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Opportunities for Data Innovation are All Around Us

I just recently finished reading Sexy Little Numbers by Dmitri Maex. It’s a very timely and interesting look at some of the data trends that anyone can and should be accessing using the customer data and insights they already have around them. What was striking to me was the presence of statistical modeling in the book – the opportunity to yield useful and actionable information in the presence of data-sets that you probably already have in front of you.

The opportunity to use data creatively to yield useful results was absolutely present during our development of Dashter. And its worth thinking about within your business as well… What data do you have – and how can you use it to your advantage?

Here’s a couple examples from within Dashter where we developed greater value by tapping the data that we were already pouring in to.

Trending in Friends

One of the first things that a Dashter user sees on their homepage is the Trending in Friends pane. Within there, we provide 18 “trends” that are collected from a gathering of ~200 tweets from your timeline. So what does it do? Well, basically, it just adds up all the hashtags found in those ~200 tweets, and then shows you the top 18, in rank order from most-used to least-used (of the top results).

Why is this useful? Well – when exploring Twitter, its often hard to get a grip on all the data swirling around you. But there are two assumptions that can be made: 1) You follow people who say things that interest you, and 2) Events of significance often peak within groups. By organizing hashtags among people you follow, it’s easy to develop a personalized trend graph that refreshes every 15 minutes or so. That means instead of having to pour through dozens or hundreds of tweets to see what’s happening – you can merely glance at an ordered list of top-hits.

Translating this to Your Business

You likely have an overwhelming amount of data pouring in on any given day. Continue reading →

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Of Walls and Gardens

20120909-111922.jpgI spent the last year building on the Twitter platform. Dashter was my vision to bring blogging and “tweeting” together – and the result is a fun blend between the two platforms. When our team got together, we had grand visions for what each platform could mean: We dreamt of a symbiotic platform experience that blended the depth of blogging with the expediency of tweeting. The data security and independence of self-owned self-hosted long-form content with the network effects of twenty-million twitter users.

We knew that the crux of our project was really rooted in the fact that we were dependent on Twitter to provide consistent API calls – and to keep the platform open and unrestricted.

So when I saw this tweet from Jeff, I knew what he was trying to bring to my attention:

The article Jeff shared (perhaps ironically, on Twitter) is not going to be the last we hear about the Twitter of the future. It tells the story of a Twitter developer who was subject to the demands of corporate clients who require understanding how apps are going to affect their bottom line – and who foot the bill for a project with the expectation that the work will live beyond tomorrow.

Continue reading →

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The New HeyDaveCole.com

This week I decided to give my site a makeover… My previous site had several very cool elements, but overall it wasn’t focused on what I wanted to focus on: providing you a clean & readable format for what’s on my mind. Too many sidebars, too much navigation, and not enough reading room.

Well, that’s all changed with this new theme. I’ve thought quite a bit about how I want readers to engage with me and my posts, and this is the outcome. I can also attest to several key influences during this re-design, including the super-barebones homepage of Jason Schuller, and the clean barebones WordPress framework Wordplate (which this site is built upon) by Nathan Staines. Continue reading →

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Social Media ROI with Custom Campaigns and Google Analytics

Social Media ROI (Return on Investment) is the elusive 3rd-rail of social networking. It’s elusive in the sense that there is no absolutely agreed-upon industry-wide calculation to use. It’s the 3rd rail because that’s where all the power is. Social media managers don’t want to be judged by a set of metrics that might not reflect the true “value” of the social media channel(s). Social media brand managers are focused on building communities and building attention rather than focused on delivering to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, this leaves many executives with an uneasy feeling that all this tweeting, “liking”, and pinning is just an act of futility without anchoring anything to a real bottom line.

It’s clear that there is and ROI in there somewhere – but how can it be measured?

Building a Set of Success Metrics

I’ve chatted with many customers & friends (often from the SMMOC crowd) about the SMROI issue, and the first thing that becomes obvious is that for some reason basic marketing practices get tossed out the window. I don’t know why it is – but SM is merely an extension of the existing branding / PR / Sales / Advertising / Promotion channels that have existed in all businesses.

Advertising using Google Adwords is perhaps the antithesis of Social. Social is about building relationships, attending to customers on a one-on-one level, and fostering a sense of community within the social-sphere. Adwords is the opposite. It’s about reaching a customer at the crux of their decision-making process: At the point they’re searching. The website is responsible for the rest.

So, the challenge becomes building a set of metrics (quantifiable) that operate within a personalized space (qualifiable responses). Continue reading →

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The ALPAC Sales Methodology

I want to share a quick bit about a sales process / methodology that I’ve found to be invaluable – and I’ve had to train people dozens of times. It is a helpful framework for both sales and marketing professionals because it covers the life-cycle of customer on-boarding. In simplest terms, the process is this: ALPAC. Audience, Lead, Prospect, Account, Customer.

Here are the sales & marketing stages, broken down with greater detail.

Audience

This is fundamentally a Marketing stage. Audience comprises everyone who isn’t yet in your sales funnel. The Audience can really be broken up in to 2 groups: Audience we want to reach, and Audience we don’t care about reaching. Audience converts to the next stage by progressing those people through the AIDA marketing process: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. I’m going to write more in the near future about the importance (and measurability!) of AIDA in social media campaigns, but for now just suffice to say that the general population needs to become aware of your product / service / business, become interested, gain desire, and finally, take action. Depending on the nature of your product, that action is typically self-designation as a person who wants more information – and turns themselves in to a lead. Continue reading →

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Social Mindshare

As a general rule of thumb, you should be building your brand around a single word or extremely short phrase to create mindshare in your audience. This isn’t a slogan. Slogans might be part of it. But the simple fact of the matter is that your audience is being bombarded on a daily basis by hundreds – if not thousands – of brand and marketing messages. Capturing and solidifying a single word or phrase is crucial. Nike has spent decades building itself in to synonymous with “sports.” Alternatively (and perhaps this is just my own personal connection – and that’s part of the beauty of it), when I think of Adidas – the first thing that comes to mind is “Soccer”. In another direction, the Underarmor brand to me represents “Football clothes”. All of these companies are direct competitors in many fronts – but within my mind – this is the mindshare that they’ve eached achieved.

The same thing is true amongst car brands. I’m an Audi driver, so in my mind they captured “Sport Luxury” in my mind. BMW I’m sure would be ticked off because that’s a mindshare that they’ve gone after. But the beauty of branding and mindshare is that it happens in the mind of the recipient, not the sender.

What do you think of when I describe the comparison between iPhone, Android, Nokia, and RIM? iPhone might spark “Innovator and Easy”, Android might spark “Open Cool”, Nokia might spark “Cheap phones” and RIM might spark “Relic” (sorry RIM). Those are my perceptions. That’s the mindshare that those brands occupy in my mind today. It can change; but often not by anything the company itself does. It has a great deal more to do with the reputation, conversation, media & interpersonal connections, etc. For instance, I know far more people with iPhones – so my conversations with other people tend to focus on topics like “Check out these cool apps I have” or “I love it how easy it is to…” Whereas my friends with Blackberries languish with phones that appear to be unable to do much of anything contemporary and they complain that they wish they could change their phones (but their company is stuck on the platform). Continue reading →

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The Shifting Social Landscape

Building a digital “home” in the social landscape is much like building a physical home – on quicksand. If you don’t believe me – let’s look at some of the trends that have happened over the summer…

Facebook’s IPO Woes

Let’s face it – Facebook insiders played the market like a well-tuned guitar. All the insiders got in on the action pre-IPO, and the retail investors were buying their exits during the IPO (and as insider shares become “unlocked” like Peter Thiel’s). But more concerning is the underlying challenge to value a social media company.

Remember – and this is important – in the social media space, the “users” are not the “customers“. Continue reading →

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The Mid-2012 Apple Airport Express is Sweet

Just wanted to show some fanboy love here for my latest Apple device – the updated (mid-2012) Airport Express. After recently moving out to Las Vegas (more on that some other time) I picked up the fastest internet I could manage – Cox Communication’s PowerBoost 25+ Mbps. That’s about double what I was getting in Orange County through Time Warner, so I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Apple Airport Express Mid-2012 Refresh

Once the install was done, I hooked up the router (a 4+ year old D-Link) only to get about 4-6mbps. Nothing close to what I’m going to be paying for. The technician verified all the connections (and actually they were really cool about running a fresh line to the house) and when the laptop was run straight to the modem I was getting 30mpbs (sweet!). But the router was just too old.

So, hearing about the latest Apple release of the Airport Express, I was curious. Would it have enough “oomph” to handle the needs of a full household of internet marauders. We’re talking 4 people running streaming video, streaming gaming, multiple Dropboxes, site FTP’s, and online video management. Loads of power. I called my dad to get his thoughts on the Airport Express, and he also couldn’t see a reason not to give it a shot (instead of dropping another $80 (plus tax) on the Airport Express). Continue reading →

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Google Should Make a CMS… Right Now.

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit over the last couple days, and I’ve come to this conclusion. Google should be making a Content Management System (CMS). Right now.

I’m not talking about their existing website product, Google Sites. That’s just a Google version of Geocities, with less dancing babies. No, what I’m talking about is a full-blown WordPress, Drupal, Joomla competitor. They have the capability to do it, and they DEFINITELY have the incentive.

“What was traditional site content of the past decade – essays, posts, pictures, etc. is now moving away from open.”

Look at the modern web through Google’s eyes. It’s fragmenting. What was traditional site content of the past decade – essays, posts, pictures, etc. is now moving away from open. Obviously Google’s biggest threat is Facebook – and now that they’re a public company, the shareholders are going to nudge the company to embrace more open competition to Google directly. Continue reading →

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Another New Toy… Tweet Pull Quote Plugin for WordPress

Jeff [@JeffTurner] asked me yesterday for a plugin, and I figured I might as well oblige. It seemed pretty straightforward, and let me keep my plugin-chops up to date. So, without further ado, I introduce: Tweet Pull Quote plugin. I’ll probably submit it to the repo in a little while, but for the time being, I’ll have it available for download on my site in the WordPress Sandbox.

“Jeff wanted the ability to create a pull-quote that included a Tweet button.”

The idea behind the plugin is simple. Jeff wanted the ability to create a pull-quote that included a Tweet button. Hence, the name Tweet Pull Quote. Apparently, I was feeling especially literal today so the name is sticking. To use it, just add the short-code “pq” to any piece of text: {pq}This is my quote here{/pq} (replace {} with []). Short and sweet.

“You can also choose to make it appear on the right side”

There are 3 settings: You can choose from small, medium, or large font for your pull quotes, and you can also choose to have a black bar separating the quote from your content if you’d like. There’s also a setting to save your Twitter screen name, so the tweets will include an @mention to you when people use it. You can also choose to make it appear on the right side by using “pq align=right” as the shortcode.

One notable feature – the pull quote is retained in the post body content. Some of the other quote plugins I found would remove the quoted text (as a callout) from the body. But to me, that’s not a good parallel to print, where the quote is something you’ll find in the text itself. So in this case, the text is retained, and the quote is moved to the top of the paragraph that the quote appears within. That way, you can quote anywhere in your content, and it should appear correctly.

So, there you have it! Tweet Pull Quote for WordPress. Have fun!

Download the plugin here: Dave’s WordPress Sandbox