TECM 5200

Love in the Time of Big Data: Big Data's Role in Online Dating

“Big data” is a buzzword that has become increasing popular as the Internet continues to reach into our everyday lives. Suddenly everything can be recorded and calculated, from what we say on social media to where we are at any given moment. According to Steve Lohr, big data is information that measures every small detail about an environment or situation. It’s challenging to explain big data using a broad definition because big data itself involves micro-level information. So to simplify it, let’s look big data in the context of an emerging market: online dating.

What’s the Data?

Many popular online dating websites, such as eHarmony and Match.com, market themselves on having  complex algorithms that sets up users with similar interests. The algorithm is fueled by the big data of online dating, mostly generated through long questionnaires.  According to eHarmony executive Joseph Essas, qualitative data falls under three categories:

  • Data on psychological compatibility such as traits, values, beliefs
  • Data on interpersonal chemistry such as likes and dislikes and shared hobbies
  • Data on physical attraction such as general preferences like hair color or height

Another group of big data in online dating algorithms includes attribute ranking. Match.com includes attribute ranking in its questionnaire, which expands or constricts the data pool depending on the importance of the attribute. So for example, if I identified that being taller than me was an attribute of high importance, the algorithm would only include men over 6 feet tall. Meanwhile, if I said that being taller than me was an attribute of low importance, the algorithm would include men of various heights.

Why Does It Matter?

Amy Webb’s TED Talk “How I hacked online dating” explains that while these algorithms are good, users need to be aware of the data they input. Big data on online dating sites is more dependent on the users being aware of the data they input than any other big data collector. For example, while customer feedback does help retailers determine marketing promotions, big data like sales, economic data, and even weather patterns can affect a marketing plan.

Back to online dating, Amy mentioned that you need to not only consider the result you want (aka, matches with desired characteristics), but also, on the flip side, consider what kind of data (characteristics) your desired matches are interested in. She found that the content of an online dating profile does matter, not only in terms of the characteristics, but also in terms of how you present those characteristics in word choice, profile length, and communication timing.

While now, the quality of the results relies on the quality of the data, online dating services are continuing to fine-tune their algorithms to learn from user communication. Maybe someday, you won’t have to answer that “Are you a cat person or a dog person?” question for the algorithm to find some deep, vague underlying personality. Instead, the algorithm will recognize a picture you post with your dog and note that you probably like dogs.

What Metrics Matter? Measuring the Success of Social Media

Say you’re in charge of social media marketing for a large business. Everything seems to be going well. Your social media is active and you get a moderate amount of likes on each post. Your social media may seem successful, but then your boss asks, “What’s the ROI?” This question is practically impossible to answer. That is, without metrics. Metrics are stats that measure activity. Metrics track and quantify how many people are using your social media page, going to your website, using your website, and even taking action on your site. While there are many metrics to track, three of the most popular metrics from Kevan Lee’s article on social media metrics, are conversions, leads, and funnels.

Conversions: Action Over Eyeballs

This is the number one metric to track. Conversion tracks the actions of users. If the user makes a purchase, signs up for a mailing list, or downloads a file, these metrics can be tracked. Not every person who sees your content is going to take action. It’s important to identify the percentage of people who take action rather than just looking at your site.

Leads: Don’t Give Up So Easily!

Have you ever looked at something online, but didn’t buy it, then the product shows up in basically every ad you see online? Essentially, you’re a lead: a potential converter. Tracking leads can be as essential as, if not more than, tracking conversions. While conversions are the people who have already taken action, leads are the people who may still take action. For example, ebay.com occasionally sends me an email with the subject, “Are you still interested in [X Product]?” While most times, the lead goes cold because I don’t care enough to buy the product, sometimes, I may have gotten sidetracked and will go back and purchase the product I was interested in.

Funnels: Where did You Come from? Where did You Go?

Funnels are a fairly simple concept: they track the paths users take to get from point A to point B. Funnels identify whether the user came to the site through social media, inbound links, or search engine options.

The benefit of tracking funnels is it shows where the most effective marketing is. It also identifies if there are links from a third party generating leads. Let’s say, for example, you are part of a company that sells lipstick. If a YouTuber wears that lipstick on one of her videos and links to the product in the video’s description box, you may get a large group of people coming to your site to look at that particular lipstick.

So What’s the ROI?

To measure the success of your social media strategy, answer these three questions:

  1. How many people are coming to our site through social media?
  2. How many people coming through social media take action?
  3. How much can we increase our ROI by reaching out to leads?

While it isn’t a perfect strategy (you can’t exactly track how many people are going to a store or calling you because of your social media, you can still get a good grasp on the impact of your social media.


Hashtags aren’t just that annoying thing millennials use too often. They can actually be an integral part of social media strategy. Hashtags are essentially buzzwords (or buzz-phrases) that identify and group posts, making them easy to find and highly engaging. In 2014, one of the biggest social media phenomenon, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, was shared across social media with the use of a hashtag #ALSIceBucketChallenge. The challenge, and in part the hashtag, not only raised awareness for ALS through 17 million videos but also generated over $100 million for ALS research. While not every hashtag campaign can reach the success of #ALSIceBucketChallenge, it can still be a successful tool for social media strategy.


According to Steve Cooper, hashtags play five roles in social media strategy. 

#Promote – In summer of 2015, Coca-Cola rolled out their Share a Coke campaign accompanying their 20 oz bottles with names printed on them. They used the hashtag #ShareACoke on social media to invite users to generate their own content. Since individuality and self-expression are valued by millennials, the campaign prompted many social media users to buy these coke bottles and share photos tagged with #ShareACoke.

Hashtags don’t even need to be tied to an original slogan to be a promotion tool. Many twitter users follow social media tags such as #dailydeals or #flashsale. By using these hashtags, you can hold last-minute promotions with wide outreach.

#Unify – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all support hashtags. That means no matter what platform, you can find and group the outreach of your campaign. For example, when Too Faced, a popular makeup company, launched its collaboration makeup palette with NikkieTutorials, they implemented the hashtag #nikkie4toofaced across all their social media platforms. Rather than needing to create a new page for the new product, they can identify the outreach of the product across Twitter and Instagram by the use of the hashtag.

#Converse – When the Super Bowl rolls around, everyone talks about it, whether it’s about the teams, the commercials, or even just the fact that they don’t care about the Super Bowl. Companies can use big events like these to spark conversation with their users. 45% of advertisements during the Super Bowl included a hashtag. These hashtags initiate conversation during and after the game and can be a talking point between the company and its users.

#Target – Just a couple days ago was National Cat Day, and naturally, this meant everybody with a cat was sharing pictures tagged with #NationalCatDay (Myself included. I use every excuse to share a picture of my cat). Businesses can actually use this to their advantage to target specific users. Since people browsing this hashtag are interested in cats, companies that create products for cats and cat owners can implement the hashtag. 

#Innovate – Technology is amazing. In 2016, American Express launched their highly innovative Amex Sync, which connects your Twitter. When you share a hashtag, you may be eligible for discounts, and when you use your American Express card to make the purchase, the discount is automatically applied.


Using hashtags is an excellent strategy, but hashtags need to be used judiciously. Tweets with hashtags are 25% more likely to incite activity, but tweets with three or more hashtags are 21% less likely to engage users. On Facebook, hashtags can even be detrimental with 50% higher reach than those without hashtags. Meanwhile, Instagram posts with over eleven hashtags are more than 30% more likely to engage followers than those with fewer hashtags. When used strategically, hashtags can have a great impact on social media strategy.

Mobile is not Diet Desktop

If it wasn’t for the fact that typing blogs on a phone is obnoxiously difficult, I would probably be a mobile-only user. I do everything on my phone: check Facebook, watch YouTube videos, order pizza, you know, the important things in life. And I’m not the only one. 31% of Americans, either by choice or obligation, consider themselves mobile mostly users that primarily check the Internet on their mobile devices. In her book, Content Strategy for Mobile, Karen McGrane identifies these mobile only users and explains why trying to pass off While some people, like me, are mobile mostly users for convenience, others are mobile mostly users because they have to be. One-third of the people who consider themselves mobile mostly users do not have a desktop computer readily available to them. Half of minority households (specifically African American and Hispanic) do not have Internet access at home. 60% of people with low incomes and 88% of people with a lower-than-high-school education do not have at-home Internet access either.

That is, unless they have a smartphone, which over half of Americans do (54.9% to be exact, and that number has probably grown in the time between me posting this and you reading it). Many lower-income, lower-education individuals are buying smartphones in order to access the web and are getting a mobile-only look at the web.

So if many people are using smartphones as their primary or even only device, why are so many companies taking a diet desktop approach to their mobile sites? Many companies’ mobile sites are just watered-down versions of their desktop sites, taking out all the flavor and offering a barely passible substitute. Most diet foods can’t get away with that, yet companies still think they can with mobile sites.

Because over 10% of the US population is only using mobile to access the Internet, the mobile site can’t be ignored. It’s the same as giving nine people a job application and giving the tenth person a map that lead to the location of a polaroid picture of the job application. That’s essentially what many mobile sites do: they reduce the information so much that many users end up looking for the “desktop view” option which isn’t built to accommodate those mobile users.

As McGrane puts it: you can’t call yourself an equal opportunity employer if you aren’t offering content on a platform that minorities and low income, uneducated individuals cannot access. You can’t say you’re fulfilling your civic duty by informing all citizens if 10% of your users can’t see it. Mobile isn’t diet desktop. You can’t ignore it, and you can’t call it a luxury when one out of every ten users considers it necessary.

Team Accountability Sessions: How to Get Your Team in the Groove

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that one of Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood’s four qualities of a great leader is to practice accountability. But teams aren’t going to all be sitting around one computer always letting you know what they’re doing. So how do you ensure your team is actually working on a project as opposed to just saying, “Yeah, I’m working on it,” before going back to checking Facebook for the fifth time that day? The way to do this is through a team accountability session. These short meetings gather members of your team to ensure your project is on track and everyone understands their contribution to the overall project. If someone needs help, their problems aren't just left in the dust. Rather, these contributions are understood, discussed, and even tackled in the accountability session.

So How Do These Meetings Work?

Think of your usual team meetings. How much time do you spend actually paying attention or caring about other people’s contributions to the project? Do you zone out whenever something doesn’t apply to you? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of that. In undergraduate years, I could always tell which classes I was disengaged from based on how elaborate the doodles in my notebook were.

Team meetings aren’t much different from classes. If you don’t feel like you’re contributing or you don’t feel like the content will affect your end goal, you probably won’t be engaged and you won’t offer input. Team accountability sessions are different in that they are short: no time for long-winded explanations of the nuances of other people’s contributions. Instead, team accountability sessions focus on the following goals:

  • Looking over the entire project to see where the team needs to be and where they are going
  • Addressing the past week’s commitments and ensuring there aren’t any problems that need to be solved
  • Create new goals for team members based on where the project needs to go

The main difference between the traditional status meetings and team accountability sessions is that it’s active more than passive. Rather than assigning someone to solve a problem, the whole team works together. If you’ve ever solved problems working in a group, you’ll know it makes you feel like you’re in the groove. Rather than everyone rushing to leave, everyone is working hard until they get to a natural conclusion. Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood call this feeling “cadence” and describe it in the following way:

“Everybody knows what’s expected when, and how to achieve it; no one person is responsible, no one person gets the glory or takes the fall. Everybody is moving forward together; anyone who needs help gets the whole team’s support.”

-- Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager (2015)

When a team is in the groove, they’re bound to be more successful than a team just doing a job. The goal of a project manager is to initiate this sense of cadence to build team success. It may sound corny, but when people are engaged in what they’re doing, they’ll work harder, do better, and overall make the project more successful.

You Can Lead: Four Behaviors that Make Great Leaders

Leading a team can be daunting. Some people are born leaders while others don’t think they really have what it takes. If you’re one of those people who thinks there’s no way you could ever lead a team, think again. In their book Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, Kogon, Blakemore, and Wood identify four main behaviors that can help you establish yourself as a leader.

  1. Demonstrate Respect

Think of the best leader you’ve ever had. This can be anyone: a project manager, a boss, a team leader, or even a teacher or coach. How did this person treat you? Chances are, they had some semblance of respect for your abilities, ideas, and contributions. A good team leader knows how to gain respect by showing respect. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to be a hard-ass when the situation demands it. If someone isn't doing their job or working to their abilities, you should address that respectfully, but not passively. You might hurt someone's feelings, but you'll hurt everyone on the team by not addressing problems.

  1. Listen

For any of you that haven’t been in a leadership position, I’ll give you a little secret: we don't know everything. In fact, we might know less than some of our team members. But we shouldn’t try to compensate by talking. Instead, good leaders need to listen. Listening identifies new ideas, uncovers potential problems, and incites good collaboration between team members. You can’t do this if you’re talking over someone.

  1. Clarify Expectations

Something I’ve noticed working in teams is when you tell teammates “Just do whatever,” you just end up with a mess. No one really knows what they’re doing to help, work is done sloppily, repeated, or not done at all, and everyone is just generally frustrated. When you give someone a clear purpose and explain your expectations, they have a goal and feel like they are placing a puzzle piece that fits into the whole.

  1. Practice Accountability

Accountability has two parts: being a role model and giving credit. As a team leader, your actions shape the team. If you don’t care, then your team likely will not care much either. Likewise, if you’re motivated to succeed, your team will likely also be motivated. Your actions and attitude as team leader should be the same as the ones you want your team members to display.

Good team leaders also give credit where credit is due and admit their mistakes. Good things aren’t all their doing and bad things aren’t only the fault of others. Let’s face it, it feels good to get credit for something you did well, while it’s annoying to have someone else take that credit. So why would you not offer that to the people you lead?

You might ask yourself, “What if I don’t have these traits?” Leaders don’t just sprout from the ground perfectly ready to lead. You just need to practice. Listen to and respect your team, set your goals, and be the person you would want as a fellow teammate, not just a leader.

Branding Blind: How Sound Plays a Role in Branding

When you think of branding, you might think of the name, the color scheme, and all the visual aspects that go into developing a strong brand. However, branding isn’t always visual. Sound can be an equally effective part of a brand. Would brands like Lancome or Giorgio Armani have the same effect if their perfume ads used a voice with a thick Southern drawl? When you see phrases such as “I wish I was an Oscar Meyer wiener,” or “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” do you say them, or do you sing them? Sound can be an excellent tool for setting the tone of the brand and making the brand memorable.

The Wide World of Brand Sounds

Branding sounds go beyond commercial jingles. Sound branding can be present in the advertisements, the environment, or the products themselves. Wheeler notes ten different types of brand sounds: some specific to a product category while others applicable to any brand.

Motors: I’m not a car enthusiast, and if you asked me to distinguish one motor from another, I would have absolutely no clue. But some people do love cars and bikes, and the sound of a motor can be a distinctive part of their brand. Just the sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is enough to drive fans of the brand wild, and Harley-Davidson specifically engineers its engines to make its signature sound.

Retail Environments: In the mid-2000s, people had a legitimate fear of entering a Hot Topic store. Part of it was the dark environment, part of it was the intimidating gothic fashion, but a major reason was the intense metal and newly popular screamo music. While the music drove some away, it welcomed others, and complemented the shopping environment of Hot Topic.

Background music sets the tone of a retail store. For some stores, like Hot Topic, the music is an intense part of its branding. For others, it’s a subtle sound that subconsciously effects customers, like playing smooth jazz in a coffee shop.

Jingles: I’m a bit old-school when it comes to music. I listen to a local radio station that plays classic rock on my commute, and there is an almost unbearable amount of commercials. But some of the jingles that play on the commercials stick with me to the point that I can sing along with them and recite phone numbers and business names that I would have otherwise forgotten.

Jingles work for small and large businesses alike and can even affect future branding if catchy enough. Modern Kit-Kat ads incorporate their “Give me a break” jingle without the words, but it still remains a recognizable part of Kit Kat’s branding.

Signals: There’s a joke that when a default iPhone ringtone goes off in a store, everyone with an iPhone will check their phone. While it’s a joke, it is rooted in reality. Those default ringtones are still an integral part of iPhone’s brand. These signals can be anything: the way an alarm clock sounds, the booting up noise of a computer, or even the signal at the end of a washing machine’s cycle. They’re all part of the brand identity.

Websites and Games: Lately I’ve been into a video game called Overwatch. In this game, you capture or defend points from an enemy team. When you win a point, it plays a small victory sound, and when you lose a point, it plays a small but depressing defeat sound. Even though the sounds last no more than two seconds, they evoke an emotional response in the player. These emotional responses heighten user experience, which ties into the goal set forth by the brand.

Talking Products: Siri, Alexa, and Cortana all have an automated female voice (unless you’re like me and Siri has a British male voice, but that’s beside the point). These voices are still distinguishable from one another and are now considered voices of the brand. Toys like Tickle-Me-Elmo or Bop-It have distinct voices that wouldn't be confused for any other. With talking products, branding is distinct even at an early age.

Spokespersons: I will never, ever forget the voice of a woman from a commercial for local car dealership near my hometown. She had a shrill, nasal voice and a thick southern accent, and at the end of every commercial, she would say, “At Dow Autoplex, seeing green is saving green!” But everyone knew the commercial, and it actually benefitted Dow Autoplex because their name recognition was high across northeast Texas.

Most companies tend to go for a voice that’s more pleasant while still memorable. Lincoln uses Matthew McConaughey’s slow, ultra-cool voice to set a tone for their brand while Yoplait uses upbeat and friendly Lisa Kudrow to voice their commercials.

Recorded Messages: I like to think my voicemail does a good job of representing myself as a brand: direct, friendly, and with just a bit of humor. Brands put a lot of resources into ensuring recorded messages convey the brand. The New York subway system uses a clear and easy to understand voice to ensure passengers know when trains are arriving and to remind passengers to stay away from the tracks. The Country Music Hall of Fame uses voice recordings of country music legend Dolly Parton in its audio tour to bring museum visitors one step closer to the country music scene.

Characters: In the late 1990s, Taco Bell had a Chihuahua mascot that won the hearts of America. The Taco Bell Chihuahua was known for its smooth Hispanic voice line, “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” The character was so popular that when they dropped the mascot in 2000, their sales dropped a record 6%. The Chihuahua had become a distinct part of their brand, even selling toys with recorded messages.

Characters and their associated voices are a major part of a company’s brand. When Gilbert Gottfried was dropped by Aflac in 2011, they looked at 12,500 applicants to replace him because the duck and its signature quack was synonymous with their brand.

The next time you hear a product make a sound, think about it. Does that sound make an impact on how you view the product? You might say, "No, not really," and that's fine. But think back to the sound of dial-up Internet and ask yourself how you'd feel if your Internet made that sound every time you started browsing. Would it make you think your Internet was slower? That's the impact of sound branding.

How to Pick a Brand Name that Doesn't Suck

Think of a brand: any brand. What was the first thing that popped into your head? I'm no magician: I can’t guess which brand you were thinking of. What I do know that you weren’t thinking of its tagline or color scheme. What popped up in your mind was the brand’s name. A brand’s name is communicated every day. When you tell a friend you ate Taco Bell for lunch, you’re likely not going to add in its “Think outside the bun” tagline or draw a picture of the Taco Bell logo. Since a brand’s name is passed around more than any other element of a company’s brand, it needs careful attention and consideration.

There’s No Excuse for a Garbage Name

Picking a brand name isn’t easy. You may want to go with your gut and pick the first thing that sounds right. But there’s more to a name than just your response to it. A name can be a detriment to a company if a customer responds to it negatively. For example, German MP3 developer TrekStor didn’t consider the implications of naming the black variant of its i.Beat MP3 player the i.Beat blaxx. Customers were outraged by the racist oversight, causing the company to issue an apology and immediately change the name.

Another problem is the brand name might be misleading. Popular clothing brand Evereve launched a $1.5 million rebranding campaign in 2014 to change its name from Hot Mama because customers thought the company sold maternity clothes. This is where testing comes in handy to ensure the name doesn’t mislead customers, therefore alienating them. If you test at the beginning of the branding process, you won’t have to spend time and money fixing the damage of the original name.

Pick a Name that Hits All the Right Notes

According to Wheeler, there are eight qualities of great names:

  • Meaningful: A brand’s name needs to carry its meaning and capture the “essence of the brand”. This can be obvious (think Kentucky Fried Chicken) or more abstract (like Puma, which evokes a fast and powerful image that is perfect for running shoes).
  • Distinctive: A brand’s name needs to stand out and be memorable. Yes, China, King, and Buffet are all good words to include in a Chinese buffet restaurant name, but really, how many generic Chinese buffets do you know that already use a combination of those words? (I can think of two within five miles of my house.)
  • Future-Oriented: Successful brands expand and adapt, so a good name needs to allow for these changes. Google started out as a search engine but has expanded to further endeavors, each of which can carry the Google name and legacy.
  • Modular: Modular names can help create a collection of related objects. McDonald’s could put “Mc” at the front of any food, and you’d recognize it as a McDonald’s meal. Meanwhile, Apple successfully groups together its products by sharing an “i”, such as iMac, iPod, and iPhone.
  • Protectable: Protectable brands can be trademarked so you can own the name. No one in the industry has the name, and no one else will. Apple actually faced legal issues with this in the mid-2000s with Apple Records when they released the iTunes Music Store because the association between Apple Computers and the word "music" was a breach of contract. It's better to just go with a name that won't get you in legal trouble.
  • Positive: A good name is a happy name, or at least a name that doesn’t evoke a negative reaction. In the 1980’s Ayds candy sales suffered because their name was associated with AIDS. So the company changed the name to Diet Ayds, which just made the situation worse.
  • Visual: Good brands can also be great logos. Brands like Target and Shell have names that successfully link their name to an image so their name and logo act as a unit.


There’s More than One Way to Name a Business

There’s more than one option to go when choosing a name. There’s no right option, but some options might be better suited for your business than others.

  • Founder Name: The upside to this is you have a name to go with your business. It ties your business to a face, and gives your brand a people element. For example, Johnson & Johnson’s name reinforces their people helping people message. But the downside is that it is tied to a person. If that person does something negative, it might impact the brand. For example, when Paula Deen’s racial slur scandal happened in 2013, her product line was dropped by Wal-Mart.
  • Descriptive: Descriptive names get the point of the brand across. People know that Burger King sells burgers and Petsmart sells pet supplies. But if you have any intent to expand, you may not want your brand to be limited by its name.
  • Fabricated: If you want the totally unique name, go fabricated. These names are memorable and protectable, but the meaning may not be clear. It also provides the opportunity to tell customers the story of how the name was developed. But unlike descriptive names, their meanings aren’t intuitive.
  • Metaphor: Metaphors make for strong brand names. They’re less specific and tie the brand to a concept. Nike, whose namesake comes from the Greek goddess of victory, not only represents their competitive message, but allows the company to expand beyond just footwear into other sports gear.
  • Acronym: Acronyms take a long name and make it shorter. While this lets you give your name a deeper meaning, it can make your company hard to remember. Many companies use acronyms when they’ve already built up rapport. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use an acronym. ASOS (As Seen on Screen) built a successful online fashion business in the early 2000s.
  • Misspelling: Some companies take an existing word and make it their own by changing the spelling. This retains the meaningfulness of the brand while making it easier to trademark and own. Companies like Tumblr, Flickr, and even Google used misspellings to create their names.
  • Combinations: By combining these naming conventions, you can make a generic name more personal or a unique name more understandable. Netflix combines a descriptive and a misspelling in its name by combining "net flicks (colloquial for movies)" with a misspelling of "flicks".

You’ve got all the tools to make a good name, just make sure to test it with your audience and you’re good to go!

Where’s All This Content Coming From? Pros & Cons of Various Content Sources

So here’s the good news: you don’t have to create all your own content. But all that content isn’t going to magically appear overnight. The content strategist does not only guide the content development process, but also to arrange pre-existing and future content. According to Halvorson and Rach, this content comes from six different places: all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Original Content: Make it Extra-Special, Just for You

This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you want the best way to get personalized content tailored to your business and audience, make it yourself. It’s easier said than done though. Making your own content is work and takes time and money. But don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to fill your site with content.

Co-Created Content: Embrace the Sell-Out

Whenever I put on make-up, I watch beauty vloggers on YouTube. Many of them mention that they receive products from cosmetic companies to review on their channel. This is co-created content. You provide the product and some incentive to a relevant partner who then creates the content for you.

The major benefit is that the partner brings along their audience, who trusts their voice. So, for example, if Kim Kardashian posts about a product she loves, her followers will likely seek out the product because they trust her opinion about make-up. Businesses can take advantage of this by sponsoring Kim Kardashian to showcase their product to her Twitter followers.

The downside to this is people may be distrusting of sponsored content because the opinions may not be genuine. Think about it: how much money would it take for you to say something good about a product? If the product is within reason, probably not that much. Instead, going back to the beauty vlogger example, cosmetic companies are sending vloggers a product and asking for their honest opinion: good or bad. Good reviews bring potential customers, and even a bad review can provide good feedback.

Aggregated Content: Bring in the Extended Family

Aggregated content is content pulled from other sources onto one site. You usually see aggregated content in the form of an RSS feed. Yahoo.com uses RSS feeds for weather and trending topics so the homepage doesn’t constantly need to change or update and so Yahoo can personalize the content for readers. That way, someone in Dallas can see the weather in Dallas without having to open up the Yahoo weather page. Neato.

Where aggregated content becomes aggravating content is when the feeds junk up the page. Does your user really need to see your Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months? No. No they don’t. But as a content strategist, you should be making sure that Facebook page is updated regularly anyway.

Curated Content: Post Only the Best from Across the Web

Curated content is content that already exists that is hand-picked for your website. The content needs to fit your website’s theme and message. If your blog is for sharing pictures of cats, you shouldn’t randomly decide to share an article on U.S. politics. It goes against the message you are trying to share through your content strategy.

Curated content isn’t user-generated. That is, you have to go get the content yourself. Content you ask users to get for you is a whole other subgroup of content. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Licensed Content: Up Your Web Cred

Licensed content is your resources; aka, the trustworthy sources of content that that help users understand your content and makes your content look more credible. This can include articles, videos, or stock photos of all those happy employees that totally look like the people you work with on a Monday morning.

Using licensed content is a debate amongst content strategists. It can increase your web cred when used correctly, but can also seem like generic fluff on your page. More than once, I’ve worked on redesign projects for websites that use obvious stock photos. It makes the company look less genuine, which is the total opposite of what licensed content should be doing.

User-Generated Content: Make Your Audience do the Work

I’ve saved the best and worst for last: the user-generated content. You ask your users for content, and they will deliver: for better or worse. Ideally, you’re getting genuine feedback or creative ideas from your audience at a low cost.

But this is the Internet we’re talking about. These are the people who tried to name a boat “Boaty McBoatface”. When you get serious content, it can be just as helpful as co-created content. But bad reviews and troll comments can be a challenge all on their own.

Content Overload: How to Audit Massive Sites with Minimal Tears

I have a confession to make: I’m actually a massive geek when it comes to manga. My bookshelf is crammed with my collection of over 300 volumes, but the problem with collecting is it gets expensive, and keeping up with around 25 series at a time can be a hassle. So to save money and make sure I’m keeping up with current volumes, I maintain an audit of books available for pre-order so I can buy books when a publisher is having a sale. My audit is pretty minimal, documenting only the title of the series, the volume, the publisher, and the release date, but it’s efficient and takes only a couple minutes every week to maintain.  

This audit is easy for me to update since I only need to keep up with a short list, but for the website I order these books from, which offers over 10,000 products, developing an audit would be a daunting task. And for even larger sites with millions of pages, posts, or products (I’m looking at you Amazon.com), an audit may not even seem feasible. Nevertheless, according to Halvorson and Rach, there are options for auditing these overwhelmingly large websites. But first, you have to determine how big is too big of a site’s scale for a content audit.


What’s the Magic Number?

There isn’t a magic number, per se. The amount of content you need to audit depends on two things:

  1. How many pages you have
  2. How much time you have


Given enough time to devote to the project, you can document 5,000 pages. But if you’re like me and leave everything to the last minute, or you have content in the quintuple or higher digits, then you might want to consider a different approach.


So How Do You Tackle a Massive Audit?

There’s two solutions here, and none of them involve pushing the idea of an audit under the rug and never speaking of it again. To tackle your massive website, use one of two methods: sampling and rolling audits.


Sample Like You Mean It

Sampling is taking a percentage of your content and using it to represent your entire site. But not just any random cluster of pages: you want to represent the goals of the site, the users, and how the content is being consumed. When designating a sample, ask yourself one of these five questions:

  • What percent of my content fulfills specific purposes? If 90% of your website is funny cat videos, 90% of your sample should be funny cat videos. Just remember that not all content fits perfectly in neat little boxes. Even Google needs an About page
  • Who is using specific pages on my site? You know how your site has a primary and secondary audience? Yeah, divide up your content by what each group wants to see.
  • How many people visit specific pages on my site? Demonstrate these high and low traffic pages in your sample. The most important traffic level to focus on is the one that fits your business model.
  • Who does this content belong to? Divide content by who contributed it. The users? You? Your coworker who keeps stealing your coffee creamer? Maybe you’ll find out the content that you developed gets more hits than hers. Now that’ll get you to want to do the audit.
  • How often is the content changed? Your content is like a pantry. Some of what’s in there is regularly circulated and updated while some of it sits there forever totally untouched (like that can of pumpkin pie filling I keep telling myself I’ll use on some Pinterest recipe every time fall rolls around).
  • How many clicks does it take to get to each page? Yeah, we see you trying to be sneaky and only curating the first few pages. Your website isn’t just the top level pages, so your audit shouldn’t only consist of the first layer of pages either.


Just Roll with It

Another option you have is a rolling audit. Basically, you’re going to divide your site into sections and audit each section individually for a period of time. Once you finish that, you circle back to the first section and keep adding. So, for example, if your website is for selling books, you might start with art books one week, biographies the next, and so on until you reach young adult books. Once your schedule is complete, you start over and add on to your art books section. And if your site is overwhelmingly large, you can totally do a rolling audit of samples.