision makers now read and post comments on blogs (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report).  Participants can turn casual conversations into long-lasting relationships. However, just as in face-to-face conversations, each party must provide value to the other.

Social media mirrors the business activities of any company. It is simply another channel through which to pursue these actions. As you consider your use of social media, think about the 4 Bs. Perhaps you are using all 4, or maybe you've just started engaging. Either way, be strategic and tactical about how social media can help you connect, collaborate and communicate to achieve your business goals.

What's your perspective?



Facebook Stumbles, but Social Media is NOT Dead!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A lot has been written in the weeks since Facebook's IPO stumble.  The social media bubble has burst and all social networks are under close scrutiny.  If Facebook cannot succeed, then allegedly, none of the other networks can succeed either. What does this mean for all the adjacent platforms that are monitoring and analyzing our social behavior? The bubble burst, social media is dead, long live...what?

The focus on the financial models of social networks is long overdue.  Like the Internet bubble of the late 90's, many social networks have emerged with little differentiation and even weaker business models. A reliance on advertising  (e.g., Facebook, Foursquare) and group based coupon revenue (e.g., Groupon, Living Social)Advertising is simply not enough. Personally, I find the ads that appear on my Facebook page less than compelling and honestly, a nuisance. Location based services are intriguing and finding coupons for discretionary purchases are helpful.  However, most local businesses that I've talked to are not a fan of the Groupon model.

Facebook is popular, prevalent and provocative.  900 million monthly users (as of March 2012), 80% of which are outside the U.S. and Canada, reflecting over 125 billion (yes, that's a B!) friend connections and 3.2 billion Likes make Facebook both popular and prevalent.  It's provocative in the way it introduces new features or changes personal settings.  It's always asking for forgiveness, not permission.  This is reflected in its public launch.  While Facebook is certainly THE social network of all social networks given the previously noted statistics.  It's business model is still suspicious.  Facebook and its investors were hoping to ask for our forgiveness in the pricing of the stock  and number of shares issued, regardless of the fact that the corporate structure still leaves Mark Zuckerberg in full control of company strategy and decisions about future stock issues that could devalue the investment even further.

However, this does not mean that social media is dead. To the contrary, it's a wake up call to pay attention to the basics. A business plan must show how value will be created for customers. Value will translate into revenue. Revenue should be invested in further value creation in the form of product development,employees, R&D, partners and go-to-market channels. Social media has connected both consumers and business in a manner not previously seen. It's like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. Users of social media have an expectation for instantaneous access to information from friends, family and companies. We desire candid opinions and informal interaction. It's like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube. Once it's out, it's impossible to put it back in.

Like any emerging market, social media is now undergoing growing pains.  There has been an amazing amount of VC funding available to almost any company with a social proposition. The challenge is in converting ideas into sustainable businesses. Is it realistic that they can all survive? Of course not. There will be mergers, acquisitions and failures. Like Darwin's theory, it is survival of the fittest. And, that means those with a viable business plan.

What's your perspective?



Are You Authentic?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I've been thinking about what it means to be authentic.  This is perhaps one of the most overused words of the past few years, particularly as it relates to our use of social media.  Forbes has written about it, raising valid points about whether companies and individuals are truly authentic, or just using social media as another outlet for building their brand. Entrepreneur.com recently wrote about finding your voice (as did we last year!) and aligning with your brand.  And, Social Media Today has curated at least 750 articles that reference the term authentic.

So, I started looking around for a baseline, against which to measure true authenticity. It turns out I didn't need to look too far. The best example of unlimited exuberance, clear intentions, consistent messaging and bountiful joy is my dog. Yes, you read that right, my dog Whisky (and perhaps your dog too!) expresses his brand (a true mutt) in every action he takes. He loves his soft squeaky toys and throws them in front of me to entice me to play with him. Doesn't this sound a bit like tweeting (or is that squeaking)?  As we walk through our neighborhood, at the dog park or at the beach, he eagerly approaches other dogs and humans - confident in the connection he will make. Sounds a bit like LinkedIn to me (and yes he does remember them the next time he sees them, it just takes a quick sniff).

Whisky does have a Facebook page, but he doesn't update it very often. He doesn't want to post his status unless something meaningful has happened. If he were active on Pinterest, he would pin items related to dog toys, treats and rescue shelters. These are the products of high interest to him and are consistent with his brand. He is happiest when playing with a soft, squeaky toy or snuggling with his family. As a rescue dog himself, he wants all homeless dogs to find families to love them.

Does your social strategy provide your audience with the content and interactivity that they crave and demand? Do your posts reinforce your brand, yet provide a fresh voice? Social interaction is conversational and should not sound like a lecture. It should not simply be a rehash of existing marketing materials, but provide a new perspective. The unbridled enthusiasm of dogs gives us a view of activity to which individuals cannot help but respond. This should be the goal of any social strategy - engagement. If your content is authentic, your audience will engage and help you meet your goals whether they are related to awareness, lead generation, influence, product feedback, event attendance or more.

What's your perspective?