Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

Posted in Analytics, Consumer Psychology, Marketing, NextStageology, Predictive, Research, Social, Tools, {C,B/e,M}sTagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shooting the Message Because of the Messenger

You receive an email or tweet or TXT or some such from someone you know. Do you read the message because you know who sent it or because the subject line or first few words or glance catches your attention? Most people probably aren’t aware of their selection criteria. Let me invite you to be more aware (and let me know what you discover, thanks).

An interesting social phenomenon on the rise (NextStage has catalogued anecdotal evidence since 2007) indicates that an increasing number of people decide whether or not to pay attention to a message based on information content, not their relationship to the source.

Please note that NextStage has done no formal research on this. We do keep track of anecdotal evidence, though, and the number of anecdotes dealing with this phenomenon increased steadily albeit slowly from 2007 to 2011. It doubled in 2012 and we’ve already catalogued more in the first five months of 2013 than in all previous years put together.

The curiosity is around whether or not this increase in information-sort over social-sort is due to information bias or not; People are more connected than ever. Does that mean the value of social ties is less than in the past? Are we indeed too social to be social?

Or has the proliferation of content caused us to determine social value by information value? If so, keywords, taglines and the like are going to become very expensive because that’s all marketing will be. Consider how many commercials there are in which the entire conversation between actors is nothing more than a series of soundbytes.

This also means a message’s source can hurt the message’s success in a social system; people will shoot the message because of the messenger. More than that, the value of influencers will decrease sooner rather than later. An influencer’s information quality must remain high because consumers are sorting by information value, not information source. Eventually everyone will have the same “influencer” status within their social circle.

This is going to put a whole new spin on social and related marketing, me thinks.

Patrick McGoohan as The PrisonerI mean, the heck with whether or not you’re a free man (or woman). Just tell me your number or go away.

Posted in NextStageology, ResearchTagged , ,

Here Are Your NeuroMarketing Options

I was at a conference recently and took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths.

I took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths because I had no idea what I was doing at the conference. I’d been invited and someone else was paying my way, and I hoped seeing the wares presented would offer some insight into why some group would contact me to attend on their behalf and essentially pay me to do so.

Before going further, let me state that I don’t remember any NextStageologist saying or writing “We do neuromarketing.” It’s been said about us often enough and I’ve publicly written that I think people say we do neuromarketing (skim down to “3. What the heck is a NeuroMarketer?” in the link) because 1) it’s a term du jour, 2) they don’t know what else to call us, 3) they’ve called us many pleasant and few unpleasant things in the past and seem to think we change as do the buckets they want to put us in, …

People say “But you guys do so many things” and that’s true. Our response is “That’s because the brain does so many things. The brain doesn’t only make decisions or only control breathing or only look at pretty people or only guess about the future and if the brain could only do one thing we wouldn’t have evolved much beyond amoeba. We do lots of things because, like the brain, we have no limits.”

Okay, we have some limits.

But, as I was typing, some of the vendors did…something…at the conference. I watched. It looked a lot like what I’ve been told is traditional, historical neuromarketing. You know, traditional and historical, like the stuff going back a year or more ago?

It was fascinating.

Now before going any further, none of the people shown here claim to be neuromarketers and that includes NextStage. I merely offer these as examples of what others who call themselves “neuromarketers” do.

Here are some of your NeuroMarketing options…

Option 1 – See the Brain in Real Time

Cap Showing the Brain in 3D

The fellow in the picture above is brilliant. He and his team (if I understood correctly) have developed a cap that generates a image of an individual’s neurophysiology in real time. The medical implications of this are incredible.

But it’s not neuromarketing as I understand it. Seeing the brain work is not the same as knowing what the brain is working on. Seeing specific brain areas associated with likes and dislikes is not the same as knowing what the brain is liking or disliking. Tomograph, fMRIs, neurographs, etc., of heat and blood flow in the brain while showing a picture of a brand product is not the same as that individual wanting, desiring or avoiding that brand product. They are, at best, proxies. There may be a direct connection or they may not be. A dislike of a particular brand might have more to do with a bad memory of someone who used that brand than the brand itself, and building a campaign on such evidence is…is…a really interesting way to spend your budget.

But credit where credit is due, if I ever get a brain lesion, I want the guy in the picture above in my corner.

Option 2 – If the Device Fits, Wear It

The video below is of a young woman being fitted with a device that allows the wearer’s brain to interact directly with an image on a screen. Doing that is impressive. The device itself is nicely designed and packaged. The gentleman in the video is someone trained by the company that markets the device. He’s a trained professional. After two minutes and twenty seconds he still hadn’t gotten the device to work correctly, and he’d applied enough saline solution to make Brylcream proud because this time, a little dab wasn’t doing ya.

Fairness time; lots of people at this conference sat down to have this device placed on their heads. I talked with several of them who wanted to take part but couldn’t because the device couldn’t read their signals reliably if at all.

Option 3 – You Can Find A Company that Claims to do NeuroMarketing

A long standing NextStage client was told by his GM to go talk to the GM’s friend who had started a neuromarketing company. You could tell they were a neuromarketing company because they used “neuromarketing” on their site a lot.

I asked the client how it went. Here’s the conversation:

“Hi! I’m speaking with these guys today, …, it looks like they are taking a similar theoretical approach as you, although their execution is paleolithic compared to yours.”

Be sure to tell them that.

“The guy is a friend of the GM. The GM hears me say the word neuromarketing, this guy says the word neuromarketing, GM says lets all meet. I say, ‘Why would I let them put headbands on 5 people when I can learn way more about EVERY one visiting a site without looking like Olivia Newton-John?’ I can assure you that basically I’m going to tell them they’re in the stone ages. No reason to drive the ford Edsel when you have the rocket car sitting in the garage!”

(a few days later…)

How did it go with your GM’s friend?

“The neuro guy was a joke, an entrepreneur who saw a cool graph on a screen, no plan, no insight, no training, no business plan, not even an elevator pitch nor the brains to run it.”

Hmm…but he has money? Maybe he’d like to buy us out…?

“He doesn’t have that kind of money….”

Sorry it was so ungood. And may I quote you?

“Quote me?”

Yes, I’ve been working on a response to all the neuro blather and would like to include an anonymous note about someone who went looking for neuro solutions and came up short.

“No problem ;)”

(and here’s to hoping you, dear reader, have similar luck)

Recapping thus far

Thus far we’ve seen the need for devices that may or may not work for everyone, require a skilled professional to place on the test subject’s head correctly, are limited to subjects who basically raise their hand and say “Yes, I’ll wear one of those”, and people with pretty websites, high level friends and are a joke (so said the client, not us).

First, what happens to those people who raise their hands but can’t make the device work? How many will be satisfied with “Here’s your $20 and sorry your head’s not the right shape” or “Here’s your $30 and your brain’s not giving off any signals we can detect” or “Here’s your $50 and our equipment doesn’t seem to be working right now, no need to come back later because it won’t work for you, then, either”?

You’d probably go with a variant of that last one but then you have people walking around telling others how their incredible noggins broke your fancy-dancy mind-reading headgear.

And if people can train their brains to do what’s required, how long do you think it’ll be ’till companies start selling “Brain-Trained” individuals for testing purposes, or offer “Brain-Training” courses and all so that, when the neuromarketing goblins come a’knockin’, your results will be through-the-roof kind-of good?

And you thought buying Fans, Friends and Likes was scummy?

And do remember, none of the folks in the above images claims to do “neuromarketing”. At least they didn’t claim to when I asked (and I did ask and I did ask permission to video and photograph so I could use the video and photographs on one of my company’s blogs). I took the pictures and video because the folks shown above do things that other companies have called “neuromarketing”.

Second, the GM’s friend. Let me repeat myself. “The GM’s friend.”

Option 4 – In the Time You’ve Been Reading…

In the 1-5 minutes you’ve been reading this post, NextStage’s Evolution Technology has analyzed the behaviors of anywhere from 3-25,000 individuals. It has determined how they think, how they make decisions, what types of things convince them, whether or not they believe whatever they’re viewing, whether or not they accept whatever they’re viewing (belief and acceptance are two very different things), when they’re likely to spend money and what needs to be changed on a client’s digital property so that they, the visitor, will spend money on the client’s digital property or in their brick&mortar store. You can get an idea of what NextStage’s Evolution Technology can determine in our example NextStage OnSite reports, you can get an idea of where we’re currently being used on our NextStage SampleMatch Countries listing and you can get an idea what people are saying about everything we do in our Comments section.

And remember, we don’t do “neuromarketing”. We just give you results. From your entire online audience. There’s a lot of neuroscience in what we do, true, and there’s also a lot of anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, mathematics, and other sciences in what we do.

That’s why I prefer to offer that NextStage does NeuroAnalytics rather than NeuroMarketing because we’re more interested in how to use what the brain does naturally to make your marketing work.

As one happy client wrote in my LinkedIn Profile,

I’ve been working with Joseph and his tools now for several years. As a “digital analytics professional”, there are several phrases I can use to describe the man and the technology he creates related to my field of work: game-changing, mind-blowing, visionary.

I don’t use those words lightly. I’ve seen the future of advanced analytics, and it’s the next generation technology Joseph has invented and continues to develop.

How do you measure website engagement? Page depth? Time on site? Top viewed content? Satisfaction surveys? These are proxies for what we in digital analytics think reflects visitor engagement. Now imagine a tool that you could put on your website that silently measures engagement by actually determining how visitors feel about content, without having to ask them.

Then imagine that the same tool can then alter visitor website experience on-the-fly and present more engaging content. Then imagine watching your conversion rates go through the roof.

It’s not fiction or magic. It is a real tool, it is real science, and you can use it on your website to drive real extraordinary business results.

And that’s just the tip of Joseph’s iceberg. He’s continually creating new tools, new technology, and new thinking to enable marketers to measure and enhance the effectiveness of their work in ways that haven’t even been thought possible before.

I consider myself lucky to have met Joseph, and I am continually awed and humbled by the man. If you’re in business and want to do better, I’d suggest you get to know him and his marketing toolbox as well.

If nothing else, you’ll at least get a few good jokes out him!


Posted in Advice and Content, Analytics, Marketing, NextStageology, OnSite, Predictive, ToolsTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 4 – Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v … (If you invest here, do you need to invest there?)

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral MetricsThis is the fourth post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms. Some of these posts appear on my BizMediaScience blog due to tone. This post is a little more researchy and we figured it should go here. We’re also wanting to spread the love a bit.

These posts will cover

  2. Watches
  3. “You don’t follow anybody”
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. “You rarely point to someone else’s writing”

This post deals with the reason for this blog-arc, the marketing functionality of different social networks and NextStage’s research. We first discussed these concepts during our SNCR NewComm Forum 2008 presentation, Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing so you can appreciate that we’ve been looking at this for a while.

Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …

NextStage is completing a study on the sociality transfer between social platforms. Specifically, we’re investigating community detection by groups and individuals, how they determine which platforms serve them best, hence marketers can determine which social platforms will serve a given audience and message best. The end goal is an equation that determines cross-pollination between social platforms, as in “If you invest here, do you need to invest there?”

I presented The Social Conversion Differences Between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the Providence eMarketing Con on 13 Nov 2011 and explained that the greatest marketing cross pollination efforts at that time would be a Twitter-LinkedIn effort.

More so than any other effort. Twitter to LinkedIn and back.

The reason is due to Twitter and LinkedIn users having {C,B/e,M}s1 that are much closer to each other than the {C,B/e,M}s of any other combination, therefore a Twitter-LinkedIn campaign allowed for lower marketing costs (same material would engage both audiences) and allowed for multiple touchpoints in this single cross-audience (multiple touchpoints generate more activity than single touchpoints in a given audience).

NextStage Compatibility GaugeMore recent research was done quite differently from the above and dealt with sociality (the ability to recognize node-specific communities and a blend of community detection and recognition). If you recently received an invitation from a NextStageologist to join them on a social platform, you were part of the research. Chances are you were invited to join one of us on some social platform because you’ve generated an extensive “paper” trail — you blog, you publish whitepapers, you have more than one profile somewhere, you comment on other people’s blogs, you have an online resume, … and that paper trail could be analyzed by our Evolution Technology (most often NextStage’s Compatibility Gauge) to determine if you would or would not link, befriend, pin, tumble, so on and so forth, and what platforms you’d accept/allow contact on.

See how painless research can be?

Truth be told, some NextStageologists received a warning message from Facebook: we were attempting to befriend people we didn’t know and, evidently, enough Facebookers complained that several of our accounts got flagged. We could either quit Facebook, take back all our Friend Requests, take back all Friend Requests made to people with whom we had few friends in common, … Evidently research isn’t painless for everyone. The fact that there are people on Facebook who follow some of us on Twitter but won’t befriend us is worth a post in itself, don’t you think?

But in any case, the results are fascinating.

And if the results are all you’re interested in, click here.

Theory to Practice

One of the things we theorized, tested and put into some of our tools (NextStage ClientProspector and NextStage SocialInterferometer which are currently only available to Members (we’re hoping to make the SocialInterferometer public soon), NextStage LoveFinder which is publicly available and NextStage JobProspector (still in development) is that {C,B/e,M}s can fit together like puzzle pieces, sometimes like hands in gloves and sometimes they’ll grind against each other like gears shearing teeth as they clash.

This puzzling-glove-clash determines how messages will be communicated by smaller networks through larger networks — how groups can thrive within groups. Kind of like being part of a organization while having a group of closer friends within that organization. Everyone takes part in the organization’s activities and the closer group will engage in its own activities beyond those provided by the organization.

We’re interested (and you should be interested, too) in how messages within the smaller, closer groups get propagated through the larger groups. Let me give you an example.

Figure 1 - A network of 1Let’s say I have something I want to share. Immediately, I can only share it with myself. This is demonstrated by that one, little, solipsistic dot in the middle of the image on the right. I may have a great idea, an incredible product, a wonderful service, a great story, a good vibe, whatever. Immediately it’s just me who knows about it.

Oh, what to do?

Figure 2 - A small network of friendsWell, the first thing to do is tell a few friends.

But remember your own experiences sharing great news with others? Do you tell the first stranger you meet? Do you go looking for a stranger, someone you don’t know from Adam?2

Chances are you don’t go the Adam route. Chances are the first people you share your news with are close associates, people in your tribal network. People in your tribal network may be physically right next to you, a few feet away, a few doors down, in the next city, state or country.

What makes them participants in your tribal network is that you and they have lots of similar if not shared experiences and that you tend to respond similarly if not near-identically to anything that comes along. In other words, they’re in your tribal network because their {C,B/e,M} is either identical to or real close to yours. Because of this, you trust them to rejoice with you when you share your good news or give you solace when your news isn’t so good. This circle of friends is known as a psycho-social distance3 of 1 in social mechanics and the tribalness is called homophily.

Figure 3 - The network is growing!So you get feedback from them and it’s positive. So positive, in fact, that they want to tell some their friends and you risk sharing your joy with people just a little outside your normal social network. Now we’re dealing with people at a psycho-social distance of 2 from you and 1 from your friends.

Figure 3a - The network is growing circles!And some of those people at psycho-social distance 1 from you? The folks with similar and not identical experiences? They’re the people who’ll transmit the message to people who don’t quite know you at all (think of reTwittering a tweet). These people are more interested in the message than you, they are captured by the meme more than your personality. These people show up in the image as different colored dots.

Figure 4 - My gosh! Look at all those people you more or less know!Okay, now those people who don’t quite know you are spreading the message through their networks. These folks are psycho-social distance 3 from you. Notice that there’s more than three colors in the image? That’s because each time the message leaps a psycho-social boundary it does so by transforming a little (they don’t call it viral for nothing). The message (at this point some people will call it a meme and that’s incorrect. The message and the meme will travel together at this point and the two are different) has probably morphed slightly by going from your {C,B/e,M} through the next person’s {C,B/e,M} then through the next person’s {C,B/e,M} so on and so forth.

Figure 5 - And look what's happening to your great little thought!This is the point where marketing goodness happens. People start interpreting the original message. The source message and the meme it contains separate. The meme continues with none to very minor changes — it is the viral core of the message, that part that gives the message meaning in so many diverse markets and with so many different audiences. It does this by adapting a little bit but in ways that make big differences. Think of a virus that affects some people but not others that changes its viral sheath a bit. Now those previously unaffected are affected. Your good idea is doing the exact same thing only doing it to get inside people’s heads instead of their lungs or gut.

Those little bits and big differences appear because by now that meme has been slightly modified by everybody who hears the message. They’re all adding their little flare to it and it travels much like whispers in the childhood game “operator” (some call it “telephone”). The best known modern demonstration of this is the “spin” politicians’ surrogates put on their don’s gaffs and guffaws: they can’t control the message so at least get the best meme on it so that distortions and deteriorations are minimal and deniable. This is why the best spins are five words or fewer. Memes, the messages’ viral cores, are much like biologic viruses — the smaller they are the less stoppable they are (remember this if you’re in marketing or its close cousin, propaganda).

Figure 6 - And now everybody knows you!And if you’re lucky and you’ve done your work well and you know what you’re doing, your source message hasn’t changed all that much from its original form, has gone viral and you’re message is now making its way through groups and minds that you couldn’t imagine.

And it’s “making the rounds” because people who are now interacting with your message think completely differently than you think, their {C,B/e,M} so foreign to your {C,B/e,M} that you wonder how they learned about your message in the first place.

Now, take a good look at that last image. See that there are different subnetworks within the greater network? And that each subnetwork has its own subnetworks of different colors? That’s how small networks can propagate a given message through larger networks. The pictures from top to bottom are examples of community awareness (figures 1 and 2), detection/sensing (3, 3a and 4) and recognition (5 and 6). Without these steps your message ain’t going nowhere.

NextStage's RichPersonae Wheel of FortuneWhat we hypothesized, tested, put into some of our tools and what is demonstrated by those who linked, befriended, etc., and who didn’t is the puzzling-glove-clash of the {C,B/e,M}s that in NextStageology look like the sundial-like images in Looking for Love? Now You Can Find All the Right Places! (On the Evolution of Tools) (an example is on the right). Go to that post, look at those images and you’ll see what I described above writ in NextStage’s RichPersonae notation (NextStage’s RichPersonae are a systematic way of working with {C,B/e,M}s).

In short, the ability to predict who would connect with whom, on what platforms and in what time period.

Truly fascinating stuff (we thinks)! The ability to know who/where your viral message will get the most “push” and in what directions (kind of like viral vectors), how it will travel and where it will go!

Now you can literally pick your viral marketing targets.


All in all we targeted platforms based on 2010 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape, the 2011 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape and the 2012 CMO’s Guide to The Social Landscape. if nothing else, CMO’s presentation methodology has improved. We also included some unmentioned platforms because various NextStageologists use them.

  • Facebook is best for small, local businesses because The Human Touch4 — consumers’ directly interacting with brands — is doable
  • Facebook can be used by large businesses best if they create a destination page that provides local connectivity to local brand agents for local audiences. This is simply a reframe of the above
  • LinkedIn is excellent for B-B sales and promotion (be prepared for LinkedIn to increase its Spam factor exponentially)
  • 4Square, Pinterest and Twitter are best for special offers and give aways
  • Pinterest and Twitter are best for announcements and offers
  • Other platforms investigated haven’t demonstrated any specific uniquenesses yet. They may be amazingly affective for a given business and a given audience and in the whole they didn’t rise to the levels of those platforms mentioned above.

Note that none of the above deals with {C,B/e,M}s? The above is based on the type of personalities that will respond best to those platforms, when those platforms are used to communicate the specific types of information listed.

It’s also possible to specifically target the audiences’ psychologic, behavioral-effective and motivational types that frequent those platforms but an explanation of that is well beyond this post (contact us if you’d like more info).

By the Way

If you’re reading this and would like to link to me or befriend me or whatever, please do so. I always enjoy the company. Of course, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., etc., have all largely become marketing platforms, so there you go. The audiences on all platforms are splintering as demonstrated by the plethora of platforms and into the various rapidly spawning groups that are now crowding each platform (remember those images up above? Notice that they’re similar to the growth of online social platforms? Ever hear of culture-death? All communities fail to thrive when they exhaust their resources).

But those differently purposed groups are basically my xWatches organized by the subnetworks themselves. They are self-organizing which means without a strong, central message/meme they will fail. I provide the xWatch categorizations for my messages so my audience knows how to handle the information I’m given them, which message to which interest and so on, as explained in the SNCR NewComm Forum presentation mentioned above.

Marketers beware.

1: You can learn more about {C,B/e,M}s in the following links:

2: The truth is you will tell people who don’t know you at all if the information you’re sharing either violates or is in conflict with your Core and/or Identity. You’ll share with unknown others to seek validation of the conflicting and/or violating information. You can’t go to people you know with that kind of data, they’d never believe it. The only option left is to have it validated out of your network. This allows you to start creating new networks (if you like the information) or ignore opinions (if you don’t like the information). In either case, you’re giving yourself time to integrate the new information before sharing it with those you trust.

3: You can learn more about psycho-social distance in the following links:

4: You can learn more about The Human Touch and how it applies to social networks in any of the following:

NextStage Is Awarded Patent #3 – “System and method for obtaining subtextual information regarding an interaction between an individual and a programmable device”

NextStage Evolution received its third issued patent in four years on June 5, 2012. In a patent atmosphere that is making it increasing difficult to patent software-based technology, NextStage Evolutions technology continues to set itself apart from the pack while establishing a perimeter around its novel system. The third patent, US Patent No. 8,195,597, is specifically directed to the psychometric link a computer user develops with the machine interface focal point on the screen (e.g., the arrow or cursor) and the body language that can be interpreted from how the machine interface focal point is positioned relative to the information presented by the computer. Demographic information, consumer interest, opinions, and preferences is translated from machine interface body language to actionable business information with NextStage Evolutions Evolution Technology.

We got Patent #3Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yes, this is an important one. Not to downplay patents 1 and 2, this is the one that I’ve jokingly described with “Every time you have a thought, you’ll owe us a nickel.” You can read the full patent on the USPTO site. It deals with how humans non-consciously communicate with devices and describes the system behind how people create community with whatever’s in their immediate environment, something I described in Reading Virtual Minds, Volume I: Science and History.

Others may want to put a focus group in an fMRI, have them wear funny hats, pay a team to follow individuals through shopping malls or put up a survey and hope the right people are answering (they’re not). All we need is your visitors to be themselves and do what they’d normally do the way they’d normally do it — no hats, no machines, nobody following them around, no annoying popup questionnaires, no nothing except your visitors doing what they would normally be doing on your digital property each time they visit.

I gotta tell you, understanding human behavior’s a lot easier when you get everything else out of the way and just deal with the humans and what they’re doing right there at that moment. You get a lot more information about your visitors when you let humans be humans and not laboratory subjects.

And again, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Posted in About, NextStageologyTagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Using NextStage’s OnSite Visitor Analysis Tool – TireKickers To Buyers Breakdown

This post is the first of several (we think) about using NextStage OnSite‘s many reports. The audience for this post and series is NextStage’s business clients and prospects. The goal is to provide some “connecting the dots” between reports and actions. We’re starting this series with the TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown. “TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown” is a descriptive but wordy title and we usually refer to it simply as the TireKickers Report.


NextStage’s tools have been in public use for about three years now and all our tools are based on client requests. The tool that’s grown the most in that time is NextStage OnSite. That growth shows up as OnSite‘s many reports.

Visitor Age Groups for a 30 day intervalThere are currently sixty (60) different reports in the NextStage OnSite Tool. These reports span everything from visitor AgeGroup breakdowns (a 30 day report is shown on the right) to a QuickOptimizer report that provides three and only three suggestions for quickly optimizing a site. For example, QuickOptimizer suggested the following modifications for one of our clients for a recent thirty day period:

  1. Important – A blog, podcasts, a link which starts an audio feed or music from a source which matches the mood of your site.
  2. Desireable – A single image on the upper to middle left of the screen, at most 1/4 screen width and height, clearly showing your product or your service in use or a satisfied user of your product or service
  3. Critical – Having all selling points to your product or service in the center third column of your screen. Anything that does not demonstrate your product’s or service’s features should go to either side

Most clients get 25-30 reports (some they request, some we know they’ll need) and there’s a lot of information in those 25-30. Sometimes we’ll include a custom report or two among those 25-30 for clients who we believe will benefit from them.

NextStage OnSite offers clients a report palette because (we believe) using reports individually is like looking at stars through only one type of telescope — your understanding is based on only one type of light. Different types of telescopes (NextStage OnSite‘s 30 or so reports) trained on the same object provide a fuller understanding of what’s happening to and with that object.
TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a one day interval

TireKickers Report Basics

NextStage OnSite‘s TireKickers Report (a one day report is shown on the right. Clicking on some images opens larger images in another window) is named for the proverbial used car shopper who walks around the lot, finds a car they want then kicks the tires to demonstrate that they’re not going to get swindled.

What it reports is described in 2006’s Listening to and Seeing Searches:

What we’ve discovered is that these [report] numbers (which will vary from site to site) remain stable for each site except when something new — such as a product release or updated pages — is placed in the mesh.

  • Knowing what percentage of site visitors are serious buyers versus tirekickers is an important tool in keeping your expectations and sales forecasts in check, and for designing entry pages appropriately.

  • Visitors who are “grazing,” “tirekicking,” “talking themselves out of it” and “planning to make a decision” are still in the search funnel.
  • Visitors who are “planning on how to use it,” “talking it over,” “making a decision” and “buying” are in what most people recognize as a sales funnel.
  • The transition from searcher to buyer occurs at “talking themselves into it.”

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a seven day intervalNotice in the above bullet list “…these [report] numbers (which will vary from site to site) remain stable for each site except when something new — such as a product release or updated pages — is placed in the mesh.”? Compare the 1-day report shown above with the 7-Day TireKickers report on the right. Same site, but this time reporting on the past seven (7) days instead of the last one (1) day. You’ll notice there’s not a lot of variation in pie slice size.

We encourage most clients to run reports for time periods of 30 days or longer unless they’re doing highly targeted or spot campaigns. For example, if you’ve just made an update to your site, introduced a new product or service, made an announcement, et cetera, check for changes over shorter periods of time.

But consider the two figures above. These two figures are similar and not identical. All charts in this post are for the same page. Only the report interval is changed (top to bottom, they are 1 day, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days). What you’re seeing is the normal variation that occurs on sites. Especially when you compare the above one and seven day cycles with the following 14 day cycle and 30 day cycle further down in this post.

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a 14 day intervalOnce you get past the 20% that were buying in the one-day cycle (“Making a Decision” and “Buyers” combined. Ninety-nine percent of people who get into “Making a Decision” become “Buyers” before they leave a site or will conclude their purchase offline) you’ll notice that the seven and 14 day cycles have similar “Making a Decision” and “Buying” numbers — 13-14%. The 13% cumulative “Making a Decision” and “Buying” numbers are repeated in the 30 day cycle.

First Take-Away

These numbers haven’t varied in quite a while. This site is going to max out at about 20% total conversions and probably the online numbers will be closer to 13%.

We now have a baseline. The current version of the site is going to do 13-20% business. That’s where we are. Now it’s time to improve.

TireKickers to Buyers Breakdown for a 30 day interval

Large versus Small Populations

Consumer psychology and buying behavior are fascinating subjects to study. One thing that’s very impressive about them is that large populations are the easiest to influence. Knowing that large populations are the easiest to influence comes from social dynamics. NextStage demonstrated this with an audience participation exercise at a SNCR conference several years back during my TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why “Whispering to Be Heard”? presentation.

What we demonstrated was the relative transmission speeds and dispersion rates of the same message in a large and small population, followed up with examples of how to increase transmission and dispersion. In a nutshell, large populations tend to have fewer broad reaching influencers and quorum sensing behavior rules. The large population behaves as a single body but without a lot of discretionary and (dare I suggest) intelligent behavior. Quorum sensing was pretty much the consumer psychology rule in the old media days (as noted in Why Isn’t Marketing a Science, Part II ).

Small populations tend to have much tighter social bonds and interactions. This is necessary for the smaller population to survive. The large population’s quorum sensing becomes the small population’s smart mob behavior, meaning people talk to each other more, rely on each other more, there are more influencers because the population realizes that the person who’s a great cook may not be the best harvester and so on.

TireKicker Reports show small populations as small pie segments. Instead of a small population being a “neighborhood” or “town”, the small population in these TireKicker Reports are (for example) “Tirekicking” at about 2% and “Planning to Make a Decision” at about 2.5% across all reports. Like neighborhoods and small towns, the visitors making up the “Tirekicking” and “Planning to Make a Decision” segments may not be directly talking to each other but they are talking to people who are talking to each other.

Second Take-Away

You want the Tirekickers value to be as small as possible. Small Tirekickers values indicate that all visitors (save the “Grazing” segment) came to your site with the intention of getting something done. They may have wanted to purchase or do research, but your site was their intended target.

“Tirekickers” indicates people who are killing time. They were looking for something to do and your site was what caught their eye. They may convert and it’ll be a long while before they do so the smaller this number is, the better your site is working at bringing you visitors who are actually in the sales funnel.

“Grazing” indicates people who came to your site by accident. You want that number to decrease, either because fewer people get lost on the web or because your marketing is so good only people who want to be on your site arrive there.

On these charts you’ll notice that the largest population segments are “Talking Themselves (Out of/Into) It” and “Talking It Over With (Themselves/Others)”.

What’s most important (from a consumer and behavioral psychology perspective) about these two populations is they describe people engaged in internal dialogue. Most people engage in internal dialogue and do so most often when they’re making decisions. If you’ve ever spoken to yourself out loud or just in your head, debating whether or not to do something, to buy something, to say something, going over pros and cons back and forth, you were engaged in internal dialogue.

We recognize internal dialogue is taking place because both populations are Talking (dialogue) and to or with Themselves (internal). People who are talking themselves out of/into it are the tougher sell so let’s start with people who are talking it over with themselves or others.

These are people who want to act but lack the confidence to act. They are looking for justification to act (convert) and seeking either themselves or others to provide that justification. Some times they’ll ask their peers, some times their friends, some times their parents. Browsing is still a solitary activity — we don’t often encounter masses of people sitting in the same place, facing the same device, agreeing where to navigate and what to click on — so who will these visitors seek justification from?

Readers of Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History know that the first “person” to be asked is the site itself and at this point it is time to learn what the page being TireKicked is telling them to do (the page’s form and function1).

The form and function of the page being TireKickedThe layout sans content (form) of the page being TireKicked is shown on the right. We learn from the client that the function of the page is to describe product/offering/service features. What can we do to nudge the roughly 26% of visitors who are “Taking It Over With Themselves/Others” into either “Making a Decision” or “Buying”?

We start by looking at the page’s TargetAudience. NextStage considers material’s TargetAudience as the audience that will best respond to that material. The best responding audience is the audience that shows up most often, stays and acts. This best responding audience may or may not be the audience the content creators had in mind when they published. The gulf between best responding audience and intended audience can be amazingly wide and we often suggest clients use our AgePersuader, GenderPersuader, PersonaScope and related tools to better target their content before publishing.

In this case, NextStage OnSite‘s PageTargetAudience report determined that this TireKicked page is best designed for:

Gender: Male
Age: 35-44yo (±9%)
Education: Post Doc
RichPersona: V9

  • These people are moved by what they see
  • They are drawn to the negative of things
  • These people tend to be process oriented
  • They tend to be confused by “what if this happens?” type of questions

Let’s take the above one element at a time:

  1. Gender: Male – NextStage has demonstrated an extremely high accuracy determining age and gender online. The accuracy we’re comfortable with is about 83% across all our reports (we’ve tested higher), so we can accept that this specific material is indeed oriented towards a male audience
  2. Age: 35-44yo (±9%) – This material is best designed for 35-44 year olds and could serve for 32-48 year olds (the ±9%)
  3. Education: Post Doc – NextStage OnSite makes this determination based on how much cognitive effort and life experience would be required to understand the material
  4. RichPersona: V9 – “V9” is a NextStage RichPersonaTM designation. People familiar with our PersonaScope and Sentiment Analysis Tools have seen these designations many times. Other psych-behavioral classification systems would recognize this as “ENTJ”2

Review and Forward

So far we’ve learned the following:

  • 26% of the audience is seeking justification to convert
  • the material will best influence a mid-30 to mid-40 year old,
  • well educated,
  • males audience

Visitor Gender Analysis for a 30 day intervalHolding just that much information we can look at two other NextStage OnSite reports, AgeGroup and Gender. A 30 day visitor AgeGroups analysis for the TireKicked page is shown at the top of this post. The image on the right is a 30 day visitor Gender analysis for the same TireKicked page.

AgeGroups tells us that better than a third are under 25yo and we see on the right that there’s a fairly even male-female gender mix.

Before going any further and in a very few minutes of time (assuming some training on how to use NextStage OnSite) we’ve discovered that the TireKicked page isn’t designed for its actual audience. Remember, we’re not considering intended audience — who the site owner wants as visitors — we’re looking at who’s actually showing up and wanting to do some shopping.

The site owner informs us that the actual audience is the intended audience. Excellent! The question shifts from “How do we get the intended audience on the page?” to “What can be done so that the audience does more buying?”
Suggestions based on visitors during a previous 30 day interval

Suggestions, Suggestions, Suggestions

NextStage OnSite includes a Suggestions report (a 30 day report is shown on the right) that provides three levels of suggestions (General, Levels 1 and 2). The immediacy of each suggestion is indicated by Desireable, Important and Critical. We encourage clients to start with the General suggestions and work their way up through Level 1 suggestions to Level 2 suggestions. I, as a researcher, find the Suggestions report a deep dish of information.

But I as a business person? That’s an awful lot to swallow.

The difference between research and business person is one of constraint. Researchers love knowing all possible suggestions because they usually have the freedom to select what constraints they’ll work under as part of their experiment’s design. Business and online analysts usually are given a list of constraints based on corporate requirements and policies regarding color palette, logo placement, images, text and so on. As one business client said, “Design is finding solutions within constraints.”

The specific business constraints for this TireKicked page are:

  1. Adjust the copy within the body area of the page
  2. No changes to the design or placement of navigation
  3. Adding “nav-looking” links on the right is acceptable
  4. Creating a number of “orphan pages” where navigation between the pages is via breadcrumbs is acceptable

Knowing constraints ahead of time is excellent as it allows us to know which Suggestions we’re able to work with. For example, one of NextStage OnSite‘s Suggestions for this TireKicked Page is

Desireable – Provide (more) visitor-participatory navigation so that visitors become consciously aware of their navigation decisions.

Not sure what “visitor-participatory navigation” is? Not a problem. NextStage OnSite‘s Suggestions report tells you:

Visitor-Participatory Navigation – Menu style navigation is replaced by a single question in place of the standard menu. The question has several answers (that are themselves based on traditional menu options) and one of the answers is the option to return to a traditional menu system. Further, each loaded page includes BreadCrumbs so visitors have a clear understanding of where they’ve been on a site.

Why Training Is Important

Live training on any NextStage Tool goes beyond “click here, click there, now click that and get your report”. Live NextStage trainings cover human behavior, communication, behavioral psychology, consumer psychology and the like in depth. This is obviously true for our listed trainings and is also true for our tool trainings. Tool trainings focus more on how to use tool recommendations and results to cause the desired human behavior, et cetera, and students still learn a great deal about how humans interact with their environment and each other3.

In this case, a little social and behavioral psychology provide some obvious solutions.
What We're Allowed to Modify on the TireKicked Page

Form to Function

The image on the right is the form of our TireKicked page. The area we’re constrained to is bordered in red. Because the actual audience is young we’re going to make use of how youthful minds (under 25 years old) demonstrate social cognition, mirroring and group identity. Remembering that the client has told us this TireKicked page’s purpose is to demonstrate product/service/offering features (and by the numbers):

  1. Adjust the copy within the body area of the page
    • Any feature-descriptive text must indicate how this product/service/offering will create or continue connectivity between friends, peers and related others. Write anything about TXTing, sharing video, et cetera, content with friends and family and you’ve scored a success.
    • Include images of groups involved in some activity (walking in a downtown setting, biking, but stopped, et cetera) with two or more group members using the product/service/offering
    • Any banner offer image should show two or three peer group members demonstrating enjoyment due to their use of the product/service/offer.
    • If the audience is too young to make independent purchase decisions (they require parental approval), modify the banner image such that a single peer group member is on the left of the banner, the parent is on the right of the banner and make sure the parent is smiling or otherwise demonstrating acceptance and agreement.
      • The audience is fairly evenly mixed male/female so use a female parent image. Use a male parent image if the audience starts to skew and stay male.
    • Use short, decisive sentences to list features, use images to demonstrate features (two of NextStage OnSite‘s suggestions were “Critical – Use language which emphasizes understanding and logic, and demonstrates present capabilities” and “CriticalUse simple, concise language to differentiate items“. Other suggestions were along similar lines)
  2. No changes to the design or placement of navigation – The Suggestions Report offered several modifications, none are applied at this point in time
  3. Adding “nav-looking” links on the right is acceptable
    • Several NextStage OnSite suggestions apply to where “nav-looking” links should take visitors (remembering that this page’s purpose is to demonstrate or list product/service/offering features)
      • Critical – Include a video demonstrating the endgoal of the visitor specific to the current page. Make the video informative, educational and entertaining. Example: a video of someone in the target audience using the product, good or service specific to the page. The video demonstrates some simple and common operations using the product, good or service.
      • Important -Any “self-help” pages should have an image montage of the any steps involved. The image montage is synched to an audio feed explaining each image, its purpose, et cetera. The visitor must be able to control the image/audio progression.
      • Important – Use images which demonstrate your product or service being used 1-2 seasons ahead to do specific tasks.
  4. Creating a number of “orphan pages” where navigation between the pages is via breadcrumbs is acceptable
    • This is one of NextStage OnSite‘s suggestions, as noted above. Combine breadcrumbs with the product demonstration and self-help suggestions above and the redesign work is done.

What We Did Within the Business ConstraintsA rough mockup of some suggestions (for starting point purposes only) is shown on the right.


Any tool is going to require some training in its use and some tools will require users to incorporate new information, new ways of thinking and problem solving methods.

This post has gone through one of NextStage OnSite‘s thirty reports — TireKickers — and demonstrated how to use it to increase conversions.

The next post in this series will pick up with the other big visitor population chunk, that 22.5% that are Talking Themselves Into/Out of converting.

Third Take-Away

One NextStage client was boasting about the 35%+ gains they received based on various NextStage tool recommendations at a recent conference.

1 – Normally, NextStageologists (our consultants who help clients) look at site pages as a last resort because the moment someone looks at something they form an opinion and that opinion changes the observer and what is observed forever. Our own prejudices, likes, dislikes and personal requirements are the last thing clients need when they ask us to help them redesign their pages.

In the case of NextStageologists, we actively guard against our unknown biases and prejudices affecting our understanding of the reports or what they’re reporting on. We may ask about form and function but rarely content.

2 – V9 is one of NextStage’s RichPersonaeTM designations. NextStage’s RichPersonaeTM do not necessarily map one-to-one to other psych-behavioral systems.

3 – NextStage also offers client specific and customized trainings. Contact us for information.

Blogging Advice (It’s All About the Audience)

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics

A while ago I was asked for some advice, specifically “Do people tend to listen more or read more in webinars?”. Responding to them, I discovered I have Geek Cred. This discovery surprised me. Companies and individuals routinely ask for our advice, often on blogging, and we always start with “The audience comes first”. I’m told we have lots of credibility.


Shortly thereafter a reader wrote “I am new to blogging so ANY advice you can provide will be greatly received. I’ve spent some time looking through your own Stating the Obvious blog and feel a tad worried about my first post…”

I responded and since then have been asked for blogging advice from several people and groups. Here’s my response to that original reader, updated with what I’ve learned since then. Enjoy!

Advice on blogging. Hmm…I don’t consider myself an expert. Companies routinely hire us to advise them on their blogs so I’ll give you the nickel tour of what we advise them.

  1. Before you start writing anything
    • Know who your audience is
      • Know their language, their jargon, their dreams, their goals, their travails, …
      • Decide their experience level in your topic
        • Are they novice?
        • Beginner?
        • Intermediate?
        • Journeyman/woman?
        • Expert?
      • Decide what role you want to play for that audience
        • Mentor
        • Leader
        • Influencer
        • Lurker
        • Antagonist
        • Member
        • Observer
        • Commenter
        • Apologist
      • Does that audience want
        • Content types
          • Images?
          • Text?
          • Media?
          • A mix of all?
        • Post length
          • Long posts? (over 500 words)
          • Short posts? (under 200 words)
          • Posts long enough to get your message across?
          • Very long posts should have an introduction, the post body and a summary that take the form of “Here’s what I’m going to be posting about, here’s the post, here’s what I posted about”.
        • Authorial Voice
          • To be amused?
          • To be educated?
          • To get emotionally charged?
          • To be intellectually stimulated?
          • To be challenged?
          • To get gossip/dish?
    • Decide what’s interesting to that audience
      • Come up with 5-10 things
        • Are you a member of your audience? Will what interests you interest them?
        • Is this something
          • You want to know more about?
          • You want to share with others?
          • You’ve discovered and are letting others in on the secret?
          • That bothers you?
          • That excites you?
    • The Writing Part
      • Pick one of those 5-10 things and make it into a headline? (see Headlines That Attract Attention)
      • Make a bullet list of 4-5 major points (or as many as you feel are necessary. It’s best to have between 3-5 for short posts, 4-5 for midlength posts, 5-9 for long posts)
      • Write a single, descriptive sentence about each bullet point
        • Write as if the person is right in front of you and you want/expect them to respond. This is called “direct address”.
        • Use active voice whenever possible
      • After you’ve written a single, descriptive sentence for each bullet point go back and write an explanatory paragraph for each descriptive sentence
        • Again, use direct address and active voice to get your points across
        • Save passive voice for when you want to “slow the action” and give your readers a chance to think
      • Check your flow (do things flow logically from one paragraph to the next?)
        • Add connective sentences if necessary
        • Check for things only you or people at your level intuitively know. Explain everything even if it’s obvious (Especially if you think it’s obvious. see What is a Dark Mystery to you is Perfectly Obvious to someone else (and vice versa).).
        • Provide images and graphics for examples only when they a) genuinely clarify the subject (for informational/educational posts) or b) demonstrate a point being made
      • Phrases like “in other words”, “said/let me explain this differently”, “to clarify”, … usually indicate things aren’t clear to the author.
        • Stop writing
        • Clear your mind
        • Imagine as vividly as possible what you want to communicate
        • Write down that vivid imagining
          • The colors
          • The smells
          • The sounds
          • The tastes
          • The emotions
          • The people
          • The tools
          • The places
          • The scenery
        • Use exact details and descriptions wherever necessary to explain yourself and get your point across. Remove whatever doesn’t explain or get your point across.
      • Use adjectives, adverbs, superlatives and diminutives sparingly if at all in informational/educational posts. Use them intentionally and sparingly otherwise.
      • Starting a sentence with “This”, “That” or “These” usually indicates a reference to something previously stated. Make sure the reference is both obvious and clear, and when not, repeat the previous item by name or some recognizable abbreviation so readers can follow easily.
      • Make sure your posts have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When readers get to the end they should feel their time was well spent and that they were rewarded for their investment.
      • Online readers read differently than offline readers read. Paragraphs may need to be shorter, you may need to use more images, ideas may need to be spread across the post. As before, know your audience and you’ll know how they read.
      • Once you’ve written your post put it away for at least a day (unless it’s extremely timely/topical)
      • Read your post outloud at least once before publishing. And I do mean outloud. I also usually print it and read the printed form. Reading your post outloud reveals grammar, spelling, punctuation, cognitive, emotive, logic, etc., errors that the reading mind overlooks.
      • Fix errors
  2. General Rules
    • Posts should be as succinct as necessary to tell a good story. succinctness and good story-telling need to balance.
    • Emotions — I call it Energy in Motion — get more traction than ideas. The best idea is just an idea, a piece of intellectual fluff, but the emotions surrounding an idea give that idea legs. Get readers emotional about something and they’ll pass it on to others. Give readers an idea by itself and there’s usually no reason to propagate it.
      • Opinion pieces generate more emotional energy than fact pieces because readers can agree or disagree with an opinion while they can only accept or reject a fact. Facts may carry a lot of emotional energy and they’re still facts. People emotionally responding to “2+2=4” are best ignored unless they can be swayed to think logically. People logically responding to “Bradgelina Adopts Bisexual Mixed Race Cocaine Addicted 39 year old” may be amusing and unless they’ll bring traffic, ignore them.
      • Post regularly, if possible. Most audiences like knowing they’ll have something interesting to read on a regular basis.
        • This is true even if you announce your posts via social networks. Several readers tell me they collect the links I send out socially and do their “Joseph Reading” on Saturday mornings, usually before anybody else wakes up and with a cup of coffee beside them. I find that flattering.
      • Admit your mistakes and fix them when you realize them.
        • To that end, do your best to recognize your mistakes before anyone brings them to your attention.
      • Remember, you blog at your audience’s pleasure.
        • Let them know when a post will stray from your usual format, when you’re going to do something new, … .
        • Respond to them when they comment. I like to send an email that I responded to their comment, thank them for reading and commenting, ask them for ideas, feedback, ask if I or my company can help them, direct them to other resources, …
        • Be nice
        • Use different blogs to demonstrate different aspects of your work, your personality, your … Doing so allows your opinion blog to reference your fact blog for validation and vice versa.
    • Mechanics
      • Search Engines (Remember that audience definition work we did in step 1? Here’s where it pays off)
        1. Come up with a 2-3 word phrase that describes your blog post. This 2-3 word phrase is called a “keyword” phrase. Now determine if that 2-3 word phrase is how your audience would describe your blog post and if not, come up with something they would use. Write both down, even if they’re close to each other.
        2. Can either 2-3 word phrase easily work as part of the post’s title? If not, go back and come up with some other 2-3 word phrases. Come up with the phrases first, then see if they’ll work as part of the post title.
        3. Use at least one of those 2-3 word phrases for every 100 words of the post. As above, work it into the post itself. It can be a subheading, callout, a title, alt-text or name of a media file or part of the text.
        4. Come up with a bunch of alternative 2-3 word phrases. Be creative. These don’t have to be necessarily close.
        5. Use at least one of these alternative phrases for every 200 words of the posts as described above.
        6. Use full names as URLs if your blog engine supports them. This means your blog URL will be a phrase (probably the post’s title) rather than a string of numbers.
        7. Links should be 2-3 word descriptive text that continues the narrative flow of the post.
        8. Image alt-text tags should be descriptive and include at least one 2-3 word phrase.
      • Tags (ditto the audience definition work referenced above)
        • Humans use tags to determine if your post contains what they’re interested in so write your tags carefully. Disappointed readers are not return readers.
        • Search engines also look at tags. The crossing ground is that keyword phrases can be tags although a good tag tends to be both more general and more inclusive. For example, a mansion may have a “Red Room”. Inside that room are red drapes, red upholstery, red wall paper, red carpeting, red everything. “Red Room Furnishings” is the tag and “red drapes”, “red upholstery”, … are the keywords. If your post is about “red drapes” then your tags would be “Red Room Furnishings” and “Red Drapes” along with whatever else fits.
      • Categories are how humans organize information. Make sure you create blog categories that your audience will understand.
      • Being Social
        • Learn the purposes of sites such as, StumbleUpon, etc., and decide if they’ll benefit you before investing time in them. The best way to determine if such sites will benefit you as a blogger is to decide how similar you are to your audience, then consider how often you rely on such sites.
          • Are you a member of your audience and you don’t use these sites? Then don’t put any effort into them.
          • Are you not a member of your audience and you do use them? Then don’t put any effort into them.
          • Are you a member of your audience and you do use these sites? Then put effort into them.
          • Are you not a member of your audience and you don’t use them? Then put effort into them.
        • Technorati is useful whether or not you ever use it or go there.
        • Using RSS, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and similar social links makes it easier for people to follow you.
        • Tweet what you post when you post it.
        • Trackbacks, Pingbacks and Linkbacks are BlogoSphere kickbacks. They drive traffic from one blog to another. Accept trackbacks and such from people/blogs you know and trust, refuse such from those you don’t.
        • Comments
          • Make sure comments need to be approved before they are posted to your blog.
          • Make sure you read the comment, the commenter’s name, their URL, their site, etc., and all related information carefully. A short comment that indicates your blog and you are doing great work, are god’s gift, etc., is probably spam.
          • Comment on other blogs, etc., only when you a) strongly believe you can further the discussion or b) have a strong reaction to what’s been posted by others. In either case, include a link back to your blog in your comment (usually as the “your site” option).
        • Blogrolls
          • You need to ask people to add your blog to their blogrolls, and is a good reason to comment on someone else’s blog.
          • You need to add blogs to your blog’s blogroll. Add blogs that add value to your blog, even if they often disagree with your posts.
        • Most blogs have a “Preview” option. Use it to make sure paragraphs break correctly, images display correctly, etc.
    • Final thoughts
      • You have to play by the rules before you can stretch the rules.
      • You have to stretch the rules before you can figure out when to break the rules.

I’m sure there’s more and this is what’s obvious to me as I sit here. I hope it helps. You may also find Optimal Blog Post Frequency – NSE Social Media Research Paper #1 and Social Network Mechanics: A Preliminary ToolKit for Creating and Co-Opting Social Networks for Marketing Purposes useful. These are both for-pay papers. There’s also research findings on Forming Strong, Lasting Social Networks (an element of blogging) in our Members area (also for-pay).


Q&A for the Boston May 2011 Text Analytics Summit

I’ll be co-presenting “Case Study: Analyze The Mind Using Text” at the 17-18 May 2011 Text Analytics Conference in Boston, MA, and was asked to answer the following questions in preparation. Sharezees! Sharezees!

7th Annual Text Analytics Summit in Boston 18-19 May 2011The questions are in bold italics, my responses bland and neutral, as always…

How can text analytics help you better understand your customers?

There are two main areas; incoming and outgoing messages.

Incoming customer messages – understand the thoughts behind the words. It’s not enough to understand the words themselves, you need to understand the energy, the emotion, … I’m tempted to use the now exhausted term “sentiment” but that word has been so bastardized and misused as to no longer have any real meaning.

If we use ‘sentiment’ as psychologists, anthropologists and psycholinguists use the term, then we need to understand the thought patterns that are demonstrated by the incoming messages, the behavioral patterns that these thought patterns manifested hence are being demonstrated by the sending of the message and any else that might occur, and the motivations for same.

Now comes the trick that is so often lost in today’s business world; if we believe we know our customers better than we know ourselves (via any tool or technology) then we tend to grow contemptuous of them. We believe we understand their motivations, their desires, their hopes and dreams, and that’s both foolish and expensive.

So the trick is to understand what’s truly being communicated in our outgoing messages to our customers. Part of this is learned via observing responses in the market. There is an old adage in semantics and semiotics; the meaning of the message is the response it elicits. Early on we were demonstrating that a great deal of creative and designer output is overtly conveying the product’s or service’s value proposition and covertly communicating the thoughts of the creative and design groups themselves, sometimes to the detriment of the company. We’ve demonstrated this in education, in small business and large and while the recent interest in “neuro” has brought it forward in people’s thinkings, there’s still not a lot people are doing about it.

So we need to understand what’s really going on inside people’s hearts and minds — that’s incoming messaging — and we really need to be sure of what we’re putting into their hearts and minds — that’s outgoing messaging.

How important is it to understand consumer sentiment?

There’s the word again, “sentiment”. Tell me what you mean by it and I’ll tell you if it’s important or not. We have custom designed “sentiment” tools, crafted according to client specifications, and we know our tools are being rebranded and sold for 20-100x what our clients pay (which is fine. We don’t have to manage end-customers).

All of our tools started out by asking clients, “Forget what the industry is saying ‘sentiment’ is, what do you want to know? If you could create your own ‘sentiment analysis’ tool, what would it report? We’ve documented that conversation and the resulting tool in several places. The result is that our clients have the ability to know who’s an influencer, how far their information is going to travel, how long it’ll be out there, who it’ll influence and in what direction, which direction audiences are going to go and when, how something will be accepted and where, what modifications are necessary for a product/service to fly or flop, …

So if those things are important, then understanding consumer sentiment is important to you.

What can text analytics do for the social media world?

See the above.

What industry (or industries) is using text analytics the most, and how do you see that changing over the next 5 years?

National intelligence agencies and their civilian counterparts, marketing intelligence agencies are using it the most. The influence is increasing as more and more businesses are coming to terms with “neuromarketing without the wires”, some of which involves this kind of analysis.

Q&A for the Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago, 2-3 May 2011

Hello again. Sorry not to have posted here in a bit. We’ve been a little busy.

In any case and as often happens, I was interviewed for the upcoming Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago, 2-3 May 2011. Here’s a transcript for your reading pleasure. The questions are in italics, my responses in plain text.

Q: NextStage Evolution offers technology that understands human thought through any machine interface; that seems to be almost a Rosetta Stone for market research! Can you tell me a bit more about your approach and how it works?

A: The answer depends on what you mean by “works”. One version of it “works” by putting a little javascript tag on a client’s site (in the case of our visitor analytics tools). A completely different and equally truthful answer is that it “works” by having a very sophisticated understanding how people behave when they’re being themselves, quite similar to how human beings non-consciously understand each other through years of interacting with each other.

For example, you walk through a mall, glance at someone and “intuitively” know their gender, age, and can make some amazingly accurate guesses about their background, lifestyle, education, income, likes and dislikes, so on and so forth. You do this and your “guesses” have an accuracy that would make IBM’s Watson look like a low grade moron because Watson knows facts and can connect them but it doesn’t have experience, specifically human to human experience.

My research into such things started back in 1987. I was listening to some educational psychologists talking about a problem in that field. It triggered something in me, basically that there was a way to model how humans learned about each other, a way for a computer to go through the different stages of social learning that humans go through from birth throughout the rest of their lives. This model eventually became a set of rules similar to the sets of rules humans use when they interact with each other. When two people meet an incredible number of factors go into deciding the level of intimacy they’ll share. The decision to work together, play together, live together, etc., can be thought of as a “sum of the parts”. Different levels of intimacy are determined by the number of parts in the sum, whether the result is positive or negative, how positive, how negative and so on. Humans recognize one individual from another by summing all the available parts and matching that sum to a sum of the person they have in memory. Are the sums relatively equal? Then you know this person. Not so equal? Then either you don’t know this person or this person has changed and if so, do you still want to know them? This storage of sums became our first breakthrough, the identity-relational model. It mimics how people know each other and was scalable.

So you could say I was teaching the computer facts but instead of facts like “Barack Obama is the 44th President of the USA” — essentially an equation, A = B — I was teaching the computer social facts, what makes up human social intuition, things like “Sometimes when a person looks down and sighs heavily it means they’re sad, sometimes it means they’re tired, sometimes it means …”, and all these “sometimes it means” can be thought of as sums of the parts.

I remember telling those edpsych people that they’d never solve the problem from within their own discipline (I love Einstein’s “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”) and true to my word, to make our technology “work” I borrowed from disciplines so far removed from the traditional paths that, when I created the first working model of our technology, a friend counted elements from 120 “unrelated” fields involved.

We created a new data architecture, the identity-relational model, and some new mathematics to work it, and so far have two patents on how our approach “works”. If any of your readers are familiar with Feynman Diagrams, we made Feynman Diagrams of human interaction, human emotion and behavior, of social systems and social dynamics.

The end result is that our technology can read a document, watch a video, listen to a podcast and determine traditional demographics (age, gender, etc) of the best audience for that material. What’s amusing is that there’s usually a lot of difference between the audience marketers are targeting and the audience their creative is actually targeting.

Further, our technology can determine author intent, as in “what did the author really hope to achieve with this material?” Most companies are amazed at how many non-conscious messages marketers and creative plop into their content, or how strongly those non-conscious messages affect audience response.

On a more technical level, our technology can report on both author and audience RichPersona, a fairly complete description of their cognitive, behavioral and motivational psychologies. This is useful for marketers because it reports how the audience will respond to some creative, when they’ll respond (intender status), why, what exactly will cause the response, how to shape the response to the client’s needs, and demographically who. We’re currently betaing a “SampleMatch” tool that uses these aspects to help companies create test communities for their products and services.

Another part of our technology can observe website visitors and determine demographic and psychologic factors without cookies, without forms, without interrogating the visitor or other internet databases in any way, with no other equipment other than a browser session active (no cameras, no harnesses, no scanners, no …) with the visitor interacting in the most normal settings (sitting in their home, on the bus, in the mall, …) doing what they want, and our technology does this in real-time. An independent test determined that our technology was 98% accurate determining visitor age and 99% accurate determining gender simply by observing how visitors navigate a web site.

And that brings us back to someone sitting in a mall and making highly accurate guesses about people they see just by watching them. What NextStage does is recognize that visitors are “walking” through a website and our technology is the person sitting in the mall, watching others walk past and making highly accurate guesses.

This technology has been in use since 2001.

Q: What do you think are the major drivers of change in the market research space right now and how is NextStage Evolution planning to take advantage of those trends?

A: Major drivers of change…One is definitely the market itself. When audiences demand change suppliers must change in order to keep and increase their audience. An interesting example of this “audience-demand/market change” cycle is what’s happening in the Middle East (as I write this). The suppliers are the various governments, the audience is each country’s population and the market is each country’s economy. The audiences are demanding change and the suppliers — the governments — must change in order to serve those changing audiences. In a more traditional marketspace, if suppliers don’t change then the audience finds another supplier. Extreme cases are when a market fails and a new market takes its place. Some countries have been fairly successful at changing their marketspace and many of the former soviet economies are examples of this.

Another driver is the increasing accountability requirement of analytics. I wrote a three part blog (it starts with The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics, Part 1) based on a long study of people’s attitudes towards online analytics and one of the outstanding elements in there dealt with “accountability”, specifically that no one really wants to be held accountable (surprise!). I wrote Why Isnt Marketing a Science, Part II about how marketing is being forced into an accountable model and that it’s kicking and screaming all the way.

But I do think marketing is going to have to become accountable because executives are demanding more and more of their marketing dollars as audiences — thanks to the ‘net itself — have become increasingly vocal and demonstrative. As I noted above, the audience is changing therefore the market will change.

In a way “marketing” suppliers are always changing. Every time somebody comes out with a “new” way of calculating something they’re offering a change in the market. I love 140Sweets co-founder Anna OBrien’s “Random metric names and symbols is not an equation” statement because it demonstrates a need for accountability in the analytics marketspace.

The latest change attempt is “neuromarketing” and as always the unspoken claim is “now we’re accountable”. Accountable? Great! But now the consumer has to ask the next set of questions; Accountable regarding what? Accountable to whom? With what kind of repeatable accuracy over time?

Shoving someone into a physically restrictive environment such as an EEG or fMRI, or sitting them in a chair with their head locked into an eye-tracking mechanism, etc., definitely provides data and does anybody honestly what to state that such methodology is demonstrative of the consumer’s real-world experience? It’s the difference between “Someday I’d like to learn how to dance” and taking dancing lessons. The latter teaches you what actually has to be done, the former demonstrates how well your brain can mimic (“imagine” or “remember” might be better terms) a concept it has called “dancing”.

The difference is that such methods provides data about (what I consider) extremely synthetic situations. Nobody engaging in commerce — e, intellectual, social, etc — does it strapped in some kind of synthetic environment unless the investigators are willing to accept synthetic results.

This brings us to how NextStage is poised to take advantage of those trends. I suppose the first is some 20 years of research into these things. By “20 years of research” I mean 20 years of studying how people interact with information presented via machine interfaces, about the last 15 or so of those years we’ve been studying how people interact with the web and about the last 6-7 we’ve been studying how people interact with mobiles. So the first thing is that we have direct experience with how people change their habits as their tools (desktop to laptop to netbook to mobile, web to 2.0 to 3.0 to x.0, Genie to AOL to email to Facebook to Twitter to …) change, we’re not talking about taking data from completely different models (Network TV or Print, for example) and saying “This is what happened here so it’s what’s going to happen there”.

So when it comes to accountability, between the patents, the scientific conference presentations, the peer reviewed publications, the kudos we’ve garnered since we started, the ongoing research, …, NextStage is pretty well covered.

NextStage also has a fairly decent lock on adapting to market and audience change because our technology is a basic (I’ve also heard the term “platform”) technology. One of our first investors said, “You’ve created plastic. It doesn’t matter if someone wants a baby bottle or a car dashboard because your technology can be shaped to whatever people require.” This belief is demonstrated by the fact that the majority of our tools came from client requests. We’d be in meetings and someone would say “It would be great if we could figure out…” and one of us would think about it and a few days later a prototype tool would be ready for testing. An example of this “if only we could figure out” attitude is demonstrated in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1). We said, “Forget about what ‘sentiment analysis’ tools do, tell us what you want done”, we created the tool along those lines and its been one of our best sellers ever since.

Another way we’re taking advantage of market changes is the price point of our tools. Right now, most senior level execs don’t use our tools because most aren’t willing to risk their jobs on a (relatively) low price point tool. It’s like going to the bank for a loan and not being able to make payments. You borrow 20k$US, can’t make the payments and it’s your problem, you borrow 20m$US can’t make the payments and it’s the bank’s problem. The same rules apply. A 100k$US solution goes wrong and it’s the vendor’s problem, a 499$US solution goes wrong and it’s the exec’s problem. This “who owns the problem” challenge is compounded by our established accuracy. What do you do if you go with a low cost solution that’s documented with a 90%+ accuracy and it doesn’t work? You look for a new job.

Where all of this works for us is that we’re the darling of mid-level management. They have discretionary spending that’s right in line with what our tools cost and they don’t have the responsibility of their management seniors. They can expense 10-499$US, get a result, report it and be done. There’s no budgetary delays, procurement meetings, tactical planning, resource allocation, etc., and it’s up to senior management to act. This is a win-win for us, especially since people who use us take us up the ladder when they move on to a new position.

So there you go and I hope it’s useful. Please let me know if you need more or other.


Next Tool Releases from NextStage

I posted this earlier on LinkedIn and Facebook, now for the general public as well…

NextStage AgePersuader

NSAP reports what age groups will respond best to material and in what percentagesThe next tool out of the gate will be The NextStage AgePersuader (NSAP). NSAP is much like NextStage’s GenderPersuader Tool (NSGP). You give it material to analyze, it indicates what age groups are most likely to respond and in what percentages (NextStage’s GenderPersuader Tool indicates which genders will respond and in what percentages). Like all NextStage tools, NextStage AgePersuader is easy to use (enter your bona fides, enter a file or url to be analyzed, hit [Submit] and get your result) and the results are (we think) easy to understand. NextStage Political Analyzer Tool (NSPA) users are familiar with the NSAP output as age persuasion is part of NSPA’s output.

NextStage GeoScope

NSGS reports what age group percentages, gender percentages and RichPersonae exist in a given geographic locationNextStage GeoScope (NSGS) – NSGS is different from most of the other tools in that it derives data from NextStage’s OnSite Tool (NSOS). Some group members may remember conferences where, during my presentations, I presented charts of how different geographic locations were thinking and responding to online material, and how to design navigation to make use of their thinking/decision making/motivational styles (ala NextStage’s PersonaScope Tool (NSPS and aka the {C,B/e,M} matrix). NSGS will do much the same and will include both an age and gender breakdown of online traffic for a given geographic region.

The home page will present a list of geographic locations ET has learned about via NSOS. Entries can vary from something as specific as “Washington, DC” to something as broad as “Scotland” and are dependent on how much traffic has been analyzed from what geographic locations in a given time period (we’re thinking we’ll update it weekly). If you see a geographic location you’re interested in, enter your bona fides, select a geographic location from the list (that’s the only input you give it). NSGS returns the age breakdown (as in NSAP), gender breakdown (as in NSGP) and top four RichPersonae (as in NSPS) from that geographic area.

NextStage GeoScope pulls data from the NextStage OnSite tool (so it’s pulling data from what’s really out there) and you don’t have to be a NextStage OnSite subscriber to use it. Also this is a tagless tool, meaning you don’t need to tag anything to use it.

We’ve been thinking about this tool for a while and some work I’ve been doing with an international design&marketing firm has solidified the idea and need for this tool. For those who’ve been following us for a while, it’s basically an extension/upgrade of our InFocus Reports. The image above is from an InFocus Report. NSGS will be similar.

NextStage BlueSky-Confidence Gauge

NSBC is the NextStage BlueSky Meter and the NSSA Confidence Gauge in a single reportNextStage BlueSky-Confidence Gauge (NSBC) – NSBC is literally the BlueSky Meter and NSSA’s Confidence Gauge in one tool. We’ve decided to combine these two functions into a separate tool based on the number of people who are using the NextStage Political Analyzer Tool (NSPA) simply to get a combined BS-Confidence result. I was explaining these two elements during a training, that some of the results were indicating “This person is extremely confident what they’re writing is BS”, “This person has absolutely no confidence in what they’re writing, hence they believe it is BS”, … and half the class’s eyes lit up, so a separate tool it’ll be.

NextStage Information Designer

NSID determines the best information layout for a given audience, product/service, delivery platform, output medium and outcome combinationThe last tool in this cycle is NextStage Information Designer (NSID). NSID is very similar to NextStage Ad Placement Tool (NSAD) in that it asks some 30 questions regarding the audience, offering, delivery platform, output medium (brochure, webpage, tri-fold, mobile, kiosk, flyer, …) and desired outcome and determines the best outer (“landing” in web terms) and inner information formats (“pages” in web terms) to use to maximize desired results. This is another tool we’ve been thinking about for a while and some recent work has solidified the necessity of it.

On the horizon:
NextStage Advertising Intelligence (NSAI) – The closest online tool to our full desktop TargetTrack tool (an old, out of date brochure can be seen here. TargetTrack will always be available as part of our consulting packages) we’re finishing up some of the equations, at which point Charles, our CTO, will have his folks turn it into working code.

Charles is also busily at work on an “OnSite Lite” that will only have the three most often used reports and be available at a fraction of the cost of our current OnSite tool (or so he tells me) and handle geometrically higher traffic volumes/site.

And that’s the news from Scotsburn and Nashua.

May it be a happy, busy and profitable Autumn for all of us.


During conversations yesterday I was reminded that NextStage had several free online tools that could easily be converted to our new store system. One of these, InFocus, is mentioned above as the precursor to NextStage GeoScope.

Some of these other tools will be rolled out in our store system over the coming months. Most will be pulling data from our OnSite system (currently monitoring visitor traffic in over 50 countries). Only data allowed by OnSite clients will be used in these tools. These tools will be tagless, meaning you won’t need to tag your site to use them.

These tools include:

  • NextStage Market Persona (NSMP) – NextStage Market Persona will offer a list of markets (travel, medical, educational, automotive, industrial, legal, … for example). Pick the market area of interest to you and NSMP will report the top RichPersonae (what NextStage PersonaScope reports) for that market. Knowing how the majority of people in a market think, make decisions and what motivates them should be useful when developing creative. We think so, anyway…
  • NextStage Predictive Echo (NSPE) – NextStage Predictive Echo is for clients who don’t want OnSite and still want to make use of NextStage’s Evolution Technology in their online efforts. NSPE reads through traffic logs, the web pages the traffic logs involve and determines how to improve site performance regarding messaging, goals, redesign, etc., are concerned.

There are other tools still on our shelves. We’re learning what tools make sense based on how current users are using the existing tool set. Interested folks can also contact us directly should you need a tool you can’t find elsewhere. Chances are we already have it, something quite close or can make it in record time.