Keeping Up with Technological Developments

HTML has been around for almost twenty years, co-existing on our computers and the internet. It is the backbone of online content, entertainment, news, porn and spam. It would be hard to imagine the world sans HTML, even if most people are not even aware of its existence. Like acarid. Nonetheless, the hyper text markup language is now evolving to its 5th iteration and is gaining momentum (thanks to Opera 10, Safari 4, Chrome and Firefox 3.5 who support it, but not IE) with some saying it represents the future of web surfing.

I’m not going to cover the specifics of the language since it has already been done extensively on other channels (A List Apart,HTML5Doctor and HTML5Gallery come to mind), though I have to say I’m quite excited to see it implement a tag structure that reinforces the site/blog layout. Well done. Instead, I’d like to take this discussion to a broader level: Do you feel like you can keep up with new technological developments? New social networks are popping up daily, WordPress’ plugin database gets increasingly bigger, Flash once was the future of the web before falling out of fashion. Websites now need to be conceived for normal screens, netbook screens and mobile screens while still performing nicely on an extensive list of browsers. As content marketers, you want to spend most of your time building great, interesting, fantastic, link-worthy content, not running afterUsain Bolt. So I’d like to ask you this: how important is it for you to remain on top of new technological developments? Does it make you more efficient at your job or does it slow you down? Are you excited by technological novelties? Overwhelmed? Where do you draw the line?

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Content Marketing Event: New Media 2012

Social and geopolitical changes, combined with economic and environmental factors, are rapidly altering, twisting and shaping the online landscape. While it’s daunting to keep track of how far we’ve come in the past few years, it’s absolutely staggering to imagine what New Media will look like in the next 3 years. This is the topic that thought-provoking professionals will tackle at New Media 2012 event.

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A Look into Sentiment Analysis for Brands

Are you popular? Do people love you or your brand? Is there an angry mob awaiting your tweets with pitchforks? Let’s face it, people’s opinion about your brand matters a lot in this social media age. Reviews and ratings is a sought-after feature for users and studies have shown that it does have an influence on perceptions and sales. Nothing groundbreaking here.

Measuring online sentiments for a brand is a time consuming but invaluable process. Many startups have seen a business opportunity here in providing people and businesses with measurement and analytics tools that would do just that – drawing the portrait of a brand’s online perceptions. The New York Times has an in depth article on the subject that is well worth your time.

Newssift is one of these startups. They’ve put together an engine that gathers online information about a brand, then scans them through their algorithm. As explained by the New York Times, “the simplest algorithms work by scanning keywords to categorize a statement as positive or negative, based on a simple binary analysis (“love” is good, “hate” is bad).” Wonder what sorts of results you would get? I ran one of my favourite brands within the engine to test it out.

Sentiments towards Apple are overwhelmingly positive and neutral. This gets broken down into more specific trends that tells us what works for Apple (iPhone, computer security) and what doesn’t (management, iPhone apps, voice apps.) This analysis can be taken to Twitter too. Tweetfeel and Twendz are two sites attempting to measure sentiments on the popular channel.

Of course algorithms can’t measure all the subtleties of the human language, nor can they measure something other than English (at least for now.) Indeed, “that approach fails to capture the subtleties that bring human language to life: irony, sarcasm, slang and other idiomatic expressions. Reliable sentiment analysis requires parsing many linguistic shades of gray (NYTimes).” Nonetheless, this is an encouraging start for sentiment analysis. I’m looking forward to have these features integrated to search engines in the near future! What are you waiting for Google?

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Measuring your Social Media Efforts

Is your time spent on social media networks worth your investment? When using social tools for marketing purposes, you need to provide metrics that will justify your efforts. But how can you measure discussions, tweets, engagement and relationships?

Setting Up Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators, more commonly known as KPIs, are essential to any social media strategies. Without them, the vast array of information generated by channels you are active on will be too overwhelming to make sense of. By setting up clear indicators, your measurements will have focus and meaning.

Your KPIs will be dependent of your overall social media strategy. Why are you entering the social sphere in the first place? Is it to monitor discussions around your brand, to promote your brand and products, to raise awareness of your blog? Whatever the reason is, your KPIs need to reflect those goals.

Traffic Is only One Variable

Measuring and monitoring traffic is the most common (and overrated) aspect of web analytics. Your traffic statistics might tell you that your site or blog is popular but unfortunately it doesn’t say anything about engagement, your type of visitors nor conversion rates. When active on social media channels, the latter becomes as important as just pure traffic. Here are some important KPIs that you will want to monitor:

  • Engagement
  • Brand Monitoring
  • Conversions/Subscriptions
  • Leads
  • Demographics

Measuring your Efforts Through KPIs

On a more practical level, here are some tips to measure these different KPIs:

Engagement and Brand Monitoring:

These two are the trickiest to measure as you are attempting to quantify human behaviors and relationships, and those don’t fit so nicely in a spreadsheet. Here some sub-indicators are essential: Are people gunning for your brand and you would like to change perceptions? Here a ratio of positive versus negative discussions happening on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like would provide a sensible measurement tool. By keeping a daily, weekly or monthly record of these discussions over time, you’ll have a clearer picture of your efforts. Engagement on blogs can be monitored through comments, link juice and birthing of surrounding discussions on other blogs.

Conversion and Subscriptions:

A great and easy to set KPI is your subscribers, especially through email and RSS channels. Having 10,000 followers on Twitter might not be a reliable sign of conversion, but having 15 new people subscribing to your email updates or RSS feed definitely is. Many consider having subscribers as one of the highest form of engagement. Feedburner provides invaluable statistics to anyone using their subscribing services.

Leads:

If you’re in the white paper and case studies industry, leads are what you’re after. To generate leads, you need to generate awareness. By measuring a ratio of exposure versus qualified leads, you can get pretty strong statistics. Breaking these number by channels (Twitter, blogs, etc.) seems essential, though you’ll need to know where leads came from in the first place. Setting up links with identifiers can help you get there along with a properly set analytics program (such asGoogle Analytics.)

Demographics:

We saw last week how Quantcast can provide you with demographic details concerning your website. If for instance you want to increase awareness of your brand or products to women, this analytics service will provide you with enough statistics to cross-reference with your social media activity.

Measuring social media activity can be done when the right KPIs are set. Be focused, monitor regularly and most importantly stick with your indicators and you’ll have a sense of your social media efforts.

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Quantcast Demographics – The Ravelry Example

If you don’t know about Quantcast yet, you are missing out on a wealth of statistics that can help you with research, project planning and to understand your audience. Indeed, Quantcast is an analytics service that provides demographic information on sites’ user bases. Before going any further, let’s have a look at the popular social network Ravelry:

This first chart provides an overview of visits over time. This is quite similar stats provided by services such as Compete, though it covers a wider range of websites than the latter.

This is where it gets interesting. Quantcast breaks down visits numbers into very detailed chunks of demographic information. Here we understand that Ravelry is majorly attended by women between the age of 35 to 49 that are Caucasians. A majority of them don’t have kids, are educated and come almost in equal parts from all economic backgrounds. Here’s another representation of the data:

Next time you are planning a Content Marketing research project, have a look at your audience and get to know them first hand – it will hugely benefit your marketing efforts!

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