Connections Prompt Plan Adjustments


It’s week two of the mentor process journey and I’ve finally heard from all my prospects.

Unfortunately, ′L,′ a subject matter expert (SME) in the topic and audience of my senior project, won’t be able to meet me until she completes an all-consuming major office move in mid-April. I will follow through and eventually meet her but it won’t be until after this term ends. As a back-up, I’m reaching out to ‘N,’ another SME who oversees communications and stakeholder relations for one of Ontario’s CCAC and is a former employer.

I had my first meeting with ′M′ on Tuesday morning. In the high level agenda I sent the Sunday before, I outlined the overall purpose of the meeting as to get a preliminary overview of her background and transition to digital. I also expressed an interest in learning about recommendations for boosting my analytics knowledge/skills.  M’s reputation precedes her and so as predicted, she was warm, congenial and professional. (Off the top, she inquired about my professor, who she knows, and thought teaching and yoga were great fits.)

M said her transition to digital was back in 1996 (earlier than I initially thought). In the early days, she explained how she made sketches with buttons and draft screens to outline to developers how she wanted a solution to look and act. Today, she works for a global agency with very specialized divisions and experts to handle those details, leaving her to oversee clients and accounts.

We talked about what I see as the challenge of being a generalist in a competitive world where experts are held in high esteem. I explained that in the PR world (where I cut my teeth), you had to master strategy to execution across the board. Ideally, you also had to keep a hand in tactics, even as you rose in seniority. M suggested that large teams with specialists/experts are great but also expensive. In contrast, smaller teams with more generalists are more cost efficient. M prefers them as you get fewer but more committed people on the team. She sees account teams shift between both types, as accounts evolve and budgets often need to scale back.

I suggested that I’m particularly interested in content strategy but also want to work toward roles where I’m engaged in developing digital strategy — or as M described it the “why” of digital. M deemed either goal feasible and saw them as integrated. She stressed the value of an effective CMS and content strategy in the projects she manages for financial service clients, as well as a large retailer.

Specifically, M said an effective content strategist can:

  • Identify and reuse consistent content across platforms
  • Develop a foundational content library with just the ‘right’ quantity of consistent assets for effective use across platforms.
  • Manage the ‘how’ components of the customer’s journey along a smooth path to purchase.

She also asked me about Centennial’s program, which gave me the opportunity to weave in my senior project, along with other highlights.  M quickly grasped the value of my project and appeared interested. She asked me if I had a field placement yet and proactively volunteered to look into options at her agency but cautioned there may be an age bias. She wants to introduce me to one of her content strategists, who can give me more insight and look at my work. As for analytics, she admits to only scratching the surface but may be able to connect me with an expert who can offer more in-depth advice.

As per action items discussed, a sent her a link to an overview of Centennial’s program, field placement dates, my available meeting times and resume. I did not expect her to express an interest in me as an intern at this stage but it’s wonderful that she did. So I’ll do my best to follow through and see what happens.

I was also recently in touch with ‘MH’ a web designer, who I’ve hired and referred on several occasions. When he learned I was studying interactive media management, he suggested we meet.  So although MH was not part of my original mentor plan, I think meeting with him will complement it.

Illustration Source: Godidwlr via Morgue File.

Analytics Success Lies in Digesting Related Segments


Our 10th analytics class focused on how to best analyze and understand data.

The top-level message I came away with is a data metric shouldn’t be evaluated in isolation, which is meaningless.  For example, knowing only that users spent an average of five minutes on a page offers no insight to validate or adjust your strategy. It may mean only users from a paid referral on one day of the year spent this much time on the site and on other days or referrals from organic/social/direct bounced after 10 seconds.  This would call for course corrections to improve results but without looking at the ‘big picture,’ these issues might go undetected.

Specifically, you should assess data metrics:

  • In context with the organization’s goals, what competitors are doing, industry information, internal initiatives, external events/trends…
  • Ideally in related segments, such as: referral sources (paid/social/organic/direct), days of the week (weekends and weekdays), times of the day or platforms used to access a site.

Sofia cautioned against comparing unrelated data metrics, such as tablet use with social referrals or creating compound or ‘super’ combinations like Alexa page rank with inbound links.

I found it interesting to note that higher numeric data (e.g. 10,000 contact page exits on every 100,00 visits), might deliver exactly the same statistical significance as smaller data (e.g. 1,000 contact page exits out of 10,000 visits) but is more effective when expressed as a clear outcome, such as 10%, versus a ‘muddy’ ratio like 10,000:100,000 or 1,000:10,000. However, I think higher numbers do strengthen a metric’s value.

For the class exercise, we re-examined the metrics set for our senior project, identified segments to be assessed and ways they might be visually depicted.

For my project, here are some KPI segmentation and visualization options:

  • Percentage of conversions by each referral source, such as social (fb, Twitter, Reddit), organic, paid and direct in a specific month, compared to non-conversions by referral sources in the same month.  (Visual depiction – 2 pie charts or a bar graph)
  • Specific Senior Care Share modules engaged in a specific month by referral sources. (Visual depiction – segmented bar chart)
  • Page views for a specific month, segmented by weekdays versus weekends. (Visual depiction – segmented bar chart, pie chart or even infographic with other metrics)
  • Page views in a specific month, segmented by referral sources. (Visual depiction – segmented bar chart)

However, as with all analysis, you should:

  • Find out what’s happening across the organization, such as other initiatives; business changes or help desk calls.
  • Consider external events that might impact data, such as holidays, market trends or even weather/power outages.
  • Possibly do surveys, click density analysis or other research….

….to get the full picture and extract maximum value from your data.

Illustration Source: Haml via Morgue File.

First Foray into My Mentorship Strategy

Untitled design

I sent out three meeting requests to three prospective mentors in the past week (on March 11, 12 and 13), through three distinct approaches/channels: a referral, a cold call and a continued LinkedIn conversation.

  • The first was a referral request a friend sent via LinkedIn on my behalf to ‘M,’ a digital sector veteran, who happens to be her cousin.
  • The second was a cold call email to ‘L,’ a subject matter expert in caregivers, my senior project’s target audience.
  • The third was shifting a LinkedIn conversation I had previously began with ‘D,’ a UX designer, to the meeting ‘ask’ stage.

Then, I had a nail-biting week waiting to see if any of these prospects would respond and for awhile, it looked somewhat grim. As life often throws off the best laid plans, M took a week to response because she was away in Salt Lake City. After waiting three business days for L, I followed up by phone, discovered she’s on vacation until March 23 and left a voice message. D responded after four days.

So I now have my first meetings tentatively set with M for this coming Tuesday (March 24) and with D on Saturday, March 28. The later first meeting with D gives me time to work up draft wireframes of my senior project, which he previously agreed to look at.

In the interim, I’m planning for these meetings and learning what I can about these individuals.

M’s facebook profile tells me she’s a skier and a mom with two little girls but I can’t see into much of her recent life, as she wisely tightened her privacy settings last spring. Her LinkedIn profile seems to show her major transition into digital came in 2000, about six years into her career, when she worked in the Toronto office of a US digital agency. She also has strong staying power, having stayed a minimum of two years in all her roles and nine in her current role as an Account Director for a global agency.

I’ve committed to send her an overview (i.e. agenda/POAD) on the weekend. One of the first things I’d like to learn is how she made the leap from ‘intense’ hard copy government/financial services account management to digital. I think it may also be safe to add enquiries about tools/training to boost my analytic skills to the agenda for this first meeting.

As for D’s background, he’s pretty quiet on social media. From what I can tell, he has a LinkedIn profile and Twitter account, which he’s set aside for a couple of months. Still, his tweets tell me he’s interested in classical music, Toronto trivia and its congestion challenges, plus innovative apps, designs and data visualizations.  I re-tweeted his post on a data visualization project from MIT to help build support and because it was interesting. His background is a mix but I really want to learn about best practices in UX to incorporate in my senior project and elsewhere.

Telling the Visual Story of Data

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.45.19 PMIn our ninth analytics class, we focused on data visualization, which is used to visually depict a project’s results or analytics.  Seeing a visual representation of data helps people to understand its meaning. It also makes the information more memorable as it helps to tell a story.

Data visualization is particularly effective for conveying a project’s ongoing results, particularly KPIs, to stakeholders and showing them where they need to pay attention or course correct.

There is a huge variety of data visualization formats you can use to tell the visual story of data — from conventional bar and line graphs to golden ratio depleting charts and intricate infographics.  Fortunately, there are a range of tools available for creating them. We took some time to experiment with Tableau. I think this is a really versatile tool but it comes with a steep learning curve.

I think it would be really useful for showing KPIs for my senior project, such as conversion rates from various social and organic referrals, possibly in a pie chart, to show which are most effective.  I might also use a bar graphic to compare the time users spent on each of the niche social media network’s pages.

However, in the interim, I wanted to try this tool on existing data. Last summer, I managed a youth shelter’s eight week fundraising campaign that was heavily promoted on social media. I used a tool called ‘SumAll’ to track Twitter results for this campaign and exported them into an excel sheet. I imported this into Tableau and experimented with the tool.

One challenge was getting the weeks to display from oldest to latest. I re-labelled the weeks from a ‘week of Mon 08 Sept’ format to ‘week 8 (08 Sept)’ format in Excel to make the sequencing clearer. Latterly, I also found that in some views, you can click on the Dimension value to reverse the order.

There is much more formatting I need to do but, the above bar graphic is a start at showing the stats from this campaign. In this example, I used a side-by-side bar chart format to show the growing momentum of three measures (tweets, mentions reach and retweets reach) over the last six weeks of the campaign leading up to a September 6 event date. I filtered out the first two weeks, as the Mentions and Retweet reaches were minimal during this early part of the campaign.

A graph like this could be used to demonstrate to a stakeholder the value of a campaign of several weeks, versus expecting comparable results with a one or two week period (which some might think adequate).

I need to learn much more — but can’t even begin to visually imagine the data I must absorb to proficiently use these tools.

Why Catch Key Words and the Long Tail?

Long Tail ImageOur eighth Analytics class focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which determines how prominent (or where) your website site will be listed in unpaid/organic/natural search results via Google or other online search tools.

A key part of attaining optimal SEO for your site is understanding your target audience’s search behaviours.

We learned that people usually access websites to solve one of the following types of queries:

  • Navigational – to find a specific URL
  • Informational – to find any information from an address to an in-depth research study.
  • Transactional – to complete a task, usually a purchase

A key part of mastering SEO seems to be identifying the keywords people use to find your site. Two main types for keywords are: one word to short terms (2 – 5 words) called Popular/Lead keywords; and longer, detailed phrases, called Long-tail keywords.  You need both for success.

As expected, transactional searches are the highest value because they usually generate revenue but I found it interesting that these are also the more detailed, long-tail words or phrases.

There are also other psuedo keywords, such as ‘Trophy Term-Keywords,’ which may drive traffic to your website but this traffic doesn’t convert or behave how you want it to, likely because it’s not a good fit between your audience and your site. For example, a term like ‘call to arms’ might drive military oriented people to a site but they will quickly leave if it’s about prosthetic limbs.

Sofia provided a great list of links and tips for maximizing SEO. Even pointers like setting URLs in the country of your target audience and putting keywords in JPG titles helps.

To compile a list for my senior project, I used Google’s keyword generator tool for my site, then searched my competitors’ sites and ran the generator for their sites.  I found many popular terms, like: senior care, help for caregivers and help for elderly.  I also found the following particularly useful long-tail options:

  • practical tips from real caregivers
  • outside resources
  • here to share advice from the community
  • online community for family & professional #caregivers
  • Where Caregivers Survive & Thrive
  • Caregiver’s Survival Network
  • family caregivers taking care of a loved one

As my project progresses and the content is clearer, I will re-do and refine my searches to find more.

(Photo: Taken by Gabor from Hungary via Morguefile) 

Interacting Within and With the Caregiver Community

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 11.45.24 PMAs a niche social network, interactivity will be the core DNA within Senior Care Share — the social network for Canadian caregivers. One of the site’s key goals is to convert visitors into members of the network, who return to the site at least once a month and actively participate by reading, posting or responding to others’ posts in the various modules. To guide the conversation and discourage detractor/troll behaviour, new members will be directed to review the rules of engagement. These rules will be easily accessible and enforced by the site administer, as required.

Plans are in place to develop the following two core modules within the network, with the intent to scale up to more as the site evolves:

  • A Searchable Question and Answer (Q&A) Discussion Forum (similar to Quora)
  • A Searchable Module for Ranking Senior Accommodations

In the Q&A Discussion Forum, members can interact by posting practical questions about how to best care for their senior family member/loved one. These questions can cover daily care, healthcare or even seniors’ recreation/entertainment needs, such as: Does the Ontario government cover the cost of a walker? or Which Ontario entertainment venues provide hearing devices for seniors?  Subsequently, members can interact by answering each other’s questions and posting relevant links/images.

To steer the narrative and encourage dialogue (or even visits  to the forum), the network administrator will monitor public affairs/ongoing news and regularly post timely, as well as mass-appeal, questions. The administrator will also seek and enter informed answers to many of the posted questions to grow the site’s appeal, particularly in its early days.

Text prompts and compelling icons/buttons will also urge members to interact by clicking a button to ‘upvote’ answers or enter comments about others’ answers.  The upvoting functionality will tactfully help streamline content toward practical useful information versus bursts of emotion.

Members visiting the Ranking Seniors’ Accommodation module will interact by ranking seniors’ accommodations, according to various criteria, and providing comments, based on their own experience. Members will also be encouraged to click a button to highlight helpful reviews .  To direct engagement and give members ideas, major seniors’ facilities will be pre-entered in the module and text will prompt members to evaluate them. Members will also be able to add facilities that aren’t pre-listed.

To further entice members to engage and build the site’s preliminary content, Senior Care Share’s staff will recruit and nurture site advocates. These advocates will be encouraged and rewarded (through ‘social’ credibility and other incentives) to enter accommodation reviews related to their experience or participate in the Q&A module.

As appropriate, the site will also include feature articles and interactive tools that offer ‘evergreen’ information for caregivers. One tool might be a wizard to help caregivers identify the correct battery for their loved one’s hearing aid — as getting the right match is imperative but this information is not prevalent. Other tools/wizards can be developed based on Q&As posted on the site.

Note: Illustration from PowToon application file.

Adding and Measuring the Impact of Mobile Apps

MobilePhoneMeasureSmallFor week 7 of analytics, we focused on how to measure the impact of an app — be it for entertainment, practical or promotion purposes.

Given the development work behind each app, I think it’s particularly important to measure their analytics so that you can course correct, as required, to maximize the investment. This means using app analytics to learn: who downloads the app,  how they discover it  and how frequently they use it (if at all).

Although app analytics measures many of the same metrics as web analytics, like number of visits and sources, I thought it was interesting to note some of the subtle differences between the two.  For example, I noticed that app analytics metrics include:

  • Screen resolutions (as well as screen size and orientation)
  • Varied types of mobile devices used
  • A stronger focus on groups of users — including user’s friends who also use the app and ‘cohorts’ (i.e., segments of customers that downloaded the app during a common time period).
  • “Usage” instances and frequency, since downloads/installs don’t correlate with engagement/use.

Like web analytics, you need to define metrics and KPIs. For example, you need to define an ‘active’ user’s level of engagement (frequency, duration).

We also looked at various tools for measuring app analytics. However, Sofia pointed out that the metrics they measure are not evenly distributed among the categories of apps available. Specifically, current tools are more focused on marketing metrics, like search engine keywords used to discover them, versus content metrics, such as the app’s longevity/life cycle and number of app/widget installs a user has.

Of the tools we looked at, I particularly liked Flurry Analytics because it provides benchmark measures and several distinct metrics, such as user personas. However, it didn’t look like it provided search engine keywords, which you needed to measure through other tools, such as App Annie, as its Key word ranks feature.

For the exercise, I selected a made-up ‘package ingredient analysis app’ promoted through an Instagram campaign. I identified KPIs and measuring tools as:

  • „Number of active users (Flurry- Event- Use)
  • „Average increase in users (over 2 week time periods) – (Flurry – Funnel Analysis)
  • Number of people using the app at 2x per week or more (Flurry – Retention – Return Rate & Event – Use)

I identified metrics and their tools as:

  • „Search engine words used to find app (App Annie – Key word ranks)
  • „Number of installs (Flurry – Funnel –Downloads)
  • „Number of users who have installed the app vs. Instagram users (app installs and Instagram audience)
  • „Personas using app (Flurry – Audience Interest – Personas)
  • „Use of this App compared to other lifestyle apps (Flurry – Audience Interest – My Apps Interest)

We also explored and discovered several other worthwhile app analytics tools, including:

  • Amplitude – Focuses on user engagement, including: segmentation, cohorts and churn.
  • AppSee – Indepth analysis of users and everything they do with app (for a steep price)
  • Ninja Metrics – Focuses on customers and is well suited to game apps
  • Localytics – Unique tool that integrates analytics with marketing to help produce push campaigns

This class opened a new world of analytics — and there may be an app for that too.

Integrating Legal Safeguards to Sustain Users’ Trust

Dr. Cavoukian addressing audience.
Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Executive Director, Privacy and Big Data Institute, Ryerson University, outlines the advantages of embedding privacy in technologies, at a February 28, IABC event in Kitchener, Ontario.

Relevant Legislation & Best Practices

As my senior project is to develop a niche social media network for Canadian caregivers, it must address three key areas of Canadian/Ontario legislation:

In addition, I need to provide ‘Community Guidelines’  to ensure users act appropriately. Along with behaviour guidelines, I must embed references to privacy and copyright law in these guidelines. In addition, I must make it clear that this social network isn’t liable for undesirable outcomes, due to community members’ advice.

The third area, accessibility and AODA, outlines escalating legislated requirements that must be incorporated into all web properties to accommodate people with visual, audio, motor and cognitive disabilities by 2021. This presentation by Ad Web Com provides a clear explanation of this legislation and will be a good reference for developing this niche network. Similarly, CASL will control my solution’s need to take a ‘permissions-based’ approach to recruit members but will not impact online documentation.

I also need to adhere to copyright law, ensuring I am legally allowed to post specific content and providing credit, as required.

Given the sensitivity of personal healthcare information, which caregivers or my community members may share about their loved ones, PIPEDA is my highest legislative priority.

Safeguarding Trust Versus Legislation

Steps to address these areas falls under mandated legislation or legal recommendations/best practices. However, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Executive Director, Privacy and Big Data Institute and Ontario’s former privacy officer, is advancing a global Privacy by Design standard to embed privacy as a default in all technology. For my niche network, this means ensuring that De-identification Protocols are incorporated in the code from the onset.

Furthermore, Dr. Cavoukian positions privacy as a competitive advantage, not debilitating compliance. In many ways, I think all these legal requirements/recommendations or ‘safeguards’ can be considered a competitive advantage because they all help to win and sustain the community’s trust.  I want to keep this in mind, when I address prospective members and describe this niche social network.

Legal Documentation Models 

As examples, I reviewed privacy and community guidelines for:

One of the key tenants of transparency is making things clearer. LinkedIn, Tyze and Carezone have tried to do this in their policies/guidelines.

For example, Carezone, uses a second person voice, a reassuring tone, user-centric headings (e.g. how we protect your data) and plain language to specifically explain how it uses technology (e.g. encryption), physical safety measures (e.g. private network residing in a data centre monitored 24/7), policies and procedures to keep data private. This includes providing specific examples, such as: “We transmit your email address to UserVoice so we can interact with you through email, but we give them no further information about you.” In contrast, the Caregiving Space uses exhaustive legal terminology to explain its privacy and other guidelines, writes some sections using almost illegible all capitals, and offers vague assurances, such as: “… use industry best practices approaches about security measures to prevent the loss, misuse and alteration of the information.”  Where possible, I think it’s most effective to adopt Carezone’s voice, editorial style and more specific approach.

Both Tyze and LinkedIn go further to enhance the user experience when conveying policies and community guidelines. Tyze provides the required legal documentation, as well as a short synopsis in a conversational voice. And LinkedIn, provides friendly user-centric explanations, much like Dr. Cavoukian’s ‘privacy as an advantage’ position, and offers short (1.45 minutes or less) videos to explain user agreements and privacy. I think it will be particularly beneficial to use videos, as LinkedIn does, to explain policies and community guidelines to the caregivers network members to help ensure clarity.

Reviewing these guidelines, particularly those from Carezone and LinkedIn, gives me a framework of key topics for my network’s privacy and copyright sections. I’d like to apply Carezone’s same second person voice and plain language tone for the Community Guidelines.

For example, the Privacy and Security Guidelines should include:

  • How we collect your information
  • How we use your information
  • How we protect your data
  • Information sharing and disclosure
  • Third-party services
  • If there’s a problem
  • Reporting a problem

There are likely more topics to address in my legal documentation but this is a ‘safe’ start.

Linking to Success With Social Media

For week 5 of analytics, we dug deeper into social media with a focus on the value of Google+.  Although Google+ may seem less intuitive to use, you need to evaluate its use in terms of your goals. Specifically, if you want ROI or engagement, Google+ may be well worth the time it takes to set up because it controls ‘who’ sees what you share by controlling how high your organization comes up in Google searches.  Sofia showed us a couple of examples from her own business, when she posted on Google+ and how it boosted the company’s online prominence.  I thought this was effective and drove the point home.  With my senior project, I think it may be worthwhile looking into Google+ ‘communities’ that pertain to senior care but also I think it will be important to have a presence on  Google+ so that might key words and organization will be found.

We also learned than ‘not all links are created equal.’  A key way to optimize search engine results to your site (SEO) is by having links from other website’s connect to yours. However, we learned the strength of these links varies according to various criteria, such as:

  • Authority or credibility of each site linking to you. (It’s better to have links from established, high profile sites like Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post than a blog run by one person with a few subscribers)
  • Number of other sites each site links to. (If it links to a high number of other sites, its link is of less value.)
  • Where your link appears (The Jackpot to have your link in the title or anchor text but this is rare.)
  • Relevance of the sites linking to you. (If you pay for links from an essentially ‘content-free’ site or link farm, there is little value)
  • Authority and Page Rank of the linking page

I also learned the word ‘Social Signals,’ which is when someone likes, recommends or shares your post.  So with my senior project, I ideally want many ‘high value’ inbound links, ideally from relevant healthcare/senior care sites and to generate many ‘social signals.’