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Another example of good use of video in online communities

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The Co-operative has a long history of building sustainable consumer engagement in the UK. Long before Tesco or Sainsbury had loyalty cards in the UK, I remember at home as a child collecting stamps every time we did our weekly grocery shopping, and when the book was filled we could claim money off. At that stage my parents could also have had a say in the way the local branch was run - suggesting ideas and voting on ones to carry through to action. A real example of engagement on a local level.

Of course nowadays, engagement like this can be done on a much broader level and impact the business much more fundamentally than just the local store level. Working with online communities and leveraging the benefits of social media, brands can engage people more deeply. This is what the Co-operative Bank is aiming to do with its new blog, GoodWithMoney.

GoodWithMoney is a recent launch, with only a few days of posts. It is covering the bank’s efforts in micro-financing and the only posts that exist at the moment cover a current trip to visit organisations and businesses they are supporting in Bosnia. I have lots of questions about this blog (do they intend to keep it running or is it just a short term CSR or PR effort, how often will they update, is it designed to engage customers on an ongoing basis, how will they encourage interaction), but there is one thing I love already: their use of video.

We’ve written before about how powerful video can be in an online community, and how we work a lot with video in online communities we build at FreshNetworks. But the GoodWithMoney site is a really good case in point. Each blog post includes a relatively short paragraph or two updating us on what they have been doing, but it is the videos where things really come to life. A subject like micro-financing can be difficult to understand, what brings it to life are the real stories of real people. Video is a much more engaging way of conveying these types of stories. People come to life and feel more real. If one of the aims of online communities is to build a real connection between brand and consumer, then video is a great way of achieving this.

Video’s also great if it can be shared - it let’s you get your message out on other sites and bring people back into the community. As I’m doing right now…


Dina - Diary owner helped by microfinance from CFS on Vimeo.

  • WeAreMedia Module 5: Social Networks (and widgets) for Community Building, Taking Action and/or Fundraising
  • Some Q&A; on virtual private communities
  • When pictures speak a thousand words

Does Google have the answer to measuring ROI in social media?

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We’ve written in the past about how to measure ROI in online communities. It’s a subject we return to often with our clients at FreshNetworks. The online communities that we build for them all tie into over-riding business aims, and so measuring the impact is important. We can, of course, measure specific insights that they get from the community, the benefit of  the qualitative information internally, the benefit that support communities have or any uplift in sales from the community. But there is a holy grail in online communities and indeed across social media - measuring ROI at a granular level; identifying influential members, recognising that these may not be those who post most.

In previous posts, I’ve suggested that what we need to do is develop a weighting that could be applied to individual members showing how important and influential they are. An analysis of the quality (not quantity) of their connections and of their connections’ own connections. A difficult and time-consuming task. And one that Google may have solved.

The latest edition of Business Week reports that Google has a patent pending on technology that measures influence in social networks. It apparently measures both the direct influence people have in terms of volume of connections, but also how successful your posts and feeds depending on how many people open, read and forward them.

The new technology could track not just how many friends you have on Facebook but how many friends your friends have. Well-connected chums make you particularly influential. The tracking system also would follow how frequently people post things on each other’s sites. It could even rate how successful somebody is in getting friends to read a news story or watch a video clip, according to people familiar with the patent filing.

It will be intriguing to see how this technology develops and what Google use it for. The measurement of influence online is of critical importance to brands, marketers and advertisers alike. Brands want to know how influential people who talk about their brand are, or how influential the people in their online community are. Marketers want to find these influential people and focus on what they are saying and what brands are saying to them. Advertisers can use this information to help target ads across social networks.

Of course, there must also be a benefit for Google. Given that their attempts at running their own social networks have not had the same success in sheer numbers as the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Hi5, Google is looking for other opportunities to capitalise upon this growing trend. They’re doing what they’ve done to the web - they don’t provide all the content they just offer a great way to search and prioritise it. So Google could become the Google of social media.

Social media diary- British Airways

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Today we’re kicking off a regular post updating you every Friday on the latest news on how brands and businesses are using social media: our weekly brands and social media diary. We kick-off this week with British Airways.

British Airways launches online community

This week saw the pre-launch of a British Airways online community: Metrotwin. The site is invite-only at the moment, but you can add yourself to the list on the homepage and contact them through Twitter @Metrotwin.

The idea of the site is to take the concept of ‘town twinning’ to the very local level, providing recommendations on restaurants, events, shops, bars and other things in neighbourhoods across both cities. The benefit for BA is obvious, as Chris Davies, their Digital Marketing Manager states:

We fly more people between London and New York than anyone else. Creating a community website about the best of what’s on offer in the two cities we know best is a credible and useful tool.

From the press-releases and coverage so far the site is designed to help people navigate the range of recommendations and reviews on the web to help members of the community find the best things quickly. The site lets users review and rate recommendations, create their own profile and find ‘twins’. They can also follow other members’ recommendations. The features seem designed to foster a community that combines expert and user reviews and uses co-creation to source the best recommendations in both cities.

The benefits for BA are clear. In an increasingly challenging market, airlines need to retain their most profitable customers. And the business travel route between London and New York must be one of the most profitable routes out there. There is a clear gap in the market online for detailed peer-review sites specifically aimed at people making business trips to these cities. So if they get it right, I suspect this site will work.

So what can we learn from this?

The air industry is facing difficult times, the increasing price of oil and the Open Skies agreement are both hitting transatlantic carriers - increasing costs and increasing competition. What BA are doing here is something that all brands could learn from during difficult times. Their aim is to increase customer retention and their approach is to make their engagement with them sustainable. Rather than them being customers who buy individual experiences with BA (single flights), they want to create an ongoing experience.

At FreshNetworks we are working with a number of clients in the travel industry at the moment, and the aim in each of these is to create and provide a service that truly extends the experience beyond just individual trips. When designing and building online communities, it is important to work on what both the brand wants from the community, but also why a member would take part and what they want to do there. With Metrotwin, BA are providing a real service to their customers, and this should be central to any social media strategy a brand follows.

Read all our Social Media Diary entries

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  • BA Metrotwin first impressions - inside the British Airways London-New York new social network

Social media is now mainstream - 25m US adults base purchase decisions on it

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Two pieces of research out this week highlight the fact that social media is truly entering the mainstream. The Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2008 report shows that three-quarters of active Internet users globally read blogs, and 184 million people have set up a blog. If the blogosphere were a country, it would be the sixth biggest in the world, just smaller than Brazil.

Then today came research from MarketTools showing that 70% of US adults visit blogs, social networks, online communities or other social media. And 42% report that their use of these sites and tools has increased in the last six months.

Both of these reports show that social media is more and more forming a part of people’s lives. With three quarters of global Internet users, and 70% of all US adults visiting social media sites it truly now is the mainstream.

What is interesting is to delve a little deeper in the MarketTools report and to understand why people are using sites like this. When we build online communities for clients, we spend a lot of time understand why the potential communities members would interact, what they like to do online and how this matches with our, and our client’s aims for the online community. The MarketTools research adds to our overall understanding here.

A third of respondents said that they use social media for product research, a telling statistic. With increasing numbers of brands integrating a social layer into their online presence it is reassuring to hear that almost one in four US adults uses social media to help decide what they will buy. And almost half of those who did use social media in this way said that it had a direct impact on the purchase decision.

So we are looking at an online environment where use of social media really has reached the mainstream. 70% of US adults visit social media sites. A third of these (so 23% of all US adults) research products online and 47% of these (11% of all US adults) say this directly impacts decision making. That’s about 25 million adults in the US making their purchase decisions on the basis of social media.

These statistics show that, for the US at least, social media is mainstream and something that all brands need to be making the most of. It would be interesting to see the same statistics repeated for Europe so that we can start to put a figure on the size of the opportunity for brands here. Our anecdotal evidence of working with brands across Europe at FreshNetworks suggests that the figures may not be far behind those in the US.

  • Blog growth slows; more bloggers are bringing home the bacon
  • Technorati Releases State of the Blogosphere 2008 Report
  • Most Bloggers Want to Make Money on their Blog - Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2008: What and Why of Blogging
  • Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere Report - 2008
  • Confirmed: The blogosphere is mainstream
  • Some Q&A; on virtual private communities
  • Nearly 70% of Online Adults Use Social Media, Often Research Products
  • 68% of Online Americans Visit Communities, Blogs, Social Networks… What Do The Rest Do?

FreshNetworks wins £5m funding - coverage

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We’re back to work this week after the excitement of our parent, FreshMinds, being crowned London winners of the £35 Million Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Corporate Challenge, a title which brings with it up to £5m in funding for FreshNetworks. There has been some coverage over the weekend of our win, including an article in the Sunday Times yesterday.

Nick Wheeler, founder and managing director of Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, was one of the judges and said some nice things about us:

When you read about the business it’s easy to think FreshNetworks is just another media business, but when they came in to tell us about it we knew they would be a huge success [...] It was clear they had spotted a great opportunity.

And James Farrar from Bank of Scotland, the people providing the funding, also gave us their backing:

Their passion immediately came across. Their belief that they will deliver gave us confidence in backing them.

If you want to see more coverage follow the links below (latest first):

  • FreshMinds named London’s top start-up, Management Today
  • Research: Funding of up to £5 million for this winner - FreshMinds, the Marketing Blog
  • FreshNetworks wins £5m funding in Entrepreneur Challenge, e-consultancy
  • Online venture FreshMinds wins £5m of funding for founders, Sunday Times
  • FreshMinds Wins London Entrepreneurial Crown, Market Research News
  • FreshMinds wins £5m investment prize, Research-Live
  • Photos and a video of the awards, Bank of Scotland
  • Capital talents in the spotlight: The London regional finalists, Sunday Times