Startup Blog

Measuring the New World

Posted by Mike Volpe on 2/10/10 11:00 AM

This is a guest blog post by Wayne Kurtzman, who is a senior marketing analyst for an international telecom company and has led knowledge management and web analytics practices for startups and larger companies including Intel. Wayne is also the social media consultant for Destination ImagiNation, a not-for-profit organization that fosters teamwork, innovation and creative problem solving skills in students.

Columbus came to the New World; legend has it, with three ships. Just three breezy, easy to count boats. The population of the West Indies, where he landed, also counted three. Although it was a different language, they quantified it the same way. The web came along and the numbers started getting fuzzy. Now, with social media changing the landscape, people are bending the rules of counting in an attempt to justify a voyage into New Media.

The rules in the 1984 Dan Aykroyd movie "Ghostbusters" was "don't cross the streams" of the proton guns. I think the same rules actually apply in interactive media analytics, and for the same reason.

Web visits, unique sessions, time on site and destination pages all had their places at one point in analytics. There never was gold in those numbers. I preferred a daily report on what was searched on our web site and especially from our knowledgebase. Where did our customers (or prospective customers) spend their valuable time - or where did they give up on us. From this information, I could determine where people were having problems with our products or documentation. When this was correlated with detailed support center information from around the world, it allowed us to provide proactive support, writing knowledgebase documents at the first indication of an issue - before it took dozens of people to answer the same question over and over again. Most important, we were able to use our resources to address what was most important to our customers in the way of features, patches and new products. Sure we saved tens of millions of dollars from support alone, but it was because we quantified the customer's needs and reacted to them.

It's Not Just Social Media That Ups the Ante.

Social Media sites create thousands of additional data points. In the old days, we could know what you needed on our site if you signed into the site.

Today, there are mining evolving tools that can determine everything I've mentioned plus your online behaviors, attitudes and opinions. This "psychographic data" is easier to measure with single sign-in web sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and even Twitter. While still in its infancy, this type of analytics is leading to some scary-cool and mutually beneficial information systems.

At its simplest, if you go to an electronics e-commerce site and always select the tech specs, the web site will have the intelligence to just default to the tech specs on a product information page.

Getting a bit more complex, customer relationship management (CRM) software will, right when you call, identify you as a more technical user, and automatically route your call to a representative who can "speak tech" at your level. Later this year, one of the largest software companies will roll out a CRM system that can even let a rep know your sports team preferences - to have something in common with the caller.

As mobile users and especially mobile commerce, or mCommerce grows, just add your GPS data into the data set.

So how do we quantify all this? Not by the numbers we're using now. And beware of "snake oil number" salesmen who will show you how [fill in the blank] makes sense. After all, people are still talking about web site "hits" - and any analyst will tell you that there's no such thing as "hits".

Today, you need to find out what forms a statistically significant correlation with groups you want to connection with. That's if you're marketing into demographic groups and hoping for a 5% conversion rate. That's so 1990's, or maybe 1950's. Actually, it is both.
Since social media is based on conversations, just like your Mom and Dad had with the neighbors, measurements are challenging - but doable. Your challenge is to listen to the individuals in the online sites that THEY prefer. Next, learn the best way to reach qualified individuals on their terms, and especially on the ground that you share. Since most people want to be happy with products and services, they will be willing to help you - if you learn how to listen and how to react to the good and bad quickly.
If you don't listen to your customers and prospects, it would be like crossing the streams of the Ghostbusters proton guns: "Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light".

"Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip".

Mike Volpe

Written by Mike Volpe

Mike Volpe is a startup advisor and angel investor based in Boston.

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