Want to predict the future? Track the cause, not the effect. When content links are shared on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, there is predictable resulting traffic. If you know how to correlate social content sharing into the traffic it later drives, you are way ahead of real-time on-site data. By the time a piece of content is trending in real-time, an opportunity to engage with your audience has already been lost.
Imagine your website is an island resort and, as a good manager, you want to track the guests on your island and tailor your business accordingly. One approach is to count all the people moving around the island right now. There’s value in that real-time data, however you’re always playing catch-up with each new influx of visitors. You need time to figure out who they are, where they came from and what they want.
A better approach, and what SimpleReach does, is to count the boats approaching the shore. After observing hundreds of thousands of boats and the resulting visitors, you know by the boat how many people are onboard, where the boat came from, and the varying hours it takes each boat to unload its passengers. You’re now seeing your visitors before they arrive on the shores of your site.
You start to notice additional things about the arriving customers, how long they stay and what sorts of things appeal to them. You notice that when you get an increase of boats from one destination you also get more from another destination, as if their networks overlap. You begin tracking the features and marketing that appeal to different destinations, and how many visitors each combination drives.
A Justin Bieber tweet? A giant container ship commandeered by sixty thousand shrieking, teenage girls who stay for 37 seconds and buy funnel cake. Your great uncle’s oddly compelling geology tumblog? A tiny dinghy, but one that shows up with very engaged visitors and more each week. When you track these boats at the dock over a period of time, you know your customer before they know you. This is what SimpleReach does for some of the largest content creators in the world – analyze every share of their content across every major social network or social content aggregator, and tie those shares directly to on-site traffic.
Though tracking causes rather than effects makes ample logical sense, Team SimpleReach takes a data-driven approach to evaluating our hypotheses. We ran various predictive models across 2 million articles over the course of several months, and showed definitively that predicting article-level traffic over the coming hour was meaningfully improved in explanatory power and reduced in variance when social actions were significant inputs. In other words, if you’re not tying social actions to its resulting traffic, you’re missing critical insight into the largest traffic-driving force since search.
Zanab Hussain is a data scientist with SimpleReach.View all posts by zanab »
Bryan is President of SimpleReach and leads Sales, Customer Development, and Marketing. Before joining SimpleReach, Bryan spent four years at Village Ventures, starting and leading their advertising technology group and representing Village on the boards of Babble, Extreme Reach, and Trefis. Bryan began his career as a strategy consultant to Fortune 100 companies at Bain & Company.View all posts by bryan »
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