Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Web analytics, business intelligence and big data

Is interest for Web analytics stagnating or even fading? According to Google Trends data, it still represents about 1/3 of the interest for business intelligence. But... at the same time, interest for Big Data is on the verge of surpassing business intelligence!

Despite the rebranding of the Web Analytics Association into Digital Analytics Association and evangelizing the term "digital analytics", people still largely refer to our discipline as "web analytics".

So... what does the future hold for digital analysts? I shared my thoughts in an article on Online-Behavior.com entitled "Big Data - what it means for the digital analyst". What does the future hold for you?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Social123: the conclusion

Yesterday I shared my concerns about the practice of Social123 which, in their own words, consists in "providing a completely automated system that will find demographic and social data for your social followers".

It spurred some comments on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ and got the attention of Scott Miller, Chief Sales Officer and Aaron Biddar, CEO of Social123. I appreciate their willingness to share their point of view. I want to point out that Social123 is certainly not the only company offering this type of service.

I had indicated I would do a follow-up, so here it is.

Spam or not?

S.H.) I hate spam… my initial email reply went unnoticed and you spammed me again… which actions do you take to prevent unacceptable use of the profiles you build up? (both for yourself, but also – and maybe even more importantly - your clients)
A.B.) None of the e-mails sent from Social123 are SPAM. We strictly adhere to the FTC’s guidelines for CAN-SPAM Act.
S.H.) Aaron provided the details from the CAN-SPAM act - thank you. Which, from a legal standpoint, they abide with. However, legal and ethic are two different things. I like this simple definition of spam: "Send the same message indiscriminately to (large numbers of recipients) on the Internet." It had never heard of them before, it was unsolicited, and based on the comments I received, the same message was sent to a large number of people. Call it legal or not, perception of spam is in the eyes of the receiving party...

Ethical or not?

S.H.) Is building up profiles something considered to be ethical?
A.B.) Ethical or not, data is king. Organizations like Hoovers.com, data.com (SFDC company), and KLOUT.com to name a few are good examples of using social data to enhance an organization’s knowledge of their prospects, customers or competitors.
S.H.) Oh! So framed differently, you tell me "data is king" regardless of ethic? Please allow me to have a totally different opinion! There are a number of very important differences between the companies cited by M.Biddar and what Social123 does:
  • data about companies (Hoovers, data.com) vs data about individual people;
  • building up social profiles (à la Klout) - which isn't done for the purpose of building up detailed individual profiles;
  • going "fishing" for profiles to be used in questionable marketing tactics vs enriching customer database profiles from data explicitly consented by said customer;

Legal or not?

S.H.) Could it be considered illegal in some jurisdictions?
A.B.) Gathering data is not illegal and all of the data we do collect is information people have made publically available. All of the data collected by Social123 can be accessed by any individual in the world. Our process has simply taken what anyone can do manually and automate the process. Twitter, for example, makes it very clear in their Terms and Conditions that “ What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!”.
S.H.) I'm not a lawyer, so I can't agree or disagree - but based on PIPEDA guidelines, I feel the result of such practice could be illegal in Canada. The combination of publicly available information ends up creating a PII issue because detailed profile information that are not shared on a specific social media channel (like Twitter or Facebook) ends up being combined to build a specific profile. Unless someone is connected to me they don't have detailed information like email, address or birth date. The massive build up of profiles which is eased by Big Data concepts and tools, is more susceptible of creating this PII issue - something that even the World Economic Forum is worried about. The other issue is I don't have any "right of regard" to limit the use of such made-up profiles, or make corrections if I think some info is misleading, inaccurate or inadequate.

Genuinely social vs commercially abusive

S.H.) From a social media perspective, the Twitter #measure community is closely knit… and it was easy to find out that your company spammed a lot of us… could this be a case of social media tactics backfiring at you? Isn’t your service susceptible of facilitating such situations?
A.B.) We have hundreds of customers and partners. It is inevitable that we are going to have some bad press. As I stated earlier, we go through a very extensive process to ensure we do not Spam. Many of the people who received more than one communication likely have multiple e-mail addresses or twitter handles.
S.H.) Thank you - I do have multiple profiles in the hope of keeping my personal and professional lives distinct (admittedly a hard thing to do!). Based on my inbox history, I can confirm both emails were sent to the same email address - I guess that's not the point here. In my opinion, spam is spam (as I defined earlier) whether it's sent to one or multiple of my accounts, it was still unsolicited.

Parting thoughts

When the Web became commercial in 1995, I was among those worried that commercial interests would kill the spirit of a great new medium. As they say, history repeats itself. Social media is about people; about people's interests. I've always been worried about the blatant and potentially abusive commercial use of social media. Whether what Social123 is legal or not is somewhat irrelevant, the potential for abuse is facilitated and consumers have no control over it. It is up to us - the marketers and the analysts - to be careful in our marketing tactics, to choose our partners wisely and define our ethical guidelines.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Social123: When your social life becomes the target of creepy tactics

Unethical practices

In my book, scavenging the web to build up detailed profiles through social media and other sources is something I feel is freaky and unethical.
...Social123 provides demographic and social data on any company’s Twitter followers including their e-mail address... We also append existing contact databases with publicly available information from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn...

Fair practice

Don't get me wrong - I believe in engaging your audience through social media and enriching customer profiles through the information you have legitimately collected - with consent. Is what social123 doing legal? If you use their service will you put yourself into at legal risk? For example, in Canada, read "Fair information principles" from the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Among the ten points, see those:
  • define the purposes of its collection
  • obtain consent
  • limit its collection, use and disclosure
Do you feel what social123 is doing abides by PIPEDA principles?

The WAA Code of Ethics

As an analyst, I strive to follow strong ethics and I embrace the WAA Code of Ethics. I feel it is our collective responsibility to call out those who we believe are not helping our industry. Heck! If this company is so good about social media they will certainly get an alert within minutes of my posting... let's see what happen!

So, tell me... am I freaking? Am I the only one who think the practice of "data appending service" is unethical and potentially illegal?

For the record

The first time I got their spam I didn't disclose the company name and simply replied. I shared my concern on twitter and G+... I played fair.

But the same Jo Turner (no LinkedIn profile...) spammed me again with the same type of message. I had clearly indicated in my first reply that I was uncomfortable with their service - to which I never got any feedback.

  • #1 - Spamming
  • #2 - Not replying to my comment
  • #3 - Spamming again...
  • #4 - This whole concept of building up profiles!
So here it is for you pleasure - and I will continue to update as it unfolds:

From: Bo Turner [mailto:bo.turner@social123.com] 
Sent: June-05-12 17:33
To: stephane
Subject: Monetizing Social Media for Marketing Automation

My company, Social123, provides demographic and social data on any company’s Twitter followers including their e-mail address. I found your information using our techniques and thought you may be interested in learning more. This information can be obtained for your company, industry, association, or even your competition.
We also append existing contact databases with publicly available information from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – and score them based off of their content mentions so you can reach out to the people who matter most.
Please let me know if you have a couple of minutes to discuss.
Bo Turner
Senior Sales Executive
(864) 494-7488

From: Stephane Hamel
Sent: June-05-12 17:38
To: 'Bo Turner'
Subject: RE: Monetizing Social Media for Marketing Automation

Hey you – if you want to be serious with social media, start by abiding by stronger ethical rules about spamming and check the profile of those you are talking to…


From: Bo Turner
Sent: June-23-12 11:15
To: stephanehamel
Subject: Social Followers Plus
Hello Stephane,

I hope this week is off to a grea start! I know you weren’t expecting my email but I thought our new SocialFollowers+ would be of interest. My company, Social123, provides a completely automated system that will find demographic and social data for your social followers. We can append this data with SocialPoints+ – our customized scoring platform - which helps you rank your most influential contacts. We can also append an email address for many of the contacts. 

I found your information using our techniques and thought you may be interested in learning more. If there is a specific contact list, twitter handle or crm list you would like to append with social data, social points and emails, we would love to help.

You can sign up for free and see 150 results here http://www.social123.com/register. I am here to answer any questions and would love the opportunity to connect.

Bo Turner
Director of Strategic Accounts
Social123 – Monetize Social Media
C: (864) 494-7488

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You say Analytics Maturity Quotient? I say wtf!

From: Jim Sterne
Subject: RE: What is your organization's Analytics Maturity?
Am I correct that you have seen this??

People in the web online digital analytics know of my work and my passion for the topic of analytics maturity.

I won't disclose the original source of the email Jim forwarded me in order to protect the "innocent". The reminder of the message is a nicely written marketing pitch about yet another maturity model from an agency... inviting you to fill out a survey in exchange for a promise to eventually get a summary of the results.

Never heard of them – and honestly, I frown when I see this type of article… Pointing to a bunch of high-profile company names and a well known and trusted news site. +1 for building credibility!

I’m surprised this news site even published such a superficial article… The survey as some blatant usability errors and is highly subjective. I don’t pretend the Online Analytics Maturity Model is perfect - far from it - but at least I don’t position it as a magical solution. Filling their survey gives you… nothing but a promise to get the results!

Oh! And there is a paper, conveniently called a "framework". I downloaded it – of course, after filling a lead form… and surprise, surprise! There isn't much there other than marketing fluff… It basically repeats the same article and the survey.

But worse of all. The article proposes a fancy math formula - a clever way to sound more scientific and rigorous:

L for Leadership, P for People, D for Decision Making Process (instead of P for Process, which would have been too simple... but that letter was already taken! doh!), etc. So you need 0.3 more people and 0.2D, and some sulfur and a fresh frog eye.

Where the hell is this formula coming from? What was the methodology to come up with it? What are the supporting arguments?

I have seen numerous models claiming to address “analytics maturity” but in almost every instance, those lack any serious research, supporting arguments, and end up being a lure for leads… I have even seen agencies doing a rip-off of my work without citing source or reference despite the fact I have always openly said the OAMM is there to be used, reused and abused. That’s how it can stand the test of fire – and I’m all for agencies and vendors to use it – as long as they cite the source and provide me with feedback if they think there should be any changes.

My take

It as been said the first benefit of a maturity model is the conversation it sparks. But please, PLEASE... do your homework and seek a model that have a minimal level of decency!

Some facts:

  • a summary of the OAMM paper is available (without any requirement to give your email or other info) and the full version is available upon request;
  • when you fill out the OAMM self-assessment - as did over 500 organizations so far - you get immediate feedback and we will not bug you with a sales pitch (unless you specifically ask for a follow-up!);
  • you can read about the numerous elements covered by the OAMM in my posts at Online-Behavior.com;
  • you can enroll in a workshop to learn more - next workshop at eMetrics Boston, September 30th;
  • you are welcome to use the model and expand upon it - the only thing I ask is you cite proper reference and if you have suggestions for improvement, please let me know!
In the coming days, I will make the OAMM self-assessment available as a widget. Agencies and vendors will be able to easily integrate it to their own site while making sure their data is available to them while contributing to the larger benchmark pool.