How to run a successful trial of Social Network Analysis for marketing

At this stage, everyone in marketing understands the power of word-of-mouth – which Tom Fishburne’s cartoon, below, elegantly illustrates. Organisations with link data – telcos, gaming companies, social networks and the like – can take a scientific approach to word-of-mouth marketing (aka influencer marketing) by deploying Social Network Analysis algorithms to target the influencers – or the influenced.   Idiro is a pioneer in this space.

Over the past few weeks we have been talking with two mobile operators who, prior to talking to Idiro, had each run projects to evaluate the benefit of Social Network Analysis (SNA) for improving targeting in marketing.  However, in both cases the trials ran into difficulties that could have been avoided. At the end of the projects both mobile operators had invested significant time and money in running a trial, but neither was in a position to make an investment decision.

We’ve been involved in mobile operator trials of Social Network Analysis for over eight years, and we’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly – so we know how to run a successful trial of Social Network Analysis for marketing. Here are eight tips to help you run SNA trials that give you a clear evaluation of SNA for your business – quickly and efficiently.

1. First, be really clear on your objectives

It might sound obvious – but are you proving a technology, evaluating a vendor or trying to find the best way solve a business problem? Be really clear on this, both internally and with your SNA trial vendor(s). Also, how serious is your organisation about adopting a SNA solution if the trial succeeds?  We evaluate operators who come to us looking for SNA trials on 2 axes:

  • To what extent are the key sponsors prepared to accept the concept behind SNA for marketing?
  • The degree of organisational backing / commitment to deploying a SNA solution if it is proven (worst case: a solo run, best case: a project with board backing)

Make sure your organisation is prepared to invest in a solution before you start your evaluation of SNA.

2. Work out the evaluation, decision and implementation steps in advance

A common cause of trials not completing successfully is that the assessment of SNA that they deliver is not what the senior team needs in order to make the investment decision.  Therefore, before you finalise the trial, work out the evaluation process and success criteria. We offer our customers help with evaluation methodologies for SNA in marketing.

3. Design the trial carefully based on your objectives and your approval process

Many mobile operators make the mistake of specifying too much technical detail (while leaving the business success criteria too loose).  Others base their trial design on the offering from a particular vendor. We all know which vendor will perform best in a trial like that!

Different SNA solution vendors have different philosophies, and it is usually best not to specify the vendor’s methodology or business model tightly, at least initially, and focus on the business benefits that are required (see point 1). That way, a wide range of vendor approaches can be tested – and ideas that you did not think of can be incorporated into your project. Use the agreed evaluation method and success criteria to inform the key elements of the scope:

a) Live or historical trial, or both? b) Role and design of control groups c) Technical  / operational models to be considered (Saas, managed service, software licence, etc.)

These are important choices, and they will affect the outcome of your trial.

4. The farmer and the cowman should be friends

The most successful SNA implementations tend to have close cooperation between marketing and analytics teams. Whichever side of the organisation you work on, bring your colleagues on board early.

5. Get the trial campaign right

Because they target the influencers or the influenced in your customer base, word-of-mouth campaigns need to be designed carefully. If your evaluation involves a campaign, don’t put all your effort into the technology and test it on a bog standard campaign.  Idiro are experts in word-of-mouth campaigns.

6. Budget

Be realistic about how the relationship between spend and quality. Most vendors want to cover their costs at least, during the trial. You could doubtless persuade one or two vendors to work for free, but this might mean that you exclude the best vendors. Remember also to budget for internal costs.

7. Fix a realistic timescale

SNA trials with thorough methodologies take time to do properly. Trials with highly aggressive deadlines nearly always overrun – typically because one or more internal tasks do not receive the priority they need. Set realistic deadlines and make sure your internal project manager has the authority to get the tasks done.  Beware of shortcuts, particularly around evaluations.

8. A successful introduction of new technology requires change in the organisation, which isn’t easy

A successful post-trial implementation leading to a strong ongoing ROI depends on getting a number of factors right – operational, analytical, process change, KPIs, etc.  When post-trial implementations fail, they do so because they don’t address these difficult issues or don’t have a strong leader keeping the focus on the benefits.  Once the SNA trial is completed, the benefits are proven and the contract is signed, make sure you task the team with delivering the benefits within (say) 6 months and not just completing the implementation project.

 

Idiro would be happy to expand on any of these points.  If you are planning a trial of Social Network Analysis solutions for marketing, feel free to run your ideas by us. We might save you some heartache.