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If you’re going to measure things, measure the right things

A quick note today to say that if you’re going to measure things, measure the right things.

A guru in this field, Avinash Kaushik has addressed the challenges of measurement and tracking the things that matter many times (Social measurement, Digital marketing) but it bears repeated discussion because all too often we see people continuing to measure the wrong things and build passionate arguments and make million dollar decisions because of them.

One example from the Digital world (Search and Social) I see repeated several times a year in articles, commentary and at the conferences I go to is that Facebook has more user time than Google. The stats vary but it boils down to the journo/author/speaker cooing and ahhing about the amount of time people spend on a particular platform like it matters.

It doesn’t, and here’s why:

 The very purpose of Google and Facebook is fundamentally different. People go to Google to get somewhere else. It’s utilitarian and outcome oriented and you go with a purpose. People don’t ask Google to give them the recipe for a great pumpkin soup, they’re asking to be pointed to the provider of the best pumpkin soup recipe.

Facebook is entirely different, you go because you want to see what your friends and family are doing or to share something of your own. That’s it. That’s the purpose. The purpose is to stay, not leave. If someone is thumbing open the Facebook App without desperately wanting to share something then they don’t really have a purpose other than casual intent to find out if anything interesting happening. People casually thumb through the feed of what their friends are doing and occasionally an ad will be in-between that content.

As an example, if you saw a stat which said people spend 100 hours a month watching television vs 3 hours a month watching at the cinema, would it make you take notice? Does it say which one is more effective? Of course not. But why? In the same way that Google and Facebook are both huge digital companies with global audience usage, television and cinema are both screens and they’re both showing entertainment. Isn’t it the same thing?

Digital Measurement, Time spent on Facebook vs Google

Of course it’s not, we all know it isn’t. A TV can be on in the background 8-13 hours a day while people work, write, sleep, read, text, do chores around the house – but in a cinema you’re a captive audience and you’re there for a specific purpose to watch that specific thing at that time for that outcome. Which is more valuable? Who knows, but they’re not the same thing and using ‘time spent’ as an arbiter of value is pointless.

It’s often an uneven comparison. When authors say ‘Google’ or ‘Facebook’ they can often mean a single, or selectively chosen, platform(s) not all the platforms or products of both companies. When an author means Facebook are they talking about Facebook.com, Facebook’s Apps, Instagram or WhatsApp together or separately? And when it comes to Google do they mean just Search, or Search + YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Drive etc, or Search and all those websites + Google Play, Android, Hangouts, Chrome and the Chrome store? A lot of commentators don’t clarify, or if they do, are very selective about which properties they measure for both businesses.

Today’s note isn’t intended to argue that one platform, Google or Facebook, is better or worse for users, or advertisers or getting traction for your social enterprise, NFP or business. It’s merely to highlight that it’s not the amount of time people spend that matters, it’s the tasks they undertake during that time. When making a marketing decision base decisions on finding the right audience, doing the things that matter to them and you and if you put yourself out there and you matter to them then that’s when you’ll find success.

Now, let’s talk about bounce rates…

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“To help us show you better ads, tell us what you like”

Facebook ads

Facebook’s plea for more information to show you target ads.

OK, I’ll admit it, I’m curious. Very curious. I’ve hidden plenty of Facebook ads in my time. From FOREX trading companies to pregnancy advice (not sure how that one got there), all the way through to ‘win an iPad!!!’ I’ve blocked it all. And every time I do it Facebook makes an almost pitiful plea, to help them make more money from my personal information. If you’ve ever hidden an ad, or advertiser, from the right handside of your Facebook feed, you too will invariably have seen the words “To help us show you better ads, tell us what you like.”

Googling around, it seems not many people have actually gone through with it. The typical response I’ve seen in a few places is:

“To help us show you better ads, tell us what you like”… “I’d like no ads”. Funny. But it’d be less funny if Facebook started charging a monthly fee for access, so let’s assume that ads are going to be around for a while.

There are a few things about Facebook’s request that are interesting to me:

– Aside from my belief the click through rate on this must be staggeringly low, I can’t imagine that the completion rate is even worth talking about.

– Is this the worst or the best timed message on the internet? Sure the user has just hidden ads which annoyed them, but Facebook are offering the user the chance to not be so annoyed in the future – I honestly can’t decide if it’s genius or folly.

– What’s in it for me? As the consumer who will – post completion – just be shown more ads which hopefully are more relevant, what benefit am I really deriving from this exchange of time vs. ads?

– What’s in it for me part 2 – When Facebook are already making record profits, where’s the incentive to provide more information to help them make even more money?

Going where (probably) no one has gone before.

So what happens when you click on the link? What does Facebook ask? What don’t they know about me already that they need to know to show me even more relevant ads? Well there was only one way to find out.

I’ve clicked so you don’t have to.

The first thing you see is the screenshot below – the recommended pages.

Facebook recommended pages

Facebook recommended pages

I have to admit as first stages go, this was a bit underwhelming. I was expecting some sort of uber ‘let’s get to know you portal‘. Instead it’s just the typical ‘click on some pages we think you may or may not like, that are already pretty popular‘. Another part of the experience that makes this underwhelming is that Facebook aren’t really wanting to know me, they just want to be able to categorise and filter me based on existing parameters.

Note the language too “Get updates from your favourite businesses and brands.” OK, but not all updates from ‘my favourite’ businesses are advertising, and as a user I’ve just told Facebook I’m willing to give them more info about me to give me a better advertising experience. C’mon Facebook, this is your chance – ask me anything, let’s sit down and have a good ol’ chinwag!

Never the less, and putting all disappointment aside, I clicked on a random selection of pages and bravely ploughed on to step two. But….

Disappointingly short, and a missed opportunity.

Disappointingly short, and a missed opportunity.

OK, so that’s it. I’m actually really disappointed. Granted I don’t think that Facebook’s request for more information is particularly great – especially given that the general public probably couldn’t care less if Facebook make more money from more targeted advertising or not (except for the stock holders) – but this just feels like such a huge own goal… such a missed opportunity. If Facebook are going to go to the trouble of giving users the opportunity tell them more information to hopefully have a chance of seeing marginally less annoying ads at least do it better.

Yes the participation rates are probably incredibly low for this section of the website, but for those people who care, and are actually are willing to give Facebook more information for this purpose I can’t believe it just takes people to the ‘recommended pages’ link which is accessible at all times in a user’s page anyway.

So there you have it. It’s not a link to be scared of, but it doesn’t appear to be worth doing anyway, because in all probability the chance of you clicking on ‘Like’ for a page about George Takei, the local pizzeria, or some movie you may like and seeing less ads for baldness cures, FOREX trading systems or ‘local sexy singles in your area’ are really slim.

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Check out Digital Optimisation Reports on Google+ for the latest analysis and studies of best practice Digital marketing and optimisation from around the world.

Facebook in focus. Analysis of over 400 Australian companies.

Australian Social Media agency, The Online Circle, has recently released it’s June 2013, Facebook report for Australian companies.

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All in all, it’s a pretty interesting report, effectively benchmarking the top companies in Australia by volume of likes.

The report also goes some way to  snapshot benchmarking the top likes by business for:

– The ASX 20 companies

– The top 10 pages, ranked by likes, from the ASX 100

– Top 20 industries by fans

– Explores top posts, and engagement by industry, across 30 industries.

The Online Circle is one of the few companies in Australia bringing this kind of transparency and insights based on data to an industry that is still fairly immature in this regard.

Download Online Circle’s June Facebook Report.

To keep up to date with this and other analysis and studies from around the globe, visit and +1 the Digital Optimisation Reports page on G+.

 

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Check out Digital Optimisation Reports on Google+ for the latest analysis and studies of best practice Digital marketing and optimisation from around the world.

Why doesn’t Facebook optimise their signed out pages?

With all the talk about Google+ and its potential impact on Facebook, there is little disagreement amongst many industry observers that Facebook needs to up its game a bit.

But why wait for Google+ to put on the pressure?  Even basic things, like sign out pages offer huge opportunities for mobile, tablet and other product and service adoption. In-fact Twitter and Linkedin have been doing something similar, but independent from each other, for over a year now.

Namely, they’ve been using their ‘signed out’ pages as ways of driving one final message: mobile and tablets apps and integration. It might sound like a small thing, but when you consider how many tens of millions of users each social network has, and how many times per day, week and month sign out pages would be seen globally, the reason for not using it to push a message is drowned out. The ability to push one last message during the customer experience before they leave is invaluable. Not using it for a purpose, other than to directly sign back in – as Facebook uses it – seems like a lost opportunity.

Even at just 1 percent of Facebook’s approximately 500 million users, seeing the ‘logout’ page everyday that’d equal 35 million page views per week, or 140 million pageviews over a four week period. That’d mean Facebook’s logout page alone would receive more/rival traffic volumes than even the largest media websites.

Three screenshots of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin’s pages a user goes to once signed out, are below.

Twitter – signed out page

Twitter.com sign out screen

Linkedin – signed out page

Linkedin sign out screen

Facebook – signed out page

Facebook sign out screen

UPDATE, as per a question: So just how many pages could Facebook’s ‘logout’ page be serving each day, week or month?

Back of the envelope guesstimate using fairly conservative numbers:
500 million users, minus 20% of completely non-active accounts = 400 million users.
30% of 400 million users use the site on any given day: 120 million users.
Of 120 million daily users:
@ 30% log out every day: 40 million pages served a day, 240 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 20% log out every day: 24 million pages served a day, 168 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 10% log out every day: 12 million pages served a day, 84 million ‘logout’ pages every week.

It is indeed a pity they’re not using it more effectively.

Wrapped up in our own bubbles – part 2

 This post is the second of a two-part discussion about filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. Part 1 can be found here.

The second issue is transparency vs anonymity, and whether one is better than the other. Mark Zuckerberg the founder and CEO of Facebook directly profits from personalisation, conversations and interactions argues strongly that tying real life discussion to individuals is important. Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan.org , believes that there is value in anonymity and that it is an important right to be able to speak out without fear of long-term repercussion. I’m still on the fence for the majority of the arguments, but I’m siding with Chris Poole for the most part, and I have a few reasons:

Anonymity is an important factor that can contribute for a more open discussion. If everything you ever said verbally was recorded and could potentially be brought up at any time, for any reason, out of context, from dozens of different parties with their own vested interests people would be reluctant to say anything at all. But this is precisely what happens on the internet. Every conversation, every discussion, everything can be stored forever, somewhere, and might just come back to haunt you when it’s least convenient. I argued this point on mumbrella about a year ago, using my real name, and in the interests of seeing if it was still available, found it via google in under a minute. Makes you think what else it out there about you, me and people you know, huh?

Drinking the coolaid. If every conversation we have online is tied to our real lives, especially when it comes to individuals interacting with brands, then they might be more interested in telling the company what they think the company wants to hear, not what they actually want to say. And that doesn’t serve the company well, as a false sense of security develops.

A common criticism of anonymity is that it quickly reduces to a slanging match and a farce. Not so. If you want to see one of the best examples of growing online discussion, head over to reddit, and check out some of the conversations between anonymous people in the Science, Worldnews or even ‘less sophisticated’ subreddits like the motorcycles or  sewing subreddits. And beyond anonymous thread boards and websites, some people simply don’t care that their real profiles are tied to feisty and downright insulting/racist/abusive discussion. In March this year a Bond’s baby competition almost immediately turned into a slanging match between parents over how ugly other children were and there were even racial slurs thrown around. Every one of those conversations was tied to real people and real profiles, civility wasn’t maintained despite being tied to real profiles.

 – Tying real life personas to casual interaction is a barrier to entry for some people, and that might be enough to turn off potential customers. When you buy products at the supermarket your name and details aren’t recorded next to the products and brands you purchase, and then put on display or held in a publicly available registrar for all to search. (There’s a side thought here that if they were we might all eat healthier, but that’s a different argument altogether). When you purchase from a supermarket, or Dan Murphy’s or a chemist there’s an expectation not necessarily of privacy, but certainly anonymity. Buying condoms, or two dozen candy bars, or three slabs of beer? Fine, no one cares, the person at the check out just wants their shift to end, and even if they do care a little it’s not like they know you anyway, so it makes little difference anyway. But, if everything you bought could be searched and sorted in seconds by anyone, how much of your shopping would you re-think? Would you really buy items that could look bad on you in the future, but were well-intentioned, harmless, or casual purchases at the time?

Anonymous interaction isn’t always better, but individuals can be more open honest with companies when their buying habits and other interactions are anonymous, or they are given the choice to do so.

Namesake.com has produced the great infographic below to drive home each sides argument further.

Is Facebook the answer?

Look at every major brand these days, and even smaller brands you’ve never heard of, and more often than not, they’re not asking consumers to go to their homepage, they’re asking consumers to go to their company’s Facebook profile page.

When this is a unique or relatively unique strategy this may be a good thing, but when it’s a proxy for a registration of interest, or free membership, is it as beneficial as many companies and marketers think, hope and plan?

Facebook, and the potential to get in-front of a lot of consumers and their friends, in a social way is definitely appealing. And some companies have harnessed the power of Facebook very effectively – Harvard Business Review, for example I’m sure has more fans than dedicated readers, which no doubt they believe is a good thing, and indeed it may well be. But, if everyone is using Facebook, rather than taking the time and effort to build their own discussion forums, interactive experiences on their own online properties, then are the fans or ‘likers’ really that valid from a database, broadcasting and interaction perspective?

Is having a large group of fans on Facebook really indicative of a richer, more validated consumer database, which in many cases will still need to be converted to a subscriber, buyer, consumer, trier etc or is a new fan little more than a passing thought for many people? Coupled with that, how can one validate or qualify a Facebook fan when any one of the 500 million people using Facebook can like your product with just one click?