It's been sometime since my last blog entry. Apologies, but I have a good reason: I launched my beta website doclens.com. It's now a couple of months on and time to communicate what the experience has been like.
First off, what is doclens?
Our mission is to make data driven narratives by discovering insights from reports and articles.We do this by:
- Using the online research and opinion published by thought leaders such as consultancies, think tanks and academic experts. We estimate 50,000 – 100,000 items are published annually in our beta target market of analytics and big data people in the financial services industry. We automatically monitor this research as it is published.
- Our DocLens platform automatically reads, understands and analyses this research and links it to profiles of the people and organisations involved.
- We then curate the information and publish the best 1% to our website – making it possible for you to keep up with best practices, be the most informed person in your organisation, and make smarter decisions. All in just minutes of your time.
We turn information overload into personal strategic advantage:
Doclens is a lean startup. We have 4 people involved - with only one currently working full-time on the venture. We are also self funded. So resources are incredibly tight, but as the lean movement has taught us, it is amazing what can be achieved.
So here is a summary of the first 8 weeks of Six Degrees of Data as a 'trading entity'.
The launch has been a success. Being a data scientist, I measure success against a set of short-term targets we agreed on prior to launching. These are:
- 100+ subscribers by the end of 2014
- 5,000 article reads within 8 weeks of launch
- Average visit time > 2.5 minutes.
I'm pleased to say that all 3 targets were exceeded.
What else can I say about the experience so far? Well here are some of the highlights, in no particular order of importance or time sequence:
- For 3 of the 8 weeks we conducted A/B tests using 4 social media networks to advertise, using a total of 14 different messages. Twitter has been the outstanding performer for us.
- That said, we have also been actively tweeting and posting about the content being published on doclens each day. Judging by the number of retweets, favourites, mentions and clicks we are getting, this is maybe even more effective than paid advertising. I'm not yet sure how I can test this in practice (given our resource and budget constraints).
- Our customers are of course central to everything we do and some of the organizations they represent are:
- There is no particular geographic concentration in our hundreds of users - at least nothing unusual that I can detect. The USA, Western Europe and Australia feature heavily, as does Scandinavia, New Zealand and Singapore. Our users come from over 80 countries now.
- 95% are data and analytics professionals. Good news as this is are target market.
So what hasn't gone well or smoothly? A few things, that's for sure:
- Social media advertising. LinkedIn, Google and Facebook have not performed well so far. Advertising on Twitter was about 5 times more effective than these other channels. I still don't know why although my 600+ followers on Twitter may be a factor. I need to run some more A/B tests to resolve this.
- Customer engagement. People just aren't commenting on the content we are posting. Perversly, they seem to love the content and we get lots of visits. Our most popular articles have now been read thousands of times each. The silence is puzzling and I will probably survey our customers soon to find out what is going on.
Longer-term (6 month) targets were also set and these are:
- 1,000+ subscribers
- 20,000 article reads
- Average visit time > 5 minutes
- CAC < 40 cents
- Launch of our analyse-your-own-document service.
CAC = Customer Acquisition Cost. In our case, the cost of advertising on social media.
So these are the basic measures we are using. They are useful to have and us help focus on the things that matter.
It has been a slog, with many, many hours expended. And many more to come. But it is fun, we are learning every day and I wouldn't be anywhere else at the moment. I'll let you know if this is still how I feel in about 20 weeks time.