On the trail of the digital footprint

Thursday, November 5, 2015 | 2pm

The following is a presentation I delivered recently for the IDM. It’s about some of the ways your digital footprint can be tracked, and what that means in terms of the responsibility an organisation carries when it collects data from the individuals who connect with it.

So what’s a digital footprint? The Internet Society explains it like this:

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I’d go further – just like what you might pick up on the bottom of your shoe and carry with you, your digital footprint is what follows you around the Internet too.

When I last Googled myself (and if you don’t do this regularly, it’s well worth it to see how others out there might perceive you), some of the results gave me quite a shock.

It all looked fine at first, and I saw a lot of results that I might have predicted. Using History Trends, a Google Chrome extension that lets you analyse your browsing history over time, I could see that Google, Linkedin, Facebook and my own website, brandjoe.com are the centre of my universe. No surprises there.

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And, gratifyingly, I seem to be doing pretty well in search rankings…

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Until we get to images.

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Via Majestic SEO, a tool for analysing your link building and website reputation for search, I found that brandjoe.com has the princely sum of 1035 backlinks. I’m pretty happy with that as BrandJoe is a work in progress. Majestic will help you find ways to improve SEO, by tracking your competitors, so you can see where they are successfully gaining backlinks (that all important organic SEO indicator) and look to gain backlink on the same or similar sites.

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In this next slide, I’m using Wolfram Alpha – and it told me more about my facebook habits than I could ever have imagined!

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It would seem from the results that facebook preferred my second son to my first (don’t tell him!); “Yo” is a word I perhaps use a little too frequently; I post a lot of images, followed by links and videos, but very rarely write; and there might be a bit too much facebook activity during the working week for my boss’s liking (although it’s all in the name of research… honest!)

Other good tools for analysing social data are Social Bakers and Tweetreach – the latter particularly when you want to measure the effectiveness of your tweets around a specific activity.

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Not at all work related, the major spike in activity here marks the time I made my little boys a house out of the cardboard box from my father-in-law’s new Dell computer. I posted it on facebook, mentioning both Dell and AirBnB. Dell shared the post further and before I knew it, I’d become part of a wider conversation with a set of influencers who clearly had a shed load of time on their hands!

The moral of that story? Engage with more people (and more of the right people) and you get more reach. But I digress.

Traackr – a great tool to help you identify your influencers, engage and build relationships with them, and measure the impact. In this slide you can see Traackr has found many of the social platforms I belong to, some key influencers, and where possible has provided metrics.

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And finally, Radian 6 is a social listening tool that alerts you to and helps you track, monitor and react to comments, questions and complaints as they happen. You can tune in to what’s being said about you online at any given time, whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, on blogs, in news and more.

All of the above is activity that I can track. However, there’s a whole host of online activity that I can’t. But the cookies can.

Here’s an exercise. Off the top of your head, can you remember the last 10 sites you visited? The last 5 social networks you looked at? The last 5 online transactions you made? Hard, isn’t it? But during every one of these actions, you’re constantly leaving data trails.

When I looked into it, I discovered that, over a 90 day period, I had picked up over three thousand cookies as I browsed the web.

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Multiply that by the number of people I work with and you’ve got 450,000. Multiply it by the number of marketers at the average industry trade show and that escalates to an incredible 18 million. That’s a lot of cookies. And most of the time, we don’t even know what information we’re leaving behind…

Alarming stuff when you think about it. And equally alarming is when you realise that some of the information that’s out there doesn’t even reflect the truth. Fake, or out of date social media profiles are an obvious example, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So it’s easy to see why customers might mistrust businesses when it comes to collecting and managing their data. Deloitte’s 2015 Data Nation study found that 63% of consumers have little or no confidence that companies keep their data secure, and 78% have little or no confidence that their data isn’t being sold or passed on to third parties without their knowledge…

Handing over your personal data to an organisation can be a double-edged sword.

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I love that Google will automatically store my photos, remind me about important things and even send me links to the details of those important things. But that’s because it’s a value exchange. I allow access to my information and Google provides me with something useful. That’s great. And that makes me a Data Pragmatist.

In fact there are three types of people when it comes to attitudes to data: PRAGMATISTS, who are happy to give personal information, provided there is a clear benefit; FUNDAMENTALISTS, who will never hand over data if they can help it; and then the UNCONCERNED, who will freely give data without even much thought. Or maybe the latter are simply unaware of the potential dangers. This video about safe internet banking might back this up.

However contradictory to Deloitte’s study, a data privacy study in June this year, the DMA compared the split amongst UK consumers with a similar study from 2012 which might show that the tides of concern are changing (albeit slowly) when it comes to when we pass over our data. (Nothing like trying to find the truth in data / research reports)

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So how does your organisation measure up when it comes to your customer data? Are you making use of Type 1 (data from your own customers), Type 2 (data you can access via partnerships) and Type 3 (data you can buy from DMPs and Aggregators)? Do you have a single customer view?

Do you have an Actionable Insight Platform that looks something like this?

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Or a Data Hub that looks something like this?

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Because data in 2015, is important, if not hard to decipher for us data Luddites. And not just in terms of how much data is out there, but in terms what it can do for your business. And to make the most of all the opportunities that good and proper use of data presents, you need some very special people in your organisation.

This graph charts the rise of the Data Scientist and the key skills in which they need to excel.

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If you truly understand the data you have access to, if you can interpret both the explicit details your customers have given and the implicit information they reveal by their behaviours, then you’re a long way towards being able to provide something in return that is relevant and useful. You’re on the road from cautious customers to happy ones – and it’s a road where they’re perfectly comfortable leaving a whole trail of footprints for you to follow…

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Obligatory CTA at the end ….

If you like these ramblings feel free to follow me on twitter @brandjoe or connect on LinkedIn.

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