Performance is an important indicator of any user experience. You can have the most amazing looking website, but with every second delay your visitor encounters during his/her visit to you website, you are unnecessarily and very directly risking your revenue stream.
Social Media mentions are not only a great way to interact with your audience, but also a great way for monitoring how your website’s performance is perceived. Like we haven proven before, poor performance can ruin the experience in more ways than one.
Trust me, you ain’t that special!
In the past, website visitors were kind enough to call you if they were experiencing frustrations online during a visitor to your website. These days, with the advent of Social Media, visitors often turn to their online social circles like Twitter and Facebook first, to complain there.
In a recent study, Dutch performance optimization experts at MeasureWorks, with the assistance of Social Media agency idr1, revealed that a staggering 4,8% of all travel tweets and (public) mentions on Facebook between January and May 2012 (totaling 225.000 mentions) were direct complaints about performance. The impact of it can be seen in the mentions. Loyal customers seeking out new vendors. Clicking to a competitors website is often easier and more efficient than waiting.
Kicking ’em when their down – Trending Topics
Everybody’s Online Service worst nightmare… Twitter’s Trending Topics. In January, Dutch banking conglomerate ING suffered a major outage. These issues quickly became a trending topic as Tweeps outed their frustrations about ING for not being able to perform any online banking tasks.
In the graph below you can see the ING’s website availability (blue line) and the number of Twitter mentions (green = positive / red= negative). The longer the duration of the performance issue, the more (and ever-increasing amount of) Twitter mentions were detected which directly affects customer loyalty. With finance, this effect can be even more extreme since you are preventing your own customers to gain access to their money.
Impact of availability on social sentiment
With the ING example above, don’t forget that reputable research agencies such as Ovum and Forrester report that only 16% of all users will complain online. Social sentiment therefore becomes a crucial barometer, so to speak, to quantify the effects of performance (or other issues) on the online experience of your (potential) customers. If you want to know what to do to prevent this, or find out what really matters to them, then simply stop what you are doing and listen. They will tell you, sometime in the most detailed way, what went wrong, where it went wrong and what effect it had on them.
Come on, admit it… No one likes being told ‘your website sucks’, but after opening yourself to this free form of feedback you could eventually learn to appreciate it. Alright, the data might not always be as statistically significant as web analytics can be, but it can help you to focus or be directed to the issues at hand. Here are two points you should and can start focusing on:
- Measure the performance from an end user’s point of view. End user, end user? You know what I mean… your visitors. Performance is an experience, not necessarily a hard statistic that you can drive on. Remember that your website is not complete until the very last element has finished loading. These are the elements that you can steer and this includes, strangely enough, 3rd party elements, too. Yes, you read it right, because what we seem to forget is that we put 3rd party elements on a site, so we can also take them off, and this includes anything from social media buttons to web analytics. Therefore, always measure performance in the same way that your users use your websites. Match the settings of their devices and connections, mobile or desktop, hardline internet connection or a mobile connection and then set out to find what you website really feels like.
- Don’t underestimate social sentiment. We should never neglect quantifiable data such as web performance and availability data, but we need to start raising awareness, and I am hoping that you will help us in this cause, that what the users say on accessible platforms such as social media, can really be beneficial to us. The amount of feedback you can collect and analyze from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, forums and blog are enormous. Don’t forget, “what’ is being sad is important, but ‘how’ it is being said might be even more important for interpretation.
Volume & Time
Data Volume isn’t everything…. what you actually should be focussing on is sentiment, more specifically sentiment in a given moment in time. Even on a daily basis I experience web performance problems when I am with clients, but these are just (often) incidents that occur at certain times. Although huge variations in volume, ie. traffic spikes, can be the first signal of performance issues such as page load times and heaven forbid ‘downtime’, time will indicate when it happened. Looking through social media mentions can help pinpoint problem periods and impact.
Problem periods can help you fence of a moment in the day that your website was possibly experience problems. Use the time to locate the problem. Use sentiment albeit neutral, negative or downright contempt to figure out what the effects were on conversion and loyalty. By constantly monitoring the volume, sentiment and time elements you can think about preventing performance issues in the future during predictable peak times.
To illustratie this idea, let’s look at Soundclound, an online music service. In Soundcloud, listeners can comment on certain moments during the song, letting them share sentiment for others to watch. Now if we replace the music timeline with a performance trendline, we can create an overview of how performance impacts engagement over time. (note: to fully understand what sentiment is you will have to perform qualitative research of the social mention to understand what is negative, neutral or positive).
What’s the business impact?
Registering social media mentions and sentiment per hour, per day, that’s clear. Then what? To be able to take proper action you need a clear understanding of the business impact of performance issues. An example:
- How many visitors are experiencing this problem?
- What impact is this problem having on my (expected) conversion rate or other KPI’s?
- What is it costing me in revenue? <- my personal favorite, this will guarantee you the attention the issue needs!
In just a few simple steps you will be able to determine if your website’s performance is up to par:
- What are my performance KPI’s? Google.com loads within half a second, but within 250 milliseconds the logo and search input field are already visible. This level of performance focusses on ‘instant satisfaction’ and is a performance KPI for them. For Twitter ‘time to first tweet’ is a performance KPI. How long does it take for the first tweet in your timeline to be visible? Every company has a ‘instant satisfaction’ element on their website that they can turn into a KPI. What’s yours?
- It’s about repetition. Tracking performance, how your website is experience by the visitor, is not a one-off thing. Checking it randomly won’t give you the right insights into the effects on the visitor. Performance tracking needs to be a continuous process (trends) across multiple pages (paths). Track at a minimum your ‘Red Route’, the pages that contribute the most to your revenue stream such as the homepage, product pages and purchase funnels. A visit is very rarely just 1 page, but a series of pages that form the experience. The experience needs to be flowing, just 1 single lagging page can break the user’s flow and distract him from his objective.
- Conversion Analysis. Correlate performance data with web analytics data, such as conversion rates, bounce rates and time on site. Find out what the tolerance level is, how long is you visitor willing to wait for a page to load before they give up. Analysis should tell you this. Analysis should tell you if you are walking a thin line and at risk of losing revenue. Make sure that doesn’t happen!
Net Performance Score
Ask a random selection of visitors a simple question:
“Would you recommend this website to you family and friends based on its performance?”
Would they all say ‘yes’? If you monitor social media for mentions about you, your website, your brand, then the answer should be no surprise. By simply listening to your customers, hearing what they have to say about their experience with you, and by correlating this to tracked performance data it should be easy to conclude the business impact and help you to prioritize optimization opportunities immediately. Take the time and do the effort to improve the user experience, because if you don’t, someone else will.
[alert color=blue title=”Translated Version” align=center]The original post was written in Dutch by Jeroen Tjepkema of MeasureWorks, with support of idr1, and posted on the Dutch ecommerce website Emerce on June 21st, 2012 (link). The post has been translated and republished here with the permission of the author.[/alert]