Key Takeaways From The Web Strategy Summit

Well if any of you were following either my live tweets or my blog post on May 4th and 5th, you may have already digested this information.  But what I wanted to do was to summarize some of the key points that I digested from the Web Strategy Summit, which by the way, was an great event with great speakers.  Kudos to the folks at nForm for organizing it!

Managing with Evidence: Tools for More Effective Website Management

I have to start by saying that this wasn’t quite what I had hoped for.  That being said, I did pull some useful information from the workshop.  The first an foremost tip was to create an evidence-seeking culture.   If you spend countless hours and dollars in testing, analyzing, reading case studies, etc. and the powers that be want to run on hunches, then you efforts are in vain.  We were shown over 20 cards that described various forms of testing and analyzing, but the bottom line is to pick the best method for your situation.  There were four foundational methods that they suggested you at least do:

  1. Web Analytics
  2. Usability Testing
  3. User Interviews
  4. Staff Interviews

When using testing and analytics, they cautioned against some common pitfalls:

  • choosing the wrong methods
  • over-emphasizing statistics
  • focusing on what people do, not why they do it

One final note, they advised that you make sure that you have a HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) in the room.  All your efforts could be reverted by key individuals.  That’s why it is important to have them involved from the beginning.  If you’re interested, you can read all my notes for this session.

Analytics 2.0 With Avinash Kaushik

I’m must first admit something.  I felt like a bit of a uber-geek.  I went with a copy of Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, which Avinash authored.  I had full intentions of asking him to sign my book, but I chickened out.

This was an amazing presentation, and I don’t know if I can capture it all here.  You may want to visit the live blog post for more information.  He started out showing some magazine ads of beautiful cars and explained how magazine ads are faith-based initiatives.  As a marketer, you have faith that a person will take action on the ad.  Web ads are not faith-based initiatives – you can measure infinite amounts interactions.

Clickstream Data (Analytics): This form of measurement provide a lot of date, but only answers what happened.

Multiple Outcome Analysis: Analyzing all the possible outcomes of a website (not just the assumed conversion goals) will answer how much activity is happening and if the site is really driving the desired outcomes.

Experimentation & Voice of Customer: This is where the real actionable data comes from.  This answer the why.  Why do web site visitors do the things they do.  Avinash recommended usability testing site called fivesecondtest.com.  He is also a big fan of surveys, not long surveys, but short and to the point.  He showed a survey that was 38+ questions all on one page.  His recommendations for a user survey is three questions long:

  1. Why did you come to the web site?
  2. Did you complete your task(s)?
  3. If not, why?

Simple and to the point.  That’s all the really matters.  It doesn’t matter if they would refer your site to a friend.  I mean if they completed their task, they had a good experience and probably would refer your site.

Don’t just focus on your big goal of ‘making the sell’.  That would be considered the macro conversion.  There are many micro conversions which need to be measured as well.  Such as downloading a coupon, subscribing to a RSS feed, requesting information.  The combination of the micro and macro conversions is where the real value of your web site is. That being said, tracking conversions without quantifying them is counter-productive.  Put a dollar amount to conversions.  This helps make the goals have substance and something to work with.

Crowdsourcing for Inspiration with Patrick Lor

I’m was pretty impressed that one of the co-founders of iStockphoto.com was giving the after lunch keynote.  It was very interesting to hear the success story of iStockphoto.  Patrick mentioned how the first iteration of iStockphoto was a series of four CDs of images.  This idea however was a flop.  The second iteration of iStockphoto came as a community-based photo trading site based on credits.  Over the years, the popularity grew and the economic model of the company changed and eventually was sold to Getty Images for $50 million dollars.  Not a bad chunk of change for what started out as a free community.

Some of the points that Patrick’s attributes to the success of iStockphoto are:

  • Use crowdsourcing instead of outsourcing. The concept was based on people sharing and uploading images.  The inventory of iStockphoto.com was built by its community.
  • Evolution (boring) vs. Revolution (game changing). They didn’t want to create another stock photography site that had some tweaks and was slightly evolved.  They wanted a stock photography revolution.  Something that would be game changing.  Keep that in mind when you start your next project.  Do you want to evolve your web site or do you want to do something game changing.
  • Seek inspiration. How can you inspire others when you are not inspired yourself.

It was great to hear the story firsthand of iStockphoto and how crowdsourcing and communities made an idea into a successful venture.  Read all my live blog notes from Patrick’s presentation.

The Future of the Social Web with Jeremiah Owyang

This keynote was by far my motivation for coming to the Web Strategy Summit.  Jeremiah started by sharing an experience he had on a flight.  He was sitting by a young teacher.  They talked how the kids in her class are already having difficulty reading her cursive marking notes and are more comfortable reading digital text.  He went on to share how these kids when they didn’t know an answer on an assignment they would put ‘idk’ – I Don’t Know.  This story put the rest of the presentation in context.  The future generations are growing up digital and laying a foundation for the social web to expand.

Through Jeremiah’s research at Forrester and interviewing over 20 social web companies include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Meebo, etc., he has identified five eras of the social web.

  1. The Era of Social Relationships: People can connect and share.  We’ve already seen this happening since AOL was around.
  2. The Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating systems.  Jeremiah pointed out that we already starting to see this with Google Docs and such.
  3. The Era of Social Colonization: Every experience online can now be social.  He talks about we will see federated IDs and our preferences and profiles will follow us from web site to web site.  This is already starting in its infancy with Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect.
  4. The Era of Social Context: Content will be personal and more accurate.  This is because as we bring our preferences and profile from site to site from the 3rd era, content can be delivered that matches your preferences.  The more you share with a web site, the more accurate and relevant the information will be.
  5. The Era of Social Commerce: Communities will define future products and services.  Jeremiah talked about how we may also she a shift from agencies representing brands to representing communities.  For example, a community of cyclists have an agency represent them and get a custom bicycle line created due their specs.

Check out the visual representation of the five eras below:

Five Overlapping Eras of the Social Web

We will continue to see the social web evolve as we have already seen and this insight will help companies and institutions prepare.  Jeremiah offers some recommendations of how brands can prepare for the rapidly approaching changes.  Check out this except from his five eras of the social web post:

  • Don’t Hesitate: These changes are coming at a rapid pace, and we’re in three of these eras by end of year. Brands should prepare by factoring in these eras into their near term plans. Don’t be left behind and let competitors connect with your community before you do.
  • Prepare For Transparency: People will be able to surf the web with their friends, as a result you must have a plan.  Prepare for every webpage and product to be reviewed by your customers and seen by prospects –even if you choose not to participate.
  • Connect with Advocates: Focus on customer advocates, they will sway over prospects, and could defend against detractors. Their opinion is trusted more than yours, and when the power shifts to community, and they start to define what products should be, they become more important than ever.
  • Evolve your Enterprise Systems: Your enterprise systems will need to connect to the social web. Social networks and their partners are quickly becoming a source of customer information and lead generation beyond your CRM system.  CMS systems will need to inherit social features –pressure your vendors to offer this, or find a community platform.
  • Shatter your Corporate Website: In the most radical future, content will come to consumers –rather than them chasing it– prepare to fragment your corporate website and let it distribute to the social web. Let the most important information go and spread to communities where they exist; fish where the fish are.

Working in higher education, I see some of these recommendations difficult to implement because of the culture that is prevalent in institutions.  That being said, I think its our responsibility to educate the campus communities where we work to be prepared so that we are not caught by surprise.   Change has happened, it is happening, it will continue to happen and we can be a part of it with this blueprint of the social web.

Did you find some of these takeaways useful?  Please share your comments.