Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Data, Privacy and Social Media: Impact on Analytics and Tools

Executive Summary: How does data, along with the constraints on it, impact web analytics tools and the industry? How do you start structuring your thoughts about data's role in this industry?
Note: This came about after some rumination on the way the web and social media are being used by businesses, and this post has been updated with some of those thoughts to help continuity.

My last couple posts have been threatening to run down this alley for a while, but I realized that Data, Privacy and Social Media need to be addressed together in a separate post. I shared these thoughts with Alan Chapell, Chapell & Associates, after a chance meeting with him at an event before the Affiliate Marketing Summit.

Do Privacy Issues Impact Data Access for Analysis?
Yes, especially when you are not the primary service provider.

When you think about Data, Privacy and Social Media in the same breath, issues like those that Facebook has recently faced come to mind:
1> The criticism:
2> The response:

It is important to note that this recent case is part of a continuum of controversies over access to and sharing of online customer information during the past decade.

Data privacy is just one of the factors impacting the web analytics industry. Hence, to assess the impact of data related privacy issues on web analytics for social media, you need to drill down for insights in the following manner:

Drill Down Level 1: Analytics, Market Structure and Client Trends
1> State of the Art in Analytics.
2> Client Requirements.
3> Market Structure.

Drill Down level 2: Client Needs and Impact of Data
Insights from areas 1, 2 and 3 above will help you create a picture of:
1> Industry Objectives: Met and Unmet
These are objectives that the web analytics industry can currently help its clients meet. E.g. What metrics can be measured, and how do they translate into impact for the client?

2> Data Access and Usage: Reality, Needs, Gaps
This is role data currently plays, and can play, in the industry. E.g. What data, out of the available data sources, is currently utilized, how is it utilized, and how can it be utilized?

Drill Down Level 3: Data Privacy Constraints
Once we have this level of analysis, we can gain an insight into the impact of current privacy constraints on the industry. Importantly, we also can overlay various combinations of data privacy constraints to get an insight into the role data privacy can play in the industry.

Drill Down Level 1: Below are some questions that help us get insights:
1. State of the Analytics Art: What is the level of skill and tool maturity of social media companies in terms of tracking social networks, and allowing ad targeting around them? Some additional evaluative questions can be found at my previous post below:

2. Comparing Traditional and Social Media Analytics:
An alternative to consumer targeting via social network analysis is targeting via demographic and psychographic analysis. Here companies like Nielsen have developed a set of consumer personality profiles. Are social media sites developing such profiles?

3. Third Party Analytics:
How do third party analytics compare with the State of the Analytics Art? Specifically, (in terms of providing social network access to third party providers for analytics) are social media companies taking an API and metrics sharing or a raw data sharing approach? This impacts the competitive environment in the analytics industry.

4. Client Needs:
What are clients doing in the web and social media space? What are the client objectives in this space? Are they looking at demand generation or demand fulfilment? What would they like to/ need to measure?

5. Market Structure (and Opportunity!): Who are the major players? Is the market fragmented? Are there alliances in this market? How strong are service provider- client relationships? Do analysis, metrics, or data clearinghouses exist?

The opportunity!: Is there a market for "clearinghouses" for analytics that would provide media buyers access to social media consumer data across platforms? In reality, a "clearinghouse" is not easy to achieve- E.g. In the brick-and-mortar retail world, Walmart does not share its scanner data.

The Background
How did I arrive at this post? My last couple of posts have been pointing toward looking at Data, Analytics and Social Networks through the privacy lens:
1. Data, Privacy and Customized Brand Metrics:
How do you deal with a profusion of metrics which often have an unclear context? We need metrics with clear semantics. Some of these metrics may be custom created for a specific brand, consumer profile, activity and social media context.
Future Shock
While generic, industry standard metrics are important, there is a huge *future* potential for metrics customized to the brand. These will hinge on the data collection capabilities of social media platforms, and their ability to share it in a cheap, safe, anonymized manner with third parties for further analysis. Additional factors that come into play- quality of data, privacy concerns and analytics capabilities.

2. Data, Privacy and Web Analytics Tools:
3. Can you utilize the social network based targeting tools in conjunction with non social network based predictive analysis tools to minimize errors or optimize marketing spend?
Don't Forget Data: The Root of All Analytics
While it is easy to get lost in the tools and their trade-offs, don't forget the data. Your data- what attributes are available, access, usability and quality- may dictate the choice of tools.

What do you think?


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