Archive for September 2009

Crowdsourcing the winning National Lottery numbers

Image by seyahmas via Flickr

Last Wednesday, illusionist, Derren Brown, correctly predicted the winning number in the National Lottery live on air. Quite a feat. But one he achieved with 100% accuracy.

Between the Wednesday live prediction and the Friday explanation, social media sites were awash with theories and conspiracies explaining what had happened. From discussions on Twitter to videos on YouTube. Most of these suggested a slight-of-hand or other such trick. The real answer was much more interesting. Brown cited ‘crowdsourcing’ as the magic behind his impressive prediction.

The explanation was actually quite simple, at least on face value. He got 24 people to collectively predict the numbers using crowdsourcing, The Wisdom of Crowds.  The theory that together people can more accurately resolve a problem or reach a decision when working as a group than when operating alone. Whether you believe this explanation or not (and there are certainly those who are sceptics), the use of crowdsourcing in this mass-media entertainment show highlights the widespread understanding and acceptance of this tool.

We’ve written before about the power of co-creation for businesses and how working with your customers to crowdsource new products and ideas for your organisation can produce better ideas and better products than you might have developed internally. From creating t-shirts (in the case of Threadless), encyclopedias (in the case of Wikipedia) or maps (in the case of OpenStreetMap), using crowds to solve problems has proven to be very successful. In a business-environment it can be incredibly effective.

The most intelligent people probably don’t work in your firm, and so if you can find them and let them work  with you to solve a problem you will often get the kind of innovation that you just can’t get internally. This is where online communities such as Innocentive come to the fore. They allow companies to ask the community to solve a specific problem or issue and reward them (in this case financially). Community product design is used in such cases to provide extra support and input either when internal resources don’t have  the time or the ability to solve the problem.

So whether Derren Brown’s crowdsourcing explanation holds water or not, it is clear that  there is a lot you can do when you get people to work together in a community to solve a problem.

If you missed the show, then you can watch it (at least in the UK) on 4OD.

The challenges for FMCG brands in social media marketing

Shopping trolleys
Image by Rd. Vortex via Flickr

FMCG brands are often some of the most innovative in their use of digital and social media but this great presentation from Helge Tennø shows the importance of staying ahead of the market. And of continuing to innovate what you are doing, to avoid becoming what he calls a Big Lazy Brand.

His presentation outlines five ways to market FMCG brands in social media:

  1. Use your marketing activities to impact how consumers feel about your brand, not just what they know about it
  2. Build direct connections with consumers, rather than letter retailers have this connection. Engage them and have a dialogue
  3. Use your marketing  activities to be part of their life, from home to the office to the store where they finally make a purchase
  4. Remember that in social media it is about them and not just about you. This isn’t the place for a one-way conversation or for just telling them things. Ask questions and get ideas
  5. Don’t confuse social media with media, the two things are different and need different strategies and approaches

Tennø’s presentation reflects well on the need for brands to move from just thinking about campaigns in social media, to thinking about ways in which they can use it to engage consumers in a sustained manner. For FMCG firms, who often have little direct contact with their consumers, this is of critical importance. Viral videos and buzz can be great, but too often it can leave users remembering the video or the game, but not remembering the brand. Engagement, on an ongoing basis, sees greater return for the brand and is a more effective use of social media marketing.

The presentation is Required Reading this week at FreshNetworks for its great thinking and the number of case studies and examples that it uses. It also highlights what we think of as an over-riding consideration for social media marketing: Digital is not a silo, it needs to integrate with other online and offline activities.

This is not the time for Big Lazy Brands
View more documents from Helge Tennø.

What to do once your firm’s social media policy is written

Image by Crystl via Flickr

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about how to write your firm’s social media policy. How it was important, first and foremost, for firms to have a social media policy. And  that it is best to involve employees throughout the process of developing and implementing it.

For any firm, a social media policy is sensible. Your employees are already all using social media, they are talking to each other on their, they  might say who they work for, they are giving advice to friends and maybe to customers. Having a vibrant and active set of employees online is great for any firm, but a simple set of guidelines helps both the brand and also the employees.

But once you have your social media policy written, that’s not the end of the story. It should be a living document, and critically one that your employees buy into an believe in. You want use of social media to become part of your employees lives. And you want your brand to benefit from this involvement, from having employees active in social media and from having conversations about them, you and your brand. So writing a policy is just the first step. Below are four steps to help ensure that, once you have it written, your firm’s social media strategy stays relevant and beneficial to your organisation.

1. Make it a visible, shareable document

The main purpose of any social media strategy should be to encourage employees to use social media, to help them do this, and to help them do it in a way that protects them and the brand they work for. As such it isn’t so much a static policy to be filed away somewhere; rather, it should be a living document that is easy for people to find, read and make suggestions for.

2. Have an internal social media champion

Have an internal social media champion in your firm. Or have many. They should be the first port of call for people  if they have a query about what they should, or shouldn’t be doing. They should make sure people know about the policy and help others to understand it. But, perhaps more importantly, they should be be encouraging  people to use social media, to try new things and to innovate. It’s important for your firm to stay abreast of changes in social media, and  to make sure you have a serious and committed presence online. Your employees are your best representatives; get them out there.

3. Talk about social media success

Social media shouldn’t be an add-on; it should be part of what you do. Maybe it helps you to solve customers’ problems more quickly, maybe there’s been a great conversation about your brand, or maybe somebody just had a great idea that you found out about. Make sure you are taking every opportunity to champion success stories and people in your firm using social media well. Talk about it often to reinforce how important it is and to encourage people to try new things.

4. Keep things moving

The worst thing that can happen to your social media policy is that it becomes out-of-date. And as social media and our use of it online is changing so rapidly, this is a real danger. So make sure you keep things moving, work with your champions to keep abreast of what people are doing, and where they are doing it. Allow employees to comment on and make suggestions for your policy. But, perhaps most important, is to make sure your policy is written about behaviours and not specific social media tools. We may all be talking about Twitter  right now, but soon it will be something else.

Russian social network plans global roll-out

VKontakteWe’ve written before about the size of the Russian social networking market, and the fact that Russia has the world’s most engaged social network users. And this weekend it was reported that one of the largest, Russian-language, social networks might be plotting an international roll-out.

VKontakte (В контакте) has some 42 million registered users in Russian-speaking countries. It is perhaps best known outside of Russia for its user interface and design, which resembles in a number of ways it’s international competitor Facebook. However, in Russia serves 1.4 billion page views each day to its 42 million users, and attracts 14 million unique visitors each month. In one of the most engaged and fastest-growing social networking markets in the world, it is a force to be reckoned with.

This weekend Vedomosti (Ведомости), the Russian business newspaper, reported that VKontakte has registered the domain and plans to begin marketing the social network globally later this year. As the article reports:

According to Lev Leviev, the Executive Director of VKontakte,  the company intends to expand abroad and, by October of this year, will have launched in 12 new languages.*

It will certainly be interesting to see if these rumours are true and where VKontakte plans to expand. The Russian social networking marketing has grown rapidly and more recently than the US and other European marketing. The company already competes with Facebook in Poland, the Ukraine and some other Eastern European markets, as well as in its native Russian, and it will be interesting to see where it expands. It perhaps would be better placed to compete in other markets that are growing rapidly - parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and in South America, rather than to take Facebook on in its core global markets. These are where it could perhaps have greatest influence and these markets better reflect VKontakte’s experience and development in Russia.

What is certain is that the social media and social network tools that exist will continue to grow and develop. We’ve seen the remarkable growth of Twitter throughout 2009, with many say it is challenging Facebook in some areas and even Google in others. As our use of social media grows, and user expectations develop and deepen, there will always be a place for new players, offering something different in the marketplace. If the rumours of VKontakte’s planned international roll-out are true, this may be the first of many players hoping to join the bigger social network players.

* Note that the translation from the original Russian is my own

Ratings & reviews are the new advertising

Image courtesy of shutterstock

Image courtesy of shutterstock

In a world of perfect information, why should anyone trust adverts?

If you can uncover the experiences of real buyers before you make a purchase, then it would be crazy to ignore them.

That’s why ratings and reviews have become the no-brainer of social media for retailers. And it’s also why they are a key element in the social media strategy of other brands and companies.

I’ve just been reading the most recent report by TrendWatching (the same people who create the excellent Springwise newsletter) and it’s focussed on the rise of reviews and their displacement of the power of advertising. There’s little especially new in the report, but it has a few good reminders of the importance and power of this trend and a couple of points towards the future:

  • 70% of online consumers trust opinions posted online [Neilsen]
  • For the generation growing up with the web “reviewing will be a way of life forever
  • Real time reviews will grow in importance (Twitter and Google’s new search point to that)
  • Reviewers like me - it will become easier to find people whose opinions are likely to match your own

And there was also a healthy wake-up call for those who are anxious of allowing review for fear of negativity: “bad reviews are not the problem, but a symptom”. If people are saying negative things, you probably need to listen, or your business will suffer.

Another reason not to worry about bad reviews is that most people are generous reviewers.  See this previous post for more on Why Reviews Lie.

If you need help implementing ratings and reviews on your site, then do get in touch with FreshNetworks. Ratings and reviews are just one of the many social media tools in our software platform.