Channel 4, LinkedIn, Staffs Police, Synthesio: the social reputation debate at #smwf 27/3/12


I’m very honoured to be moderating a great panel at tomorrow’s Social Media World Forum Europe at Olympia, London on the subject of managing your company’s online reputation via social media.

The panel participants will be:

Colin Smith, Director of Marketing Solutions UK, LinkedIn

Colin Watkins, Digital Communications Manager, Channel 4

David Bailey, Neighbourhood Communications Manager, Staffordshire Police

Catriona Oldershaw, Managing Director UK, Synthesio

If you are attending Social Media World Forum around 3.50pm tomorrow, please do stop by. It promises to be a cracking debate.

Why conversion segments in Google Analytics are sexy as hell for PR (#pranalytics, #CIPR)


I had the pleasure of presenting at the PR Analytics Conference in London last week along with a number of big names in the field including Pleon’s David Rockland and Jim Desler, Worldwide Head of PR for Microsoft.

There was a large audience of senior PR folk in the room. My presentation was about how PR pros could use Google Analytics (GA) to better effect. I had 25 mins to cram in as much as I could.

One of the things I highlighted in my talk was the use of multi-channel funnel analysis in GA.  In simple terms, it allows you to determine the direct and indirect contribution that various digital marketing channels make to your site conversion goals.

However, I didn’t have time at the  conference to go into the use of conversion segments.

Which was a shame because they really are very sexy (no, really).

Here’s a simple explanation for those unfamiliar with the concept.

GA allows you to see what mix of site interactions deliver a conversion eg sale of a product, video view, whatever. It also shows you the value of those interactions relative to the conversion.

Here’s an example. This is for a small (but real) e-commerce site selling a simple £11.99 product (normally you’d have a whole range of different products and different prices – but hopefully you can extrapolate from this).

Converstion Segments in Google Analytics

For this particular web property, it would seem that the most common conversion path for a sale is for people to arrive via one single search before purchasing. There are more complex interactions (not least #8 here which saw the person revisit the site 18 times directly before finally buying something!).

As part of my PR Analytics presentation, I talked about the problem of attribution in marketing and PR with relation to goals and objectives (most sales or comms processes have multiple steps – but which one should get the credit for the final transaction? Should the first step in the process get 100pc of the credit? Or the last step? In the absence of giving fair credit to all relevant steps in the conversion process, many people have opted for the last step ie the step immediately before the conversion.)

In PR terms, that typically means that much PR work would get no credit – because it rarely contributes the last step in the process. Its role is generally assistive to the overall process. However, the introduction of multi-channel funnels into GA last year allowed marketeers (and PR pros) for the first time to see both the direct and indirect value being delivered in relation to a defined goal.

SlingshotSEO recently produced an excellent whitepaper which showed how you can combine conversion segments with a multi-touch attribution analysis to determine which channel you may be overvaluing or under valuing if you are using a last attribution model.

They also had some great insight into the most common conversion paths (based on an analysis of over 23.5m transactions).  Two organic searches seems to be the most popular conversion path with two or more interactions. And referrals and organic search are consistently undervalued as conversion channels.

Which brings me back to the relevance to PR (at least online PR coverage).

Traffic from links in relevant online editorial coverage fall into the referrals bucket. If referrals are consistently being undervalued on a last attribution basis, it does seem to lend credence to the theory that PR does contribute indirect value – and now we have a way to determine exactly what the value of that contribution might be.

But here’s the thing. You have to define at least one goal in order to make this work.  No goals, no insight.

Brings in to sharp relief the fact that without defining concrete goals, you are almost certainly creating unnecessary pain and heartache for yourself. And your online PR efforts are almost certainly not getting the credit they deserve.

I’ll be looking in more detail at multi-channel funnel analysis and conversion segments in my strategic management presentation at CIPR headquarters, Russell Square, London, on Wednesday 28th  March on using web analytics to inform communications strategy and planning.

Influence Engine Optimisation (IEO): the future of PR?


(This article first appeared on the CIPR Conversation)

Mark Schaefer’s recently published book - Return on Influence - is a good primer on the emerging world of social scoring. He looks in great depth at the various social scoring platforms such as Klout, Peerindex and Kred as well as some case studies about how brands and individuals are using (and misusing) these new tools.

Schaefer’s view of social scoring seems to be that – love it or loathe it – it isn’t going away.

As he says: “The implication is that a numerical marker of authority such as a Klout score can have a legitimate impact on people’s opinions about status and influence even if the score doesn’t necessarily reflect offline reality or the system can be gamed. The whole philosophy is that your online reputation, or your capacity to influence, your probability to influence, is going to be increasingly defined by metrics. There’s no doubt about that trend.”

He advocates that although Klout and its ilk are by no means perfect, they are getting better all the time. And it ill behooves those in the worlds of PR and marketing to ignore it.

He also has an interesting definition of online influence as measured by Klout. Namely, that a Klout score is a reflection of an individual or brand’s ability to move content and initiate action amongst an online audience.

He uses the example of Justin Bieber. Many critics point to the fact that Bieber has a Klout score of 100. Barack Obama by contrast scores 91. Does that mean the young entertainer is more influential than the President of the United States?

No, says Schaefer. It simply means that Bieber’s ability to move content through his online network is supreme. When he says click, his audience clicks. The President’s audience doesn’t quite respond in the same Pavlovian manner (which may be no bad thing).

Whether you accept this definition of influence, it does perhaps suggest that it would be unwise to dismiss the concept of social scoring out of hand in this context.

But what if we take this a step further. Klout has been described as an Influence Engine. Schaefer muses in the book about the potential rise of “Klout coaches” – individuals or agencies who will provide services to help improve your Klout score. In which case, will we see the emergence of Influence Engine Optimisation consultancies who will perform a similar role to an SEO agency in the world of natural search rankings? Will PR professionals be tasked with managing reputation via influence – and thus turn themselves into Influence Engine Optimisation specialists?

Or is it the case as Brian Solis argues this week that Klout and PeerIndex don’t measure influence at all?  You decide.

Is PR still living in the 1980s?


(This post first appeared on the CIPR Conversation site.)

Someone showed me the slide deck for a new business pitch from a very well respected PR firm this week.

The thing that surprised me was that other than one token slide about SEO (which clearly betrayed a lack of understanding of the subject) and a reference to blogging, the kernel of the proposition boiled down to writing press releases, pitching stories to journalists, and organising press meetings. Social Media? What’s that? (I was also bemused that nearly a quarter of the budget was going to be allocated to “account management” – even though there was absolutely no detail as to what that actually meant or entailed for the prospective client).

This proposal could have been written 30 years ago – maybe even longer.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

On the plus side, the agency concerned is clearly doing well (as attested by their recent financial performance).  And if this pitch proposal is representative of their approach, then it would seem there are plenty of client companies out there still happy to consider this kind of traditional PR approach.

So are skeptics right to argue that they don’t need to be paying attention to the calls from people like me to invest more in new skills based around social media, SEO and analytics?

I think the honest answer is: no.

For a start, the agency above are clearly an exception not the rule – certainly in the sense of continuing to be profitable by ostensibly selling the old wine of traditional media relations in a new bottle (with a thin digital label).   The more prevalent message I hear from the world of PR consultancy is that clients are shying away from media relations-only solutions – or at the very least, they aren’t prepared to pay as much for pure press relations as they might have done in the past. Digital expertise and integration is needed now – and the demands on PR consultancies and in-house teams will only get ever greater.

Perhaps some in PR are suffering from what psychologists call hyperbolic discounting:  taking what you see as the sure thing in the present (media relations) over the caliginous prospect some day far away (biting the bullet on digital). Or perhaps the affliction is “present bias” – being unable to grasp what you (your clients) want will change over time, and what you (your clients) want now isn’t the same thing as what you (your clients) will want later.

Either way, I strongly suspect that the kind of new business slide deck I saw this week doesn’t have as long a shelf life as some might think (or want).

Have a hyperbolic weekend.

Andrew Bruce Smith and The Conversation team

Please note, this Conversation Roundup is written in my own capacity.

I am not a spokesperson for the CIPR.

 

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