Exploring “real-time” data at Other Media

We have a fascination for data at Other Media, whether it is sports results, getting more out of Google Analytics, lead generation or dashboards. We’re always looking for ways to help our clients identify patterns in their businesses and turn those patterns into actions that create value for themselves or their customers.

Four years ago we started a project called Brand Window. Like many digital agencies we wanted to reveal social media data to our clients so that could see how they were performing against competitors. We build some software and generated some interest but the stars were not aligned at the time and we shut the project down.

Good ideas don’t go away and we’ve kept experimenting behind the scenes pursuing a set of dashboard screens that would change the conversation within a marketing team and help them align their activities around impact; do more of the things that worked.

Our original software was a proof of concept but has had to be rewritten from the ground up to tackle some of data’s biggest problems; it’s messy, there is lots of it and much of it is real-time.

Our new approach to the problem is a dashboard we call JustNow and at the heart of JustNow is Google Analytics. By accessing GA through it’s API we are able to pull recent traffic data and by combining that with image and product data and applying our own proprietary “interestingness algorithms” we are starting to be able to surface data stories that clients are getting excited about that go beyond (or can be combined with) the social media listening screens that are common in marketing command and data-centres.

We’ve stuck to one of the guiding principles that lead our initial work with Brand Window which is to make our dashboards “ambient” rather than demand that a marketer watch them constantly. The ideal location for an “ambient dashboard” is above the water cooler so that conversations are encouraged by what is displayed.

We have five modules live and 3 more in development and they all run on a single large screen in carousel mode (or can be separated into multiple screens as part of a command centre). Our first real clients are using them now as we perfect the messaging and tweak the interfaces.

Each module has been build around a powerful user story that has helped us select the data, develop the algorithms and design the visualisation involved. For example “as a marketer I want to see if the content I am developing is driving visits to my site or store so that I get positive reinforcement of relevant content (beyond likes)”. Our algorithm monitors pages viewed and highlights not those that are most popular (which tends to remain fairly constant) but those which are “most interesting “; those whose activity exceeds expected levels.

The technical issues working with real-time data are significant and have required us to design around the asynchronous Node-JS messaging platform using periodic calling of relevant APIs.We investigated streaming APIs but the number and complexity of access became too great and so the current screens are built to demand data every 10-15 minutes and then replay that data to match the chosen time period.This is far more scalable for the sorts of service we want to provide while still providing sufficiently timely information to be useful to our clients.

Building around Google’s APIs is not without its risks as GA may change access permissions or data volumes at any time but once this use of data has been demonstrated within an organisation we will often have options to collect it directly through adding a simple additional tracking module to an ecommerce or publisher’s site. Indeed this will be worth doing anyway in the future for clients with specialist data needs.

We see JustNow as a great way for clients to explore the impact of live data with their teams. It also complements existing dashboards and analytics work rather than replacing them completely. Our goal is to get organisations talking about their digital activities more and sharing theories and opportunities across departments and functions. The initial responses we are getting suggest this is exactly what is starting to happen.

If you would like to see JustNow in action for your organisation or talk to us about how to get more from the live data from your digital activities then contact us.