Actionable metrics: Business associates deciding which KPI metrics are most useful.
This is another blog entry in our series on metrics.

A short while back somebody asked me this question:

We are helping a company to get more bang for their buck from their social media activities. Of course we also want to develop the necessary KPIs.
In your advisory services, do you have an approach you can recommend?

This blog entry addresses KPIs (key performance indicators).
We also address how one can avoid falling victim to vanity metrics instead of using actionable KPIs. The latter can make a real difference to your bottom line.

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Wine cellar: Inventory needed

I remember when, as a young adult, I worked in a very fine hotel with a great wine cellar that also had a store.

The cellar master told me that to find out what treasures he had in his wine cellar, it was best for us to do an inventory. But while counting bottles was okay, he assured me that was not what he was really after.

Of course, it was nice to know how many bottles there were of each brand and year. However, he was much more interested in learning which wines left the shelves the fastest and sold frequently. He was also keen to know how the various wine types compared when it came to customers complaining about a bottle having gone bad (i.e. had cork pieces when opened).

As the above suggests, his understanding of the term inventory or social media audit included “show me the numbers” – i.e. sales data.

Vanity versus actionable metrics: Navel gazing metrics are out.
Vanity versus actionable: Navel gazing metrics are out.

Knowing what insights we want to gain from a KPI helps develop the metrics that deliver the insights we want. As the wine cellar example shows, choosing insightful metrics makes a huge difference.

The above illustrates that besides counting bottles when doing an inventory or a social media audit, you must address such things as:

  • Which wines sell the most and are beloved by customers – For social media this means, which types of tweets or Instagram posts get the most likes…?
  • Which wines did people complain the most about after consuming the product (e.g., tasted bad) – For social media this means, which bloggers or Facebook users are most likely to complain / write negative entries about the brand…?
  • Which wines get many recommendations or word-of-mouth referrals – For social media this means, which types of tweets or blog entries get re-tweeted or receive many reader comments?

Clearly, the wine-making business and social media marketing have more in common than it would appear at first glance. In both cases, before you move forward you need to take stock. In turn, this allows you to gain insights into what you have already accomplished.

2. Effective KPIs depend on a clear objective

Besides taking an inventory of how good things might be right now, you need to know what objectives you must accomplish next quarter or during dinner.

Is the bottle of wine to woo a friend, impress your boss or just enjoy with your company?

To impress your guests it might suffice to simply purchase the wine that your favourite life style magazine recommended a while back.

Pageviews or likes on Instagram might not be the actionable metrics we want. These are like vanity metrics, i.e. we might feel good about large numbers, but they will most likely fail to move product from our shelves.

We need to decide what insights a KPI provides us with that will help reach our goals fast. To illustrate, Arsene Wenger (Arsenal football team’s longest serving coach) used a few metrics that have become legendary in the UK’s Premier League.

Of course, when considering paying to have a new player transfer to your club, you always want to check the medical data. If the player’s key medical indicators are satisfactory, you try to negotiate and hopefully they end up playing with your club.

But even when the medical data looked okay, Wenger was famous for also immediately checking the striker’s acceleration speed. Acceleration speed was a critial KPI on which he based his decision of whether to pursue a transfer or not.

Wenger was of the opinion that with great acceleration speed, the striker was more likely to win a one-on-one fight for the ball. In turn, this would increase the striker’s likelihood of winning many one-on-one contests. Whenever a striker won a ball this way, he could again use his speed to create situations that might result in another goal. Thierry Henri was one of the more famous examples where Wenger demonstrated the importance of this KPI for evaluating a striker’s potential.

Sharing content on social networks, reading content on your mobile.
Sharing content on social networks, reading content on your mobile.

What does the Wenger example tell us in the context of social media marketing? For starters, we need to decide whether we are dealing with:

  • consumer goods or capital goods, or
  • business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) situations.

Influencer marketing might work with fashion or luxury items, but paying US$ 40,000 or more for an Instagram post does not necessarily correlate to more sales. Without tracking the result with a URL and discount code, we might get many views but zero additional sales.

In the B2B context, a blogger with expertise in the business you are in (e.g., robotics) might be a good strategy. Here, Instagram posts might be a waste of resources.

In short, if your goal is to sell screws and bolts, try to assess if your KPI has any correlation with a desirable outcome, such as higher sales or more repeat sales.

Your focus could be on increasing awareness of your product or brand with your B2B target audience. Regardless, you want to find a KPI that helps measure this. One desirable outcome of your marketing activity on social networks might be you getting more requests for information or new subscribers to your newsletter, and so forth.

♥ Please share this news entry about KPIs and their best use in social media marketing on LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. using this URL: Many thanks! ♥

What is your opinion?

Incidentally, we have not discussed what to look for when purchasing a wine. Any wine connoisseur will tell you that what year and time of year the grapes were harvested matters. Many more factors can be considered for determining how well the wine might taste after it is ready to be sold. Of course, if you want to guzzle the very cheap stuff, this may not concern you at all.

Similarly, you must answer these two questions in social media marketing:

  • what target audience do you intend to reach, and
  • what content will you produce and share on social networks?

Navel gazing or vanity metrics are not very helpful. The KPIs must permit you to gain insights. They must help you improve against yardsticks, such as:

  • number of customers, and
  • amount of sales per client.
Unless you measure for impact, why measure at all?
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Business person reading the insightful DrKPI report full of actionable metrics.
Business person reading the insightful DrKPI report full of actionable metrics.

We love to hear from you!

  • Do you have KPIs that you have used in social media marketing across projects?
  • What KPIs do you use in the B2B versus B2C context?
  • What is your best KPI in a consumer product versus a capital good (e.g., machine) context?
  • What questions do you have about KPIs?
  • What do you like or dislike about KPIs?

Please share this entry on social media using this link:

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

The author declares that some of the companies mentioned herein are clients of CyTRAP Labs or subscribers of DrKPI® services.

Trying to hitchhike to get to your destination.

This is the fourth in a series of blog entries about the concept of blockchain.
Blockchain is a decentralised database that keeps track of all transactions between participants in the system.
Blockchains are intended to help sellers and buyers, for instance:

1. Counterfeits can be prevented from entering a company’s supply chain, and
2. Consumer scams can be stopped before they begin.

♥ READ about blockchain in German and on the Vault Security Systems blog

Blockchain possibilities

Nakamoto (pseudonym) stated that the objective of a blockchain was to provide users with:

an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust.

Interesting read: Nakamoto, S. (2008). Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Retrieved March 5, 2019 from

The scope of use for such peer-to-peer crypto-currency platforms has grown considerably. Since the beginning, most blockchains have included five elements:

1. Anonymity of the blockchain’s users. This is accomplished by use of a public / private key pair. Each user of the blockchain is identified by the public key. Authentication is then completed by signing with the private key. This is neither a new procedure nor invented by blockchain.

2. Distributed but centralised ledger. Several transactions are stored together in what is called a block. Each block contains a part of the digital signature or hash of the following transaction.
The network of nodes (i.e. many computers) guarantee a unique order of transactions – for example, how they happened according to the timestamp, and validate the block of transactions.
The ledger contains all blocks of transactions. Once it is published on the network, it is immutable.

3. Consensus algorithm for mining (i.e. process of adding transaction records). This is a way to ensure all the copies of the ledger are the same. Each transaction must be approved by members of the community. Transactions are accepted when consensus between validating nodes has been reached.
This is expensive because it requires a lot of data storage and energy to maintain the system.

4. Single purpose focused. For instance, Bitcoin performs a single purpose only, i.e. to sell and trade its tokens. Such blockchains do not contain programming features to allow solving computational problems. The latter enables the blockchain to be used in a multi-purpose setting.

5. Trading of tokens. Tokens are used, for instance, to pay people who run mining operations that require much energy (see point 3). Investors or speculators buy and sell tokens to benefit from market up- or down-swings.
Transactions involving these tokens are stored on the ledger.

The above describes a blockchain such as the one used by Bitcoin to allow the trading of tokens. Its purpose is to maintain a ledger that accounts for who owns how many tokens. Moreover,

    1. owners of these coins remain anonymous,
    2. transactions cannot be reversed once they haven been executed, and
    3. if one loses one’s private cryptographic key, the tokens cannot be recovered – i.e. they are ‘lost’.

Interesting read: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak discovered that point 2 applies when he had $70,000 in Bitcoin stolen after falling for a simple, yet perfect, scam.

Lots of experts do not like such single purpose platforms, especially if they focus on trading tokens only. For instance, Bruce Scheiner wrote in February 2019:

“Honestly, cryptocurrencies are useless. They’re only used by speculators looking for quick riches, people who don’t like government backed currencies, and criminals who want a black-market way to exchange money.”

Blockchain - a single one will not do.

Blockchain – a single one will not do.

What now?

The above illustrates that single-purpose blockchains may not be that useful to businesses to protect their supply chain or provide additional data services to their clients. To illustrate, in the enterprise or global trade context, programming features need to be offered in order to process various computational problems in the blockchain.

watch the WEF Davos interview on here

Another reason why single purpose blockchains are not useful for companies is that if clients have an issue, nobody is there to mediate the dispute. In most business applications, it seems most feasible to implement a combination of features of a consortium / private-type blockchain to better protect and manage data, as well as goods and services being traded.

Table 2 – Checklist: Deployment Models for a Blockchain
Type Access Key Characteristics Typical Use Cases
Public Unrestricted Distributed (multiple copies, immutable), consensus algorithm and currency (i.e. token) Cryptocurrencies,   general purpose
Consortium Restricted to consortium members (public may have read-only access) Immutable and distributed Consortium-specific cases, such as trade between members
Private Restricted to single entity, read-only access can be public / unrestricted Internal audit, database management, supply chain within corporation and its subsidiaries

Note. Adapted and expanded upon from Uhlmann, Sacha (2017). Reducing counterfeit products with blockchains. Master Thesis, Univ. of Zurich. Accessed 2019-01 at

Case 1

To illustrate, a replacement part is shipped from the original manufacturer. Each time the part enters the warehouse of the next party in the distribution chain, this is added to the block of transactions (e.g., wholesaler, importer). The final transaction occurs when the mechanic replaces the defective part in the car with the new, genuine one. Once this final transaction is stored on the block, the block is completed and digitally signed. The block is now ‘closed’.

With this block of transactions, the car owner now has proof that the defective part was replaced with a genuine one – not a fake. On this blockchain, both parts are being tracked, as well as work provided by the car dealer and the repair shop. Reselling and other car servicing data will also be stored on the blockchain.

In short, a single purpose blockchain will not be the best strategy. Only a multi-functional one will permit all these different types of transactions to be stored safely on the blockchain.

Interesting read:  Tabora, Vince (2018-08-04). A blockchain is a database, unfortunately a database is not a blockchain explains differences nicely.

Remind me when I have to take my car in for service. Original parts only...

Remind me when I have to take my car in for service. Original parts only…

What is your opinion?

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Distributed ledger technologies are collectively known as blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralised database that keeps track of all transactions between participants in the system. Several transactions are stored together in what is called a block. These are connected to other blocks in chronological order according to their time stamp.

Any corruption of the chain of transactions after consensus was reached will quickly be discovered, because the corruption of this chain of transactions is visible. This also makes a blockchain very safe against fraudulent activity.

While they offer great opportunities, we have to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to blockchain hype. We hope this blog entry helps you in that process.

What do you think?

  • Do you have experience with crypto tokens?
  • Is your company trying to use blockchain technology to make its processes faster, more efficient or transparent for its customers or suppliers?
  • What questions do you have about blockchain?
  • What do you like or dislike about blockchain?

Please share this entry on social media using this link:

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

The author declares that some of the companies mentioned herein are clients of CyTRAP Labs or subscribers of DrKPI® services.

Nadja Schnetzler from the digital newspaper Republic (crowdfunded start-up), and former CEO of Airtel Ghana Lucy Quest discussing matters during lunch break.

Recently, I attended the Campaigning Summit Switzerland 2018 (CSCH), which gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with familiar, and not-so-familiar people.

This post is the first one of three posts about this topic:

  1. Influencer marketing: Better do it right #CSCH18
  2. Influencer marketing: Smart metrics are key (by April 2 ! sign-up for Newsletter, get it first)
  3. Influencer marketing: A flash in the pan
P.S. – Download the slides (PDF file – 12.6 MB) – mostly in German – and click on the links to the resources I used for some REALLY interesting research articles.

Of course, we also exchanged our latest ideas, facts, and data about the best in social media marketing. Strategy and latest metrics for engagement, campaign success and influencers were topics as well. In influencer marketing, earned media and word of mouth also play an important role.

Naturally, the ROI (return on investment) matters when I launch, conduct and finish an influencer campaign. And yes we shared our experiences and the Campaigning Summit Switzerland using our hashtag #CSCH18.

In short, great people, great program, and here is my report.

I moderated a small session entitled, Campaigning und Influencer Marketing: Alter Wein in neuen Schläuchen? (Campaigning and influencer marketing: Old wine in new bottles?)

The most interesting small session I joined was the one by Sophie Chiquet: IQ+EQ+LQ=CQ for Corporate Quotient – Intelligence is sexy! Let’s wear fashion. At first, I was confused – I got there late. But Sophie helped us along, and participants did their share. Sustainability, transparency, reflecting personality, customisation, personalisation, link to function and to action, etc.

VAUDE, the leader in ecological outdoor clothing has learned that some are willing to pay for sustainability when they shop. In turn, their willingness makes it feasible to strive for reducing waste and water usage in the production process and supply chain.

But then there are still those that continue to go for the latest Zara or H&M outfit for the best price possible. These are unlikely to consider sustainability much when shopping.

I am convinced that using fewer materials, water, and avoiding chemicals is a good thing. As is having one classic suit for ten years instead of buying one trendy suit every year for the next ten. But not all of us will do as we say, and shop accordingly or drastically reduce our CO2 footprint. Because this would, for instance, mean not taking the plane or car to go on vacation.

What do you think, am I right or wrong?

Below the focus is on Instagram metrics and influencer campaigns – interesting if we consider where fashion might be going.

Send your colleagues the URL below that will get them directly to the section you think they are most interested to read:

  1. Influencer marketing done right is not marketing – wait, what?
  2. How should we measure influencer marketing?
  3. Your opinion counts

1. Influencer marketing done right is not marketing – wait, what?

The way we use influencer marketing disqualifies it from being called marketing.

Marketing focuses on the needs of the clients. Theodore Leavitt put it as follows:

Selling is preoccupied with the seller’s need to convert his product into cash; marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it.” – Theodore Levitt (see

Thus, marketing requires learning what the customer’s needs are and how the company’s current products satisfy them.

In turn, brand strength plays an important role in marketing and has the following three parts, similar to a chest of drawers:

  1. Awareness of the brand, meaning our target audience knows about our brand – or not.
  2. Association and beliefs about the brand (e.g., associating the brand with sustainability).
  3. Attitude towards the brand (i.e. positive, negative or no opinion).

An influential blogger can raise awareness of a label with one’s target audience.

If it works, beliefs about a brand might be shifted or one’s attitude toward the brand may change for the better. To illustrate, they are trying hard to improve sustainability within their supply chain.

Brand beliefs, brand awareness, and brand attitudes make up a brand's strength.

Brand beliefs, brand awareness, and brand attitudes make up a brand’s strength.

2. So what is influencer marketing then?

As the above shows we need to define these things clearly. We want to work with influencers to accomplish our influencer objectives sooner, but what exactly is “influencer marketing”?

Some define it as a grey area between an official testimonial and a subtle product promotion – the latter is done almost in passing.

Others feel that it is a non-promotional approach whereby brands focus their efforts on opinion leaders. This is done instead of reaching out to consumers or industrial buyers directly.

So influencer marketing may be useful for raising brand awareness. However, it is unlikely to be more than a flash in the pan when it comes to increasing sales.

If the objective is to increase sales, then it’s a case of influencer promotions, not influencer marketing.

It makes more sense to use influencers to get closer to the client and find out what he or she needs, and likes about our product or a competitor.

In turn, this intelligence can be used smartly by marketers to deliver a better product. It’s that simple.

Brand-Influencer Fit: There are three types of influencers, we need to choose which category suits the brand best.

Brand-Influencer Fit: There are three types of influencers, we need to choose which category suits the brand best.

2. How should we measure influencer marketing?

I recently read a great opinion piece by Sven Hildebrandt in Horizont (2018-01-25, Issue4, p. Praxis 23), who wrote

Die zugrundeliegende Begriffsdefinition determiniert das Messinstrumentarium. (How we define a term determines what measuring options we can choose from.)

But this is not necessarily accurate. In fact, it seems that the crux of the matter lies elsewhere, namely:

Once we define a term such as influencer marketing, the most critical work begins. How do we operationalise the concept, so we can actually measure it?
Influence is a complex multifaceted concept that we cannot measure with one metric. Thus, we may need several metrics to get a fair approximation of what influence entails.

Only by doing this work properly can we empower ourselves to work with the best or most appropriate metrics to gain insights.

For example, an industry blogger may only have a readership of 5,000, but they are an interested audience that trust her. Or, she may have 5,000 people that read her blog who all have a large budget to spend on her topic (e.g., those for managing risks according to GDPR – are you ready for May 2018).

It is paramount that you select someone who not only has a large audience, but whose audience is comprised of your ideal market.

B2B Influencer Marketing: Sales is not an objective at all

If you are in the B2B (business to business) market, the intention is not to generate sales, but to raise brand awareness. This way, you position your brand to become part of the key decision-makers’ choice set – the set they will choose from when making a purchasing decision.

Here are a few key context elements that your influencer ranking system should be taking into account, and why:

  • Age: Michelle Phan may be an important fashion influencer, but will she be useful to reach out to the 50+ or “bestager” group of professional women?
  • Culture and Language: Where are your influencer’s readers located?. They may be in your local market and far away. In case of a restaurant located in a popular tourist region, getting readers from far away may be useful, since those may frequent the restaurant during their vacation nearby.
  • Time: Is the influencer currently active and playing a key role in the ongoing discussion on the topic? If she has not posted for 12 weeks (I have not posted for about eight weeks here :-) ), should we choose somebody else?
P.S. – Download the slides (PDF file – 12.6 MB) – mostly in German – and click on the links to the resources I used for some REALLY interesting research articles.

Stay tuned our next post on this topic by signing up for our Newsletter.

Last speaker, late Friday afternoon: Lucy Quest explains, campaigning means you are taking people on a journey. Remember, successful campaigns are run on the ground.

Last speaker, late Friday afternoon: Lucy Quest explains, campaigning means you are taking people on a journey. Remember, successful campaigns are run on the ground.

3. What is your opinion?

We have pointed out three trends here:

a) Influencer marketing is often done in a way that feels like sales or promotions. But successful influencer marketing focuses on getting a handle on customer needs and ideas to serve them better.
b) Measuring influencer marketing is not easy; in particular we need to define the term, and then find metrics that measure what we want and provide insights (actionable metrics).
c) Finding the right influencer that fits your brand is tough work. Do not let an agency intern do the job for you, stay involved.

But what do you think?

  • What was the last influencer project that you thought was really well done?
  • What measures do you use or recommend for assessing influencer campaigns?
  • What is a successful brand campaign that uses influencers or the CEO to reach out to customers and those that could be swayed?
  • What do you like most about campaigning or Instagram?

The author declares that some of the companies mentioned herein are clients of CyTRAP Labs or subscribers of DrKPI® services.

Interesting reads

By the way, it is not just about a hashtag – #DrKPI #ComMetrics – or spreading the message via social media. It is about getting people involved in the campaign: transform the mindset and achieve more.

Spheres of influence… is where it happens, even for influencers… get the people around you to join you on the journey.

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Jana Akyildiz and Urs E. Gattiker - Worblingen and Zurich - designing our new product - Brand Buzz Analytics

Summary: Communication by email, Skype or Google Talk is nothing new these days.
But a purposeful, structured face to face meeting in pleasant surroundings achieved the push we needed today.
A couple of thoughts about where communication strategy is going… and ideas for you, Reader.

I first heard the term ‘virtual organisation’ in the late nineties. We were working on a project with colleagues in Canada, Denmark, and Estonia. A tool like Skype was just the thing then, since it made communication easier.

These days, that’s all old hat. A lot has changed since then. Most organisations use different communication tools. Sometimes picking up the phone is still the easiest, saving us many emails and reducing the risk of misunderstandings.

Nevertheless, a face to face meeting is often most helpful – this time it only took me a short trip on public transport to Germany.

We wanted to meet and talk about the books and our project planning. Also up for discussion was how to improve our processes and working efficiency, etc.

Today’s work was crossborder – Zürich / Rielasingen-Worblingen. That is to say, I was at our branch in Rielasingen-Worblingen.

1. Brand Buzz Analytics

Our new product has been giving a good showing, but it still needs a good Web debut. In addition to the analytical possibilities, there are also creative ones that can be put to good use. Our preliminary comparisons and reports show that our data collection can be done even more efficiently.

Big Data is such a thing. Often, we have much more data than we actually need, but other times, one may be unaware of this fact.

In our case, we have the right data (the contents of thousands of websites), which we could put to even better use to show the manifestation of market forces.

2. Influencer Analytics


Here, our challenge is making the website even more user-friendly. Of course, we have to be sure to do that without sacrificing the visual aspect.

As usual, our colleagues at our Finnish branch take care of the technical implementation, but they were unable to attend today’s meeting. Still, they are hard at work and have assured us that the office’s fourth desk is close to completion in the garden.

Im finnischen Büro in Syöte ist der Werner am Zimmern.

Werner is hard at work – carpentry, that is – at our Finnish branch in Syöte.

Still, we decided to improve our influencer analytics and data processing. When it comes to usability there’s still quite a bit of room for improvement.

3. Content Marketing: DrKPI Hotel – Lite and Pro Versions

In tourism, New options are now possible for smaller hotels thanks to digital channels. But they must also be used, especially since, according to the latest national statistics, hotel stays are on the decline in Switzerland and Germany.

We are preparing DrKPI Hotel, both Lite and Pro versions, for independent-owned accommodations and vacation rentals.

But first, we need to clarify a couple of things, such as:

  • How can we include a booking system, such as WooCommerce, more efficiently in our solution?
  • How do we enable the end-user to choose between several price points (e.g. a room or a suite, high season or low, etc.)?

Not so easy, because e-commerce systems do not offer options specifically meant for independently-owned operations, nor for vacation rentals in general.

The usability leaves much to be desired, but this is where we must focus our attention, because the vacancy rate in Switzerland averages about 60%, which makes it impossible for many businesses to continue operating.

Digital marketing can certainly lend a hand there; our solutions are already in the testing stage and will soon be implemented by clients. Until then, we have a list of things to improve.

4. WordPress optimisation

Every WordPress user is familiar with this issue – the oppression of choice! There are numerous WordPress templates, and often no single one is exactly what we want, so customisation is key. The challenge is finding the time and the money.

No one wants to waste time, which would also incur unnecessary costs, cutting into the bottom line and certainly disappointing a client. This is where finding a compromise would be ideal for everyone involved. Our job is to narrow it down by figuring out which of the templates appeal to the client.

More importantly, though not easy to explain, is what will best serve one’s target audience. Which template, with appropriate customisations, is the best solution for the client’s target group? Can the end-user find the information they need quickly and easily?

This often requires persuasion, by showing the client how one template is better suited than the other, and achieves the larger objective. Direct contact with the target audience is often very helpful here, as it allows us to experience what works well, is easy to operate, gets used, and what doesn’t work, through the target group’s interaction with, and navigation of a website.

This a challenge that must be met, which is why we are currently optimising our procedures.

Susanne Mueller Zantop, Founder and Chairwoman, CEO Positions AG: Gattiker is a blog specialist, who comes across as a slightly dotty professor, but knows his subject matter intimately. He has even managed to make the Caritas blog an exciting, popular online destination – and it’s not as if their subject matter is particularly cheerful.


Email is a great communications tool, but it often requires a lot of back and forth to ensure everyone is on the same page. Skype or FaceTime can help with that, and so can the good old telephone.

When it comes to complexities, however, a face to face meeting still can’t be beat. The day of our meeting was highly productive, and we’re certain that it will provide our clients several new benefits. We also found that being prepared, directing our focus, and meeting in pleasant surroundings made our day even more productive.

Everyone knows exactly what needs to be done and we all have our assignments, which should be completed as quickly as possible, though no later than September 5.

Of course, what we’re particularly keen to learn about is your opinion:

  • How do you solve the usability/user-friendlisness challende for your product, such as a small appliance, machine, train, chair, etc.?
  • What do you consider to be the biggest challenge(s) when it comes to usefulness and usability for websites, e-commerce portals, etc.?
  • How do you increase the effectiveness of team meetings in your organisation?
EU Referendum, European fallout, broken utopia, like fake online reviews: IT CANNOT BE TRUE, CAN IT? | Urheber: Miriam Dörr| Fotolia #111044349

Summary: What does the Brexit crisis have in common with fake online reviews?
What role can data analytics and analysis play in this saga?
This post provides guidance for depending on hashtags and online reviews.

Pollsters and punters had the Remain campaign winning the Brexit vote by a hair. But the headlines this and last week speak to a different tune.

The Pound Sterling fell as traders prepared for a cut in the interest rate. Some felt that Britain was starting to imitate Greece and called it Britain’s Greek tragedy…

So are we analysts and number crunchers to blame? Here are some things the Brexit crisis has taught us big data pundits.

1. Hashtags do not win elections

Groups tapped into social media in the hope of persuading the young to join in (or out). Stars joined campaigns and let themselves be used as messengers in videos. Nevertheless, all this failed to sway enough voters to go to the polls.

Just about two weeks before the referendum was held Thursday 2016-06-23, Adam & Eve DDB tried its luck with an online video campaign featuring celebrities and swear words, including this example:

Nevertheless, featuring Keira Knightly failed to give it much traction on YouTube. Maybe just another example for how advertising professionals know far less than they claim about what it takes to make a viral video.

Inspiring young people to vote in the EU referendum proved tough in the UK. But other countries have similar experience. For instance, in Switzerland younger people tend to vote less often than their elders.

Brandwatch did a study about hashtags for the Brexit campaign. Unfortunately, data are sketchy. Did they include the hashtag #voteremain that was apparently used 600,000 times in their analysis? And what about others?

#Voteexit was used over a million times, but was that the only Brexit hashtag? What about those social media users that used several hashtags in their tweets for one campaign?

♥ Curious? Join 1500 other subscribers to this blog’s newsletter and read on!

Besides, using a hashtag does not mean my tweet is positive toward that particular side of the campaign. And does voicing our opinion using social media mean we go to the trouble of voting?

Nor has social media been known to change people’s firm opinions, so who cares about the social media echo chamber. It is the voting booth that counts, stupid.

2. Fake online reviews and your cash register

Like hashtags fail to necessarily sway a large group of voters, so do fake online reviews. But some attribute increasing importance to them. In fact, Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’.

Unfortunately, it all turned out to be a fake used by Mark Cowper to show how much social network content is fake (see image below). The Twitter account has now been closed.

In particular, this highlights how influencers let themselves be swayed and thereby provide their fans or followers with useless information or fake content / reviews.

Read: Fake online reviews

What is really sad is that the campaign grabbed a lot of attention on social networks and in the media.

But can we conclude that all this hype would have resulted in more sales? The site never got launched, but this could well indicate that buzz has little to do with your bottom line.

Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’ but it was a fake.

Social Bites won awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’ but it was a fake.

Nevertheless, fake online reviews are becoming a plague. So much so that the UK government decided to investigate online reviews late last year.

Read the interesting press release here: Press Release – UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) takes enforcement action against fake online reviews

March 2016, the authority published some guidance for businesses on what is okay under the law. Check out the report here: Guidance Online reviews: letting your customers see the true picture – see image below.

What do you need to do if you are a business whose products are being reviewed?

What you need to do if you are a business whose products are being reviewed?

3. Should I put trust in reviews from associates?

Mark Cowper’s experiment nicely illustrates the problem of how sharing of fake reviews and wrongful information affect one’s online reputation.

In turn, he wanted to illustrate that we need a review platform that provides us with product reviews from our trusted network.

The idea is great. Getting recommendations from my trusted network sounds like a classic word-of-mouth marketing approach.

We love to hear our friends’ experiences before we buy (see screenshot below – find and save recommendations from your trusted network).

Recomazing, a social network that enables people to review, share and find reviews from their real-life network of friends and relatives.

Recomazing, a social network that enables people to review, share and find reviews from their real-life network of friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, the Recomazing network is a perfect example of sunk costs. I have already invested in having an online presence on such platforms as Twitter, Google+, Flickr, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Tencent.

So starting anew on Recomazing also means some switching costs.

  • Is it worth it?
  • Who has the time to join another network, never mind write and read product reviews about things one will never buy?
  • Do we have the time – or is it just so entertaining (e.g., like watching a video) that we do not mind spending time on a network about product reviews?

Besides, while this may work in OZ (Australia and New Zealand), hardly any of my friends in Europe use it. So am I wasting my time joining? Probably.

Watch the short video below and you’ll see what I mean.

♥ Curious? Join 1,500+ other subscribers to this blog’s newsletter! ♥

[su_box title=”3 takeaways: Use product reviews wisely” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. Hashtags help but may not make your cash register ring

Do we use actionable metrics, i.e. metrics which we can take action on?

If one million users use a hashtag, will it result in Trump or Clinton winning the election?
As the Brexit referendum illustrates, hashtags and social media activity did not swing the Remain vote enough to make a difference at the polls.

2. Do we understand the metrics behind the analysis?

If we analyse the numbers, were the online reviews from real or fake customers?
Are those people regulars or Chinese tourists that failed to understand the customer survey they were handed in German?

And before I forget: Have we even thought about the possibility of errors in our data set due to e.g., sampling bias, response bias or sampling error?

3. Wait a while before asking your out-of-town customers for feedback

I remember having dinner with my family at a restaurant in Amsterdam. Before we even got the bill, we were invited to rate them. The waiter brought us an iPad where we could enter our review right away.

It’s better to wait and then send your client a short survey (5 questions max). Or invite them to write a review / testimonial for your webpage. And yes, writing the review on a platform like TripAdvisor might not hurt.

Research demonstrates that giving your customer four weeks before asking for feedback is a smarter approach if you want better reviews.

Interesting read: How to boost online ratings legally

More interesting reads – misinformation tends to ripple… facts remain scarce

a) Word-of-mouth marketing can make a difference (in German)
b) Data analytics: Lessons learned from Ebola
c) Can infographics show you the money?
d) Scottish referendum: A false sense of precision?
e) Data analytics: UPS or Apple?

4. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Fake reviews? Lessons from Brexit

What is your opinion?

  • How do you decide what to buy?
  • Do you have a circle of friends that write online reviews regularly?
  • When was the last time you shopped for a brand or stayed at a hotel because of a review?
  • Do you remember last time your friend recommended a product based on their great experience (e.g., running shoe, coffee maker or going to shop at a store with knowledgeable and friendly staff) and you took their advice?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

Social Media Influencers: Can we agree to disagree? | Urheber: pathdoc | Fotolia #97351679

Summary: Revlon chooses a social media influencer – nail ‘artist’ Chelsea King.
How did Revlon rank influencers in order to make their choice?
What ROI (return on investment) can Revlon expect?

Recently I read the following news:

In a shift from using traditional celebrities as brand ambassadors, Revlon has teamed up with social media influencer and nail artist Chelsea King to reach new consumers in an authentic way, says Tracy Rohrbaugh, vice president of global marketing for Revlon. King will create unique content for Revlon and promote the brand through her own accounts.

The above illustrates that Revlon did not have any precise measurement method to rank and select the most suitable social media influencer. This got me thinking… How do we develop metrics and apply these in order to choose the most suitable influence marketer for our brand?

Chlick and get to the 6-point checklist

Advertising 101: Neither Snapchat nor Instagram?

On average, Snapchat users watch 80 videos a day. I recently asked people which videos they remembered and the answer was:

  1. the funniest one this week, from a friend, or
  2. the last really gross video I got about three days ago… the rest I do not remember.

Of course, this is not a scientific study. But what content stands out that you remember, dear Instagram or Snapchat user?

Wait, it gets better! Now we also have the Pay Your Selfie app in the US. This is an app that pays people between 20 cents to 1 Dollar for their selfies made with certain products. These are then posted to the Internet, such as on Instagram, and help sell product – at least in theory.

And the most important thing for brands seems to be finding these influencers – not celebrities. Well, maybe they are celebrities in their own right through sharing their silly moments, touting product and so forth.

But do these influencers get us to purchase another coffee maker, lipstick, stiletto heels or pair of pants?

Here are some things we may want to keep in mind.

1.1 Broadcasting is not sales

People increasingly began using social media around 2005. By 2010 many used several Social Networks, such as Facebook or Twitter. Just about a decade ago it was clear that social media empowered the average user to:

1. create and share content (i.e. many share with many or a few people) easily, AND
2. foster dialogue and engagement – this was and continues to be important.

All this has meant that attention has shifted from simply trying to sell toward focusing on understanding the needs of the buyer.

Influencer marketers supposedly listen to their fans’ needs. In turn, they review and test products that interest their target audience  (e.g., lipstick, TV or software).

The idea is, of course, that this information will help sway viewers of a video and readers of a blog post to purchase the product. At least, the manufacturer or seller hopes their product will be considered when we are in the store or buying online.

What are influencers? (read blog entry)

There are certain factors that affect how many people you reach, such as the number of:

– fans on Facebook or Instagram, AND
– social shares of your content on social networks (i.e. whether it creates a ripple).

Nevertheless, what is the ultimate objective? Do we want influencers to help us with word-of-mouth marketing, do we hope for more sales, or what?

Is Chelsea King really authentic, social and an influencer? View the stats – survey says…!

Revlon's Chelsea King - DrKPI blog benchmark shows her influence seems very low.

Revlon’s Chelsea King – DrKPI blog benchmark shows her influence seems very low.

2. How did Revlon identify Chelsea King as an influencer?

It seems Revlon and its ad agency had a hard time measuring influence directly. Could we maybe measure influence by following generally accepted procedures?

Cover PR, an agency that negotiates deals for bloggers with large brands might help here. It attempts to ‘measure’ the concept of influencer as follows:

Influencers can be identified by choosing faces not just because of their reach but also based on quality, authenticity and professionalism (“… ausgewählte Gesichter, die nicht nur nach Reichweite, sondern auch nach Qualität, Authentizität und Professionalität ausgesucht wurden.

Easy, right? The result is you get mostly young women and a few guys (not pictured here). That is superb. NOT.

Some agencies are vague about how they define influence: Is it really just having reach, producing quality, being authentic and professional? | Copyright: CoverPR |

Some agencies are vague about how they define influence: Is it really just having reach, producing quality, being authentic and professional? | Copyright: CoverPR |

Hold on, not so fast. How were these women selected?

Martha Lane Fox (founder of is attributed as having said, instinct or gut feeling should be ditched in business. This applies for our task of finding influencers as well.

Just using a few buzzwords to describe these influencers such as aesthete (Schöngeist) or real free spirit will not do, will it?

Compliance for beginners

If a blogger is an influencer and works with brands, is the blogger compliant to local advertising and content regulations?

For instance, a sponsored post must be marked as such at the top of the entry. If it is not, but has a little footnote to that effect, this might not satisfy the regulator, as Buzzfeed learned and paid for in the UK.

Compliance mistakes, such as failing to label native advertising as required, occur frequently. Of course, as a brand marketer we would hope that the agency prevents its client from making such beginner faux pas.

2.1 Does the content make a difference to our bottom line?

Influence goes beyond getting eyeballs to view your blog content. Nonetheless, is being authentic or professional part of how we define and measure influence?

Yes, maybe – because it is likely to manifest itself as many reader comments. Thoughtful comments do give other readers added value. And of course, we mean better comments than a simple feel-good note, such as, “Great post, thanks for sharing.”

But this still leaves out engagement and dialogue. How do we know people care about what we do and are influenced?

To illustrate, it might be that with 427,000 Twitter followers, one of your tweets gets 18 likes, 5 retweets. Is this a satisfactory ROI? 

Put differently, will this tweet influence your followers to purchase the product in the near future?

Rachel Roy tweets for a donation drive - resonance poor.

Rachel Roy tweets for a donation drive – resonance poor.

Guy Avigdor, COO of Klear, a software company that sells services to calculate your influence, attempts to identify influencers. For instance, Guy identifies Tory Burch as a very influential fashion blogger on Twitter. Unfortunately, once again the person gets very low resonance for her tweets.

If the dialogue ratio is rarely more than 0.001 percent, who cares if you have a few thousand or even hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans?

2.2 Do fans engage with your content?

Let us agree, if your stuff gets shared on various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, you are probably influential.

But besides more traffic or views of your content, does it really influence people in what they intend to buy or will purchase tomorrow?

As illustrated above and repeated by many who are deemed to be influencers, the resonance from fans and followers is very small in the social media space.

3. Influence: How to move MORE product

So you are a blogger and have influence. Let us cover the basics first.

We want influence to help us strengthen our brand and, hopefully, result in more product being sold. This chest of drawers will help us clarify further.

Antique chest of drawers: 3 drawers explain concept of market strength | 1 Awareness OF | 2. Belief about AND |3. Attitudes toward brand.

Antique chest of drawers: 3 drawers explain concept of market strength | 1 Awareness OF | 2. Belief about AND |3. Attitudes toward brand.| Copyright: Fotasia |

Brand Strength could be described as a little chest of drawers (see above image).

According to David A. Aaker this chest then has three drawers with the following contents:

1. Awareness of the brand, meaning our target audience knows about our brand – or not.
2. Association and beliefs about the brand (e.g., associating the brand with sustainability).
3. Attitude towards the brand (i.e. positive, negative or no opinion).

An influential blogger can raise awareness of a label with the target audience. If it works, beliefs about a brand might be shifted or one’s attitude toward a brand changes for the better (e.g., they are trying hard to improve sustainability of their supply chain – see book from David A. Aaker).

Of course, we want to improve the reach of content that talks about the product with the help of the influencer. As well, we hope this will increase trust in our brand and product (see also guest blog post by Meike Leopold).

6 secrets we need to master for successful influencer marketing

[su_box title=”Top 6 secrets for measuring influence marketing: Questions you want answers for” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

Unless you get satisfactory answers to the questions below, you may not really know how your influencer was identified.

Check this carefully or pay through the nose for little, if anything.

1. What criteria were used to identify influencers for your purpose?

If the answer makes sense, go to question 2. If not, skip the rest.

2. How was influence defined?

There is no shared definition of influence. Nevertheless, if your agency wants to get you to work with influencers, let them explain what they mean by the term. The result will be discussion about your desired final outcome, achieved with the help of the influencer’s work.

3. How was influence measured?

Once we define something (point 2 above), we need to come up with criteria to measure it.

If not, the list of influencers shown to you is basically random. Don’t expect to be happy with the results of collaborating with people on this list.

4. Are we being snowed by savvy impression management?

Explicit impression management is externally oriented self-presentation (Gattiker, 2004). Sometimes “influencers” just do a great job presenting themselves as influential at conferences, special events and so forth.

Of course, getting others to believe you know what you’re talking about is the first step on the way to being labelled an expert.

Nonetheless, does that give someone the necessary credibility with our target audience, our customers?

5. Are we falling victim to reputation bias?

Reputation is what is generally said or believed about a person’s character or standing. Conference organisers may fall victim and book speakers whose expert status or reputation is primarily based on savvy impression management.

Hence, checking if reputation is based on facts or fluff matters if we want to get a satisfactory ROI out of blogger relations and working with influencers.

6. Are we reinforcing age, gender and / or race discrimination?

As parents we know, once the kids become teens our influence with them wanes. Similarly, a 50-year-old consumer working in the city is unlikely to follow a 20-something’s advice on which stilettos to buy.

Working with influencers in a certain age, gender or race group may be great. But if they fail to reflect our mix of customers, we may have fallen victim to discriminating against certain groups of individuals.

Bottom line

We need answers to these six questions. In this process, we can either understand the metrics used or develop a measurement method for our purposes. Our measurement method must meet the requirement for repeatability and reproducibility.

The influence marketing ranking is repeatable, if others can re-run the analysis using the same method and reproduce the same results.

Black boxes or algorithms that are kept secret do not permit this. Does it seem advisable to base business decisions on methods we fail to comprehend?[/su_box]

3.1 Useful resources and tools

– Why your social traffic looks low in analytics tools

– Easy-to-use Google tool for campaign tracking. Whenever we work with influencers, we should manage our URLs systematically. This helps improve our SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). To illustrate, a link I share on this blog to another post in our blog could be made up like this one: – meaning the visitor came from the blog, from a post about Instagram and influencer marketing…

– As a SaaS (Software as a Service) provider that claims to “Generate Qualified Leads on Social Media space” you should be social in order to influence your target audience. Turning off commenting is not the right strategy.

– More on word-of-mouth marketing that influencers can help make happen – if we do it right, of course.

– Influence marketing und compliance (German)

4. Ranking influencers: Fact versus fiction

Many social influence metric tools are intransparent and work like a black box. Nonetheless, algorithms represent choices made by the engineers that designed them. Hence, algorithms are not neutral. Unless the method is made transparent, buyer beware.

Some influence measures multiply ranking with mentions on Twitter. This ignores the fact that people automatically retweet, often without having read content first.

Others calculate influence for bloggers using the Alexa ranking. The latter counts your traffic only if you have their plugin installed with your PC browser and ignores mobile traffic.

You can measure influence with the help of engagement, using proxy measures, such as number of tweets, number of retweets, number of replies, favourited tweets. But claiming to measure engagement with such metrics is an inexact science at best and voodoo at worst.

Tomoson surveyed 125 marketers during March 2015, and now claims that based on its survey replies, companies gain $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. However, such studies are not representative, so these numbers are dubious at best.

Repeatability and reproducibility of such data and findings lie at the heart of sensible decision-making.

Using blog metrics from the DrKPI BlogRank we found that most ‘influential’ European style bloggers fail to make the top 10. A blogger was considered influential if their name was included in a list, such as those published by Vogue, Annabelle and so forth.

Just one influential blogger makes the top 10, as shown below.

Ranking blogs using DrKPI software reveals what Vogue, Annabelle, etc. identify as influentials fail to make the cut.

Ranking blogs using DrKPI software reveals what Vogue, Annabelle, etc. identify as influentials fail to make the cut.

Check out the best fashion and style bloggers in Europe and how the DrKPI BlogRank works.

Incidentally, as a style blogger real style also means you have the personality to match. Unless the blogger expresses something of their personality, it could be lost in a mess of peroxide and passionless fashionability.

Great style blogs are all about substance. And that ain’t easy to measure :-)

4.1 Narcissism versus self-esteem

Self-esteem can be defined as a subjective sense of one’s self worth and being competent. It correlates with good things such as emotional well-being and being persistent when doing a task. Narcissism means the person feels superior (I know best – I should decide). Such individuals crave admiration and adulation.

When we talk about social media influencers, narcissism plays a role. Narcissists seek attention and admiration and lash out at anyone criticising them. Donald Trump is probably the best known example of a narcissist. But if your personality is mostly about yourself and how to put yourself in the spotlight, we might have no more.

Incidentally, research with children indicates that parental overvaluation nurtures narcissism, and parental warmth nurtures self-esteem.

Myers, David G. (March 2016). Is Narcissism Extreme Self-Esteem? (written for general audience, refers to some great research articles on the topic). Retrieved, May 25, 2016 from
Also interesting is

For the brand marketer this means that finding the best social media influencer is a tricky thing. A certain degree of narcissism might be okay and come with the territory. However, for a productive long term collaboration, plenty of self-esteem is preferable to loads of narcissism.

Narcissists tend to focus on materialism, have inflated expectations and show less relationship commitment than others. Such individuals are not easy to work with as a brand ambassador. Again, the secret to real style is having the personality to go with it. Nevertheless, narcissists need not apply, unless we have the patience and energy to deal with temper tantrums, tears and anger in spades.

5. Have your say – join the conversation

Source: Influence marketing experts’ top secrets

What is your opinion?

  • How do you choose the best social media influencers for your brand?
  • When were you so glad you had a social media influencer on board?
  • How do you budget for social media influencers?

The author declares that he had no conflict of interest with respect to the content, authorship or publication of this blog entry (i.e. I neither own any of these brands’ products nor are they our clients).

, , Drinking Red Bull boosts job performance
Math-myopia and Prince Harry: do these numbers from Red Bull about performance enhancements make sense?

Will drinking Red Bull and smoking cigars boost our productivity at work?
Will sleep deprivation increase the number of mistakes we make?

This post addresses these questions, as well as how math-myopia affects love for metrics and statistics about sports, dieting, work injuries and so forth.

This blog entry is part of our series on business analytics and big data

If you read German, check out our series on political campaigning and the usefulness of polling (US presidential election).

[su_box title=”Table 1: Keep the numeracy problem in mind” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1.1 Making a good guess: Avoid base rate neglect

When we combine two pieces of information, we tend to ignore one of them completely. This phenomenon is called “base rate neglect”. For example, the base rate tells us how many people are affected by bowel cancer (6 out of 100), or how many have a fatal injury at work (i.e. 142 deaths per year in the UK – a rate of 0.46 deaths per 100,000 workers).

Knowing the base rate helps put things in perspective.

1.2 Our culture makes it acceptable to say, “I do not do numbers.”

Imagine a study that presents a test that is 75 percent accurate. In 25 percent of the cases where the test predicts a self-reported injury at work will happen, it does not. This is called a false positive.

What is the chance that the person has a work-related accident? Intuitively we might say that in 75 percent of cases a fatal accident will occur. However, the correct answer is, ‘we do not know’ – unless we have the base rate.

To illustrate, if we test 100 people and 4 come out positive, 3 were rightfully identified to likely have a work-related accident and 1 was wrongfully identified. But wait! Of the 96 others, 24 (= 25 percent) will have a false positive. This means we predict a non-fatal work injury, but they will not have one.


Unfortunately, in a culture where Prince Harry can publicly state that he may not have the math skills to be an air ambulance helicopter pilot, he is likely to ignore the base rate…

The base rate is a good way to start if we want to forecast something or put test results in perspective (see Tables 2 and 3 below).

Below we illustrate this a bit more with an example based on a May 2015 Financial Times article, which nicely illustrates how things can be misconstrued by journalists.

To reduce this risk, we must go to the trouble and check the numbers.

Financial Times gets the ball rolling

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 1986″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”531px” height=”130px”]

Great headline. Unfortunately, the FT journalist fails to refer us readers to the original study from which she got these numbers.

I left a comment, asking author and Employment Correspondent Sarah O’Connor for help.

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My comment (see above image) did not get published, nor did I get an answer from the journalist regarding my query.

So as a paying subscriber, should I trust these claims? Might it be wiser to go and check?

You guessed, I continued digging myself. An interesting journey that took me 28 minutes…

The Daily Mail

I found an article from the Daily Mail (see image below).

But it referred to an earlier article by Mail staff referring to a study by Uppsala University (Sweden) researchers.

References? None whatsoever!
[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 1987″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”492px” height=”368px”]

So where did the Financial Times’ (FT) journalist find the information if not from the Daily Mail?

Huffington Post links to FT

The Huffington Post managed a link to the FT article from which it had copied. In other words, to avoid copyright infringement the journalist had done a fast re-write. The content was the same as in the FT article using different wording.

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So the Huffington Post failed to add substance to what was posted in the FT. What now?

Vitality Health Life – study cannot be found

You might suggest as a good next step to go and check whether the sponsor of a study might offer the full report. That is what we did.

Unfortunately, the sponsor’s website did not make it easy – it failed basic usability requirements. After some digging we found something, but it did not link to the original or complete report either.

You got that right, the sponsor did not provide the full report. Just a bit of information and nothing more. Real bummer.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 1985″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”490px” height=”349px”]

Do another organic search

Maybe a search with different keywords could help? Read on and find out. Incidentally, why not subscribe to this blog’s newsletter right now?

[su_box title=”Table 2: 6 things we must do to make sure the numbers add up” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

2.1 Go search for the original (see organic search data in image below)

This got me the link to the Rand Corporation. Here something was written up about the study. But once you have the original study, read it carefully, including the method section.

2.2 Read the method and result section carefully

To illustrate, I recently read:

Murray, Sarah (2016-02-26). Frustrated US workers go it alone. Freelancing. Work is becoming more flexible but less secure. Financial Times, FT Executive Appointments. Employment Global Best Practice. Retrieved, Feb. 27, 1026 from

I went to the original study, Freelancing, and found another study where the authors do not provide a methodology section.

After reading such a study, make sure the following four questions are answered and if not, don’t make decisions based on such work:

2.2.a — How was the sample selected? No information given in the report!
2.2.b –What kind of survey was used? No information given!
2.2.c — Were participants interviewed using an online survey? No information!
2.2.d — Was a combination of landline and cellphone random digit dialing samples used to get responses through interviews? No information!

If the report does not provide information regarding questions 2.2.a to 2.2.d, should I trust it?

Put differently, as a shareholder or tax assessor, would you trust the company’s financial statements if answers to such auditor questions were missing?

Certainly not, so why should you trust such numbers for an opinion poll? I rest my case!


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Rand Corporation

A short description is offered and at the bottom a link to the report. Another page opens with another description about the study. Eureka – I can finally download the report.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 1989″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”489px” height=”268px”]

The report itself is very interesting. On page 11 it introduces the reader to the concept of abseenteeism and presenteeism.

– Absenteeism refers to the measure of days absent from work
– Presenteeism refers to the measure of reduced productivity while at work (e.g., due to headache, flu, etc.).

On page 12, it goes on to say, “The instrument consists of six questions with a recall time frame of seven days. The questions ask whether the respondent is employed; the number of hours missed from work; the number of hours actually worked; and the degree to which the respondent feels that a health problem has affected productivity while at work and affected their ability to do daily activities other than work. WPAI-GH outcomes are expressed as impairment percentages, where higher percentages indicate greater impairment and lower productivity. We use the following three work-related impairment percentages calculated on the basis of the WPAI-GH scale

– Per cent work time missed due to ill-health (absenteeism),
– Per cent impairment while working due to ill-health (presenteeism),
– Per cent overall work impairment due to ill-health (absenteeism and presenteeism).”

Hafner, Marco; van Stolk, Christian; Saunders, Catherine, L; Krapels, Jochim; Baruch, Ben (May 22, 2015). Health, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. A Britain’s Healthiest Company summary report. Retrieved, May 31, 2015 from

What is the problem with the Rand study?

The survey depends on how well subjects recollect facts from last week. But do seven days in a person’s year accurately reflect the status of their health? Additionally, does it make a difference if we collected these data in July, October, December or February of the year we studied?

Finally, large companies are over-represented in this sample. Moreover, companies with under 50 employees – over 70 percent of British firms – could not participate.

So is this a great study? It is very interesting, but the journalists’ interpretation of these data far exceeds what the authors infer from their own data.

By the way, there is research that is far better suited than the above to learning how sleep deprivation can affect job performance or studying math.

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Lack of sleep increases risk of failure in school

Uppsala University to the rescue

Olga E. Titova, et al., (2014) Associations of self-reported sleep disturbance and duration with academic failure in community-dwelling Swedish adolescents. Sleep Medicine doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2014.09.004 Retrieved May 31, 2015 from…… (click on citation to get study link since it is too long to post here).

The study included 20,000 adolescents aged 12 to 19. This longitudinal study was conducted from 2005 to 2011. About 30 percent of participants reported regular sleep problems.

The study found that if you have less than seven hours of sleep, data indicate an increased risk of failure in school.

The group also found in a previous study that going without a night of sleep increased toxic substances in the brain. Possible increased risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis was reported. Other prior research shows how the brain uses sleep to cleanse itself.

Interesting Reading

2015-07-20 – One night of sleep loss can alter clock genes in your tissues
2015-07-13 – Sleep loss makes memories less accessible in stressful situations
Three studies show that teens should decrease screen time before going to bed

Bottom line: Show me the data…

[su_box title=”Table 3: Does the story meet 2 critical benchmarks?” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1. Does the article provide the reader with a link to the original study discussed?

Every journalist does some research before writing their story. If the original material is available online, why not reference it? Saves your reader time and gives them a chance to read up on this interesting topic.

Hence, the printed article should provide a link to the original source(s). At the very least, it should refer to the online version of the article where links to the original sources are provided.

2. Does the study report provide the reader with a method section?

Explain succinctly how you did the study, such as:

“The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted February 18-21, 2016 among a national sample of 1,002 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in the continental United States (501 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 501 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 312 who had no landline telephone)….

A combination of landline and cellphone random digit dialing samples were used… Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female currently at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older.”

Great read: PEW – information about our survey methodology

For those like Prince Harry, who claims, “I can’t do maths,” the above paragraph can be a lifesaver.


If you read an article like the one for this post, better check the number to see if the headline by the journalist can be justified from the study’s results. Very likely it cannot, so putting decreasing amounts into content seems to only viable strategy left.

And to answer our question in the title: No study shows drinking #RedBull boosts job performance.

However, it does increase your daily sugar intake significantly, which is probably not a good thing.

Join the conversation

  1. Do you have an example of how mathematics phobia is affecting basic mastery of mathematics skills?
  2. Do you have a good example of a sponsored study that addresses some of the issues outlined here?
  3. How do you make good guesses about things that affect your decision-making (i.e. invest my money here or there…)?

Of course, I will answer you in the comments. Guaranteed.

Can we trust these numbers?

Interesting reads point out that trust is learned more than inherited. Trust is socially received and transmitted.

The truth about trust
Van Lange, P. A. M. (2015). Generalized trust: Four lessons from genetics and culture. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 71–76.

Doing an opinion poll: Interviewing subject at door

The United States presidential election of 2016 is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8. In the meantime, we know that in almost every race for 36 years, the eventual nominees have won either Iowa or New Hampshire.

While Hillary Clinton won by a razor slim margin in Iowa, Bernie Sanders took home New Hampshire by a wide margin. With the Republicans, it seems increasingly likely that Trump could win the nomination.

This blog entry is part of our series on business analytics and big data

CLICK - Outside chance - the primary contest is about to get serious.

Mr Sanders promises free education in public universities. He wants to have government rather than private insurers to pay health care bills.

This could cost US $14 trillion over a decade, and would result in new taxes, costing most workers 8.4 percent of their income.

Workers might approve of such changes. But Mr Sander’s plans would have no chance of making it past Congress, even in one with a majority of Democrats.

Nevertheless, he won 60 percent of the vote in New Hampshire.

This represented one of the biggest victories in a contested Democratic primary.

Of course, polls play an important roll during any election, including US Presidential (see chart). But can we trust these polling data?

As the above graphic shows, polls gave Governor Kasich less than 5 percent. Nonetheless, he raked in 16 percent of votes in the New Hampshire primary of the Republican party. Trump hoovered up 35 percent of the vote as predicted by pollsters (see above graphic from The Economist, January 30, 2016, p.17).

The above illustrates that polling is a tough job, especially if one intends to get it right. In 2014, pollsters struggled with these challenges during the Scottish referendum and Swedish elections. Both times they got it wrong.

The same happened during the UK elections on May 7, 2015. The final polls showed Labour and the Conservatives neck-and-neck at 34 percent.

But when the final numbers where in, David Cameron’s Tories ended up 7 percent ahead of Ed Miliband’s Labour party. As pollsters have pointed out, however, they got the numbers right for the smaller parties. Too bad, their prediction was outright wrong for those fighting for the post of running the country, i.e. becoming Prime Minister…

So if you see a statement like the one below, will you believe it?

Polls indicate, Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by 30 points in South Carolina

We discuss this below in more detail.

1. Getting the right sample size is very expensive

In early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire pollsters conducted more polls for 2016 than in 2012, when the last presidential race was happening. But the average sample size has fallen. According to the Financial Times, for New Hampshire the averages look as follows:

2012 – average pool of Republican voters interviewed was 590
2016 – average is 490

Of course, the margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent are common with such polls. Governor Kasich was predicted to get less than 5 percent. With a margin of error of 5 percent he could have gotten 10 percent but he actually got 16 percent.

In this case, the pollsters were vastly off, illustrating that sample size matters. In other words, does polling 490 Republicans justify the conclusions drawn by the authors?

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2470″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”529px” height=”322px” Title=”National Statistical Service of Australia – calculating sample size – it works” alt=”National Statistical Service of Australia – calculating sample size – it works”]

National Statistical Service, Australian Bureau of Statistics – Sample size calculator

[su_box title=”Polls are getting ever more costly thus end up with smaller samples” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1. 2016 US Presidential Election

Pollsters now make 30-35 calls to complete a single interview.

Ten years ago, a pollster called ten people to get one to participate in the poll or study.

To interview 1,000 voters — only 400 of which may be likely to vote Republican — the pollster now has to dial up to 35,000 numbers.

2. UK polling

In the UK, today it takes about 15,000 phone calls to get 1,000 interviews.

About 20 years ago, 2,000 calls were needed to get 1,000 replies.


The above shows, depending upon the country, we may need to make anywhere from 10,000 to just about 40,000 calls to end up with a sample of 1,000 respondents.

But in the case of an election, we also need to make sure that those who answer are also those who will go cast their vote. This challenge is discussed below.

2. Selecting the wrong sample is a growing risk

Polls are conducted over two or three days, meaning we try to interview those who are more easily contacted. This may happen over the internet or via phone, but such work makes it hard to arrive at a sample surveyed that is representative of all voters.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2469″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”528px” height=”317px” Title=”National Statistical Service of Australia – calculating sample size – Youth Barometer UBS” alt=”National Statistical Service of Australia – calculating sample size – Youth Barometer UBS”]

National Statistical Service of Australia – calculate your sample size required for the relative standard error you desire

For instance, May 2015 British election data indicate that opinion polls failed to reach the harder to find Tory voters. In turn, estimates of the vote share attributed to Labor were skewed.

According to the British Social Attitudes survey, Labour was six points ahead among respondents who answered the door on the first visit. However, looking at those that required three to six home visits to be interviewed, the Tories enjoyed an 11-point advantage. Adjusting for social class and age, first time respondents are less conservative. “Busy” respondents are more likely to be so – but harder to chase for pollsters.

Hence, for pollsters it is not easy to get those “busy” people that might vote for a particular party as outlined below. Another challenge is that more and more people no longer have a landline. They can only be reached by mobile number (see also FT mentioning Martin Boon, director of ICM research). Because of this trend, in the US polls are increasingly conducted using mobile phone numbers to call.

3. Getting likely voters is a challenge for pollsters

Selecting those that are likely to vote for your political poll (see graphic below) is important. Finally, the views of voters and nonvoters are often very different, as was the case in 2014 in the US mid-term elections.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 3274″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”757px” height=”394px” Title=”The Pew Research Center: distinguishing likely voters from nonvoters is critical for pollsters.” alt=”The Pew Research Center: distinguishing likely voters from nonvoters is critical for pollsters.” ]

Pew Research (2016-01-07). Can likely voter models be improved? Section 2: Measuring the likelihood to vote

As well, for the 2015 UK elections, under-30s generally lean left, but very often fail to turn out on polling day. The pollsters, however, reached an atypical group of youngsters, who were unusually engaged with politics and committed to voting.

Another factor that can bias polls is that they are often based on internet polls. These tend to use volunteers to sign up to online panels. They may be drawn at random to participate. Nevertheless, the underlying group of people is self-selecting. Thus, data collected using a sampling method known as random digit dialing or “RDD” results in better data sets (i.e. random-probability samples representative of the population).

As this shows, getting those to participate in a poll that are likely to vote continues to be a challenge.

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Bottom line

Here are three challenges pollsters will continue to grapple with and we voters must keep in mind when studying poll results.

[su_box title=”3 challenges for pollsters” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1. Polls are expensive!

Ever fewer people want to participate in consumer surveys or election polls. Hence, it takes thousands of calls to get a useful sample. In turn, inferences can be made from such a sample about the election outcome.

But just the calls may take about 400 hours. In turn you get 1,000 replies and still have to pay for data analyses and a write-up. A costly exercise that is not getting cheaper.

2. Getting a representative data set is nearly impossible

As the 2015 UK election illustrated, it takes a greater effort to get Tory voters than others.

Cultural differences may also limit the applicability of Pew Research’s findings in the US whereby “…better-educated people tend to be more available and willing to do surveys than are those with less education.”

However, the current solution of using online non-probability survey panels makes polling results less accurate.

3. Identifying and polling likely voters is hard

It is tough to get accurate readings to predict election outcomes by using self-selected online panels.

YouGov knows this is a sensitive issue and does not publish any answers to research methodology questions on its blog. For instance, the voters over 70 who broke heavily for the Tories were not reflected in YouGov’s online panels used for predicting the 2015 UK elections.

Those under 30 years of age are less likely to cast their ballot. If your panel or poll includes those overeager millennials, who were unusually engaged with politics, your findings will be skewed.

Polling models will continue to be improved, but surprises will also continue to happen.

InterestingWhile Apps and Web respondents do not differ in their type of responses, the response rate is lower using mobile apps to collect data.


Nevertheless, polls are the best way of trying to figure out what the election result is going to be next time an election, primary or referendum comes around. So go and vote.

Join the 3,000+ organizations using the DrKPI Blog Benchmark to double reader comments in a few months while increasing social shares by 50 percent – register now!

Mr Sander’s foreign policy promise boils down to one thing: he will not start a foreign war. The rest is a replay of 1960s student radicalism. He intends to convert the US into a Scandinavian social democracy. Mr Trump would make America great again. He thinks the US has been screwed by its allies. If he needs expertise, since he has none, he will hire experts. In the meantime his solution is to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” That is about it for his foreign policy.

Unfortunately, both Sanders and Trump are arch-fantasists with the ability to recruit voters. Both will spell extremism as far as US foreign policy is concerned. The system, dominated by the Democrats and Republicans, has always rejected the political extremes. The nation has benefited from a deep political stability, which has contributed greatly to its economic strength and global power. If America’s immunity to extremism is ending, the whole world will feel the consequences. Not a good prospect for anyone, is it?

This post: Yes Virginia, pollsters really are wrong

Join the conversation

  1. Do you have an example of a great poll / study?
  2. I refused participating in a poll / consumer survey last week. You?
  3. Do you think pollsters will get it right in the 2016 US elections?
  4. US Primaries: Clinton and Trump or Sanders and Trump? What do you think?

Of course, I will answer you in the comments. Guaranteed.

Data, and by extension data analytics, are becoming increasingly important for business. At the same time, the data deluge makes making sense of it all a bigger challenge every day.

Here are three trends to should keep in mind for 2016.

1. Don’t shoot from the hip

Numbers are becoming more popular for most people, but the more numbers we get the more useless most of these seem to be. Especially if they are drawn out of a hat; why would you take that into consideration in your decision-making process?

Polling your audiences is fine.
But that is not a statistic that adds up exactly to something like 97%, is it?
Or are you keeping tallies of your straw polls and then doing the statistics?

Comment by DrKPI on Adrian Dayton’s Clearview Social blog

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2884″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”792px” height=”473px” Title=”Adrian Dayton Clearview Social claims 93% of lawyers… based on straw polls – should we trust this, does it make a difference?” alt=”Adrian Dayton Clearview Social claims 93% of lawyers… based on straw polls – should we trust this, does it make a difference?”]

View slide on Flickr – measure-for-impact – DrKPI

Google Flu Trends is an example that illustrates this problem further. For instance, it:

– looks at historical data – descriptive analytics and research, and
– tries to predict what might happen – predictive analytics – with the help of a model that was developed.

The results are supposed to help us better understand how the flu will spread next winter. Unfortunately, in the Google flu trends versus National Institutes of Health (NIH) challenge, the winner is? NIH! Google estimates are simply far off from the actual data the NIH produces for policy makers and health professionals.

2. Bad data result in bad decisions

Publishing rankings or product tests is popular. Since some readers devour such rankings, publishers can sell more copies, which keeps advertisers happy.

A real win-win situation, right? Not so. Wrong decisions can result in outcomes that are not desirable. For instance, attending the wrong college or polluting more than the test results indicate (think Volkswagen and #dieselgate) is not something we want.

Lucy Kellaway felt so incensed about the ever growing acceptance of making errors in corporate circles, that she wrote:

…I would be exceedingly displeased to learn that the bankers to whom I was handing over a king’s ransom were being taught that errors were perfectly acceptable.

This mistake-loving nonsense is an export from Silicon Valley, where “fail fast and fail often” is what passes for wisdom. Errors have been elevated to such a level that to get something wrong is spoken of as more admirable than getting it right.

By collecting data and using flawed methods we produce rankings or test results that will can seriously hurt people. For instance, when drug certification tests are done improperly and the regulator has no idea, unknown side effects can kill people.

Using the wrong test results to approve or certify a car can result in dismal effects as well. Volkswagen is accused of manipulating tests, and the public got more pollution than it bargained for. VW is working on fixing the 11 million vehicles affected by the diesel cheat, but this will not un-do the damage to the firm’s reputation and our health.

3. Check before you trust the method used

It is always wise to take 5 minutes to do an acid test with any study report we see, such as:

– what does the methodology tell us (e.g., we asked university deans to rank their competitors); and

– does the measure or measures used make sense (e.g., one question about how university developed / improved study programs – result = ASU is more innovative than Stanford or MIT… who are you kidding?).

The Art Review publishes an annual ranking of the contemporary art world’s most influential figures. In short, it helps if you live in London or New York so the Art Review editors or journalists are aware of who you are.

I asked for an explanation of how these numbers develop:

Dear Sir or Madam
I would like to know more about the methodology you used for the ArtReview’s Power 100 List.
Can you help… this would be great to use with my students in a class.
I could not find anything on the website that I could show my students.
Professor Urs E. Gattiker, Ph.D.

14 days later I got an answer from the makers of the ranking:

Subject: Re: Message from user at

We are not following a grid of criteria per se, and the list emerges from a discussion between a panel of international contributors and editors of the magazine, who each advocate for the people they feel are most influential in their region. The influence of the selected people on the list is based on their accomplishments in the past 12 months. I have attached here the introduction to the Power 100, which might help you in defining our approach.
I hope that helps,
Best, Louise

A grid of criteria, what is that? Of course, the office clerk answering me has no clue about research methodology used, as the answer indicates. One could start believing that this Top Art list came from a discussion or using a straw poll. Totally chaotic approach.

You can view the attachment that explains this sloppy method below.

[embeddoc url=”” download=”all” viewer=”google”]

Download the ArtReview criteria with this link.

A friend of mine smiled, and said:

For me this is a great list, Urs. Those on the list rarely if ever represent value for money for serious art collectors. Instead you get buzz and have to pay for their image. The list tells me who we do not need to work with. We use other experts. These give us more value for money. They help us to complement our award-winning collection.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2881″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”780px” height=”479″ Title=”Sound research takes plenty of resources” alt=”Sound research takes plenty of resources”]

Bottom line

We all know that data quality is important and frequently discussed. In fact, the trustworthiness of data directly relates to the value it can add to an organisation.

As the image above suggests, doing quality research takes a decent method that results in data that permits careful analysis. Sloppy data are cheap to get, but dangerous if used in decision-making. Such findings are neither replicable nor likely valid.

However, we are increasingly required to present findings in order to attract more readers. Some master this very well like Inc. Another example of theirs I came across was:

Though truly quantifying “best” is impossible, the approach Appelo’s team used makes sense, especially when you read the books that made the list.

The 100 Best Business Books of 2015 by Jeff Haden

And here’s the methodology:
The purpose of our work was to find out which people are globally the most popular management and leadership writers, in the English language.
Step 1: Top lists
With Google, we performed a lot of searches for “most popular management gurus”, “best leadership books”, “top management blogs”, “top leadership experts”, etc. This resulted in a collection of 36 different lists, containing gurus, books, and blogs. We aggregated the authors’ names into one big list of almost 800 people.
Step 2: Author profiles
Owing to time constraints, we limited ourselves to all authors who were mentioned more than once on the 36 lists (about 270 people), though we added a few dozen additional people that we really wanted to include in our exploration. For all 330 authors, we tried to find their personal websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, Wikipedia pages, Goodreads profiles, and Amazon author pages.

So you defer to 36 people and their lists and include those that are mentioned more than once. Fine, if that does then not include the ones you believe should be on the list because you read these books and liked them, no worries. You add a few dozen people (60) and voilà, you have 330 authors (how they ranked them is totally unclear, but interesting – blog reputation, Twitter followers, etc.).

[su_box title=”3 checks you should undertake before accepting a study’s findings” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″ width=”px 700″ ]

1. Evidence-based management and policy advice

A sloppy method is like following no method.
Can you find a method section, and does the method make sense to you? For example, did the study use a long-form questionnaire to get employment data? Or was it just based on scans of Internet job boards? If the latter, the problem lies with double counting when relying on websites or job search engines.

If the method section does not instill you with confidence that it was done properly, watch out. And, most importantly, don’t complain about a study before you read it carefully!

Interesting read: CRDCN letter to Minister Clement – Census long-form questionnaire (July 9, 2010) explains why Statistics Canada needs to get the funds to collect data for the census to provide evidence-based policy data.

2. Minestrone: Great soup but wrong research method

So the study has a decent method section that makes sense and explains things accurately. What are the chances that somebody else could follow the methodology and get the same result?

To illustrate, if it was done the same way I put together a Minestrone (Italian vegetable soup), you can forget it. I take whatever vegetables are in season, plus, each family’s soup is seasoned differently, guaranteed. This neatly illustrates the fact that if no systematic method is used, it is not science. For the soup this means it turns out different each time anyone makes it.

Without a recipe or method followed, you cannot repeat the performance or generalise from your findings.

3. Buyer beware: Click biting studies using navel gazing metrics

Usage of Sainsbury’s #ChristmasIsForSharing being higher than John Lewis’ #ManOnTheMoon by just 4% is interesting. However, Social Bro’s verdict is based on 50 votes (26 versus 24) from a Twitter poll. In turn, the analytics company uses this data to decide on 2015’s Most Creative Christmas Campaigns. What? Are they real, is their analytics work also that sloppy?

Apparently, even analytics companies like Social Bro have to defer to such navel gazing metrics to get more traffic. Such samples are neither representative nor big enough to draw any inferences.

Just because something is interesting or suggests it is a bit better based on 3 more votes on Twitter, does not mean you should invest your hard earned cash that way. Investing your marketing dollar based on such nonsense is plain dumb.

What is your take?

– what will you change in your data #analytics and #analysis work in 2016?
– what is your favourite example for 20015, illustrating GREAT analytics work and research?
– how do you deal with this data deluge?
– what would you recommend to a novice (ropes to skip)?

More insights about analytics, analysis and big data.

Where do you want to go, reflection is needed.

[su_highlight background=”#fffe99″]Summary[/su_highlight]: David Cameron knows that public approval of RAF air strikes against ISIS in Syria has dropped.
We explain what this teaches Migros, Lidl and Tesco about new product research.

CLICK - CONFIDENCE in measuring ROI of social media and display ads is LOW

Some weeks ago I came across a report (see image) that stated just 29 percent of people feel confident in measuring the ROI (return on investment) of display ads and this drops to just 22 percent for social media marketing.

Accordingly, management is interested in improving its understanding with analyses and analytics when it comes to social media activities. But do managers or politicians understand what we are trying to communicate or convey to them?

If managers read blog entries like this one about how to do surveys, it’s no surprise that they believe it is all easy and cheap to do.

This is the fifth post in a series of entries about big data. Others so far are:

Data analytics: Lessons learned from Ebola
Scottish referendum: A false sense of precision?
– Facebook mood study: Why we should be worried!
– Secrets of analytics 1: UPS or Apple?

Confusion abounds

How are management or politicians supposed to understand the difference between analytics, data and analysis? Can we trust polls or should we learn from the Scottish disaster?

For instance, when we go to a dictionary of statistics and methodology from 1993 (Paul Vogt), neither analytics nor business analytics has an entry, never mind data analysis.

Kuhn: Unless we share a vocabulary, we are not a discipline

However, these days, some would claim data analytics is a science (e.g., Margaret Rouse). Still, if something can be called a science (e.g., physics or neuropsychology), its members share a certain set of beliefs, techniques and values (Gattiker 1990, p. 258).

Do people in data analytics or data analysis share a vocabulary and agree to the meaning of basic terms? Not that I am aware of. Therefore, Thomas Kuhn’s (1970) verdict would be: Not a science (yet).

In web analytics, data analytics or data science as well as social media marketing we agree to disagree. But maybe I can clarify some things.

Sign up for our newsletter; this post is the first in a series of entries on business analysis and analytics.

[su_box title=”2 things business, data, financial and web analytics have in common ” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

1. All analytics is art that involves the methodical exploration of a set of data with emphasis on statistical analysis.

2. All analytics include the examination of qualitative and quantitative data.


Analytics gives you the numbers, but fails to provide you with insights. For that, we must move from analytics to analysis, and we only gain the necessary insights if we do the analysis correctly.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2649″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”508px” height=”552px” Title=”Diagram: Analysis versus Analytics versus Data – why the difference matters” alt=”Diagram: Analysis versus Analytics versus Data – why the difference matters”]

The graphic above illustrates that proper data is the foundation for doing analytics that permit a thorough analysis. Accordingly, using a sample that is not representative of our potential clients or voters is risky.

Nobody would draw any conclusions about attendance at next season’s football matches by asking a sample of baseball afficionados. So, go ahead and ask your social media platform users to vote for this season’s favourite flavoured drink syrup. But such a poll won’t give you an answer that is representative of your customer base.

Nevertheless, this is exactly what Migros did in 2015 (see Migipedia – few very young users participated in the poll, less than 10 wrote a comment during January 2015). It then published a one-page ad (among many more, see below) in its weekly newspaper (e.g., November 30, 2015), claiming that the chai flavour was the winner.

Making such a decision based on this type of unrepresentative poll is a risky choice. You may actually choose to increase production of the wrong flavour!

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2781″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”520px” height=”293px” Title=”Polling online community members gives you data from a non-representative sample of your customers – is that good enough to launch a new product?” alt=”Polling online community members gives you data from a non-representative sample of your customers – is that good enough to launch a new product?”]

Collecting data that is based on a representative sample of your customers is a costly exercise.

So why not use your online ‘community’ to do a ‘quick and dirty’ poll?

Surely a Twitter, Facebook or website / corporate blog poll is economical. You do it fast and easy and voilà, you got what you need, right? NOT.

Okay agreed, doing the above will strengthen your hand with a CEO. They might not grasp basic methodology issues of sampling or survey research. Plus, you got data from your online community, which is another reason to invest more money there.

In the Migros example above, having an online poll on your Migipedia platform achieves 3 things:

1. it allows your marketing folks and community managers to show the platform is useful for something;

2. regardless of which flavour wins and gets produced, you can always push it in your company newspaper. This way you reach 3 million readers in Switzerland – a country that has 7.8 million inhabitants,

3. even if the new product turns out to be a flop, thanks to other marketing channels, you sell 150,000 to 300,000 (or more) 1-liter bottles of chai tea syrup during the Christmas Season.

With its many resources and varied marketing channels (e.g., weekly Migros Magazin), Migros can ‘afford’ to use shabby research. It is in the enviable position to succeed, in spite of ‘spending’ so much.

The company might never learn that its analysis actually led the team to choose the second or even third best choice. Nonetheless, your marketing clout ensures that you can show it to management as an example of having done the right thing. Of course, we know it was done for the wrong reasons, but since management probably won’t find out, who cares – right?

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2793″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”530px” height=”308px” Title=”Polling: Opinion on RAF air strikes against ISIS in Syria – up and down each week” alt=”Polling: Opinion on RAF air strikes against ISIS in Syria – up and down each week”]

One poll is worse than none

As the above image from last week regarding air strikes in Syria shows, poll results can change quite a bit within a week.

For starters, no pollster wanting to stay in business will use a non-representative sample to get opinions. Using such data is unlikely to give you the insights you need for Hillary Clinton or any other candidate to succeed during next year’s US election.

[su_custom_gallery source=”media: 2801″ limit=”7″ link=”image” target=”blank” width=”485px” height=”445px” Title=”Polling: YouGov’s Will Dahlgreen never answered this question – so can you trust these results?” alt=”Polling: YouGov’s Will Dahlgreen never answered this question – so can you trust these results?”]

I left the above comment at the end of the blog post (it has not been published by YouGov so far). I asked about things that a good pollster will always publish with the poll results.

For instance, I asked how data were collected, whether the sample is representative, and what the margin of error was. I could not find any information about any of that. Of course, trust is not improved when one fails to publish a reader comment that raises method issues about your poll.

“YouGov draws a sub-sample of the panel that is representative of British adults in terms of age, gender, social class and type of newspaper (upmarket, mid-market, red-top, no newspaper), and invites this sub-sample to complete a survey.”

How exactly this happens with YouGov we do not know, since the methodology outlined on its website is not very detailed.

But David Cameron knows that while 5 million people have joined the ranks of those opposed to airstrikes in Syria in the past seven days, that could change next week. Polls are more interesting when they show a trend, so Mr Cameron still has hope that the opposition even more.
[su_box title=”5 key pointers for explaining the analyst’s work to your management: The case of survey research or polling” box_color=”#86bac5″ title_color=”#ffffff”]

Collecting quality data is followed by analytics, which subsequently require analysis to draw the proper insights. Analysis requires words in addition to looking at the numbers.

To tackle this challenge successfully, we need to do some preparation, as outlined below.

1. Do you have a strategy or a plan?

What is it you want to collect data for and why? This must be explained in a few sentences.

How will these data help you win the election, get the contract or sell more product?

2. How will data help you execute the plan?

You must know what data you need or the rationale for wanting them (see point 1).

What three steps will you take in the next quarter or six months to execute your strategy?

3. Are the numbers complete?

Most monitoring services can tell you everything about Facebook or Twitter.

But what about smaller websites from climate change activist groups, ISIS sympathesizers or peace activitists’ blogs?

Make sure you get the data you need. Is your sample representative of those whose opinion you must know?

4. Do you need social media monitoring?

Knowing what people say about your brand or company is a good thing. The Volkswagen emission scandal (remember #dieselgate) teaches us that in a crisis, simply monitoring the flood of tweets and status updates on Facebook or LinkedIn is of little use.

Like Volkswagen, you can decide to ignore the social media noise. Change your behaviour and communicate openly and directly (click for German-language radio report).

Unless you use social media monitoring to take action after the data are in, why collect it?

5. Do you have data from your customers?

If you have less than 1,000 employees, don’t make a big fuss about social media monitoring.

Focus on things that matter, such as what your clients report regarding warranty service, and the quality of phone support or user manuals. A tweet matters little.

Feedback can be collected in many ways, including customer surveys, discussions with clients or comments on your corporate blog.

Analysing these data provides insights that help improve product, service and so forth.

What it means

Focus on collecting data that help you serve your customers better. Getting a daily digest about the most important key words regarding your brand (e.g., we use DrKPI, #DrKPI, DrKPI BlogRank, #metrics #socbiz) is probably all you need. Instant data may not be needed unless you are a FT Global 500 company.

Restrict yourself to collecting only those data you absolutely and definitely must have.

Make sure that they meet some minimum quality standards. Only this will enable you to trust the analytics and analysis resulting from that work.

Actionable metrics are what matters

Unreliable or invalid data from clients, social media monitoring and opinion polls is a waste of resources.

Please keep in mind, just collecting data without taking action is a navel-gazing exercise.


Bottom line

Always ensure that analytics leads to analysis that goes beyond navel-gazing metrics. Answer these questions truthfully:

A. What will be done with the findings: Unless you take action based on your data, why measure and collect information at all?

B. What kind of data was collected: Make sure you understand how data were collected. Can this polling data be trusted to be representative of the population (e.g., consumers in my country)?

How was something like influence (e.g., Klout) measured (what kind of proxy measure was used)?

If it is not transparent to you, move on and do not waste your time with such a measure or index.

Keep points A and B in mind before you collect data and / or use somebody else’s findings.

‘Total X’ combines xyz Labs’ proprietary Rambo social media measurement tool, and WalkBack®, the leading measurement source of WOM marketing from the Sambo Group, a Laughing Stock company.

Okay, what does the above mean? Who would want to trust this gobbledygook? If marketers or pollsters cannot explain things clearly and precisely, they tend to cover it up in jargon that tells you nothing.

Regardless, 2016 will mark the year where Lidl, Migros and Tesco will do more of these utterly useless polls, to find another ‘winner’ for a new flavour of drink syrup, mustard or soft drink.

Even though social media, community and marketing managers will claim a victory this year, with so much additional marketing around, who is surprised? Put differently, regardless which syrup the company – Migros – would have produced, I dare to claim it would have flown off the shelf anyway.

Combine all the ads and marketing push, and if it tastes okay, success is in the bag. Unfortunately, those that hate research will attribute part of this success to a useless online poll.

Next time you read something like the above, claiming to rank something, check the methodology. Cannot find anything? Just move on because it is probably hogwash.

Interesting reading

Vogt, Paul W. (1993). Dictionary of statistics and methodology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. For information see (5th edition 2016).

2 great reading lists for additional resources about research, polls, survey data and much more:


Join the conversation

  1. Do you have an example of a great poll / study?
  2. What is your favourite marketing measure?
  3. What research methodology would you recommend?
  4. Other ideas or concerns you have about marketing research, please state it here.

Of course, I will answer you in the comments. Guaranteed.