Social Media ROI: Advocacy for BMW

April 11, 2011

This is the real “one number you need to grow”.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with Net Promoter Score.  This is the MotiveQuest version of NPS; observed, organic, real.

We measure advocacy, which is the number of people recommending a brand above any others, and have seen strong relationships between the metric and sales in a number of categories including automotive, cellular, CPG, pharma and others.  The underlying concept is similar to NPS – namely that if people are recommending your brand to others, that you will be better off than if they are NOT recommending your brand.

Here is where it is different from NPS.  We are observing naturally occurring recommendations.  There is no suggestion, no survey, no artifice.  People are either recommending your brand to others or they aren’t.  We have tested this extensively (working with a team at Northwestern’s Kellogg School) to validate the correlations between change in advocacy and change in sales or market share.

Example below from the luxury car category showing the correlation between changes in advocacy and changes in share for BMW.

While the scales are different we can see the positive correlation in advocacy and luxury market share for BMW. Looking at the scatter plot and doing the regression confirms the relationship and it’s statistical significance with a p-value of 5% (we’re 95% confident that there is a positive correlation between advocacy and luxury market share). 

Given the complexity of the automotive category and the economic conditions in this time frame it’s amazing that a single factor model can so nicely line up.  With an understanding of incentives to dealers/buyers, advertising spend and supply issues I’m certain the model could be improved but at the end of the day we’re validating that social media does matter. 

Social media clearly has an impact on sales in this category and others.  Many times the relationship will not be this clear or the category may be so complex that a single variable model cannot tease out the results or there could be errors in the metric (source spam/problems, bad language model, etc…)  but if you believe in the 3 tenets, it’s not surprising and quite intuitive that there should be a link between a social media metric and sales.

Of course, to change advocacy you need to know what drives it – but we do that part too!  We have an underlying analytic model to understand in detail what drives advocacy for any category, brand or competitive set.


Trendspotting with ThemeStream

December 20, 2010

About a year ago we (MotiveQuest) were talking with a potential client in the liquor business.  He asked if we could have predicted the Ice Tea Vodka Craze using our software. We thought this was a pretty interesting question and over a few glasses of Ice Tea Vodka we started to ponder.

There are lots of ways of looking at historical buzz and being smart after the fact but we thought it would be interesting to create an algorithm that didn’t just look at buzz but looked at momentum, exaggerating the effect of growth visually.  After playing for a while, a new tool was born that we christened “ThemeSteam”,  A tool that indeed could have predicted the Ice Tea Vodka Craze.  ThemeStream is now a tool that we use almost daily to see what is hot in the categories we care about.

ThemeStream determines the words most correlated with the category conversations for each period and then highlights (through exponential comparison of deviation from the average value) those words that are most dynamic.  This allows us to see emerging, waning, and seasonal trends.

For example recently a client was interested in seeing the impact of Jamie Oliver on the food conversation among parents.  Here is the chart.

Source: Data comes from looking at a combination of food and parenting datasets focused on discussion of kids lunches N=10,995

In this chart we see when the impact of Jamie Oliver begun to have an effect on moms’ lunch decisions and discussions as he is putting focus on nutrition education out-of-home.  Note that we see the Jamie Oliver conversations growing rapidly as soon as the show – Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution begins to air.

This was flagged as a issue for our client well before they would otherwise have been paying attention to it.  We are using this new tool for early trend identification across many projects from food to pharma to consumer electronics.

Tom O’Brien

Welcome aboard Zack

November 22, 2010

It was one of my goals to hire not one, but two great new people for our client relationships team this year.

I am pleased to announce that the second of these two – Zachary Nippert is joining the MotiveQuest team as our new Director, Client Relationships based out of our New York office. In this role Zack will take over responsibility for managing relationships and service delivery with key MotiveQuest Clients on the east coast including Citi, Novartis and others.

Zack joins MotiveQuest from DDB where he was most recently part of the new business pursuit team. Prior to that Zack was an Account Supervisor with DDB with prior experience at DraftFCB and Leo Burnett. In those roles he developed significant experience in client management, brand marketing and using research to help his clients solve complex business problems.

His background as a recovering Mad Man makes Zack a great addition to the MotiveQuest team – and I’m sure the tenaciousness he learned as a goalie for the Cincinnati Cyclones will serve him – and his clients well – it’s great to have him on board.


Welcome aboard Carter

November 2, 2010

It is with great pleasure that I can finally announce that Carter Truong is joining the MotiveQuest team as our new Director, Client Relationships based out of our Portland office. In this role Carter will take over responsibility for managing relationships and service delivery with key MotiveQuest Clients on the west coast including Microsoft and Nike.

Carter joins MotiveQuest from JD Power’s Web Intelligence division where he was Senior Manager, Consumer Insight & Strategy. Carter has 3+ years of experience using social media research to help clients solve business problems, and took increasingly responsibility for organizational development and client management over his time at JDP. Prior to JD Power he worked for Greenhouse Partners a Denver based brand strategy firm.

His experience in social media research, brand strategy and client relationships make Carter an excellent addition to the MotiveQuest team and we are honored to have him aboard.  (In the photo above Carter is enjoying “truckstop meatloaf” on his first MQ road trip!)



July 14, 2010

Yes, it’s true. We are growing and we are hiring. Right now we are looking for a Director, Client Relationships to be based on the West Coast.

The job brief is here Director, Client Accounts

If you are interested, please review the job brief and send me an email  with “DCR Job Brief” in the subject line explaining why you are the person for the job.  All responses will be kept strictly confidential.

Thanks –


The Problem in Social Media Marketing

February 9, 2010

Have you seen the 2010 edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer? I have – and frankly, it has me worried. Specifically the precipitous drop in trust among friends/peers is a concern. I think this drop in trust has three root causes.

In the AdAge article about this, Richard Edelman attributes this drop in trust to a “sign of the times” and I agree that’s a contributing factor, but there is much more to this plunge. I think it’s a direct result of social media marketing. Yes, the mere fact of abusing SM channels (which are p to p conversational channels) with marketing messages causes everyone participating to trust less. Finally, the definition of what a “friend” is has been bastardized by Twitter, FB, etc.

I am a hardliner on “pay-per-post” and “crowds-for-hire” to go out and review things – I just think it is wrong. The term “Sponsored Conversation” is an oxymoron.

I think commercial endorsements (especially outside of their specific field of expertise) are bad for big bloggers, even if it does get them paid. It makes me (and everyone else) think less of them. I don’t think much of “influencer marketing” schemes.

Our business (MotiveQuest) depends on people having real, organic, honest conversations with each other on the web. We collect and analyze these conversations to understand why people do what they do. Our clients pay for these ideas, insights and recommendations to help grow their business. This only works if we don’t WRECK social media by using it to try to sell stuff to people.

Tom O’Brien

Will Obama’s Approval Ratings Dive?

October 13, 2009

We (MotiveQuest LLC) have just completed the third report in our series on the Health Care Reform debate. Because we think brand advocacy is the most important metric for brand health, (we used this to predict the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election) we decided to take a look at Obama’s advocacy over the course of this very rancorous HC reform debate.

What we see is that the overall level of conversation is down, and some topics have faded (rationing) while others have continued to increase (insuring the uninsured).

Regarding advocacy, we thought that perhaps Obama’s HC Reform related advocacy would be lower than his overall advocacy – but when we compared the two, we found that they are both dropping at similar rates. Since

we have proven the link between changes in advocacy and changes in

sales in a number of categories (Cars, Cellphones) we decided to compare Obama’s advocacy to his approval ratings – the lines are a pretty close match, with advocacy seeming to lead approval ratings by a few weeks. If so, watch out below.

What do you think? Will Obama’s approval ratings plummet further in the next few weeks?


Healthcare debate analysis

September 9, 2009

We (MotiveQuest LLC) have decided to start tracking & analyzing the healthcare debate using our online anthropology tools and techniques.  The first report in this series can be found here:  The Raging Debate

For this series we will be monitoring & analyzing the online conversation around healthcare and providing weekly updates as to what is driving the conversation, advocacy for different options and the emotional tenor of the chatter.Healthcare Topics

Here is one chart from the report showing the key topics and drivers of concern – you can see the landscape has changed significantly from June through August.

You can see that rationing shows the biggest increase from June through August.

We will be posting a follow-up report next week which will reflect today’s speech by President Obama.

If you are interested in more information you can contact me at tobrien at motivequest dot com.

Thanks – TO’B

Advocates are more important than influencers

August 18, 2009

For some time I have been arguing that what brands need is advocates not influencers.  Somehow this meme has recently gathered steam in the marketing discussion (see great post here from Jeremy Epstein – influencers vs. fans)

I don’t think fans is quite the right word for what brands or movements need, what they need is advocates.  Advocates are different than fans because they will do something.  They will recommend you to a friend, they will tell someone else to buy your car.  They are taking positive action.   Moreover, they don’t do this because they are “influential” or because they are being paid by the post or enticed to write nice things b/c they are getting free stuff.  They are telling their friends (online and off) to do something, because they believe.

I have studied Brand Advocacy in some detail and I am confident in saying that increasing levels of advocacy (online and off) are correlated to increasing sales or share.  We have studied this in automotive, food, cellular, spirits and other markets with some variability (how much of the change in share or sales are explained by the change in advocacy; time lag) but always with a strong positive correlation.

When we work with brands, key questions are how many advocates do you have (compared to your competition) is the number increasing or decreasing and why?  Also, we examine what your advocates love about you most, and figure out how to leverage these things to grow advocacy.

Contrast this approach with Influencer marketing.  With adovocacy research and marketing we are trying to discover why your authentic brand fans love y0u most and how to make more advocates.  With influencer marketing you are trying to find those few people who will influence lots of other to do something.   Now like most things this works great if you get the right influencer, on the right topic.  Clearly Oprah Winfrey recommending a book to her audience is a guarantee of a NYT best seller.  Every other influencer works less well than that.

The other day I had a tweet with Guy Kawasaki about this very subject.  Guy has somehow Corvettewrangled a Corvette from GM to drive and tweet about as an “influencer”.  I respect Guy for lots of things, but is opinion is irrelevant to me as a car guy.   (Though Guy did confirm that it is fun for him!)  This is but one of many, many influencer strategies being deployed by big companies, and some of them will work.  But to me it feels more like Viral Marketing than anything else.  Rather than engaging your REAL brand users on the level of their personal brand experience, you are looking for a few influencers who will tell the rest of us sheep what to do.

What if instead of giving Guy (and I’m assuming a bunch of other “influencers”) a Corvette GM spent the resources engaging with the people over at the non-GM owned Corvette Forums which has 30 million posts from some 223,000 members?  Those are the Corvette advocates, and the care and feeding of the Corvette advocates (even if they aren’t famous) should be the #1 job of the Corvette PR and Marketing teams.



Baking a social media cake

April 27, 2009

(The other day a client was probing about our methodology. They were asking lots of smart questions and as we worked through the answers, they asked me to send a write-up. Technically, it isn’t a social media cake, but a social media analysis and insight cake. Here it is.)

During our discussion, you asked how we bake this cake – here’s my diatribe answer to that question. (BTW, baking a cake turns out to be a great analogy!)

To bake a cake you need ingredients (data), mixers and pans (tools) and cooks (strategists).  Your questions were focused on developing a better understanding of each one of these. (Disclaimer, I’m not the CTO or the head of research, so my answers may be a bit shallow.  I promise that I’m happy to get both/either of those people (cc’d above) on the phone to dive into more detail.)

Any good cake starts with the right ingredients.  For MQ this means starting with the right data.  The right data is always category, project and client specific.    Here are our thoughts about data.

  1. Including the data you want while excluding the data you don’t what is hard.  We discussed the Visa example, and you have experienced this with your brand.  De-spamming and de-duping is an important part of the job.
  2. Brand mentions range from 2% to 30% of the relevant data (depending on category, so only collecting brand mentions will miss most of the relevant conversation.
  3. It isn’t helpful to get all of the data.  (Splogs – or spam blogs have LOTS of brand mentions – but aren’t real and VERY hard to eliminate.   Focusing on and gathering the sites where the most people are participating virtually guarantees the elimination of Splogs.
  4. 5 years of expertise in solving the challenges above with a combination of technology tools and linguistic programming expertise provides MQ with a significant advantage over most of our competition.

You can’t bake a cake without measuring cups, mixers, whisks, spatulas, pans and an oven.  We can’t do our work without a broad sophisticated toolkit.  One of the fundamental challenges in analyzing large amounts of unstructured text data is that you simply can’t make sense of it in any sort of manual fashion.  Sophisticated software tools are the answer, but how those tools are developed and deployed makes a difference.

  1. Language is fluid over time and across categories.  Tools must be too.  Every one of our tools is parameter driven and allows the strategist to adjust the linguistic model and other parameters for the category and project at hand.
  2. Simple measures (counts, brand mentions, sentiment) are not useful for understanding why people do what they do and without understanding, we don’t gain the insight of what to do next.
  3. Understanding requires more sophisticated tools.   That is why we have tools for passion peaking, measuring motivations, word association, brand advocacy and many, many others.
  4. We have many tools available, but the tools used and the order of use is very project dependent.

Finally, you can’t bake a cake without a cook.  Well, I guess you can use a box mix from the grocery store and bake a cake without a cook, but if you have a special occasion and hire a chef to bake a cake, you don’t expect to get something from a box mix.  You expect a cake cooked to your specifications for your occasion.  You expect something unique, professional, surprising and delicious for your special occasion.  In our world, the dashboard and organized data providers are the box mixes.

MotiveQuest brings the experienced professional chef who will design and deliver a custom cake according to your exact interests, needs and specifications.

  1. Experience matters.  We have very sophisticated toolsets and it takes at least 6 months to get a strategist (most of whom have advanced degrees and backgrounds in consulting or planning) trained and productive.
  2. The tools are complex because the problems are complex.
  3. A single strategist is responsible for the entire project including data collection, organization, analysis, insights and recommendations.
  4. Each project has its own specifications and requirements.  Communication, solid project management and client involvement are all required to achieve good results.
  5. MotiveQuest Senior Leadership is deeply involved in every project to ensure results that meet your needs.

I will send the MQ capabilities presentation in another email.   Our case studies are very marketing (not data or technology) focused for a reason.  We don’t get hired to provide data or technology, but instead to solve real world marketing and communication problems.  I’ll be happy to provide more detail about any of them.

Thanks very much for your time on these issues, and I hope this helps answer some of your questions.



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