The big challenge for social media attribution

Tracking the effect of social media can be a challenge, particularly in regards to attributing conversion rates and sales in areas such as eCommerce. A study just released by Adobe puts social as the source of 2% of traffic to U.S retailers, in comparison to 40% coming directly, and 34% from search.

That’s probably accurate in terms of direct traffic sources to those websites, but it’s not the whole picture. And I have a particular example to illustrate it.

The Passage of Time


Time – an enemy of attribution?

Back in 2004, a film named Fröken Sverige was released, starring Alexandra Dahlströhm. It was the same year Facebook launched for Harvard students, the year after the arrival of Myspace, and two years before Twitter arrived. It was also the first film to star Dahlströhm since her debut in 1998, in a great Lukas Moodyson film.

In March, 2007, I joined Twitter.

During the next two years, I met a lot of great people online, and followed up by meeting a fair number of them in person. One of the people I started following and occasionally chatting with was @Sizemore, who is best described by his About page as writing for TV and film.

He’s a great example of someone who I would have never probably met if not for social media, and whose tastes  are generally not too far from my own – and when they are, there’s normally still things of interest in there.

So I noticed when he praised Fröken Sverige in 2009.

And added it to my Amazon wish list, plus bookmarked it as a film to buy. But at the time, it was pretty expensive. It was also impossible to find on streaming services, and I even checked whether it could be found on any sharing sites.

Now more than 3 years later, I happened to be going through old lists and decided to see whether it was available for a more reasonable amount. A secondhand copy was on offer at a decent price, and a few days later it arrived – it’s now sat next to my laptop to encourage me to finish work so I can finally watch it!

So that film took 9 years to arrive in my house, 3+ years after a personal recommendation from a website, and probably 4+ years after I happened to start following Sizemore on Twitter.

Finally obtained. 8 years after release and 3 since @sizemore  recommended it

There’s no cookie or tracking software which can account for that. And yet, that purchase would not have happened if I hadn’t signed up to Twitter and spent time actively using it.

Can the gap be closed?

Is there any way to close that knowledge gap for a retailer, without either largely removing the privacy of a consumer by tracking and cross-referencing everything they’ve ever seen (Which could be a potential end goal for Google and Facebook)? This particular example stuck in my mind, but the same process is happening much more often and is going uncredited by me, let alone analytics software.

Or should we accept that some circumstances are just unknown, and online word-of-mouth is at least more visible than the offline equivalent?

With current technology, I’d suggest that the trending growth of social media traffic and attributable conversions is an indicator of how it’s really changing, but that it underestimates the impact by a considerable degree. It’s easier for clients who have traffic-based businesses, such as media companies – they just need people to visit their site, which is an instantaneous decision.

It’s also why I always recommend combining a variety of traffic sources, and making allowances for how accurately each can be traced.

But I wonder if any conversion rate specialists have other answers? We’ll be posting a follow up on Wednesday with some answers to this challenge.

Failing to understand the social media economy?

This is a great example of how you can listen to someone talk about the way that social media, social business and engagement are all supposed to work, and yet miss the entire point when it comes to actually trying to interact. If you’re not familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s worth me pointing out there’s some strong language.

It’s so often the case, particular with larger companies and the relentless need to show immediate ROI that even when someone understands the concept of earning what they want, that they succumb to the temptation of just diving straight in with the request, because someone has insisted they need to show results in the next day or week.

(Incidentally, Gary has released two books, Crush It! and The Thank You Economy. Both are well worth reading).

It’s why I’m been sharing this article by Michael Ellsberg on the Forbes website – a recommendation from one notable blogger did more for the success of his book than national broadcast television or newspapers. But the flipside is that he’d built that relationship up over a period of years, rather than days, weeks or months.

That’s also potentially a great reason to use freelance resources, which is something I intend to expand on. If you’re a new company or you’ve never tried earning coverage and referrals before, then it can take a long time to build those relationships. Whereas I’ve tried to work on them every day for the past decade, which is why I’m able to survive via word-of-mouth referrals and work via previous clients, colleagues and friends.

Great event combines my passion for social media and motorcycles

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be one of the speakers at Torque Social, which is a new social media event dedicated to the motorcycle industry. It runs from Thursday 9th February until Friday 10th February 2012 at The Manor House Hotel in Gloucestershire, and should be a fantastic event as it combines two of the biggest passions in my life – using new technology to benefit businesses and their customers, and motorcycles.

Incidentally, if you book before December 16th, 2011, you can save up to £124 on tickets. And in addition to the focus of the event on explaining how to get real returns on using social media and technology, there’s also a networking dinner and the chance to grab 1-to-1 sessions with the speakers, meaning you can come away with really specific advice and actions for your business.

Social Media is perfect for motorcycling:

Without wanting to give too many spoilers as to what I’ll be running a seminar on, it’s great to see the motorcycle industry starting to embrace social media as a way to engage with their customers. Motorcyclists are some of the most passionate, knowledgable, and enthusiastic people on the planet when it comes to spending time and money on their hobby, but also sharing their love with other people.

And there’s always been a social aspect, whether it’s ride-outs, bike meets, or the experience of being part of a convoy of hundreds of bikers heading to an event. And along with the usual age, location and other social strata, there’s the fact that motorcyclists handily tend to divide themselves into groups by the type of bike they ride, and often the make and model.

Add the fact that most bikers are also keen on gadgets and technology, hence the huge number of forums and messageboards that have been around for many years, and the fact biking often becomes part of life rather than a hobby, and you can see the massive opportunities, especially as motorcycling is often under pressure from outside forces, such as Government legislation.

Plus, bikes are cool.


The best tips for online writing with reference to famous celebrities (Article for training purposes)

Writing online, optimising for search engines and marketing your digital content via social media isn’t rocket science. In fact, the basics of digital journalism, SEO and getting seen on Facebook or Twitter are really simple, but it’s the rigorous application of them that can prove problematic for a lot of people. But you can learn how to nail your blog posts, get ranked first on Google and become a social networking expert by learning from generic celebrity X.

Yellow Journalism


Discovering, sourcing and verifying articles:

There are a number of ways for online journalists to discover promising new stories. In addition to building contacts the traditional way, it’s possible to use social networking tools such as Twitter Search or Google Trends to monitor for a sudden surge in traffic for a term or phrase. And social networks can also be incredibly useful for finding people to quote or interview, in addition to specific tools for journalists, such as Newsbasis or Help A Reporter Out.

Using data in this way can be a temptation to emulate a content farm, but can also be useful for quality, investigative journalism and great content.



Delivering online journalism and SEO content:

Make sure your articles are written for people first, but ensure that search engines are also included in your audience with a few basic steps, such as including your keyword early in your article, ideally with a link to a relevant part of your site and the desired anchor text. And don’t forget to put your keyword first in your short and relevant headline.

Research variations on your keyword or phrase to avoid repetition, and don’t be tempted to just stuff your content with the same keyword over and over again as it won’t increase your ranking, but will annoy your readers. If you’re looking for relevant keywords, you can use Google’s keywords tool to find which are the subject of popular searches, whether for global or local audiences. You can also use H1, H2 and H3 tags on your site to ensure the right sections are highlighted.

Social Media Day


Social Media and inbound links

Social Media won’t necessarily help you rank higher in Google, but it can drive traffic to your site, and also help to get content indexed more quickly by the search engines. You can post links to your content to Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and you should find that it appears in search results faster, particularly if it is repeated by popular Twitter users.

You can also gain inbound links by posting comments on relevant blogs in the same subject area as your article, as long as you leave genuine and interesting comments and your article is relevant. You can also email the bloggers and website owners who run sites in your area of expertise and ask if they’d be interested in linking to your article, quoting from it, or even offering to guest post for them.

The important thing is not to spam either your social networks or fellow bloggers, and not to worry too much about whether links are DOFollow or NOFollow – a natural ratio of incoming links includes both, so you’ll look like a spammer if you only have one.


Tempted to dismiss social media marketing as ‘just common sense’

The inevitable backlash against social media specialists has been growing recently. The problem seems mainly to stem from self-described ‘social media experts’ who aren’t able to back up their claims, despite the fact the same is true for a lot of other people attempting to promote themselves in other professions. For the record, the only time terms such as ‘expert’ or ‘thought leader’ should really be used is in reference to someone other than yourself!

One of the main reasons given for dismissing social media expertise is that ‘social media marketing is just common sense’. And despite the fact I’m hired to work for clients in the social media field, I’d say that’s true to some extent. The basic principles of social media such as being interesting, engaging in conversation etc are pretty much common sense – so I don’t need to run through the whole list.

But if common sense basic principles are enough to do without specialists then explain the following:

  • Budgeting is common sense but we still have accountants and financial advisors (and high levels of personal debt)
  • Being fit and healthy is common sense but we still have coaches and trainers.
  • Avoiding addictive substances is common sense but we still have problems with caffeine, nicotine, alcohol etc.

I think you might get my point, but essentially you can boil anything down to common sense – running the country, curing world hunger, or having a happy relationship and family life.

But we hire external experts because we either need them to help us plan how to do it, to support us in doing it, or to kick us into ensuring we do it. We hire them because they live and breathe that subject and will help us to surpass the common sense bits and take us into a more efficient and effective area.

And common sense is a rarely used tool.

I’ll leave it to someone like Mark Earls to fully explain how many of the decisions we post rationalise as ‘common sense’ are actually the result of other factors, such as following the herd.

And plenty of people have looked at why businesses regularly fail at anything approaching common sense. In fact corporations are often legally prevented from some common sense actions.

Common Sense

Common sense tends to be something that we refer to in hindsight, normally in response to a mistake. And often in response to mistakes in marketing and particularly in social media. We’ll ask why someone didn’t use their common sense, and inevitably see someone else do a similar thing within hours.

So the next time you find someone dismissing social media marketing, or anything else, as common sense, ask yourself how many qualified specialists they’ve dealt with in the last 24 hours. And if you’re worried about ‘social media experts’ the clue is to not look at their self-chosen title, but to look at their work, their references, their reputation, and their results. If that’s all missing, it isn’t a problem with social media, it just conforms to Sturgeons Law like everything else.


No more social media excuses…

If you’re still thinking that your industry, business or employees aren’t able to use social networks and social media marketing effectively, you might want to take a look at this:

Army Social Media Handbook 2011

View more documents from U.S. Army.

Yep,that’s the U.S Army Social Media Handbook, January 2011, from the official slideshare account of the U.S Army. And not only that but they’re actively asking for feedback on it.

And if that’s spurred you into action, but you’d like some assistance, I’m always happy to help!

Report shows social companies make more money

A new report by McKinsey shows that ‘fully networked enterprises are not only more likely to be market leaders or to be gaining market share but also use management practices that lead to margins higher than those of companies using the Web in more limited ways.’ Or, in non-consultant speak – by being social inside and outside your company, you’ll make more money, and be able to get higher profits.

Cash Money by jtyerse on Flickr (CC Licence)

'Cash Money' by jtyerse on Flickr (CC Licence)

Networked enterprises are using collaborative technology and techniques to connect internal employees, and also to improve communication with customers, suppliers and partners. And the report also notes that the trend for using these tools is following an S-curve, which means rapid adoption by a lot of companies as they realise they can earn more.

Want to become social?

There are a couple of elements missing from the McKinsey report summary – firstly, it’s not just enough to roll out some new social technology. It won’t do anything for your business just sitting there, and that includes customer social outreach like blogs, social media, video sharing etc.

Ideally you should plan for the best and most effective social technologies which will have an impact on your employees and your customers, and the ways in which they will need to be encouraged, maintained, and evolved over the time. That might sound scary, but it’s actually a part of the process which I love – essentially putting together what your customers want, what your employees want, and how that can create revenue for your business. And if you’d like some assistance, then look for someone with experience of rolling out new social technology and knowledge transfer.

Then there’s the willingness to experiment, take risks, and also embrace the occasional failure. Too many companies are paralysed by fear of failing, when any social iniative carries an inherent flaw which you’ll never get rid off – dealing with humans! The effective route is not to avoid collaboration and social initiatives, but to start simple and plan 2 or 3 initiatives in the short term. One of those new ideas which takes off will more than compensate for the others – and in addition to productivity and revenue increases, it’ll also pave the way for more successes in the future, as long as you continue to evolve and progress it.

There’s an almost overwhelming abundance of opportunities out there, and keeping it simple and effective is key, with the agility to help it evolve and change your business for the better.

The meme-ing of Christmas

I’d been meaning to write about how social networks really do seem to have killed something with regards to blogging – the blog meme. Rather than posting and tagging people to get their opinions, which used to happen a lot a couple of years ago, people are just asking the same questions on Twitter and Facebook. Bit of a shame for longer answers (And the chance to get some backlinks!).

And then Eaon tagged me in a blog meme.Originally started by Rob Campbell.


So, in response:

1/ Best single thing [personal &/or professional] you did/achieved in 2010.

Professionally, the best thing by far has been the fact that rather than sign-on for unemployment benefit whilst applying for every job available, I took the opportunity to try to start my own business. Thanks to a great number of wonderful people I’ve managed to secure some great clients, avoid bankruptcy, and although I’m still speaking to people about potential permanent roles in the future, I can limit it to those opportunities which are truly amazing, and that can stack up against building up my own empire.

Personally, I also have to say I’m immensely proud of finally turning some talk into action, and starting up Digital People in Peterborough. So far there have been two pub meets, with about 15 people coming along to each, plus around 40 people signed up for the old site. So with a new site and a new year, it should be even better in 2011.

2/ Most shameful thing [personal &/or professional] you did/achieved in 2010.

Probably the biggest source of shame has been launching a new business and a couple of personal sites when I have a young family to support and spend time with. The balance between work, my own sites (ORD and FPSPrestige), and my family is getting better with time, but it can definitely be a struggle at times. And as a result, this blog has suffered quite a bit in terms of regular updates providing value to everyone as well as hopefully attracting a little bit of new business. Plus 140Char has been effectively shuttered since October.

3/ Ad industry scandal or scoundrel of the year.

I’m not strictly an ad man, and don’t fancy picking out something from one of the bad advertising lists elsewhere, so I’ll generically call out all of the businesses who typically spend lots of time and money on shiny adverts which promise lots and don’t deliver.

That includes companies who are now claiming to be social or engaged as bandwagon jumping, but haven’t invested the time and effort behind the scenes to make it part of their actual business process. At it’s core social media and engagement is about customer service and conversation, and not pitching someone one week and then sending him a generic PR link-building request the next (It’s happened to me several times as people failed to click on the About page on this site, for example).

4/ Your overall rating for 2010 out of 10. [1 = shit / 10 = showoff]


It’s been a challenging year, and the current economic and political environments aren’t making life easier. But I’ve managed to conquer several obstacles, and I’m pretty proud of both my business, and some of the resulting efforts of my clients. I don’t think 2011 will be easier or any less hectic, but I’ve got a far clearer picture of what I need to be doing, and it seems like the last month in particular has built a lot of momentum for 2011.

5/ What do you think will be the most overhyped advertising related subject of 2011?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a good example of fantastic technology which really isn’t being used very well by a lot of people. (Looks like Forrester agree with me on that one). But I can’t see that stopping more companies jumping on mobile, tablets and technology like AR without stopping to sort out their underlying business strategy and approach first. I’m confident that most magical solutions generally fall back to a base level fairly quickly, and that includes Apple platforms like the iPad and the iAd ad network.

Technology is awesome and something that I truly love, and there are great opportunities in utilising new technology as soon as possible. But if your basic plans don’t work with the most basic of tools, then any new technology solution is just going to mask it in the short term.

Who am I tagging:

Apparently I need to pick on five people and distract them from their Christmas relaxation, so I’ll go for: