Digital Breadcrumbs: Leveraging Online Monitoring To Boost Business Activity

Since the advent of Web 2.0 and the rise of social networking in 2004, digital breadcrumbs have been used by data companies such as Facebook, Google etc. to create consumer profiles and sell for billions of dollars to B2C companies. “Breadcrumbs” in the web context is sometimes used to describe a secondary form of navigation that informs users of their current location on a website. However, in this case, “Digital breadcrumbs” are tiny pieces of data left behind by web users that on their own have little or no value but when put together, segmented and analyzed give insightful information on a group of people.

Whenever you surf the internet, intentionally or unintentionally, you leave behind a trail of information that can reveal a lot about yourself. Popular breadcrumbs include; the pages we visit, the links that we click on, our location, time of the day, device etc. Each of these elements gives unique insights into consumer behaviour. For example, pages most visited, tells you where to position your ads within your site to maximize reach, user location informs you where best to situate your business activities as experience shows that the place most of your online users access your content from, is likely the place you would experience more conversions, etc.

“Web Cookies” have been around since the 90s but didn’t hold as much value as they do today. What are web cookies you say? Remember when you visited that site and you were asked to accept “cookies”? Yes, that tiny message at the corner of your screen that reads “by using our site, you agree to our use of cookies”.  The moment you accept, you have allowed that company save a little HTTP script on your computer that allows them to monitor your web activity such as browser history, buttons pressed, login information, the whole enchilada but of course all they’ll tell you is that “it helps your browser load the page faster”. Word of advice, as your mother probably told you, never accept cookies from a stranger, more so online.

All this so far is familiar territory. In Nigeria, a lot of companies monitor breadcrumbs in some way to guide marketing activities. The most common way is in social media and web analytics. Although companies are taking note of this data, only a few companies actually know what to do with it. Monitoring digital breadcrumbs is one of the easiest strategies to support business development and competitor analysis. The same way B2C companies leverage online activity to build consumer profiles to be used to target marketing campaigns, B2B companies can also use online activity to track companies who may need their services or competitors who are gaining a significant share in their market space.

In today’s world, companies have online personas such as social media pages, blogs, websites etc. These accounts have activity profiles that reveal relevant information on the company. This information can also be segmented and analyzed to give key indicators for business opportunities.

For example, consulting companies looking to convert new leads can benefit from setting web filters to notify them of certain activities in targeted companies such as changes in leadership, new office opening, event participation etc. This information will be most useful to your business development team as it would give them a higher chance of lead conversion.

Several articles mention the advantages of monitoring digital breadcrumbs but I’m going to take it a step further and actually talk about some tools you can quickly leverage to begin tracking online activity towards an effective marketing campaign.

In no particular order let’s start with the big players; Google Analytics, Google Alerts, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Hootsuite, Mention etc. Google Analytics, Twitter Analytics and Google Alerts, the most appealing to Nigerians because they are free yet so useful. Google Analytics helps you monitor and analyze web traffic generated on your website while Twitter Analytics helps do the same but for a specific twitter account. Google Alerts enable you to set “watchwords” for Google to keep an eye on for you so that they can alert you every time someone posts something relating to that word on the internet. Hootsuite is arguably one of the most user-friendly analytics tools so if you’re that kind of person who doesn’t like being overwhelmed with so much data, Hootsuite just might be your go to. As the name implies, Facebook insights provide you with detailed reports of your Facebook audience.

Let’s move on to some unsung heroes such as BrandWatch Analytics, Foller.me, Mediatoolkit, keyhole etc. Keyhole is arguably one of the most effective online monitoring and reporting tools you would ever come across. The keyhole suite boasts of several products that enable you to analyze historical online data, monitor and compare your online activity with that of your competitors, etc. Mediatoolkit is similar to Google Alerts but with a much better interface. The point I am trying to make is there are several tools your company can use to analyze digital breadcrumbs without having to hire a team of MIT developers.

Now that you know the tools to use, what exactly should you be looking out for? This conversation is too vast because this is where it gets a little tricky. For every business, the peculiar objectives of analyzing breadcrumbs will inform what you would and should be looking out for.

As regards B2B interactions, examples of indicators to look out for include;

Bad News

In June 2019, the United States of America stipulated that all foreigners applying for visas must submit all social media handles for about 14 platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace, Youtube etc.) used by them for the past 5 years. Wow. In businesses terms, this is simply a risk management exercise. These handles are to be analysed to identify which immigrant is most likely to cause trouble so he/she won’t even be let into the country in the first place. Businesses can employ the same level of due diligence in selecting companies to go into businesses with.

A simple audit on the social media handles of the company, founders and key employees will give insight into the track record of the company, what people have been saying about them online, what scandals they’ve been involved in and what complaints have been brought against them. This is way more effective than reading through press releases or news documentaries relating to the company as those most times are carefully managed by PR departments or consultants on behalf of the company. Tools like socialalert.net, hashtracking.com, foller.me etc can help achieve this objective.

Investment

As the popular catchphrase goes, “follow the money”!  B2B companies, especially in Nigeria, have the habit of targeting big spenders and industry leaders when it’s time to send out proposals and engage in business development activities. What we often realize is that these companies already have preferred partners for most services and it would take a golden pitch to even get them to begin to want to change service providers. Here’s an idea, instead of looking out for companies spending money, why not look out for companies getting money.

Investments typically come in rounds. Be it Seed Fund, Series A, Series B etc. one thing they all have in common is people mostly celebrate them. This translates to social media posts, online articles, press releases etc. Set web monitors for keywords relating to investment/funding and watch random “gist” lead you to companies getting money. “Mediatoolkit.com” and Google Alert are tools that can really help with this. Also following the activities of venture capital firms can also point you in a dissent direction. Top VCs in Nigeria include Kunmi Demuren’s Venture Garden Group (Funded Flutterwave, Max.ng, Prepclass etc.), Yele Badamosi’s Microtraction (Funded Wallet.ng, Cowrywise, Bitkoin Africa etc.), Charles Osezua’s Cordos Capital, Unique Venture Capital etc.

Government Activities

The Nigerian government is so all-powerful that one public sector deal is enough to catapult your company from a business that struggles to pay salaries to a “private-jet-owning-MD” type business overnight. In December 2018. Vanguard newspaper reported that Lagos State had given out N7b naira in loans to 10,000 businesses. On April 4th 2019, Premium Times reported $300 million dollars was set to be invested by USAID into 7 states namely: Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi and Cross River just for Agribusinesses. Monitoring information like this through the online activity of government ministries, departments and agencies will help you better position your business to take advantage of the economic activities of the Nigerian government.

 

The data analytics conversation in Nigeria is literally just starting, do not be left behind! And if you are a developer, now is the time to dust your computer and start developing the next big data analytics platform.

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