One way I’ve used to growth hack a business to create social ROI

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There’s nothing complicated about this method. It simply involves the following elements:

  1. A copy of your latest business plan, or a similar document.
  2. A day or half day according to your availability.
  3. The desire to align your marketing and overall business aims and objectives.

In the successful example working with curry snack food retailer Mindi’s I created a half day workshop using the business model canvas approach, and focused on a social model canvas version, which aligned with their business objectives. To note they hadn’t got a detailed business plan to work with, even though their business was already up and running.

Anyhow the results speak for themselves. Since the June 2013 workshop PR coverage rocketed, and the business has gone from strength to strength. I don’t claim credit for their hard work or product innovation, simply for the approach in aligning their marketing and business model canvas, to create a simple shared understanding between the co-founders of what needed to be done.

And as I observed following discussions at the excellent Socialbakers’ Engage 2014 event yesterday where they launched a new social ad analytics tool, there is a powerful added value to this approach to setting up your social media marketing. Going forward by aligning activity to business objectives going forward it will be much simpler to measure your social ROI, as demonstrated by Oliver Blanchard:

13 or so startups to watch

A great list of rising startups from Mashable, highlighted for the creative ‘geekfest’ that is SXSWi 2014; I’ve just numbered them for you so you can more easily spot the one you want to follow. For me its #11, based in London, its YPlan.

  1. Mulu, a company that currently offers ad plugins that allow products to be bought directly on a webpage. Mulu was started in 2011 and is led by CEO and founder Amaryllis Fox.
  2. Dapper looks to simplify men’s fashion in much the same way as Cool Guy by creating shoppable outfits for various occasions. Dapper launched on Feb. 24, making it among the youngest apps in attendance.
  3. Of course it’s not just about making the sale. Customers must be retained if a business is to survive. Windsor Circle, founded in 2011 and based in Durham, N.C., was started to track sales, analyze data and execute retention strategies to make one-time buyers into loyal customers.
  4. Enter Kiwi Wearables, a Canadian startup that is taking preorders for its first product. Kiwi Move is a small, nondescript wearable that attempts to link together just about anything in your life. The company, which was founded in mid-2013, claims its wearable will be able to understand gestures and track your activity level and even control voice-operated appliances.
  5. Wearables also offer a unique opportunity to do away with the dreaded password. Bionym‘s wearable bracelet uses your heartbeat to determine your identity. The company believes it does not need to stop at passwords, and could even do away with keys and even credit cards.
  6. Bionym was started in 2011 and joins a burgeoning field of biometric security startups like FST21and Microlatch.
  7. Active Protect has developed clothing that can detect falls and deploy small airbags to protect the hip bone, an area that is particularly susceptible to injury for older people.
  8. Kinsa is going after the other end of the age spectrum with a thermometer that plugs into smartphones to help parents track the health of their children.
  9. Start-ups from around the world will be at SXSWi in unprecedented numbers. Companies from 74 countries will take part in the festivities, up from 57 in 2013. Denmark is represented by The Eye Tribe, which seeks to bring affordable eye tracking to smartphones and tablets.
  10. AddSearch, from Finland, stays true to its name, adding a fast, effective search option to websites.
  11. YPlan was formed in the busy nightlife scene of London. It wants to help you find local events and pay for tickets in as few taps as possible.
  12. Eyeris is an emotion recognition company that can look back on webcams and read facial expressions to determine how a person reacted to a video.
  13. Large companies have been taking notice of the appeal in eye-controlled software. Facebook bought a similar company, GazeHawk, in 2012.

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The power of thinslicing applied to social media and community

A hard problem to solve

One of the hardest problems faced by clients and agencies alike is how to match up social media activity with bottom line business results. Part of that is because you can’t always easily see a straight cause and effect between levels of engagement on Facebook for example, and numbers of purchases. But perhaps the reason isn’t for lack of effort. Perhaps it helps to think about how customers make purchasing decisions, and how best to capture that? Certainly that’s what I focused on at Sony EU and it led me to move away from the simple numbers game, to include the qualitative.

To explain why I like the term thinslicing to tackle this question of how best to connect with customers using social data first take a look at the cool piece about data interpretation written by Lithium’s Dr Michael Wu, including this neat illustration:

The power of thinslicing

Identifying the value of thinslicing lies in the elegant and powerful way the term thinslicing connects the approach to data analytics to the behaviour that creates that data – namely with the thinslicing of online consumers who “tend to ignore most information available and instead ‘slice off’ a few relevant information or behavioral cues that are often social to make intuitive decisions,” as Brian Solis puts it. 

In other words by thinslicing, rather than using intuition to make decisions, I mean adopting a strategy which is based on the understanding that by connecting the means of analyzing the data with the way the data is created by customers.

The question then is why? While it may be clever to see a way which logically connects the way to analyse data with the way it’s created, why is that potentially so useful to a business? Now there’s a good question! The obvious answer is that by aligning the analytic method used by your business, with the way the data is created by your customers, you are going to produce better results in terms of both better quality actionable recommendations which also produce an increase in ROI. How does that sound?

Less is more

National Express Victoria Coach Station

“Click which photo better represents this place” – foursquare allows people to rank pictures

Not surprising in the gaming world this understanding is already paying serious dividends. A leading example is gaming company wooga which has carefully built its business by monitoring the data gathered by user responses, to tweak aspects of its online games to help boost engagement and thus ROI. In effect they are able to leverage user behaviour to give them what they want. By thinslicing social data effectively, figuring out what matters by understanding what customers want and ignoring the rest, the same benefits are available to your online business too. So by reducing the amount of data provided, you’re actually able to make better decisions about your customers, and you’re able to better understand how they making purchasing decisions online. It’s as simple as that.

CBA vs ROI (cost benefit analysis vs return on investment)

A great table and explanation of the difference uses and value of the two forms of measurement for social marketeers, from Angie Schottmuller in Search Engine Watch:

Cost-Based Analysis (CBA) Return on Investment (ROI)
Formula Benefits – Costs ( Benefits – Costs ) / Costs
Example $12,000 B – $1,000 C
= $11,000 CBA

$61,000 B – $50,000 C
= $11,000 CBA

($12,000 B – $1,000 C) / $1,000 C
= 11 or 1100% ROI

($61,000 B-$50,000 C) / $50,000C = 0.22 or 22% ROI

Format Dollar Value Percentage or Ratio
Purpose Analyze estimated cost impact. e.g. make a profit, break-even, take a loss. Analyze investment effectiveness for generating a profit.
Focus Profit Investment Return
Common Use Compare options using a common currency and justify bottom-line feasibility of spending. Assess profitability as a basis for continuing and prioritizing future investments.
Answers… Will we come out ahead? How effective were we at coming out ahead? What kind of payback did we get for the investment?

Note: An ROI of 1 or 100% implies you’d get back what you put into it, while CBA, also sometimes known as Cost-Benefit Analysis, has a $0 “break even” point.

Notice how in the examples above, the CBA for two different tactics with very different costs could be the same, while respective ROI sheds further light on the investment effectiveness.

Anyhow that’s not all from Angie, in the post there’s also a very helpful section on different calculation formulas which comes with the following presentation including said formulas for social SEO among others:

My social commerce Q&A today

Your amount of commercial experience in a senior eCommerce role?

>Running e-commerce & content for global startup MedicExchange for 18 months (mid 2006 – end 2007) and heading up e-commerce in terms of marketing and SEO at eBay Inc’s Shopping.com UK for 15 months (June 2010 – Sept 2011); most recently in an innovative social commerce analytics role (contract) for Sony EU.

Your level of PPC Account Management and Optimisation skills?

>Ran the PPC campaign for MedicExchange to promote the site globally to specialists in the US, EU and Asia; monitored the results and altered the bidding and budget accordingly to optimise results; site estimated worth of $15m when I exited in 2007)

Your multichannel marketing (Print, Display, PPC, SEO, Mobile, Affiliate) experience?

>Shopping.com was a truly multi-channel marketing role, working with BallouPR to create print-based marketing in the form of a shopper survey in the Metro, and working with the Sun to run a Xmas mercy story for example; I worked in close collaboration with the PPC manager at Shopping.com to maxmise our ROI based on my previous experience at MedicExchange; in SEO I took the lead for building backlinks through blogger outreach, for undertaking an audit of on-page technical fixes including keyword optimisation and removal of duplicate content issues; on the mobile side we used CRM to promote our mobile app to our customers; I took the lead to build the affiliate network by building a relationship with independent consumer organisation Which? including taking free guides on our site, and for example working with 3M to promote a mobile app ‘Shopping Genius’ which was powered by our affiliate feed.

Your level of Google Analytics & Adwords experience?

>I’ve used Google Analytics to measure the success of standard web analytics social SEO initiatives in numerous roles, and used Adwords to research keywords for both PPC and social SEO purposes.

That you have a track record of improving conversion, sales or other metrics?

>Most recently I’ve contributed to the success of Sony EU Q3 marketing metrics by setting up a social dashboard with partner Socialbakers to capture performance against agreed KPIs and feeding that back into improved performance in the order of a 5-10% improvement in both UK and DE.

Despite tough competition Shopping.com UK maintained a steady visitor rate throughout 2011 of 1.5m visits every day, with 17m qualified leads delivered to merchants each month, despite the impact of Google Panda’s algorithm changes.

In terms of the ratio of orders to clicks Shopping.com UK returned a broadly steady 1.5% conversion in Q2 and Q3 2011, achieving sixth place out of the top ten comparison sites in the marketplace.

If you have any Product Management experience?

>After being headhunted to set up the ICAEW community, working with Microsoft UK, I was given a product management role as the community platform was the very first iteration of the code by the software builders. More recently at Sony EU the role involved product managing a social dashboard, starting by crowdsourcing metrics from across EU social media managers, and creating a multi-data driven dashboard from providers including Reevoo, Socialbakers, and Radian6.

Google’s 2010 social search patent

Go straight to the patent: US20110106895

This approach is very different from the earlier search
model of using authority as a measure of trust. In a
document-based world (such as the early days of
the Internet when only web pages existed), trust was
measured by how credible a document was. The
credibility was measured by how many citations (links)
a web page received. This is why link building is such
an important aspect of SEO. Web pages need links to
improve their credibility or “trust” in the eyes of the search
engines. This, in turn, improves their rankings.

But, as the patent states, in a social environment, you
don’t measure trust by authority; instead, you measure it
by intimacy. For example, if a family member recommends
a good restaurant, you’re more likely to believe them than
an anonymous reviewer online. That’s because you know
your family member, and because of that relationship/
closeness, you have trust.

Social search represents considerable opportunity for
search engines because they want to deliver more
personalized search results. But in order to do so, they
need to understand who you know and how well you
know them. Tapping into your online social signals allows
them to do just that.

Here’s a reminder of what Google said about social search in 2011: