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In Uncategorized on September 2, 2011 at 8:40 pm

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If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – some links to free social media metric tools

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Digital Marketing, MBS in Marketing, MSc in Business Management, MSc in E-commerce, Uncategorized on April 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

“In physical science the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.”[PLA, vol. 1, “Electrical Units of Measurement”, 1883-05-03]

As the semester at DCU Business School comes to an end, I find myself with marginally more time and have decided to refocus again on sharing some nuggets in the long form. This particular article will be a work in progress and so I apologise in advance for the “list” nature of this and that it will be expanded and polished over time. NOTE: I have excluded the big three search engines as a tool because you should be using these anyhow.

As Lord Kelvin said, to measure is to know. There is an ongoing debate on whether you can calculate the ROI on social media – I don’t particularly understand the perspective that you can’t – if there is an action, it can be measured. Once you accept it can be measured, then the next question might be whether it is feasible (economically, technically, ethically etc) to do so. Then once you have some measurements, how do you interpret this data. This blog discusses some free tools that you may be able to derive some value from.

A good starting point is David Berkowitz’ (@dberkowitz) list on “100 Ways to Measure Social Media”. David has also made his presentation to the PMA available. I like this presentation (the list is embedded) as he contextualises his thinking.

My interest and focus is increasingly around understanding how business re-orient from the demo-graph to the social graph and understanding network theories is essential. I like Dan Halgin and Stephen Bogatti’s paper on Network Theorizing.If you accept this re-orientation, you need to rethink your marketing and customer engagement strategy dramatically – in many respects it requires getting to know your customers on a much more deeper level and finding a point on the social graph that you can intersect or levers for influence. This is not really something new. Historically, this is how we always did business – people would ask friends, families, neighbours, authority figures for recommendations on people based on their centrality within a community, their social activity and their connectivity or network. Today, we have many different types of network – in the real world and the virtual and what it means to be connected to someone means different things in each network or does it? Is your Twitter network the same as your Facebook one or your LinkedIn one or your FourSquare Friends or your Contacts list on your phone or even your Christmas Card list ? How much influence do you have on these networks? What does it mean when your “friends” don’t “like” you? Being a “friend” used to be hard but now it is just complicated.

Visualizing your social network or the social network of your target customer is a good first step. There used to be some neat free tools around like Agna and now LinkedIn is looking at this, in a relatively basic way, using InMaps. Wikipedia have a good page on Social Network Analysis software. Understanding the network topography is only a start. Who are these people?  Who has influence? Well, there emerging popular players in the social media universe are Klout (Klout have an app – sociofluence but some influence interpretation reports seem inconsistent) and Peer Index. I like both for different reasons. Klout is easy to use and can be used to craft and refine your personal and institutional brand. They have made a pretty good stab at categorising social media users (and in this context Facebook and Twitter users initially) and provide a lot of data points that can be used for marketing purposes. I like Peer Index because it allows you to create peer groups and compare them against activity, authority and audience and therefore allows quick visualization of influence. When looking at these profiles, I look at the score and see what’s driving them. If it is very facebook driven, you might ask whether the person’s user’s influence is driven by personal social activity. Another piece of data to help establish they type of influence the target has, is their topic analysis – does it reflect personal casual interests or personal professional interests. Both can be useful for marketing purposes but may be interpreted differently for employment purposes. There are a couple of other similar tools like Grader (Grader offer tools to rank you on blogs, twitter, facebook, foursquare etc etc) and Twitalyzer. While there seems to be some correlation between Klout and Peer IndexGrader  is often a mystery to me and I don’t really understand the utility of the foursquare grader. Another snapshot tool is Twitter Search and OpenBook – the former allows you search all twitter feeds and the latter all facebook accounts with public settings -you may get an insight in to what people are really saying about you. This is best used with keyword analysis via Google.

Sentiment Analysis seems to the be one of buzzword bingo winners of recent times. I’m a big fan of the sector and have tried Radian6, Scout Labs and others but these are expensive for a small to medium sized business. I believe people feel have a more positive sentiment to positive people and indeed the people you want to be associated and are more likely to help you are generally those of a positive outlook. However, people who are unhappy or negative often have a problem that you may be able to solve and they also represent opportunities. Twitrratr is a quick snapshot of the twitter sentiment surrounding a brand, product, person or topic based on analysis of positive and negative words (links to words sourced from Jim Sterne).

Some other twitter tools which may be useful to look at are Tweetreach and Twunfollow. The free Tweetreach  tools give you a snapshot of the last 50 tweets of  user and provides you with analysis of reach (by users and impressions), tweet type and the contributors to reach. While many people focus on the size of their audience, few monitor who is unfollowing them. Unfollows may be interpreted as failed attempts to engage – these people have decided to follow you because of a message and then decided to unfollow you, why? Understanding the unfollow motivation may provide an insight in to your messaging style and how you might refine communication. For free, Twunfollow provides you with a 7-day analysis and trending graph for both follower and follower growth and then lists unfollows, follows and deleted followers (eg they may have been deleted by themselves or for spamming). Each unfollow entry includes how long they had been following you from. My students have recently been messing around with Twalue and Twength (although I may have first (re)tweeted this. Twalue puts a monetary value on your twitter account and twength measures your average twitter length. The former isn’t really useful without comparative data and then I think the way the valuation is done could be perceived negatively. The latter may have value in that long tweets may not be retweeted or when retweeted are truncated and therefore the message is impaired. So Twength may be useful for refining a factor that impacts on amplification.

A note on blogs – blogging platforms come with a variety of good analytical tools.  These are largely covered in David Berkowitz’ list but it is worthwhile looking at Jason Stamper’s  Blog Value Index and Avinash Kaushik’s Blog Metrics: Six Recommendations For Measuring Your Success.

One observation which may be useful is that success on one social network does not necessarily translate to other social networks – a blogger may not transition to microblogs and have the same impact. Similarly, the number of followers does not equate to influence.

Other reading? I liked Jim Sterne‘s book, Social Media Metrics and his blog. Why? It had lots of stuff I had seen elsewhere but bundled them together nicely in to a customer lifecycle structure. It was also a fast and easy read! I also really like Gary Arndt’s blog post on Klout vs PeerIndex, mostly because he has engaged the executives from Klout and Peer Index via comments and there are some great insights in these comments.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggest some sites I may have forgotten or need to check out.

It’s hip to be square but is FourSquare ready for Irish businesses?

In Business Education, DCU Business School, Digital Marketing, Foursquare, Uncategorized on November 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm

FourSquare Logo

I have been humming and hawing about FourSquare for the best part of a year now. Why so much hype? I originally tried it under some assumed identity wayback after SXSW but quickly realized no one else was using it in Ireland so the experience was severely limited. Have things changed? Is it any use for Irish businesses?

A fortnight ago, I decided to revisit FourSquare but with a specific goal. How long would it take me to break the Top 10 users in Dublin in one week period? The answer is nine days to be No. 5 in the whole of Dublin. What does this mean? Well, as it turns out, not very much but the experience was not without learning and I will share some of the general opportunities (and challenges) of using FourSquare in Ireland in this blog. I will keep some of the better business ideas to myself though!

In life, you come in to the world with families. FourSquare is a bit more brutal. You start off with no family and more importantly, no “friends”! Yes, like Facebook, FourSquare abuse the f-word liberally. So what is it? I am still not entirely sure. It is like a cross between a social network, a SatNav system and a game (if you were fond of Panini Sticker books as a child then you love this!). Using your mobile phone, FourSquare pinpoints your position and enables you to share your location with your friends and share messages and tips with them, earning you points per logging location-based activities. For transparency, I used the free FourSquare App for the iPhone 4 and I found it both intuitive and, dare I say it, addictive.


My FourSquare Profile on the Apple iPhone 4

My FourSquare Profile on the Apple iPhone 4

Basically, users can do a number of things on FourSquare:

  • Add friends: FourSquare searches through your contacts and allows you search FourSquare and other social networks to inivite “friends”
  • Check-in: FourSquare locates you on a map and provides a list of nearby venues or places that users have geo-tagged (added to FourSquare). You can check-in to these places thereby notifying FourSquare and your friends of your location.
  • Shout: A “Shout” is the FourSquare equivalent of a tweet or update – the unfortunate use of the word “Shout” is offputting for Shouters and Shoutees.
  • Earn Points: You earn points for your check-in behaviour. These are city-specific and you can compare yourself to your friends and other users in your city. The top scores reset every Sunday night at midnight.
  • Be Crowned Mayor: If you check in to a place more than anyone else, you can be crowned Mayor but you can lose your mayorship too.
  • Earn Badges: your usage behaviour can also earn you badges (remember those Panini Stickers) which you collect e.g. Newbie (first check-in), Photogenic (checking in to three locations with photo booths) or Supermayor (holding ten mayorships at once). There is even a site for those interested in collecting FourSquare Badges –
  • Add Places: you can add and geotag venues or locations not on FourSquare (and get extra points).
  • Leave Tips: you can leave tips associated with locations for other users to see.
  • Add To Do Items: You can add To-Do items recommended by others to your To-Do List which is permanently available to you.

It takes awhile to get used to FourSquare and working out what works and what doesn’t. For example, you can accumulate a lot of points using “drive by checking” – i.e. checking in as you drive-by rather than enter a venue. This works better on public transport and is not recommended for those driving!!!! If you think that planning in advance will help you on your drive-by attempt, it might but you need to make sure you refresh your location as close as possible to the venue otherwise FourSquare will look at the disparity between the last refresh and the location and if too great, will check you in but refuse to give you points. If your phone, thinks your 250 metres down the road (where you refreshed) and you are actually in front of the venue, FourSquare assumes your phone is correct. Similarly, FourSquare will look at the frequency of your check-ins and may disallow rapid fire check-ins too.

FourSquare Dublin Leaderboard, 9 November 2010, 2306

FourSquare Dublin Leaderboard, 9 November 2010, 2306

How did I get to being No. 5 in Dublin? Well, firstly and I am not competitive (well maybe a bit), I would have been higher but didn’t realize that my points had been reset when I went to Cork last Friday losing me a whole day of check-ins. The trick is adding new places and checking in frequently – what is known as “oversharing”. Do this and you will be top of the pile. Your significant other will hate you and possibly leave you but you will be the top dawg! The exercise was not without merit; in one week, I:

  • Made 35 “friends” (only 5 could be classified really as conventional friends)
  • Checked in 200 times
  • Became Mayor 11 times including Mayor of my house, garden, the boat in my neighbour’s garden but also Bewleys Hotel (Drive By – well, I stopped outside it), and DCU Business School (where I work! This may be a surprise to the Dean)
  • Earned 10 badges including SuperMayor, Crunked, OverShare and I’m on a Boat
  • Left 7 tips (5 of which are genuinely useful)
  • Found 1 restaurant for dinner (Cafe Mexicana, Cork – recommended)

I know, impressive.

What can Irish businesses learn from my FourSquare experience?

1. Be patient, it’s free

FourSquare is still at an early stage of adoption in Ireland. Not a lot of people using it and not a lot of businesses but proximity based social networks and marketing are here and will develop. FourSquare will be in the mix and it’s free so if anything, it is worthwhile trialling things on. Even in my small experiment, I know others started using it because of my invites, to see what I was doing but also to compete with me!

2. Add your place

It takes no time at all to add your place. If you do nothing else, this may attract one customer for less than 3 minutes work. Again it costs nothing. Add a description and as much information as possible. If you have multiple sites, remember to do all sites. It may also be a good idea to register any sales agents or partners who sell your products or represent you throughout the country/world.

3. Add a Tip

Add some tips about your business or a related sector. Make sure it is valuable in some way to the user population. Tips can swing both ways – people leave positive tips and warn users of possible negative experiences. For example, during my experiment my wife and our youngest child (aged 9 months) visited the Marks and Spencers Rooftop Terrace for a coffee and dessert. We had a largely negative experience – they brought M&S Cola instead of Diet Coke (a huge crime in Theoworld) and didn’t bring over a babychair despite one being clearly available for over 15 minutes. Now M&S tried to correct my situation and gave use a freebie but nonetheless I tweeted this but also placed a FourSquare Tip which will be there for some time, one would imagine.

Can you get rid of a Tip? Don’t despair M&S. Yes, you can. Two ways come to mind. Befriend the tipster and ask them to remove it or email FourSquare with a Tip Removal Request and they will consider it.

4. Decide whether you want/need to be King of the Castle

You need to decide whether you are comfortable with someone else being the Mayor of your business or venue. I can understand how this could be uncomfortable is someone is Mayor of your home and your business is no different, even employees being Mayor over managers may be uncomfortable. On the other hand, allowing employees or regular customers to be Mayor may be a nice way to recognize them in a small way.

The good news is that you have options. If you would like to have control of the Mayorship of your venue, you can Claim your Venue by registering with FourSquare as a business at It’s free and gives you control of your venue but also additional features like Specials (see 7 below), Statistics (See 10 below) and marketing collateral (see 7 below).

FourSquare for Business

FourSquare for Business. The right column lists various Irish business offers.

5. Reward your Mayor

You can reward regular customers (or more correctly visitors) by giving them some special discount or prize if they provide evidence that they are the current Mayor. They need only show you their FourSquare profile (and you can check this by looking up your venue on FourSquare). This can be done easily using conventional marketing (e.g. a poster) or creating a Special (see 7 below). If you are a registered business with FourSquare, they will provide you with marketing collateral support.

Check In Here Window Cling

6. Shout

Shouting is the FourSquare equivalent of tweeting. You can Shout via your phone, the FourSquare website or other social networking tools with FourSquare API integration. I use Hootsuite and integrating FourSquare was literally 3-4 clicks and I could monitor friends but also broadcast messages in a single instance to all my social networks including FourSquare.

7. Add a Special

Business users on FourSquare can access additional tools to attract, engage, reward and track customers. These include:

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue.
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.

Again, these are free. But what I really like is that they combine relevancy, immediacy and location and in that way they are somewhat similar to Groupon.  The consumer has control – it is pretty much permission-based.

8. Add an “Add to my FourSquare” button

The “Add to my FourSquare” button is an image that you put on your website etc which adds a Place or Tip to a reader’s FourSquare To-Do List. Again, it’s easy and free. I think this could be used to great effect in PR activities by asking reviewers or journalists to embed the code in to their online articles or references. It’s simple, free and effective. You can find details on how to add the button at

9. Create a Custom Badge

There are loads of different badges. Increasingly, FourSquare addicts are focusing more and more on specialist or elite badges. You should not underestimate how addictive collecting badges can become! I did.

Should you create a custom badge? Well, yes, if you think FourSquare users will be attracted to the offer. So two big factors – the value being transferred and its match with FourSquare user needs.

How do you go about creating a custom badge? I have identified three ways. The first is to suggest a badge to FourSquare at Suggest a Badge! Success is rare. You need to be quirky, relatively commercially obtuse and generous with your idea i.e. it needs to benefit FourSquare users generally and not you specifically.

Tarantino Badge from SXSW

Second, FourSquare seems to create custom badges for “Strategic Partners” or “Strategic Events”. Examples of strategic partners include Wall Street Journal, Bravo, Michelin Guides etc. SXSW would be a good example of a Strategic Event. In both instances, the partner and event needs to align clearly with the FourSquare user community and brand identity. Who are they? Look at the profile of smartphone/GPS-enbled phone users.

Finally, I have identified at least one company, Osnapz, who claim to offer custom badges for not only FourSquare but Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. I have never used them. Engage with caution.

10. Monitor your “friends” and statistics

A question I always ask about social networks is – What can I learn about consumer behaviour from the user behaviour on the social network? Well, looking at my own FourSquare data, I can tell a lot about my travel history and the different places that I stopped and in some instances visited commercial outlets. However, I have the advantage of first hand experience – I know what was a drive-by check-in and what was an actual commercial opportunity. Notwithstanding this, one could also analyse the timestamps and derive rules from these. Nonetheless, the travel data could be used for informing conventional marketing e.g. billboard advertising etc. It is also easy to see the types of brands and retail outlets I visit. Where I spend a lot of time etc.

For businesses, FourSquare provide a free statistics tool, FourSquare Analytics, which provides lots of interesting data to inform your FourSquare decisions but also your general marketing e.g.:

  • most recent visitors
  • most frequent visitors
  • the time of day people check in
  • total number of unique visitors
  • histogram of check-ins per day
  • gender breakdown of customers
  • portion of FourSquare check-ins broadcast to Twitter and Facebook

Note: FourSquare Analytics doesn’t support multiple venues but it’s not bad for a free tool.

11. Act Ethically, Act Transparently

I bring this up with reluctance but I do think there are some important ethical considerations. On my short experiment, I used FourSquare to locate a restaurant in Cork, in this case, Café Mexicana (I have no hesitation recommending them). We refreshed FourSquare and saw it there and decided to see whether any tables were free. As we entered the threshold of the restaurant, a Tip popped up from one of my “friends”, a well known digital marketing professional and prolific social networkers, asking us to consider going to another restaurant in the same area. For me, this was the FourSquare equivalent of having a Maitre D or waiter from one restaurant waiting at the door of Café Mexicana to steal me away or poach me and bring me to another restaurant. Why? Either:

(a) It was a genuine Tip. Mobile phone GPS is not the accurate and the Tipster was offering a useful tip which inadvertently is displayed when checking in anywhere in that area.


(b) It was a masked message. The Tipster is being paid, in cash or kind, to promote the restaurant.

In the first instance, while the Tipster is not at fault, what I call the “good neighbour” rule might apply. Would a good neighbour encourage such a thing? In the second instance, not only does the “good neighbour” rule apply but the Tipster may be entering a blurry area too. Should they, for example, indicate that it is a promotional tip like an informercial? Effectively a paid placement. The first is permission-based marketing, to some extent. The second is stealth-based.

On a related note, if you are using FourSquare as a business – tell people that you are using it to promote your business and for marketing purposes. Then it is up to them.

12. Please Rob Me

This is not a request but a warning. When FourSquare first came out, one wag set up a site called Please Rob Me so that people would engage with FourSquare and other location-based services responsibly. By broadcasting your location, you are also broadcasting your absence.

Take care. Buy a good alarm.