Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

Your Job Title

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What is your job title?

Digital Prophet, Chief Happiness Officer, Scrum Master, Paranoid-in-Chief, Hacker in Residence and Bacon Critic are all real jobs. There are even weirder ones than that around. It turns up on documentation, your email signature, your linkedin profile, websites and badges/labels at conferences.

How much does your job title matter?

It’s part of the first impression you make, and as first impressions are often online that occupational descriptor is important.

Your job title should say something about the field you work in, it might only be meaningful within that field. One of my communications colleagues used to delight in introducing me as a web mistress, to his ears it sounded much naughtier than the standard web master. I didn’t object to it on those grounds, but because “webmaster” has a specific meaning in the world of digital, and I do not have those skills.

Titles can also indicate your seniority, and in hierarchical companies that can make a difference to how you are treated. There can be differences in different countries, at one company I’ve worked with the media relations team had two sets of business cards, one for Europe and one for the US which used the identifier “VP” for vice-president.

In large companies there’s often a standardised list of titles that describe roles for an occupational framework. In one company that used such a job framework the official, HR sanctioned, job title I had was never used outside the company. Instead I chose something that was simple, descriptive and short. The digital field is littered with obfuscating titles, I didn’t want to add to the mess.

If you’re able to choose your own title go for something that describes you and lets people know your work. Be realistic, you want to be signalling to people who receive your business card what you really do. Make sure it aligns with your expertise and your seniority. If you work in a hierarchical company check that it’s in line with your colleagues  and your boss’ expectations.

You can create any job title, there’s even an online generator to help you. One word of caution, avoid the crazy terms, they may ruin your credibility.

Having said that my all time favourite job title was Chief Nerd.

Image:  Name Badges  |  University of Exeter  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fake News

 

CM2017_04_fakenews.pngFAKE NEWS!

The rise and rise of this term has made it even harder to determine what to believe, although it has a very long dishonourable history. I’ve taken to checking and rechecking posts before commenting. But yesterday a friend posted an article claiming that the BCC and CNN had faked reports of chemical attacks in Syria. Both those organisations attract criticism for bias but are generally respected for their journalism, so I checked. It’s been debunked as invented by Russian journalists. Shortly after someone posted a very unlikely-sounding story about massive ill treatment and incarceration of LGBTx people in Chechnya, the source was Daily Mail and I refuse to click on Daily Mail links but I can Google it. Horrifyingly it’s true, with multiple reports from credible sources.

How can you tell if something is really fake news?

Let’s be clear there are a number of ways a news report can be wrong.

  • error
    the news centre may have got its facts wrong. Reputable news organisations avoid this and apologise quickly when it happens.
  • bias
    the news centre may have a stated bias, The Economist for example is slightly right wing, the Guardian is slightly left.  You can read both of the same events. In fact that’s healthy.
  • misleading
    the news centre starts with a viewpoint and presents information to support that viewpoint. Most news centres are guilty of this at some point (and remember editorial is not the same as news). At last year’s remembrance service in London one news outlet claimed that the leader of the Labour political party had danced, and they had the pictures to prove it.
  • facts are fabricated with the idea of changing your opinion, this is what I would consider “fake news”, and the above story that BBC/CNN had fabricated information on attacks in Syria falls into this category. As does a certain head of state’s statements on many issues.
  • satire
    there are some great satire pieces out there, but as the news gets weird it can be hard to tell which is real. That is predicted by Poe’s Law.

There are four things to consider when examining the news

  • what quality is the source?
  • how accurate is the reporting?
  • is there bias in the reporting?
  • is it a joke (satire)?

There’s a graphic doing the rounds online that puts these characteristics into one handy chart. (Originally created by Vanessa Otero)

media analysis

I’ve seen some criticism out there already, from both sides, so please use this as a starting point to create your own guide on what to read. (Personally I’d have put “The Atlantic” to the right of the Grauniad).

There is a call for the various social media to do more to prevent the publication of fake news – particularly following the climax of Pizzagate when a guy with a gun turned up at an innocent Pizza joint based on fake news reports. BBC’s Click Podcast covered some of the reasons that technology is not and easy, or complete, answer.

FactCheck.org produced a guide on spotting fake news, their whole article is worth reading but this infographic summarises the main points.

How to spot fake news

Note that we need to check our own biases. A lot of news is being presented in a very binary fashion, with predictable partisan lines being drawn. Checking our own biases means being aware of how our own views play into what we want to believe. We all need to hold ourselves to a high standard in what we read, repeat, post, and believe.

My reaction to the flood of news reports from the various world horrors going on is to check and recheck the news I’m reading and to try to read mostly from the upper oval, in light green. I’m also trying not to get into link wars, but to have discussions and add links when asked for evidence. I have also take to asking people for evidence of their claims, so far none of the people asked have been able to provide any (even the Facebook friend who virtually shouted at me to “GO and READ”.)

There’s no technical solution to fake news.  It comes down to all of us paying attention. We need to find ways of distinguishing the real news, understanding our biases, being vigilant on what we believe and taking responsibility for what we post.

POSTSCRIPT

Alvaro Cabellero kindly sent me a link to Mike Caulfield’s excellent article How “News Literacy” Gets Web Misinformation Wrong. It’s a sixteen minute read; the tldr advice is;

I have a simple web literacy model. When confronted with a dubious claim:

  • Check for previous fact-checking work
  • Go upstream to the source
  • Read laterally

It’s a good process, and will get you to an assessment of the quality of the journalism pretty quickly.

Image:  News  |  Jenn   | CC BY 2.0

 

Uncanny Valley

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We’re increasingly interacting with machines that masquerade as humans, either as an online chatbot, voice activated tools (Siri, Alexa and friends), and just occasionally as robots. As long as the machine is obviously a machine we’re comfortable interacting with it, and we’ll make allowances for its robot brain.

As our ability to use high levels of artificial intelligence delivers more human-like machines it will become harder to determine whether a machine is a machine based on the interaction.  When the machine starts to imitate a human well we’ll interact as long as we see the human.

The “Uncanny Valley” describes the feeling of being disturbed by interacting  and having the realisation that the machine isn’t as human as we’d thought. Or, conversely, knowing that we’re interacting with a robot but finding the speech, look and movements terribly life-like. It’s that moment when you think “oh, creepy”.  The term was created more than forty years ago by Robotics Professor Masahiro Mori.

As the robots become more human like this effect will, in theory, disappear. After all if we can’t distinguish the machine as a machine then we won’t have the discomfort. We still have some way to go but robotics engineers and AI programmers are getting us closer. Take a look at SAYA, the reception robot created by the Koboyashi Laboratory at Tokyo University of Science. Note this is from 2009, so I’m sure there have been advance in design and interaction since then, in the meantime SAYA seems uncanny to me.

 

 

Image:  Templum Ex Obscurum  |  Narshe Talbot |  CC BY2.0

Take the Survey

 

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Creating a good survey, one that gives you robust results, takes skill. In a former life I worked for a data analytics company where a team worked on creating surveys for consumers where I gained an appreciation of the skill. I have sincere worked with online surveys. Here are some aspects of survey design to consider.

Sample Size

Imagine you want to know whether Dutch people prefer dark or milk chocolate. The population of the Netherlands is 16.8 million. How many of them do you need to ask?

It turns out, not that many. If I collected data from 1067 people I could be 95% sure that my answer as correct with a margin of error of 3%. That means that if 70% choose milk chocolate the answer in the general population will lie between 67 and 73%. So if you’re a chocolate manufacturer you now know to make most of your flavours based on milk chocolate.

You can be more sure of the answer the further the outcome is from 50%. For the chocolate maker an answer of 47-53% would still be useful, but it’s problematic if you’re predicting political outcomes.

Once upon a time I knew the maths behind these calculations, now I just use an online calculator

Sample Selection

Your sample should reflect your target population as much as possible. This may involve excluding some people from  participating – if you are researching hair care products you don’t need bald men in your sample. For wider. issues it is more likely that you will try to construct a sample that mirrors the total population in terms of gender, race, age, income, family status, religion, location, gender identity and sexuality. That’s not easy. The further you are from your target group the less reliable the outcome of your survey.

Method Bias

Your method of collecting data may introduce bias, if you are collecting data by calling domestic numbers during working hours you exclude working people. If you collect data online you exclude those not on the Internet, and limit respondents to the small group that find your website.

If you are collecting data online you need to control for bots, and you may want to limit the number of times a respondent can answer.

Question construction

To get useful data from your survey you need to construct your questions to be neutral, unambiguous, not leading and specific.

Neutral

“Do you smoke cigarettes?” Is neutral

“Are you a filthy smoker?” Is not.

Unambiguous

It should be clear what information you ar seeking in your question; there are two traps to avoid here.

  • Asking two things in one question

“how friendly and helpful was your customer agent today?” Asks two things, and it’s impossible to decide how to answer if your customer agent solved the problem but was grumpy on the phone with you. You need to split this into two questions.

  • Using negatives

“Do you disagree that raising taxes won’t create jobs?” Is confusing. Rewrite this to ask “Do you agree that…  ?” to simplify it

Avoid Leading Questions

Leading questions contain details that indicate the expected answer.

“When will you start offering free upgrades?” assumes that you will offer free upgrades.

Specific

You will get more accurate and useful data if you ask specifics.

“Do you eat chocolate regularly?” doesn’t tell you much since ‘regularly’ means different things. Much better to ask “how often do you eat chocolate?” and give people a series of ranges to choose from.

What led to this post? A friend posted a strange survey from the President of the United States that breaks every single one of these rules, and a few others.

Here’s the title page of the survey, given that it was sent out after the press conference where the press was repeatedly called “Fake news” the title is clearly priming you to doubt the accountability of the media.

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The survey was sent to known Republican supporters, yet the President represents all Americans. The questions are certainly not neutral, and some are just confusing. Here’s the most confusing;
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And here’s the most ironic, given that we have already seen that the President uses “alternative facts“, misleading statements and untruths.

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 All of which is to say that when the Presidential PR machine talks about having data showing how people don’t trust mainstream media remember his data collection is flawed and the results cannot be trusted.

Images; Question mark |  qimono via pixabay  |   CC0 1.0 

Sponsorship That Makes Sense

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What companies choose to sponsor says something about the company’s culture and ambition. Do they focus on sport or arts? Do they go for global events – football, olympics, Formula 1, or choose local events?

In another job I was involved in the assessment of a sports sponsorship, by the time we listed what was available, and eliminated options that were occupied by direct competitors the choice was between three. I think at the global level the decisions are pragmatic and connected to the desired scale.

So what about local sponsorships? Often there’s a direct connection based on the product, as in this case of a man going for the Guinness record on ironing – note the Philips logos in the background. I spotted a local sponsorship recently that got me thinking; the National Railway (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS) sponsors book week in partnership with the Society for the Promotion of Dutch Books (Stichting Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek). It’s a brilliant sponsorship, here’s why.

Connect Company to Sponsor Event

At first trains might not seem to have much to do with books, but millions of people commute by train each day and many of them read. So the connection between taking a train and reading is already in people’s minds, and it’s already a habit. By sponsoring book week NS takes advantage of this existing habit.

If you’re looking for a local sponsorship look for something that connects your brand to an existing habit.

Easy to Communicate

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-09-40-53I understood the connection with one image of a passenger reading, it’s a very easy connection to make.

If you can’t explain the connection in one sentence or with one image it might not be a real connection. If the story around your sponsorship feels forced, you might need to rewrite the story.  There’s more detail (and examples) of sponsorship storytelling in this great article.

Activation with Benefits

The NS activation includes multiple events; book week, children’s book week and national book prizes. At each event there are multiple events, including free travel with a promoted book, an author signing her book on some trips, exchange of children’s book, and there is a book exchange room at the network’s biggest train station (although that station is being rebuilt – I hope the book exchange survives).

The promoted book is one written specifically for book week, and seems to be a commissioned book – the author for next year’s book week (in March/April) is already known (article in Dutch).

Look for ways to activate your sponsorship that get media coverage – in this case the national book prizes – and local interest – the free travel will appeal to Dutch (OK, I’m pushing the Dutch stereotype here!).

The NS sponsorship is great, what more could they do? I didn’t see them activating on social media, and search today doesn’t find any evidence that they used social media to expand their impact, that may be limited by the lead organisation.

Lessons for your local sponsorship;

  1. choose a sponsorship that has an existing connection to your company
  2. develop a simple story that explains the connection; aim for one sentence or one image
  3. activate to appeal to your audience, and use media and social media to promote your activities in a positive way.

I’m planning to join “Boekenweek” next year, and take the train trip with the sponsored book. I’m still slow reading Dutch so I might need to go all the way to Maastricht.

Image:  Nijmegen trio Plan V-SGMm en VIRM  |  Rob Dammers  |  CC BY 2.0 

In Our Own Bubble

The information superhighway took a turn for the worse, we now travel down it in our own comfortable, insulated and isolated bubble.

We can now get any information about any subject at any time online. There’s so much information available that we cannot consume it all, so we make selections. There are more than 500 million tweets per day, but only about 20,000 make it into my twitter timeline, and I only see a subset of those. There are 420,000,00 status updates on Facebook each day, a few hundred of those make it into my feed and I read only a few of those. Then there is Linkedin, YouTube, RSS (yes I still use RSS), and general news outlets.

It’s way too much, so we apply filters. A big part of the filter is who I follow or connect to, in general I follow people who have similar interests or views. As my major news sources are now online I’m unconsciously applying a filter to what news I get.

But there’s another filter being applied that we might not be aware of. The major platforms are also filtering what lands on our screen in our Facebook feed, and (coming soon) our Twitter feed, and our search results. Meaning that Google results are customised based on your search history, your browser, your language choice, your computer. Here’s how it works.

We know that news shapes our world view; in this TED talk Alisa Miller talks about the amount of time given to various news stories. As news organisations reduce costs and dismantle their international news bureaus the international coverage has reduced. She’s speaking from a US perspective, but a similar dynamic plays out in other countries.

If you add together the distortion in what is published, the “customised” news presented in social media and search, and our own filters in choosing who to follow and what to read, it’s fair to say that we’re living in a bubble. Throw into the mix the human tendency for confirmation bias and it’s easy to see that people become increasingly entrenched in their views, both less likely and less willing to hear evidence that doesn’t support their view.

In the last few weeks I’ve seen emotional discussion on politics from both sides of the Atlantic as the US heads into a presidential election later this year and Britain heads to a referendum, dubbed “Brexit“, later this week. It’s not pretty, in both cases it’s a polarised discussion.

It’s because of the level of polarisation, and the anger I’ve seen that I started digging into this. I’ve long thought that social media platforms were poor places for serious discussion for five reasons;

  1. Clutter; Facebook is a blend of photos of cuteness, personal confessions and travel photos. Right next to a photo of my niece walking a tightrope doesn’t seem to be the best place to compare a candidates track record on gun violence.
  2. Godwin’s Law; sooner or later someone is going to drop the N-word. Either of them.
  3. Reading Comprehension; sooner or later someone is going to misunderstand you, perhaps willfully.
  4. Not in Person: in person I could read the person’s body language to pick up on sarcasm or irony (better than in an online discussion)
  5. Asynchronous; nothing worse that waiting hours for a reply to your well-formed attack on a person’s point-of-view. (This should be understood as a tongue-in-cheek comment, see no. 3 above).

So I wasn’t surprised to discover that there is a known phenomenon called the “political spiral of silence“, which means that nuanced, thoughtful points-of-view which are likely to cover some of the middle ground are lost in the noise of social media.

The outcome is a debate so polarised that it’s destructive. How can we change this? What would it take to make your social media and search results more inclusive?

Start by reading opposing views, and having open discussions. We can agree to disagree, can’t we?

Image: Bubbles  | Michael Carson  |  CC BY-NC 2.0