Univeral Amplifier

Universal Amplifier

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Improving Social Media Measurement

This week our Media Analysis Director for Universal Information Services, Jared Troutman, traveled to San Francisco to participate in a key conference. The Social Media & Web Analytics Innovation conference (#SMWA), which aims to drive success through innovation, has brought together key innovators and users of web based content. Over the next two days of the conference we’ll be posting notes, observations, and thoughts from the conference. We encourage you to comment and engage in the discussion. Our mission is to improve the science of social media measurement, while continuing to innovate on the services we offer our clients.

The key is to constantly innovate, constantly explore, and take advantage of all that social media offers.
Notes from Jared Troutman


Final Thoughts from Jared Tourtman
The Social Media & Web Analytics Innovation conference proved to be a very useful forum for connecting, sharing, and learning issues related to our measurement of social media. While some people grumbled about the more technical material presented that was geared more towards engineers (sentiment extraction through machine learning and polystructured data anyone?), most agreed that the diverse group of presenters and attendees allowed everyone to learn a little something, exchange business cards, and come away with the idea that the more you learn about social media, the more you realize you don’t know – and it changes at such a rapid pace that the very idea of reducing the science to an epistemelogically sound set of ideas is nearly impossible. However, as some of the panelists stressed, the point is not to measure everything, but to measure what you can, as the return on investment for companies engaged who are engaging with social media speaks for itself.

Measuring what matters depends on goals and objectives. Exchanging ideas and opinions on this topic is what drives innovation.

Day 2
12:37pm PT, Friday, 26, 2013
Jason Valentzas, Vice President of Digital Content & Multi-Platform Development at Turner Broadcasting, started off day two of the Social Media & Web Analytics Summit by expanding the definition of social media beyond Facebook and Twitter to include other sites such as YouTube. Asserting that are these other sites are instrumental in furthering discussion and buzz – the most important thing to remember in your social media strategy is to put your resources where they will have the greatest impact.


He discussed TruTV’s show Impractical Jokers’ social media objective: how to bring fans into our social domain? Valentzas’ team created an app, consisting of a hotline for fans to directly call the Jokers themselves – it resulted in almost 1 million calls. They also created a live chat room for fans to talk with their prankster heroes. Despite his success, Valentzas’ biggest teacher is failure – “failure is the path to learning and success. Take risks and experiment – don’t be afraid to fail.”

One of Valentzas’ lessons learned is to know your audience – Impractical Jokers’ fans weren’t receptive when TruTV marketed other shows to them in social media. Valentzas learned that he must entertain and engage his audience, but not overestimate fan loyalty. “You have to feed the beast, you can’t make him eat what he doesn’t like.”

Following Valentzas was Shashi Khatri, who delivered a very popular talk this morning. Khatri, Principal Data Scientist at BitTorrent, cautioned that correlation doesn’t equal causality. His example, “Do Umbrellas Cause Rain?” was one of the most re-tweeted comments of the conference.


Another insightful presentation was given by Dan Soschin, Associate Vice President of Interactive Marketing for the American Public University System, who stressed the importance of creating and facilitating human relationships through social media. He found that students who were more engaged in social media experienced a better academic outcome.

Soschin detailed his endeavors in “quantifying the unquantifiable,” but cautioned that quantifying is only part of the picture – you must share the story around the data, saying the “worst thing you can do as a marketer is to provide data without explaining it.”


Media Analysis Director for Universal Information Services, Jared Troutman (left), talking social media strategy with Thomas Gee, Manager of Marketing Intelligence of Hewlett-Packard.
Talking Social Media Strategy |Universal Information Services

Friday 5:00pm, April 26
The final panel at #smwa was also the most controversial. An interactive round table discussion between the audience and Keith Pape, Vice President, Social & Emergine Media of the Ayzenberg Group, Sandeep Balijepalli, Software Engineer at Cisco Systems, and Dr. Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist at the Social Media Research Foundation, discussed the theme of “Engaging Your Customers for More Effective Marketing.”

Smith led off the discussion with a NodeXL map (a favorite of Universal’s) of the entire conference – those who tweeted #smwa. Following an audience question of what constitutes the greatest challenge for social media, a discussion soon ensued over who owns your data, and how much data should be provided back to users given that we freely submit our data to social media companies.

Smith said that we as users are reaching the limit of our good will – we need to demand our own data. He compared social media sites to a dancing bear – “we were so enthralled at first with seeing the bear dance, but now we need it to dance well.” Facebook makes roughly $4 per user, and Smith said he would gladly pay $5 out of his pocket for his own data, but doubted that most users would be willing to do the same. Smith concluded his thoughts on the matter by saying “if you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product.”

Day 1
10:53am PT Thursday, April 25, 2013
This morning’s speakers focused on the immense importance of social media to the world today – according to Robert Harles, Bloomberg’s Global Head of Social Media, it’s in our DNA to congregate and share. However, most business executives do not yet understand or appreciate its strategic value (yay for you Todd!) as many are frightened. However, there is no ignoring its importance (remember how stocks recently dropped the other day due to a fake Associated Press Tweet that the White House was bombed) or the fact that social media for business is here to stay.

Ajantha Suriyanarayanan, Director of Global Consumer Behavior for VISA, gave a very good presentation, starting with the statistic that 33% of consumers’ morning routine starts with checking Facebook, before brushing our teeth or showering – “come on, we all sleep with our devices.” There are two reasons to care about social media, its moments of spontaneity and its virality. These two features are leading us to a “global voice.”

Challenges facing the industry (any industry that uses social media): reliability of data. Things change at a rapid pace, every day there are new developments; lack of ability to determine demographics, where to spend money (tried and true traditional media or should we invest in social media experimentation), and technical challenges, like coding sentiment. For those who are defining, and refining, social media measurement these issues are top of mind.

3:48pm PT Thursday, April 25, 2013
Ryon Harms, Director of Social Media for Farmers Insurance, spoke of human-centric brand messaging at the Social Media and Web Analytics conference in San Francisco. According to Harms, using social media to extol the virtues of your products is counterproductive. Rather, the key to optimizing your company’s social media presence is to add the “human element” – that is talk about who you are, and why you get out of bed every morning. In this way you dimensionalize your employees, and thus dimensionalize your company.

For example, Harms spoke of an agent who used Facebook to sell insurance. Rather than talk about their products, the agent posted about his family, his community activities, his favorite sports teams. The agent found that he got more “likes” and reshares than the agents who only spoke policy, and these likes and reshares translated into increased sales for that agent. By focusing on his family and community, the agent was humanized, which is key in the world of social media. After all, it’s “Facebook,” not “Logobook.”


Tips from Harms: Listen to your employees, and find the answers inside people at the edges of your organization. Keep lines of communication open, and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Before banning employees from Facebook at work, think about how those social interactions can drive business – “let go a little bit.” (a great lesson in applying the #Samerules of community to the #Newtools of social media-editors note)

Evening Report: Thursday April 25, 2013
What Amount of Negative Buzz is Bad?

In the last session for Thursday, Elizabeth Keck, Market Research Consultant for the American Cancer Society, gave a thoughtful presentation on how she gained insight from her organization’s negative social media coverage. Negative buzz can be useful to an organization, she opined, because “social media represents the unfiltered, unsolicited voice of the customer.”


Keck found that the American Cancer Society had 19% negative sentiment, not good right? But how does that compare to other organizations? Keck and her team tracked their social media sentiment over time, and found that similar non-profits also had a similar rate. She then decided to compare her industry’s negative buzz to that of other industries, picking one that would seem to draw a lot of negative buzz (cable providers) and one that would seem to generate positive sentiment (ice cream manufacturers). Keck found that her rate of negative sentiment was thankfully more similar to the ice cream industry rather the cable industry, and, using ACS’ trends, competitors’ trends, and the ice cream industry trends, was able to establish a reliable threshold at 25 percent – so according to Keck, 19% negative buzz really isn’t so bad.

Rather than being frustrated with negative buzz, in social or traditional media, Keck realized her sentiment was comparable to other organizations in her industry. The key, she said, was to track the trends of your buzz over time, compare those figures to your competitors, and then compare your figures to other industries. In that way, you can determine just how much negativity towards your organization is too much.


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