When Data Tells The Story Better

Below is a re-purposing of an April post I wrote for the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) Blend blog. MENG is a diverse, all-industry group and it’s equal parts honor and challenge to think of blog topics that might have broad application.

I'm hoping that this post will be particularly relevant for you, you digital marketers at investment firms. Your businesses are swimming in data and stories that can be told using aggregated, anonymized data. As you build out your firm’s understanding of content marketing, don’t overlook data-sharing as a means of differentiating the story you have to tell and—this is the critical part—your clients’ interaction with that story.

As can be seen in preschools around the country, there are degrees of sharing. The typical child is happy to “share” a toy that he has no interest in. Not a problem—enjoy! But what about the toy he’s playing with at that very moment? Ah, now that’s going to require some negotiation.

We see many forms of sharing online today, including up to and including the line where the sharing ends. For example, there’s the publisher that tweets a headline…with a link to its subscription page demanding payment in order to read more. On the other end of the spectrum are the companies that offer the use of their business data via an API.

I’m intrigued by companies that share their data by making an API available. Here’s a quick explanation, provided by Mashery.com: “Using an application programming interface [API], companies can offer software developers a limited set of databases and software programs related to one of their products…From a business perspective, an API is a way to leverage assets you already own and increase your innovation, product development, market knowledge and revenues.”

Google (Maps), Twitter and Amazon are some of the better known and used APIs but check out the Mashery page showing more than 100 brands offering APIs. Marketers who use Compete.com may be interested in this 2007 video in which Compete co-founder David Cancel provides background on Compete’s decision to open its API—and how the business has benefited. Join in right around the 4:00 mark.

The Value Of Sharing Usage Insights

An April “Should Your Company Offer an API?” Mashable post prompted this post. But the intention here is suggest that data-sharing need not be as involved as offering an API. There may be external interest in data that you may be able to share about your business, your industry or your customers. Such sharing has the potential to advance your marketing objectives.

Google is the quintessential master in demonstrating to the rest of us the value of both content and usage insights. In November, it launched Boutiques.com to provide “a personalized shopping experience that lets users create their own curated boutique or view a collection of boutiques curated by ‘taste-makers.’”

But it should have been no surprise in February when Google announced DesignerAnalytics, a tool that enables Boutique’s design partners to benefit from what users have been doing on the site—providing “insight into how their products are searched, shopped and loved.” Designers see the analytics when they’re logged in. At the same time, Google launched TrendAnalytics to give “curious fashionistas a view into the latest, site-wide fashion trends.”

Here are a few more examples of how companies are beginning to market their business solutions by providing a peek at what can be learned from those already using their solutions. The sharing may take the form of a periodic press release, the creation and distribution of an infographic or the launch of a data-driven Website. Note how each has the subtle effect of projecting the brand’s dominance.

  • What could Fidelity Investments do with the industry’s largest participant base of 11 million 401(k) accounts, besides service those accounts? Every quarter, Fidelity publishes high-level data as a window into the average worker’s saving trends.
  • Mint.com collects so much customer data that in October it launched another site Mint Data (the screenshot above is of its home page). Aggregated anonymous spending data from some of Mint.com’s more than 4 million users “deliver an unprecedented real-time economic index,” according to Mint.
  • After supporting more than 1 billion Web users’ sharing all year, AddThis in late 2010 produced an infographic to share its data on the content that was being shared. The infographic is too large to show here. (Size is something to keep in mind when you’re preparing an infographic you’re hoping that bloggers will embed.) You can see it in its glory here.
  • AddThisImage
    AddThis is just a widget, easy to overlook and take for granted. Its 2010 summary provides insights that we wouldn’t otherwise have while at the same time hinting at the deep reliance on the tool.

What data could your firm share?