Predictive Analytics for Social Media at SMMW15

One of my complaints about marketing conferences is that the content tends to be the same old thing, over and over again. That’s understandable and even necessary, thanks to the churn rate of people coming into marketing. There’s an evergreen need for 101 content, for how-to, for the basics. Of all of the books I’ve written, the one for beginners, Marketing White Belt, consistently tops the sales charts.

But for those folks who have been around for a little while, conferences can get a bit stale. That’s why I’ll be trying something different at Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Marketing World this month. My session will be about social media analytics. Nothing new there on the surface, right? But instead of things you’ve already heard and done, we’re going to try something different together: advanced social media analytics.


What constitutes advanced analytics? First, we’ll examine a newer social media funnel that lets you characterize different metrics in a logical flow. That alone will help some marketers present more impactful reporting.

Second, we’re going to spend a lot of time on predictive analytics. There are three statistical patterns we’ll learn together: breakouts, trends, and anomalies:

  • Breakouts are changes in averages. When something breaks out, it experiences a significant and potentially lasting change. You had an average of 24 URL clicks per day on your tweets for the last 6 months. Suddenly, your daily average goes up to 36 clicks per day and stays there for a little while. That’s a breakout.
  • Anomalies are statistically significant aberrations. Your median number of engagements per day is 40. One day, you have 80. Is that significant? What about 180? We’ll look at how to tell the difference.
  • Trends are patterns in your data. Every day, you have one more person sharing your social updates than the previous day. Is that a trend? If so, where’s it going? We’ll study that.

With tools you already have or can afford (and by afford I mean as much as $30/month), we’ll see how these three kinds of analysis can help you predict the future. Once you know how to predict the future, you’ll know whether you want to keep it or change it.

Finally, we’ll walk through 3 recipes for predictive analytics together that you can take home and start using. The theory is great, but the take-home utility is even better.

If this sounds intriguing, then please do join me at Social Media Marketing World. Tickets are still available, both for the in-person event and for the sessions streamed virtually.

Disclosure: Registering through those links earns me a small but nonzero monetary gain through an affiliate program.

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Do you know how to measure assisted search?

What’s behind the recent resurgence of interest in search engine optimization, SEO?

Shown above: large spikes of mentions in SEO over the last 2 years

Is it because companies feel like the only channels they have control over any more are search and email? Perhaps. Certainly, moves by social networks to undercut companies’ non-paid reach have reduced confidence of marketers in social channels.

Is it because Google’s changing the rules behind search results at an ever-increasing pace? Perhaps. The menagerie of pandas, penguins, and hummingbirds certainly keep webmasters and content marketers on their toes.

There might be a third, harder to see reason: assisted search.

What is assisted search? In Google Analytics, there’s a concept called assisted conversions, things that impacted the final conversion but were not the last touch. A Tweet might not be the last thing that someone saw prior to converting into a lead, but it certainly might have helped.

Assisted search is a similar idea. Something else could have contributed to search without being the search query itself:

  • You might have driven by a billboard.
  • You might have heard about it on a podcast.
  • You might have seen a mention of a brand on a TV show.
  • You might have talked to a friend or colleague who told you to check something out.

Any of those things might have been the impetus for you to search, but no web analytics tool in existence will be able to detect it.

We all assume that SEO is once again super-important because organic search traffic is going up. What if it’s not SEO? What if it’s assisted search instead?

There’s only one way to know the answer to this question: ask people when they get to your website how they heard of you. Don’t wait for them to go buy something or fill out a form – ask up front:


This is a little 1-question custom survey I’ve got running on my site. I can take the results of this survey and compare it to my web analytics to see just how much of my organic search traffic can be attributed to assisted search. Here’s an example of the early results:


Obviously, the above is statistically invalid, laughably so, but it’s a start. I already see one out of three responses are word of mouth. One is referral, likely from the interview I did with Michael Stelzner. One is social media. Over time, more of this data will tell me just how much of my traffic is from assisted search.

Consider setting up this kind of survey (can be done with a popup or third party services like Google Consumer Surveys for Websites) on your own website so you can start measuring assisted search!

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What does advanced marketing look like?

Kerry Gorgone asked this intriguing question on Twitter:


Advanced marketing subjects is an interesting question. What is advanced marketing? What does advanced marketing look like?

To answer this question, let’s look from the perspective of the martial arts. In your beginning days, you learn mechanics. How to punch. How to kick. How to block or evade. You drill the basics, learn to condition your body and mind, and get good at doing very tactical things.

In your middle years, you evolve from individual tactics to series of tactics strung together. The Japanese martial arts call these kata; loosely translated, kata means form or pattern. They’re the memorialized versions of fights that were won and lessons learned, basic strategies for winning.

In your advanced years of training, you transcend tactics and individual fight strategies to look at strategies and points of view outside of the fight itself. What caused the fight? What causes people to be violent? How can you set up your life and the lives of those you care about to be less at risk of violence?

Turning this lens back on marketing, in the beginning of the career, you’re doing all the 101 stuff. What’s a good tweet? How often should you send email?

In the middle of your career, you should be building campaigns by putting tactics together, leveraging tactical synergies, and working towards your overall marketing goals.

The advanced part of your career is when you evolve beyond campaigns to grand strategy. What’s the big picture really look like? What are the things that will impact your marketing in the next year and the next decade?

For example, I was recently reading the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2015 report. This is a fascinating, brilliantly written report of political, economic, societal, and technological threats to our collective well-being. Look at some of the top-ranked threats:


Let’s look at the upper right hand corner, which are the threats with the highest impact and the highest likelihood of occurring.

Cyber attacks. Water crisis. Underemployment. War. Climate change. All of these risks are macro trends that will impact our entire civilization. If they’re societal shocks, you can bet they’re going to impact your overall marketing strategy. The question becomes: what are you going to do about it? How are you going to plan for it?

Some of these macro trends will be marketing opportunities. On climate change, technologies that slow or even reverse climate change and carbon emissions will be hot commodities. If you’re looking for an exciting marketing opportunity, that kind of technology promises adventure for you. Underemployment will change the landscape of the workforce; can you be one of the leaders in finding new ways to retrain people or identify transferable skills we’re not even looking at now?

This is what advanced marketing looks like. It’s light-years beyond the best time to tweet or what color a dress is. Using your marketing skills to address these challenges will not only be profitable, but could make you into the superhero you’ve always wanted to be.

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