Tackling big data to gather insight

Posted by: in Analytics, Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on August 30, 2014

With Facebook, Twitter and a multitude of blogging platforms available at our fingertips, the creation and distribution of content has never been easier. It ought to give us an advantage in spotting trends early and making more informed decisions faster. However, we are slowly coming to the realisation that using the internet as a mass communication tool has actually made our decision making much harder – there is just too much information out there driven by polarised and often contradicting opinions, and finding answers to specific questions can be frustrating!

We have come to refer to these large volumes of spam-rich conversation as “big data”, and sieving them for real information is challenging. Looking back, though, we might come to realize that our efforts are nothing new. Centuries ago our ancestors faced similar challenges in analysing large amounts of information. In retrospect, these volumes now seem small: hundreds of data points manually collected by a single doctor are nowhere near what we now understand as “big data”. Back then, however, this was an unprecedented amount of information.

Not long ago, I attended the Beautiful Science exhibition at British Library which explored how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map mass data. Wandering the corridors that held multiple examples of how people tackled “big data” over history, I came to the realisation that success in each case was not about simply collecting sheer volumes of data together, but rather in developing the processes and tools to help researchers understand it to gain insight. The visual representation of data has and will always continue to play a vital role in this process.Visualisation-examples

Indeed, long before social media or the internet, there has been an abundance of ways to visualize and analyse big data that played a vital role in finding correlations that we now take for granted.

In 1854, during the cholera epidemic in London, John Snow used a dot distribution map to establish that cholera is not transmitted through inhalation of  contaminated air – which many scientists thought to be the case – but rather though the ingestion of contaminated water or food. He plotted the number of cholera cases on a map of Soho and discovered that a water pump was at the epicentre of the outbreak. Prior to that, William Farr had suggested that air temperature had something to do with the spread of cholera. He built a circular plot to see if there is a correlation, but the result didn’t support this hypothesis.Visualisation-examples-W2O

These are just two examples where turning to data visualization provided answers to big questions that flew in the face of the conventional thinking of the time. The use of powerful visualisation tools to interpret and interrogate data saved many thousands of lives.

Working to answer our client’s needs through data analytics, we use a variety of analytical methods to spot trends that form the basis of our strategic planning. We use visual interpretation of this data to build an insightful picture. As our analytics offerings have evolved, we also feel the need to evolve our creative approach to expressing the data in order to both elucidate the insight and give it the requisite impact.

As we dig deep into the data to compile charts and graphs, however, we shouldn’t forget that these data plots themselves are not our real goal. Rather, they are tools to help us read and understand the large and complex amounts of data generated in online conversations in order to identify insights that can help us address our stakeholders.

While thinking of “big data” as something different, novel and perhaps unmanageable, it is good to be reminded that in centuries past, researchers faced the same problem of reading through “big data” of their time. The ones we remember are those who rose to the challenge and derived enough insight to have a real impact on the world.nut

Perhaps the data is only as big as the tools and minds that are trying to crack it.


By: Valeria Kaplan

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Lessons from the Front Lines: 5 Keys to Global Influencer Analysis

Posted by: in Analytics, Communication Strategy, Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, W2O Group on August 28, 2014

Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

“Globalization is one of those words to have gone from obscurity to meaningless without any intervening period of coherence” – Robert Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Globe PicWe all grow tired of buzzwords that are applied so ubiquitously they begin to lose meaning. “Globalization” is definitely one of these terms. However, the reality is that “going global” is no longer a choice for brands. It is a mandate. Accordingly, I’ve noted a pronounced increase in requests from clients who need to understand who is driving conversation and influencing opinions on a global/multinational scale.

Influencer marketing is a standard practice for virtually all brands. There’s been no shortage of discussion around the topic of influencer marketing or how to go about identifying those influencers. The proliferation of tools and level of rigor applied to identify influencers is a topic broad enough to support multiple posts. Before diving in to the complexities of multinational influencer analysis, it’s important to briefly touch upon the fundamentals. Any approach for identifying influencers, regardless of the market, should be rooted in the following:

1) Reach, Relevance and Resonance. These are the fundamental underpinnings of influence, and each is measured with multiple metrics for every platform influencers are using.

2) Automated Collection + Human Analysis. Tools are great for efficiently gathering and organizing the data, but no completely automated solution is going to provide meaningful outputs. It is absolutely critical to have an analyst vet the data in the appropriate contextand align the outputs with the business objectives.

5 Keys to Global Influencer Analysis

We recently completed an issue-focused influencer analysis for a multinational oil and gas company. The goal was to identify a comprehensive list of key thought leaders driving the conversation around the issue in 10 markets (seven languages) in North America, Europe and Russia. In addition to identifying in-market influencers, assessing the tone and sentiment of each influencer’s issue-relevant content was critical for informing future communications strategy.

Below are five key takeaways from this experience that provide a blueprint for successfully conducting a multinational influencer analysis. Some will seem obvious initially, but it’s critical to address each item below before embarking on the journey:

1) Language and Context: This one isn’t a shocker, but it’s more nuanced than it appears. Assessing the relevance and sentiment of in-market content obviously requires fluency, but it goes beyond simply having native speakers to assist with analysis. In addition to interpreting data on the back end of the analysis, meshing language capabilities with technical skills is important for developing keywords and search operators that will identify the right content from the outset. This is easier said than done when dealing with multifaceted geopolitical issues.

In addition, there are technical details that must be addressed before you begin. Do your analytics tools of choice recognize and process non-English characters (forfærdelig!)? The devil is in the details.

2) Channels That Matter: Identifying the platforms that matter in the markets of interest for your audience is relatively straightforward. Understanding how those platforms work and how to collect the appropirate data from them is the next step. Do you have a thorough understanding of VK? How about Yandex? Knowing how information is searched for, consumed and shared in the market (in this case Russia) is critical for assessing the influencer landscape.

3) Media landscape: Knowing the lay of the land in each market is not only critical for engagement recommendations, it’s also a critical component of context. Whether it’s the nature of the French Energy Media or state-mandated media restrictions in Russia, the unique nuances within each market should frame how you’re collecting and interpreting data.

4) Cultural Relevance – This is where opportunities for rich insights lie. Taking a broader view to assess a market’s cultural frame of reference and the events that have shaped those views can begin to connect communications strategy with underlying needs, motivations, etc.

5) Geopolitics Context: For issues management, understanding the economic and political reality in the region(s) of interest adds another layer of complexity. In Europe, what are each country’s views toward Russia as a political entity? How dependent are they on Russian energy exports? What is the historical context for international relations? Knowing the answers to these questions will frame the context (social, economic, historic) for the core narratives in each market.

Influencer programs are now table stakes for brands seeking to support global positioning. Scaling influencer programs to provide coherence and efficiency while enabling market-specific messaging is increasingly the norm. Whether you’re in healthcare, CPG or energy, using the guide above and spending a little more time in planning can ensure you identify and activate the right influencers to tell your brand’s story in the global marketplace.


Photo: Luke Price, Flickr, 11/06/12

By: Brandon Watts

Brandon is the leader of WCG's Analytics Team in Austin, TX. Email: bwatts@wcgworld.com LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/brandonwatts512/

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

When Activists Get Active, What Should You Do?

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy on August 22, 2014

Starbucks_protestStarbucks updated a statement on its web site earlier this month explaining its business practices and operations in the Middle East. The statement is largely the same as the one originally posted in February 2010 in response to false rumors that Starbucks was funding Israel and the Israeli army – rumors that resulted in sometimes violent boycotts of Starbucks stores in the past.

One small but notable difference in the updated statement is the inclusion of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s name in the Q&A question: Is it true that Starbucks or Howard Schultz provides financial support to Israel?

Like many CEOs, Schultz isn’t afraid to express his points of view and his values – he’s publicly stated his support for Israel. And like many CEOs, he’s also careful to separate his personal views from the activities of his company. But in today’s social age, more and more customers and activists won’t make that separation. And as always, some who oppose the politics and views of your company and its leaders will take action against your company.

The Chik-Fil-A controversy a few years back provides another case in point. Their CEO Dan Caffey opened the door to the controversy when he expressed his view against same-sex marriage. This resulted in polarizing audiences – alienating an audience that launched boycotts against the restaurant chain, and galvanizing many core customers, who countered the boycotts by holding an appreciation day.

When the dust settled, two things happened to Chik-Fil-A. First, the company changed its behaviors: its philanthropic foundation stopped funding all but one of the groups questioned by the LGBT community. Second, its sales continued growing – maybe not spurred by the controversy as they were already on the rise, but obviously not hurt by it, either. Both sides of the issue claimed victory.

Activism runs the gamut from legitimate protests to outright lies and smear campaigns, and sometimes violence. While every activist situation has its differences, the most effective corporate leaders realize the best way to handle these situations requires a mix of listening to their audiences, not overreacting, sticking to the facts and their values, and being open to change.

Here are the ways effective leaders prepare for and respond to activism.

Listen to audiences, understand where you’re exposed.
The first step in being prepared is knowing those issues where you’re most exposed to potential activism. This means looking closely at your company’s policies, political and philanthropic interests, and geographic footprint, and identifying potential political and social hot buttons.

It also means listening to what your employees, customers and critics have to say about you. Take the feedback you’ve received through surveys, media monitoring and your customer call centers. What issues are repeatedly brought up about your organization? What personal views or affiliations of your leaders potentially leave you exposed?

If you don’t do it already, you’ll want to establish regular media monitoring and social media listening to track potential issues that could turn into crises. But don’t equate social media likes or shares with action.

Don’t overreact – slacktivism isn’t activism, and “likes” don’t mean actions.
“Slacktivism” is a term for lazy pseudo-activism, for example when people “like” a Facebook protest page to show their support. Recent research on slacktivism suggests that getting people to “like” a cause on Facebook actually reduces their likelihood to do anything. Having shown their support through a mouse click or a tweet, slacktivists don’t have incentive to do anything more. As television executive Shonda Rhimes said in a commencement address in June “A hashtag is not a movement.” She took a lot of heat for that remark, but she’s right.

So when a Facebook page against your organization is garnering hundreds or thousands of “likes” – keep an eye on it, but don’t jump to a knee-jerk reaction. Most of those campaigns go nowhere.

Don’t take the bait, just state the facts and be transparent.
A lot of online activism is little more than baiting – where an individual or group spreads misinformation or outright lies to earn attention for their cause. You don’t want to get into arguments with these individuals or groups. (Remember the absurd P&G rumors about its “satanic” logo?) But you do want to be sure your position on an issue is easily available at all times – your web site for example — especially when lies are being told about your company.

Stick to your values, but realize the consequences.
You have your values, customers have theirs. These aren’t always going to match – and that’s ok. You don’t need everyone to like your company or buy your products. Whether you choose to be silent or publicly vocal about personal views, they may be used against your company. So you should be ready to explain your values and defend them with a solid rationale. And be prepared to deal with the consequences of audiences who don’t agree with you.

Be open to change.
Finally, keep listening to your audiences – even your critics. Ask yourself if the boycotters, protesters, even the “slacktivists” have a point. Is there something about your business practices that should change? In many ways, this is simply good-old-fashioned responding to customer needs. (Not to be confused with giving in to crackpots – that’s never recommended. See above – don’t take the bait.)

If you’re really listening to your audiences, your customers and critics, there’s rarely any reason to be reactive. You’ll develop understanding of the issue from another perspective. And you may decide to change policies or business practices as a result. Above all you’ll be ready to state your positions, correct misinformation and protect your company’s reputation.

By: Kieran Fagan

Kieran is a leader in WCG's Corporate & Strategy practice who immigrated from the "client side" of corporate communications three years ago.

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Summer Wrap Up: Jumping Into New Business

Posted by: in Culture, Inside WCG, New Business, Thought Leadership, twist, W2O Group on August 22, 2014

Yesterday we had a special meeting for our August Committee of Millennials meeting. Instead of following our usual format and having an associate presenter for the first 20 minutes and then bringing in a guest speaker at the end of our meeting, we used a majority of the meeting to go through a request for proposal and new business pitch deck to familiarize ourselves with the new biz process.

New Business Pitching 101:

One of the things that the associates here in New York are interested in is being more involved in the new business process. We were delighted to welcome Molly Malloy to our meeting. She was nice enough to walk us through a recent RFP and new biz pitch that we won; allowing us to think about how we would prepare for a pitch ourselves.

We started with the basics, like understanding what RFP actually stands for and how we come across new business opportunities, especially if it is not coming from an already existing client. It was an excellent opportunity to put our brains together and talk through the steps we’d take to organize our team, the questions we should be asking ourselves and the information going into a new biz deck. Molly informed us how fast everything moves and how working in tandem with the team you put together is essential for success.  We were able to see what a winning pitch deck looks like after our open forum discussion.

It was an engaging meeting and a great learning experience for us. There was a lot of information to digest but was valuable and interesting to have insight into the process and how we at W2O Group do it so well. We are hoping to have a chance in the coming months to break into teams and try our hand at a mock new business pitch and see what that’s like! We’re always trying to go ahead at our meetings and we feel that honing in on pitching skills is not only valuable for us but can help us bring in new business for the company one day!

Cross Country Associate Collaboration:

We are really excited to announce that our peers in San Francisco are having their first meeting next week! The SF Up-and-Comers are on the books for Tuesday, August 26th. Meredith and I hope that soon each of our offices can have monthly meetings of their own to ensure that we all are learning from one another and integrating across all areas of the company. SF Up-and-Comers, good luck with your first meeting. We’re sure it’ll be as big of a hit as the Committee of Millennials out here in New York!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over! We’re gearing up for the fall and our September meeting which is already in the works.

As always, thanks for helping us Go.Ahead!

Lauren Barbiero & Meredith Crowder

By: Lauren Barbiero

Lauren is a media associate on the earned media team at W2O Group. You can reach her at lbarbiero@w2ogroup.com

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

The Internship

Posted by: in Culture, Intern/Internship, Interns/Internship, W2O Group on August 21, 2014

To start things off, W2O Group would like to thank our summer interns for all of their hard work. We hope you all enjoyed it and gained some great real-world experiences!

As a part of our internship program this year we incorporated a project where the interns were challenged to create a mock-up prototype of a mobile app that drew on key company cornerstones, namely Analytics, Healthcare, and Social Media. Our interns were put into five teams across all office locations where they met on a weekly basis to create their app while working on their other assignments from their managers. Shai Reichert, who was the creator and led this project, was not only a great mentor to the interns, but also a great resource with his knowledge of app creation:

“During my participation in our Social Commerce program at Syracuse University this past Fall, I was struck by the amount of interest and questions I received about mobile apps – how they are made, how much they cost, how long they take to build, how they succeed, etc. To be fair, while college students these days are taught some marketing and app building basics, rarely are they offered opportunities to learn from professionals who are actively working in the field (even at places like Stanford, Berkeley and MIT).  So when I thought about how I could help our interns this summer, I figured what better way to arm them with relevant and practical agency experience than with a course and a project on apps. Furthermore, and you hear about this all the time – how Silicon Valley is wasting its talents on start-ups that aren’t solving any real problems and addressing real issues – I also wanted to make sure our interns were given proper guidelines and coaching on how to create relevant ideas; ideas that center around digital health and leverage analytics, areas which are part of W2O’s backbone.”

The Internship

Not only did the interns get the opportunity to work together across all offices and create an app prototype, they also had the privilege of presenting their projects to leaders in the company, including our CEO and Chairman, Jim Weiss. The leaders were blown away with the prototypes and it was clear to see the interns’ time and effort they put into it. Shai was especially impressed:

“We have some really smart interns, which should come as no surprise because we have very smart people doing the hiring. I was overwhelmed by the innovative ideas the teams came up with, along with the thought and research that went into every detail of the proposals.”

As a testimonial to the work the interns did and the project itself, we wanted to share the thoughts of some of the interns.

“The internship project was teaching me valuable lessons about time management, working with interns who were across the country, and collaborating your ideas with a group to effectively get your overall message across.” – Claire Embry, Analytics Intern

“I went from the classroom where I was presenting my ideas to college of business students or “pseudo investors” to presenting my team’s application idea to leaders of the firm who I highly respect.” – Dan Donaldson, Business Development Intern

“The experience was also a great insight into the world of digital health and medical marketing, and gave me the opportunity to be creative among this space.” – Suraj Balani, Healthcare Intern

“I think one of the great things about this project was how self-driven it was.” – Beck Olp, Analytics Intern

After The Internship project, the interns really got to understand what it is like to work on an Account team in an agency. They can take this experience and apply it to the real world as they move into the next stage of their career paths. Many interns have said that their internship at W2O Group did not meet their expectations, it exceeded them and we truly believe the internship had something to do with it.

Thank you interns for a great summer!

-  Gage Grammer & Dana Martorana

Interested in joining W2O Group’s internship program where you pragmatically disrupt the status quo? Apply here!

By: Gage Grammer

Learning and Development Specialist at W2O Group. Background in Strategic Communications (PR and Advertising) and Writing. I have a rockin' French Bulldog named Phantom!

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.