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Big Data: Do Analytics really work?

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It seems that the big buzz word today is “Big Data”.  Every where you turn someone, somewhere is discussing what “big data” means for companies, and digital teams, and business models!  The questions is…is big data working?  By that I mean, as digital strategists, planners, UX ers, community managers…. how does big data really work for us>

The aim of the game is that we are all supposed to be forward looking right?  We’re supposed to be anticipating where we should take things for our brands and tightening that bond with our audiences.  Analytics, for the most part – took place in the past.

Yeah -it already happened.  And it’s not necessarily a predictor of where we should be going, no?  Especially when you consider that people use technology based on what is given to them and not necessarily on how they would like to use it.  I liken that to the debate that companies have around deciding whether to mobile optimize a site or go responsive based on the data around how users visit their site.  If mobile devices show as a lower proportion of the audience visits, then what does that really say about the audience.

The questions becomes – are the users desk top users and therefore that is the user base to cater for, or is it that because the site is only built for desktop experiences, mobile users are frustrated and forced to use their desktops?

Big data means that we have to consider that this data from the past, may not actually be a true reflection of how users want to use our digital properties but rather how they try to use it based on its limitations.  Our job is to think about the future and anticipate those changes or identify the gaps that big data just won’t give us.

We have to be creative in filling those gaps, through survey’s, mapping customer experiences, understanding drop off rates and the user flow that took place before a user leaves a site –  to create the story of what that digital experience needs to be in the future where data doesn’t exist.

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Observation as part of Digital Strategy

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observationOne of the most fascinating aspects of digital communications to me, is that more than ever does observation play a critical role in determining an appropriate strategy.

For those who love people watching, well – this is for you!  Being able to observe and make deductive decisions assist in creating insights that will strongly benefit your overall strategy.

Here are 5 reasons why observation is necessary:

1.  People have behaviours.  These behaviours are usually habitual.  If you are able to tap into a human habit digitally, it means that you have found a way of integrating into a users life if what you put forth provides a value ad or solves a problem for them.

2. Observing allows you to identify a problem that a user may not even know that they have.  People tend to compensate a behaviour when they assume that there is no other way to do something.  When you find what that is, you can create a product/service to fill a void people did not even know that they had.

3. You can better understand how the user actually uses something.  Professions such as Information Architecture and User Expereince come from this.  Understanding how people typically use an app or website means that you can design to make it easy to use or teach a new behaviour.

4. You can make it better.  Apple is famous for this.  Every year people camp out for a new iteration of something that is even just a minimal improvement.

5. Data alone does not provide you enough contex.   Numbers in surveys or reports and analytics are just that.  They are numbers.  In order to be able to find insight and create a compelling story for those numbers having actual context and opportunity to obseve how these number fluctuate and for what reasons means that you can make stronger decisions for a better strategy,

It must run in the family….

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390612_10150392575209262_989158474_nWell it takes one to know one right?    It seems that many people in my family (including my own father), has displayed some type of interest in digital in one way or another.  My dad was a computer programmer eventually heading up all things IT, in a time when there weren’t many IT department heads that were visible minorities in Canada.  He was hardcore – I mean programming Cobalt and Tandem and crazy ridiculous things I don’t even understand.  I just remember he would do some crazy things using a DOS screen.  Yeah, I’m talking old school.

This is actually a post to shout out to my cousin who is a native “New Yawker” ( those are his own words ).  His mom and my dad were siblings, and we pretty much spent our entire child hoods being driven back and forth across the US/Canada border to spend summers, long weekends and holidays together.  He is a proud new daddy of the most adorable little baby boy – and with the time off that I have at the moment …  I feel that a visit is in order, along with meeting my… second cousin?  Cousin – nephew?

He too, took an interest in technology – although he had originally set his sights on architecture.  (Much like myself… I had my sight set on a law degree and instead entered into communications, then more specifically digital communications).  He is a CIO and actually works very much in the same field as myself.  He has been a pretty awesome support to me during this difficult time of career transition.

If you have moment, you should take a stroll on over to check out his blog: A CIO’s Voice.  (I’ll be sure to put a permanent link on my blog roll in a bit ;)).  Happy readings!

And the Job Hunt Begins

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As most of you are aware, I have proudly worked for Rogers Media in their Digital Client Solutions Team for the last 3 years.  Unfortunately, and to my greatest shock – last Tuesday I was laid off as part of their restructuring process.  (You can see the story here: Rogers Communications lays off 94 staff in media operations.)  Myself and 1 additional team member also was let go after 8 years with the company and 5 years on my team.

I first and foremost want to say that working at Rogers in my role as a Digital Engagement Manager was really and truly my dream job.  It really was everything that anyone that works in communications could dream of and ask for -not to mention that I worked on one of the most prestigious teams.  I’m not shy to say – as I did at many of our morning department teams – it was the team that everyone within the organization was trying to be part of.

I considered my team members to be like family.  My Director was outstanding as was my reporting manager – and I always think that these situations are the most difficult  – because when you work with great people and great mentors, it is so sad to not be able to see them and interact with them everyday.  As I said to them – I hope this is only just a temporary pause until we have an opportunity to work or collaborate together one day.

I shall not include names because I do respect people’s privacy and anonimity 🙂  But to all the sales reps, GMs, editors and publishers, producers, project managers, creative and also of course to my entire team – thank you all so much for the time I had to learn and grow and be part of the wonderful things that Rogers Media does 🙂

5 steps to Social Media Readiness

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Photo credit: www.socialable.co.uk
Photo credit: http://www.socialable.co.uk

Ready… set… go…..

Buzz words are great – and in all aspects of business we hear them.  However, when working in the digital and communications space what does the term: “social media readiness” actually mean?  While it can vary by organization to organization, in a nutshell it means: how ready are you or your organization for engagement into the social media space.

In one of my former roles as a Marketing and Communications Manager,  I would hear almost every day directly from the CEO how we needed to use social media to promote their product.  Due to the company culture it was very much,  a “do it first and ask questions later” atmosphere.  The idea of marketing and the focus on being executional/tactical in nature first,  superseded the notion of ensuring that the company was ready to do it or that they actually understood what they were doing while doing it.  The largest mistake that any company can make in marketing and communications is to put the cart before the horse.  Once you put something out there, especially online – it is there.  Reflecting your company, your brand and your products.

This organization was not ready for social media.  They understood it in theory, and they definitely understood the execution – “Put a video on Youtube”, “Start a Facebook page”…. but had no long term strategy, or any idea what they should be doing with their social assets past that. So, how can you do a temperature check?  Here are 5 steps to take in finding out how ready your organization is for social media:

      1. Executive level buy in:  You definitely need to ensure that your leadership is in support of the idea.  Some might be, and some might not be – some may not understand it at all.  To erase some uneasiness it might require some education around social media products.  These can include business case studies with organizations that are similar in nature to yours – or if you are willing – using your own personal accounts to demonstrate how things can work positively.
      2. Educational tools:  Even if an organization understands the practice of using certain social media networks, you can create or provide tools that make things easy for them to digest and stay current. Hubspot provides a lot of great white papers and e-books that can be easily disseminated or referenced.  In my former roll as a Communications Coordinator for the Government, I actually created a social media dictionary to assist our senior management team in learning the lingo.
      3. Social Media Policies: OK – so naturally your leadership is going to have concerns around all the possible things that could go sideways if they enter into this space, from employees exposing secret info publicly to the public bashing them.  Work with them to create social media policies that they feel comfortable with; if possible check with your legal and HR teams to make sure everything is covered.  If all else fails – there are a ton of templates online.  Hey, we are in the age of sharing!
      4. Don’t scare your staff: Your biggest fans are right under your nose.  The people who live and breath your organization everyday.  Once you have buy in – don’t leave them out of the education process!  They can be your organizations biggest advocates and evangelists online.  Keep them in the loop and ensure that they understand your social media policies and procedures.  Give them some ownership and a voice and you will see how quickly things can become viral!
      5. Put pen to paper:  Plan!  Like any other communications or marketing initiative you must have a plan in place.  If you work for an organization that doesn’t see the importance of this run!  As the saying goes – fail to plan, plan to fail.  Except that you would be letting the organization fail publicly in a space that spreads information at rapid fire speed.  A social media plan should outline the networks most relevant to your organizations needs, how you intend on using them, content plans and schedules and how that integrates with your overall marketing plan.

5 Best Practices for Social Media Strategy in Communications Departments

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Featured in Social Media Today, one of my most read blogs from my old site:

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Social media strategy and usage in Communications departments requires a bit of a shift in traditional thinking.  Often, many organzational leaders view social media as a technological advancement — and while it is, its primary usage is often to promote/conversate/develop content/grow audience. Hmm… this is sounding like Prinicples of Communications Theory 101.

The technology aspect is working with IT people who understand things like SEO and the programing aspect of social media platforms, building apps and using apps that work best with websites etc.  (There is obviously much more, but I’m just condensing for space).

While that thinking has to shift a little, there are some things that need to be thought about the same.  You still need to run a department that has people with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.  You can decentralize who has onus on particular features, but ultimately you need to have content creators and community managers and decide where that responsibility will sit.

Here are 5 best practices for social media implementation in your communications department:

  1. Role development: One of two things need to occur — either you will need to develop a new role that is responsible for overseeing and implementing your social media strategy, or you will need to look at existing roles and decide where expansion in roles should exist.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities: Social media can be used by everyone in an organziation — not just communications.  However, you need to define solid roles and responsibilities — who develops content? Who manages your community and profiles? Who leads the strategy?  Will it all be one person or will it be different people?
  3. Understand the basic needs of social media in communications practice:  If you do not fully understand social media as a leader in your communications department, don’t pretend you do!  More importantly, make sure you consult others who have existing social media department models to understand how they set their’s up.  The most important need is: WHOEVER you choose to run your social media strategy NEEDS to have a communications and/or marketing background combined with a DEMONSTRATED knowledge in social media principles.
  4. Demonstrated knowledge in social media principles:  Google them.  Social media users should have a high Googleabilty factor.  More importantly, they need to be demonstrating content development, community management, social media knowledge, involvement in the social media community and of course — newest trends in social media platforms.  If they cannot demonstrate this online, then how can they really understand how its used?
  5. Don’t get technology confused with communications: What you need is  a communicator that understands technology.  It is easy to become sidetracked when you don’t understand technology.

3 common mistakes:

  1. Confusing IT and Technological Communications.  You need to have a person in place with a solid career in communications first!
  2. Multiple personalities on one Social Media profile — ie: Corporate v.s CEO.  If the corp profile is speaking, then you need to keep it consistent.  Let it be one voice manned by one department. If you want your CEO to tweet – the most important principle – be open and transparent, don’t confuse your audience or try to re purpose your corporate account to become the CEO (unless he’s been the one developing the content in it  from the get go!)
  3. Multiple users of one social media account.  Community management is essential to engaging and understanding your audience.  Too  many hands in the pot — no matter how organized or differentiated you think it might be — is never a good idea.  Can you imagine if you had several people responsbile for one e-mail account?  Yes — it will be that messy.  That is why the roles of Community Managers are essential — its a one person job — it can be 1-1 (1 community manager per 1 profile) or 1 to many (1 community manager responsible for multiple accounts).

I’m baaaacccckkkk!!!!!

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*Sigh*!  It took a long while.  I thought and thought and thought about whether or not this was a good idea.  I was asked by everyone what happened to my blog.  And as a recap – if any of you remember – I had someone who basically hacked and stalked my life for a while.  Posting photos that were inappropriate claiming they were me, e-mailing my contacts on FB and all my e-mail accounts (including employers/colleagues)  with disgusting propositions.  He texted me, e-mailed me, called me – threats and more threats.  I fought back on my blog.  And then he came here to fight me too.

That was when I made the decision that I could not do this anymore.  I learned that FB and hotmail do not have expeditious ways to deal with security related issues.  The cyber crimes unit of the police were as helpful as they could be, except that they had to obtain a warrant that would need to be served to hotmail via a general e-mail address and could not guarantee when they would be able to do anything.  They asked me things like “Who hates you?”, “What about your ex?  Is he angry with you?”, “Any friends you had any recent conflict with?”, “Would there be any reason that someone would want to harm you or hurt you or seek revenge for anything?”.

I’m supposed to be a person who has more understanding about online and digital things – especially in regards to marketing, communications, PR and advertising.  How could this be happening to me?  Comments and e-mails both positive and negative flew into this blog.  Some blaming me, some poking fun at the fact that I should know better because of my career and interest.  Others, thankfully – supportive!  I shut down my blog.  I had to fight this crazy person, I couldn’t be fighting the general public too.

But, because I had more requests to bring back my blog than not.  Because I had multiple tweets from different people in my industry to bring it back, I’ve been in the process of setting myself back up for the last two months.  And thanks to @AlphaStar, @ShambledRambler and @WonderMoms_ca combined with a Happy TwBirthday recognition from @TwBirthday and @Tor_Twop_1000, I grew a pair and decided that my personal brand, my career and my knowledge are worth more to me than the people who tried to tear it to shreds.  I’m back.