Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Archive for June, 2008

Measuring Social Media

Posted by widgetgirl on June 27, 2008

Hi everyone,

What a crazy week.  I moderated a panel at OMMA Social this past Monday on Social Media measurement and then did a last minute panel yesterday here in Washington at the Digital Media Conference sponsored by the Potomac Tech Wire.  There was a lot of discussion about social media measurement.  I think it is actually starting to replace the topic of Engagement (thank God!).   Below is my Metrics Insider article from this month that was published this morning.  Would love comments or feedback on the topic if you get the chance.

I am heading to Ireland this afternoon for a wedding, so there won’t be any posts this next week.  I’ll be back online after the 4th holiday.

Off to the Emerald Isle….Jodi

Social Media Measurement Round 2: It’s About Listening

THIS WEEK I MODERATED a panel at OMMA Social that focused on social media metrics. In preparing for the panel, I started my research with trying to define what social media measurement really is. I had a preconceived notion that everything can be measured, right? Isn’t this what I was writing about last month — the need to open the kimono and talk about the calculations of metrics openly, so that everyone knows exactly how something is being measured? Maybe put a few standards in place?

Well, to quote someone from the conference (who was quoting Einstein), “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

Perhaps a new metric that needs to be instituted is listening. The listening factor that marketers or analysts apply to the process of evaluating their social media strategy will take them further than the metrics will. You have to listen to what your customers are saying to you, and what they are saying to each other, to assess your efforts.

Social media measurement is clearly a mix of art and science. There are so many data points that, to fully understand if your social media agenda is working, you need to evaluate the tone and content of what your users might be generating.

An interesting question that I threw at the panel was, “How do you know if your social media strategy is working?” Stephanie Pike from Circuitcity.com said that her company ties every marketing effort back to the store purchase. Everything has got to have an ROI — or they’ll evaluate whether to continue the program or not.

I hear what she is saying, and have had that ROI model foundationally set in my brain forever, but the difficulty is that so many of these efforts are hard to quantify.

Another interesting point she brought up was how users in Circuitcity.com forums actually answer each other’s questions on products. Get your own customers to help each other, and now you truly have a cost savings effort. But you must also weigh the tone and quality of how they answer those questions, and the impact on the brand.

Heidi Browning from MySpace touched on her company’s metric, called the “momentum effect”: “This is a quantifiable measurement of the impact of a brand within a social network beyond traditional advertising impressions to encompass the ‘pass along’ power of consumer-to-consumer communication.” A big quote, I know — but a research study jointly conducted by Marketing Evolution and Adidas showed how the power of consumer alignment with a brand influences behavior. Although not “directly” quantifiable through a metric that is spit out of a data analysis tool, the impact of consumers aligning with your brand, then inviting their friends or influencing others on their affinity via personal expression on their profile page or through social networking, is pretty powerful.

We have a ways to go in measuring the impact of social media. The discussion on the panel helped me realize that. The metrics vary drastically depending on the type of campaign — and in most cases, require custom analysis of the qualitative and quantitative in order to assess results. You need to start by outlining what your social media goals are and defining the audience that you are trying to reach. The metrics are available for most aspects of these campaigns, but, at the end of the day, applying the listening factor to understand conversation with the customer is what it’s really all about.

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Widget Analytics – ABCi Certified!

Posted by widgetgirl on June 24, 2008

We are very excited here at Clearspring to announce that our analytics platform is now ABCi certified!  This is a huge step for our company and the industry.  Here at Clearspring we take a lot of pride in our analytics platform.  Our team is dedicated to ensuring that our data collection, filtering and metric calculation processes are rock solid.  We know that companies that use our platform need to rely on the data that we provide them. I am personally excited as I was very involved in the process of working with ABCi to audit our analytics.  They have a rigorous process for reviewing the entire platform, sampling the data and ensuring that our processes align with industry best practices and standards.  The full press release is below.


McLean, Va., June 24, 2008 — Clearspring Technologies Inc., the leading widget syndication and tracking service, has been independently audited and accredited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations Interactive (ABCi). Clearspring is the first widget platform to complete an ABCi audit, highlighting the company’s commitment to accurate tracking and reporting metrics and to meeting the industry’s requirement for independent, third party accreditation.

The ABCi audit concludes that, as of June 16, 2008, Clearspring fairly stated the metrics for its widget platform. It further concludes that Clearspring employs the necessary internal controls and processes to ensure proper delivery and tracking of widgets. ABCi’s accreditation also determined that Clearspring’s data is compliant with current industry standards, not misstated or overstated by factors controllable by Clearspring, and not manipulated internally or externally. Metrics that were subject to audit included: views, unique visitors, placements created, active placements, clicks, clickthroughs, events, geographic report, computer information, interacted views, clicked views, average time spent, and average interaction time.

“Clearspring’s commitment and success in completing a rigorous review of its systems and processes reflects its dedication to transparency and accountability,” said Michael J. Lavery, ABC’s president and managing director. “In both traditional and emerging forms of media, this type of leadership is a demonstrative step in encouraging media buyers to spend their valuable ad dollars.”

Widgets are increasingly used by publishers and marketers to extend their reach to the leading social networks, start pages and blogs and to respond to growing consumer demand for a more personalized desktop, Web and mobile experience.

Clearspring currently serves nearly 4 billion widgets per month and has served over 31 billion widgets in the last 12 months. This activity is captured by the most comprehensive set of widget analytics reporting tools available. These same reporting tools help publishers and advertisers track and optimize their own widget campaigns. The ABCi audit concludes that the processes and systems Clearspring employs to derive these reports have been reliably tracked and counted with verifiable controls, substantiating Clearspring’s leadership as a widget syndication platform.

“Being the first widget syndication platform to complete the ABCi audit was an important milestone for our company,” said Hooman Radfar, co-founder and chief executive officer of Clearspring. “Receiving accreditation from a well-known and widely respected firm such as ABCi helps assure our advertising and publishing customers that the expansive reach and high volume of widget interaction that they see in our reports have been generated using acceptable and reliable industry practices.”

About ABC and ABCi

ABC Interactive is one of the world’s leading independent auditors of Web sites and digital technology, performing thousands of interactive audits since its inception in 1996. With nearly 4,000 members in North America, ABC is a forum of the world’s leading magazine and newspaper publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies. The organization provides credible, verified information essential to the media buying and selling process. ABC maintains the world’s foremost online database of audited-circulation information and a growing array of readership, audience and Web site usage data. To learn more, visit http://www.accessabc.com.

About Clearspring

Clearspring is the market’s leading widget syndication, tracking and monetization service, used by the world’s largest media companies, advertisers, and independent widget developers. Clearspring helps publishers and marketers extend their reach to the leading social networks, start pages and blogs and to respond to growing consumer demand for a more personalized desktop, Web, and mobile experience. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., Clearspring offers a comprehensive set of widget creation, distribution, management and monetization services. For more information about Clearspring and how to use widgets in your business or to join the Clearspring developer community, please visit www.clearspring.com.

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WidgetWebExpo – Widget Analytics

Posted by widgetgirl on June 19, 2008

My good friends Ivan Pope and Jim Sterne hosted the WidgetWebExpo conference this week in New York. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with a new friend, Albert Lai from Kontagent. My portion of the presentation focused on widget analytics and Albert’s focused on measuring Social Applications. This was one of the first conferences that I have ever been to that was 100% focused on widgets – an interesting venue when everyone in the audience is actually focused on widget analytics and measurement.

The topic of the panel was “The What, Why, Where and How of Widget Metrics.”  You can see me in action presenting the topic here on YouTube.  Got to love the Flip Video cams that people carry these days.

I started off with “what is a widget?”  I know that seems like such a silly question, but honestly  the question still comes up all of the time. I always start with the Wikipedia definition, but when it comes down to it, the easiest way to describe a widget is to think of it as a “mini web page” that has options for you to transport it from one web site to another. Widgets can be run on web page, desktops and even some mobile phones.

So once we tackled defining the space, we drilled down deeper into what makes a widget sharable.  I mean, what if you could just copy the source of a link and place it on your own site?  Does that make it a widget or does the piece of content have to come with a sharing mechanism in order to cross the bridge over to widgetdom?  I don’t claim to answer the answer to that question from a technical standpoint, but I think we all agree that the content needs to be “transportable”. The example in the slide below shows the visitor experience when grabbing a widget and placing it on iGoogle.  There are essentially a few basic steps:

  1. Click on the “grab” button (also called share or add button).
  2. Select the destination site to share the widget to or grab the embed code.
  3. Authenticate to the site that you wish to share the widget to.
  4. Enjoy widget!

Using a widget serving platform has multiple benefits – the platform builds all of the “bridges” to the share destinations (so you don’t have to) and makes it much easier for the user to grab the content.  Just exposing the embed code will be problematic.  Although there are some visitors who understand how to copy and paste embed code into their start page, blog or social network profile page, the majority of users don’t know how to do that.  The goal is to make it as easy as possible.

In prepping to transition the audience into a true metrics discussion, you have to tee up the fact that metrics should be the tool to measure how well you executed on your strategy.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is “Begin with the end in mind” from Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You need to understand who you are trying to target with your widget before you ever release it.  What is the purpose of building a widget – to build off domain audience, drive people back to your site, sell something or just build brand awareness?  Before you get set to measure, you need to know what success looks like?

Once you know who you are trying to reach, then you need to go seed your widget in spots where people will find it.  The goal is to make it as viral as possible by placing it on pages and in networks where it has the highest probability of being grabbed.  The “if we build it they will come mentality” is not going to work here.  You need to be methodical about putting your widget in spots where:

  • Visitors will know that it is a widget
  • Visitors will understand how to grab it
  • Visitors will be compelled to grab it (creativity obviously plays a part here, but so so does aligning the widget with content that is relevant)

There were three sets of analytics that I discussed with the audience.  We have covered many of these here in other posts, but they categorize into three areas: Spread, Audience Extension and Engagement.  Spread analytics focuses in on the content itself – where is it being grabbed from and to which domains is it being installed? You’ll notice that I am starting to use the term “Installs” over “Placements” in my terminology.  Here at Clearspring we are starting to standardize around the term as it aligns with how the industry is defining sharable content.  More to come on this in future weeks.

The three metrics I discussed were: Grabs, Installs and Active Installs.  Grabs being the number of times that a widget was “grabbed” from another widget.  Installs being the number times that the widget was successfully installed (we require it to be viewed at least once on the destination domain or desktop). Active Installs being the number of widget installs viewed at least once during a selected time span.

All three of these metrics are very unique and critical to measuring the success of a widget.  How viral is your widget (how many times has it been grabbed and how quickly is it spreading)?  Also critical is understanding where your widget is traveling to and whether or not that install base you are creating is sticking and growing or simply churning and being replaced over time.

Audience extension consists of derived metrics that help you understand two core business questions – how successful are you at generating content consumption off-domain and how well is your content spreading off-domain.  When I say “off-domain”, I mean not on your own web site or widget seeds.  These two metrifcs are intended to help quantitatively measure the reach of your widget.

The third category of metrics that I discussed were on engagement.  So how is someone “engaging” with my widget?  Seriously, I hate that word.  Everyone uses it and it is so incredibly silly.  That aside, my take on engagement is that it is simply a word that acts as an umbrella across the metrics available to measure how a visitor interacts with your content.  In the widget space there is a lot that you can measure inside that “mini web page” that is portable.  On the Clearspring platform we measure interactions (mouse overs or clicks), clicks and time spent.  Those three metrics alone are used to derive additional metrics that can all be used as tools to measure widget activity and most importantly how visitors are interacting with your content and brand.

So last, but not least, I wrapped up the presentation discussing how to optimize your widget campaign.  It starts with working with a widget platform that uses sharing tools that are easy for the visitor to use.  You want a platform that has broad reach in the destinations that they work with so that you can reach as wide of an audience as possible – and of course you want a platform that will provide all of the analytics so that actually can tune and optimize your widget.

A/B testing with your creative is also a component for understanding what your visitors will respond to.  The messaging in the grab button, the features of the content and the freshness of the content will all contribute to how successful your widget is.

Promote your widget through ad campaigns and affiliate networks – seed, seed, seed!  The more places you seed the widget (within reason and business smarts of course) will help fuel its virality and distribution.  The entire process is a cycle (Lather, rinse, repeat).  Modify, measure, tune/optimize.  Effectively working through this cycle and making it part of the DNA in your organization will help you create widgets that are viral and effective at meeting your business goals.

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