October 19, 2014 by
Sun Tzu’s wisdom in The Art of War is as true today as it was in 500 B.C.
Competitive Intelligence is the gathering of publicly-available information about an enterprise’s competitors and the use of that information to gain a business advantage. The goals of competitive intelligence include discerning potential business risks and opportunities and enabling faster reaction to competitors’ actions and events.
If Sun Tzu were with us today, he would probably be using digital competitive intelligence tools to understand his adversaries. Which ones would he use; why and for what purpose?
Here are 10 experts giving us their best competitive intelligence tools:
- GOOGLE TRENDS: Measuring individual sites (yours or competitor) is good but the real fun in this is comparing trends. That will give you the key context you need to make even more sense of this competitive data. Don’t focus on the actual numbers (you’ll notice I say this a lot in this post). You want to compare the trends and each line gives context to the other two. That is deeply meaningful. – Avinash Kaushik (Google)
- COMPETE: Has a useful interface, speaks the right language (unique visitors, visits, etc.), offers the ability to compare multiple sites, and its data is easy to understand and well presented. Compete is best used for comparing competitors’ website traffic. The trends are reliable. The information could be meaningfully used to look into seasonal trends between competitors. – Sam Crocker (MOZ)
- ALEXA: Has been around since 1996. It’s a (mostly) free service that will help you analyze traffic on your competitor’s ecommerce store. Type in your competitors URL and Alexa will give you their global traffic rank, number of sites linking in, search analytics, audience insight, average site load time, and a whole lot more. You can really dig deep with Alexa, but it’s important to note that there are inaccuracies with Alexa’s information, since they get their data from those who have installed their toolbar for IE and Firefox or installed their Google Chrome extension. Take the numbers with a grain of salt. – Mark Hayes (Ecommerce University)
- HITWISE: An Experian product, provides excellent data and insight that no free/ low-cost alternative can rival. With Hitwise, you can build an even more accurate picture of where you are versus your competitors. Upstream and downstream reporting allows you to form an impression of the behaviour, intention and ‘mindset’ of visitors to your website. An ‘upstream’ report will show you what sites visitors have been to before visiting yours and shed light on the types of behaviour customers are displaying before they visit you. – Gavin Llewellyn (Smart Insights)
- KEYWORD SPY: Offers a free Organic Competitors report that can help identify who the top competitors are for a particular keyword. Using this tool to identify competitors can not only help identify competitors you may not have known about, but also lets you see how competition differs around different keywords. – Mark Purtell (Search Engine Journal)
- OPEN SITE EXPLORER: Is one of the free tools which will enable you to check link popularity, and monitor existing backlinks. If you are trying to promote your website with the help of blogs or guest blogs, you should definitely keep an eye on the links that you create. Open Site Explorer can help you predict page and domain authority, calculate total number of inbound links and determine the domain’s ranking potential (with the help of over 40 parameters). - Anna Robeson (Grow Map)
- SEMRUSH: Lets you monitor competitors’ organic keyword positions, find relevant long tail keywords, see your competitors’ PPC ads, and more. It also includes SEO tools. There’s a wealth of data available from the free search bar on the homepage, though you will have to upgrade ($69.95 per month) for more queries and results – Chris Kilbourn (Kiss Metrics)
- TOPSY: Is the tool Siltala recommends for competitive intelligence analysis because it lets you search the entire history on Twitter. He also said, “Use Circle Count for G+ to find intel about your competitors”. – Matt Siltala (Avalaunch)
- MARKETING GRADER: Allows you to learn about the overall success of your competition’s SEO. With this tool, you can learn website traffic patterns and SEO data. You can also see which tactics are working and which aren’t, and you can also learn if conversions are being made. This tool will score you out of 100, and it will even provide you with suggestions on how you can improve your SEO. – Indiesilver Marketing
These are our 10 best competitive intelligence tools from 10 experts. Do they match yours? What would you add or delete?
October 07, 2014 by
What goes up must come down according to Sir Issac Newton. But Sir Issac never had to buy Facebook advertising.
The gravitational pull on Facebook is not quite as simple. According to Syncapse, who has measured the value of Facebook Fans since 2010, the value of a Facebook Fan went up to $174, an increase 28% in 2013 from 2010. Yet, the organic reach of Facebook went down at a greater rate to 6.53% per Fan according to TechCrunch.
To understand, you should know Facebook measures reach in the following ways;
- Organic reach is the number of unique people, Fans or Non-Fans, who saw any content about your Page in their News Feed, Ticker or on your Page.
- Paid reach is the number of unique people who saw an ad or Sponsored Story that pointed to your Page.
- Viral reach is the number of unique people who saw this post from a story published by a friend.
If the value of Fans goes up but the ability to reach them organically goes down, it means:
- Facebook is pulling back on organic reach to push paid reach for those who pay for it
- There’s only so many posts and content that can go in a News Feed and it’s overloaded.
Here’s 4 reasons why value of Facebook Fans goes up but reach goes down.
FACEBOOK USERS (source: Facebook Shareholders Report 2nd Qtr 2014
- 1,317,000,000 total active users on Facebook (+14% vs. year ago)
- 829,000,000 of these active users are on Facebook daily (+19% vs. year ago)
- 1,070,000,000 active mobile users on Facebook (+31% vs year ago)
- 654,000,000 of these mobile users are on Facebook daily (+39% vs. year ago)
- CONCLUSION: Users and daily usage are increasing, especially on mobile were there is a smaller screen
FACEBOOK REVENUE (source: Facebook Shareholder Report 2nd Qtr 2014)
- $2,910,000,000 in 2nd Qtr 2014 (+61% vs. year ago)
- 92% of revenue comes from advertising in this period
- 88% of revenue comes from advertising in the year ago period
- $2.24 is average revenue per user in 2nd Qtr 2014 (+40% vs. year ag0)
- CONCLUSION: Facebook’s revenue model is dependent on advertising. It’s is increasing significantly but revenue per user is not keeping pace with total revenue
FACEBOOK FAN VALUE (source: Syncapse Value of a Facebook Fan 2013)
- 1,500 stories could appear in a person’s News Feed. For people with lots of friends and Page Likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear (source: Facebook for Business)
- Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person (source: Splashscore)
- The total number of Pages Liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year (source: TechCrunch)
- 50% more recall and 35% higher online sales lift occurs when a person see their friends like a business on Facebook (source: Facebook for Business)
- Average CPM (Cost Per Thousand) on Facebook goes from about $3 in May to $10 in June 2014 (source: Splashscore)
- CONCLUSION: News Feed are overloaded but Facebook Fans have high value. This justify Facebook increasing ad rates and push Paid Reach at the expense of Organic Reach for users
Does this explain what goes up and comes down on Facebook to you? Did the facts lead you the same conclusion? Does it change the way you think about Facebook advertising?
September 27, 2014 by
This is my 239th blogpost. That may be more than some, but not as many as other bloggers I know.
Like others, this blog began as an outlet for expression. I was starting a business. Like others who have followed this path, I said if not now, when. Only the when was in the midst of the worst recession since the great depression. This blog became a way of coping and putting values and beliefs out there when not much was coming in.
Writing helped me through hard times. Circumstances improved. Today, this blog is one of our most valuable assets for a full service digital (digital, social, mobile) consultancy and agency that build brands using proven relationship principles and ROI.
Research shows I’m not alone. How? Here are 10 studies that show writing helps health and well-being.
- PUTS YOU IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF: Scientific evidence supports that journaling provides unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you. – PyschCentral
- MAKES YOU MORE OPTIMISTIC: People in a study who expressed gratitude in writing once a week for two months were more optimistic about life (and, interestingly, exercised more), compared with people who didn’t. – Harvard Business Review
- REDUCES STRESS, AIDS IMMUNITY: Writing about difficult, even traumatic, experiences appears to be good for health on several levels – raising immunity and other health measures and improving life functioning. – American Psychological Association
- SPEEDS HEALING: Writing down your thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event can actually make physical wounds heal faster, according to a study from New Zealand researchers. - Scientific America
- INCREASES RESILIENCE: Studies show that writing during difficult times may help you find meaning in life’s challenges and become more resilient in the face of obstacles. - University of Minnesota
- HELPS YOU SLEEP BETTER: Spending just 15 minutes a night writing down what you’re thankful for could do wonders for your sleep, according to an Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being study. Researchers found that study participants who wrote down a list of things they were grateful for before bed experienced longer, and better, sleep. – Psychology Today
- DECREASES ILLNESS: In one study, five months after writing, a significant interaction emerged such that writing about trauma, one’s best possible self, or both were associated with decreased illness compared with controls. – Southern Methodist University
- REDUCES DEPENDENCE ON DRUGS AND DOCTORS: In a study of college students, one group wrote about personally traumatic life events for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. The other group of students wrote about trivial topics. Compared to those who wrote about trivia, the students who wrote about traumatic experiences used fewer pain relievers over the next six months. They also visited the campus health center less often. – Aetna
- HELPS CANCER PATIENTS THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THEIR DISEASE: A study showed that expressive writing could help cancer patients not only think about their disease in a different way, but also improve their quality of life. – The Oncologist
- IMPROVES OVERALL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: Participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings reported significant benefits in both objectively assessed and self-reported physical health 4 months later, with less frequent visits to health centers and a trend towards fewer days out of role owing to illness. - Pennebaker Study
In many of these studies, participants wrote for as little as 15 minutes a day but did it regularly. Is this investment in writing worth it for your health and well being?
August 17, 2014 by
- 91% of marketing leaders believe successful brands use customer data to drive business decisions (source: BRITE/NYAMA)
- 87% agree capturing and sharing the right data is important to effectively measuring ROI in their own company (BRITE/NYAMA)
- 40%-60% annual growth increase is occurring in the volume of data available every year; in media intensive sectors and financial services, the increase is 120% (source: Fathom)
The facts indicate company leaders believe understanding data is a critical component to business growth. And more of it is coming at us in ever increasing rates.
Data visualization is the art and practice of gathering, analyzing, and graphically representing empirical information. More and better data visualization tools have come to market from software services like Tableau, Fusion Charts, Google Charts and Visual.ly to help better display data. So, there is no reason business leaders shouldn’t be able to fulfill their data dreams.
But it’s not the data. It’s what you do with it.
Software doesn’t find the insights in the data, people do. Before companies jump into Big Data, they should be asking: Have we mastered the principles of little data?
To help, here are 8 guidelines for great data visualization.
- BEGIN WITH BASIC DATA PRESENTED AS SIMPLY AS POSSIBLE: Great data visualization begins with measurements that are readily available, come from a reliable source and are easy to understand. For example, the line chart below for a coffee shop chain uses just profits by key beverage and time. But it shows very clearly what types of drinks are going to be the most profitable and when. It gives all the information the owner requires to order, promote and maximize revenue and profits.
- CHOOSE AXISES THAT ADDRESS KEY STRATEGIC ISSUES: If you want data to provide answers, you have to set it up by addressing the right questions. How you choose and define your axises serves as a primary guide. The chart below plots software companies based on based on their “vision” and “ability to execute.” The axises address a key strategic issue that can provide answers like likely winner and losers based on positioning and competitive advantage. The company data is telling because the criteria is clear.
- PROVIDE A USABLE LEGEND: The definition of the legend plays an important role in motivating action. The data visualization below of expenditures per student for New York state schools offers a telling picture of where education monies are going, what are areas of greatest need and how they might be redistributed.
- ESTABLISH SEGMENTATION: If you want actionable insights from data, it helps to establish segments or groupings that create differentiation. The chart below shows the Top 100 Entrepreneurs, divided into three segments. From this chart, it’s clear that not all entrepreneurs are created equal. If you want to understand what makes great entrepreneurs, the data tells you to focus on the “Rocket Ship” segment and probe into what makes them tick.
- FACILITATE DISCERNMENT WHEN SHOWING A TIME SERIES OR GEOGRAPHY: When showing time or geography, incorporate colors, coding, history or forecasting to provide perspective or context that shows where things are headed. The “stacked graph” below on unemployment in the US by industry (time series) and the cost of chronic disease care (geography) show how how to display time series and geographic data, effectively.
- IDENTIFY CLUSTERS: When looking at many variables, use clusters to show the data in ways that creates groupings that lead to conclusions. The Cluster Analysis below was created to identify the college basketball teams that were most likely to win the NCAA’s based on defense. As you can see, clustering the many variables that were examined helps to clearly show the teams that have the most potential.
- TELL A STORY WITH THE DATA: Good data analysts are storytellers. Effective data visualization is often helped with text. Simple headlines or text boxes help explain what the data is saying and the actions that should be taken. This example below from Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google, shows how data visualization might be presented to the C-Suite.
- CREATE AN ACTIONABLE SCORECARD: The data dashboard your company creates should be based on Key Performance Indicators. KPIs are one of the most over-used and little understood terms in business development and management. They are too often taken to mean any metric or data used to measure business performance.The role KPI’s play is much bigger and more important. In fact, KPI’s are one of the most important guideposts for any business. Every business should have them. Here’s one of the best definitions I’ve heard: KPI’s are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control and achieve desired business results. The KPI dashboard below for a call center is simply laid out, easy to understand for decision making and incorporate a little from each of the previous critical components.
If your business needs help using data to make better decisions and ROI, consider BarnRaisers, because that’s what we do. Or, considering taking a Mini-MBA from the Rutgers Business School Executive Education where I teach Measurement and ROI.
Do these key components help you see how data visualization can help your business?
August 10, 2014 by
Walmart is the world’s largest public corporation, biggest private employer and largest retailer. It is still a family-owned business.
Walmart also has a big social media presence. Walmart has:
Why? What does Walmart know that the rest of us can learn?
Here are 10 lessons on Walmart’s social media strategy for every business.
- START WITH A GOAL: Walmart’s goal for social media is to ensure that customers and potential customers understand that the discount store has the lowest prices in the industry and that Walmart’s mission is to help them save money so they can live better lives. That’s according to Chad Mitchell, Senior Director of Digital Communication. Because the company is often a target for controversial press, a second objective is to use social media to protect, defend and enhance Walmart’s reputation.
- TRAIN EMPLOYEES: The company trains it’s employees on its mission. They encourage storytelling. to solidify Walmart’s brand and the values its founder established more than 50 years ago.
- ESTABLISH GUIDELINES: There are guidelines on engagement, location-based promotions for associates and “Walmart Moms” who post or publish.
- HAVE A PURPOSE FOR EACH SOCIAL NETWORK: Walmart’s role for Twitter is to ask very basic questions of its users: “What’s happening?” By having a number of Twitter accounts, Walmart aims to provide information on Walmart’s major activities and initiatives – from sustainability to diversity, from healthier foods to charitable giving. Walmart uses Facebook to communicate specific values that are occurring every day at both the national level and in each of its 3,500-plus stores.
- SEGMENT BY AUDIENCE INTERESTS: The company has Twitter handles with @WalmartHub being the “parent” handle that only Re-tweets the best performing content from the other handles, The other accounts feature the following topics:
- USE SOCIAL MEDIA NATIONALLY AND LOCALLY: On Facebook, Walmart ambitious My Local Walmart program establishes individual Facebook fan pages for its 3,500-plus stores, It also involves a Facebook App that stores can use to communicate sales, specials and other updates with fans in their local area. But, local stores haven’t been using their pages that effectively. There is learning and improvements Walmart has to make as does any business that use social media so broadly.
- MAKE YOUR BLOG A COMMUNITY AND KEEP IT REAL: “Walmart Moms” started in the late 2000’s, They’ve always been real moms who are bloggers. Their role is simply to represent the voice of all moms; to tell and help others understand the daily challenge and triumphs of Moms. Participation in “Walmart Moms” is voluntary.
- ENGAGE FREQUENTLY: On any given day, Walmart posts on Facebook between two and five updates, including weekends, and most achieve an impressive number of responses from its Fans. Most of its posts achieve tens of thousands of Likes and hundreds of comments, with pictures of pets and children proving to be particularly popular. Walmart adds about 9,000,000 new Likes every 6 months.
- LISTEN TO THE DATA: WalmartLabs uses such spikes in social network chatter to predict demand for out-of-the-ordinary products, In 2011, their team correctly anticipated heightened customer interest in cake-pop makers based on social media conversations on Facebook and Twitter. A few months later, it noticed growing interest in electric juicers, linked in part to the popularity of the juice-crazy documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The team sends these data to Walmart’s buyers, who then use it to make their purchasing decisions.
Your business is not likely to be the scale of Walmart but these lessons should give ideas on areas you should be thinking about. Are there lessons from Walmart’s social media strategy that apply to your business? Which ones are the most relevant?