Bright Matrices

Writings & musings of Mike Zavarello (a.k.a. brightmatrix), a "red mage" web developer.

Tag: engagement

Behind the Juggernauts’ Curtain: Highlights from BlogWell’s Social Media Case Studies Event

On November 9, 2010, I attended BlogWell: How Big Brands Use Social Media at SAP Headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Hosted by the Social Media Business Council and GasPedal, BlogWell brought together case studies from eight major firms such as Hershey, Scholastic, Pfizer, and Discovery Communications in a fast-paced, half-day event.

Major themes discussed at BlogWell were the structure of social media initiatives within large, often heavily regulated industries, ways these firms are using innovative social campaigns to engage with their audiences, and the legal and ethical challenges they’re facing. Overall, it was refreshing to get a peek behind the curtains to see these corporate juggernauts taking well thought out, pragmatic, and innovative paths to successful social solutions. I’ve compiled notes from several of the sessions I attended.

Pfizer’s Social Media Playbook

Kate Bird, Digital Communications Professional for Pfizer, presented her company’s social media playbook, which she billed as “practical guidance for colleagues”.

The playbook boils down aspects of Pfizer’s official social media policy into a 20-30 page “umbrella” document that covers each of the major channels and provides guidance on how employees should engage in these channels, both professionally and personally.

It contains a resource repository that links to existing policies and training materials, official Pfizer social media channels, best practice documents, and illustrates how employees can get started. The playbook is evolving into an interactive digital tool encompassing wikis, videos, and collaborative spaces.

Kate also shared how Pfizer offers corporate-wide webinars and training on social media to all interested employees across different parts of the organization. All training is managed and conducted by employees.

Within the broader scope of social media, Pfizer expects to create a rich catalog of social properties, communities, and initiatives, with the goal of connecting the people who need to be connected to each other. They also hope to reduce agency costs by eliminating duplicate and redundant social media outlets with the organization. In addition, they want to offer their employees a deeper understanding of core social media principles. Finally, Pfizer seeks to have a more relevant and connected social footprint.

Keeping Bloggers Honest with Disclosures

Andy Sernovitz led the middle-of-the-afternoon main session on ethics and disclosure. His points were succinct and direct: it’s OK to have a commercially-minded social media program, so long as it’s clear. Disclosure increases the authenticity of your message, making you more credible and powerful.

The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure and truthfulness in all social media outreach. It’s your responsibility to monitor the conversation around your brand or business and correct misstatements. Andy stated that it’s essential to have social media policies and training programs. He also cautioned that while bloggers are not your employees, you need to make a good faith effort to make certain they disclose. If the blogger or agency you hire is found to be unethical, the FTC will find you responsible.

Andy’s advice for handling bloggers is simple: never pay bloggers and insist on real disclosure. Paying bloggers changes the game from word-of-mouth to advertising, and readers will learn to distrust you. As for disclosure, make sure the bloggers are up front and clear with their statements, not burying them on their “About Me” page.

The “10 magic words” in disclosure are: “I work for X, and this is my personal opinion.” Disclosure statements need to clearly show who the blogger is, whether they were paid, and whether they’re offering an honest opinion based on a real experience. It’s then up to the reader to decide what the disclosure means to them.

The Social Media Business Council has a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit that’s available for anyone download and use as a basis for their own social media efforts.

Coordinated Social Communications at Johnson & Johnson

Marc Monseau, of Corporate Communications at Johnson & Johnson, talked about how his corporation is taking advantage of the opportunities in social media, creating relationships, and learning more about their audience and how to best support them.

Starting first with a blog describing the history the company, Johnson & Johnson’s social media footprint has expanded over the past four years to include a corporate blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and four Twitter accounts. Each channel allows them to connect with key online stakeholders talking about health care and offer their own thoughts on health care topics.

Both their corporate blog and YouTube channel have healthy discussions. Marc described how they’ve become pathways into Johnson & Johnson for users to provide feedback on the topics presented and as a way to generate community discussions.

Marc explained how each of their channels operates in concert with each other. His staff has regular editorial meetings to discuss how to best engage their audiences. They then select the appropriate channel based on the nature of the message and where their audience is located, and decide which bloggers and influencers to interact with. By being open, responsive, and timely, Johnson & Johnson has been able to turn the tide in online conversations.

Johnson & Johnson has separate social media policies for their employees, based on whether the activities are external or integral to the organization. These policies give departments pathways to create their own initiatives.

Marc advised that, before you begin any foray into social media, you need to understand where conversations about you are taking place, who is saying them, and why. You must understand the dynamics of these discussions and your role in them. He recommended a consistent approach and behavior across all touch points, both in official publications and third-party websites; this is especially critical for heavily regulated industries.

Experimenting with Social Solutions for Internal Collaboration

The last session at BlogWell was led by Jonathon Haley, Director at BlackRock, an asset management firm. Jonathon elaborated on the social solutions for internal collaboration currently under way at BlackRock. His group is experimenting with ways social media can offer solutions with true business value. While the process isn’t expected to be finalized until early 2011, Jonathon shared what they’ve done to date and what they’ve learned along the way.

The key problem being addressed, he explained, is inefficient communication to and collaboration among the sales teams. Everyone is trying to feed valuable information to the sales team. How do you manage the mass of incoming information?

They first started with adding content authoring, on both personal and professional levels, to the teams’ annual objectives, then turned to internal blogs. Jonathon’s group gathered data to learn how social the teams were and conducted more intensive tests on specific channels with volunteers. This process allowed the group to find the social advocates within their organization and use them to lead the way.

Jonathon and his group then created “villains” to rally the teams around. First, they flagged PDFs in internal communications as the villain to encourage to teams to share information in more accessible, shareable, and searchable platforms. Then, they identified fringe players attempting to disrupt asset management models, as well as competitors with thought leaders on their sides, as the external villains.

Ultimately, the social solution at BlackRock must provide real business value: revenue creation and cost savings to the firm. The group has defined several metrics, such as number of phone calls per day to content experts, as benchmarks for the solution.

Jonathon advised gathering dedicated resources to work on social efforts like his, and to keep those teams tight. He emphasized that his group is comfortable with “small wins” in social as they consider how they’ll expand their solution across the company.

New Metrics Are No Excuse to Continue a Pattern of Lazy Analytics: An Example Using Klout

As a student of analytics, I’ve learned that measuring success is never as simple as comparing two numbers. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of lazy analysis that can show false positives (or even worse, false negatives). To really do analytics justice, it’s vital to devote time to researching and understanding what you’re attempting to measure so that you can provide informative, relevant, and accurate findings.

A few months ago, a new metric for Twitter was created by Klout, a San Francisco-based company. Their “Klout score” measures your overall influence on Twitter: how much people listen to and respect your messages, and how likely they are to act upon and share those messages. Many third-party clients, such as Hootsuite and CoTweet, are now displaying the Klout score in their dashboards.

I personally think it’s great that Klout is gaining widespread acceptance. I feel it brings a true standard to the “quality” factor of social media analytics in contrast to the “quantity” factor of followers. However, I believe this score, like any other single metric, needs to be used carefully.

In this post, I’ll explain the mechanics of the Klout score, show an example of how similar Klout scores can be misleading when taken out of context, and explain why you can’t lean on new metrics to continue a pattern of “lazy analytics.”

The Klout Score

The Klout score is calculated from a broad range of data: your follower totals, how many accounts follow you back, how often you’re retweeted or mentioned, how frequently you tweet, etc. These data points are then boiled down into three values: your true reach, your amplification, and your network.

  • True reach is “the size of your engaged audience,” or basically those accounts with whom you engage with regularly, have common followers, and share similar interests.
  • Amplification “indicates how likely it is that your content will be acted upon,” in essence, the probability that you’ll get retweeted and how fast word with spread within your network.
  • The third value, network, is “a measurement of the influence level of the people who interact with you.” It’s important to note the emphasis on interaction here: this value is composed of the ratio of your followers vs. how many accounts you follow, how many of those you follow also follow you back, as well as unique senders and retweeters.

So, does this mean we can just look at the scores of any number of accounts and make assumptions about relative influence by directly comparing their Klout scores? No!

Let’s use an example to illustrate why.

An Example of Relative Influence… or is it?

As of August 30, 2010, I have a Klout score of 48. According to Klout’s calculations, this ranks me about halfway on the overall scale of 0 to 100, but based on the total number of accounts measured, I’m more accurately placed in the 80th percentile. Another Twitter account with a very similar Klout score is the CME Group, a Chicago-based financial firm billed as “the world’s most diverse financial marketplace.” Their current Klout score is 46; they’re also in the 80th percentile, overall. The CME Group’s Twitter account currently has over 750,000 followers, whereas I currently have 375. Their true reach is calculated to be 280,000, while mine is 9 (not nine thousand or nine hundred, nine… one less than 10).

At face value, based on Klout score alone, it looks like I’m just as influential as the CME Group, but when you start taking into account factors like followers and true reach, this assumption falls apart.

What happened? First, it’s because we’re making assumptions. Second, we’re missing context.

Let’s start digging into the data. You’ll notice that our network scores are roughly similar (59 for the CME Group, 57 for me), though my amplification is a slightly higher (21 for the CME Group, 26 for me). That still doesn’t explain why we have similar Klout scores, so let’s examine the supporting data points.

  • True reach: The CME Group has a massive amount of followers, but only follows back 0.003% of them; I follow back 20.3% of mine. They currently show 0% for both follower mentions and follower retweets, whereas I show 19% and 39%, respectively. This indicates that virtually no one seems to be talking to the CME Group or passing along their content. Note: While the 0% follower retweet looks like it’s a fluke, it may actually be a very small number (less than 0.1%) because of their high number of followers.
  • Amplification: The CME Group shows 77 total retweets, a mention count of 10, and 69 unique retweeted messages. I have 37 total retweets, a mention count of 254, and 31 unique retweeted messages. Their inbound/outbound message ratio is 0.26; mine is 0.74. This indicates that my followers tend to talk about me more frequently and are more likely to respond to me when I tweet.
  • Network: The CME Group’s follower to follow ratio is much higher than mine (172.71 vs. 3.16), their percentage of reciprocal followers is a bit lower (54% vs. 64%), and they have fewer unique folks who are mentioning them (10 vs. 71). They do have a higher number of unique retweeters, however (59 vs. 27). This indicates that my network is tighter and more engaged.

The key theme that emerges here is engagement. While my network and reach are much, much smaller in size and scope, I have a stronger connection with my audience. You also have to consider the function and audience of these accounts. The CME Group gathers and spreads time-sensitive financial information for consumption by their followers; they do some engagement, but are primarily focused on informing and sharing. I also share and retweet content (primarily on topics like social media and user experience), but I spend a larger percentage of my time connecting and talking directly with my followers. Not to mention, no one is trading stocks or making monetary decisions on my tweets (at least, not that I’m aware of). Finally, you need to consider the perspective: the CME Group offers a corporate experience vs. my individual one.

So, even though our Klout scores are very similar, you can’t say that I’m just as influential as the CME Group as a stand-alone statement. Our network, level of engagement, function, audience, and perspectives are significantly different enough to make this a false assumption. You could perhaps say we’re equally influential within our own unique networks, but not as a direct comparison. You have to consider the context.

Don’t Be Lazy With Analytics

As with website analytics, you should never use a single metric in a vacuum to make assumptions on the success or failure of what you’re measuring. Think for a moment about hits. Have you ever been asked to compare the number of hits on your website with those of another website? It’s a thoroughly unfair comparison. Even if the sites in question are similar in audience and purpose, you have many things to consider, such as: originality, readability, and freshness of content; strength and effectiveness of marketing and promotions; ease of use and overall usability; ranking for relevant terms in search engines. Each and every one of these factors, as well as a number of others I haven’t mentioned, all contribute to the success or failure of a website. Taking only one metric and directly comparing it to the same metric for a completely different website is not an apples-to-apples comparison, no matter what you may think. It’s essential to take everything in context and do thorough research of the data to determine relative success or failure when making comparisons.

It’s exactly the same with the Klout score.

You can see from my example how much happens behind the scenes in order to generate a Klout score. It’s a deeply interesting and unique metric in its own right, but, just like with website hits, it needs to be examined and valued in context with its supporting data points to form a complete picture of relative influence.

Don’t be lazy by looking at just one metric to measure your influence on Twitter. If you’re really interested in determining how well you’re doing or what you need to improve in order to make your presence in this channel more effective, do your homework: sift through the data, observe trends, and pay attention to the purpose and audience of your account. Klout allows you to refresh your score every six days, so take advantage of that feature and keep refreshing your score to see how your data shifts over time.

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