Archive for October 2009

Three reasons Twitter Lists are great (and two areas for improvement)

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Day4
Image by Selaphoto via Flickr

It would seem that this week Twitter has been releasing Lists to everybody. A lot has been written about this move and the differences it makes to Twitter and the way people will use it. For me, it makes a significant difference to the way users will use Twitter. It allows you to segment the people who are interested in on Twitter and group people who write about similar things or that you know for similar reasons or from similar places.

It will be interesting to see how the embedding and adoption of Twitter Lists will change the way that people are using it. Will people stop following people and follow lists instead? Will people share lists with friends and colleagues? How will lists be used to support events and discussions.

There are lots of questions, but from just 24 hours of using Twitter Lists I have some personal observations - three reasons why they’re great and two areas where I’d love to see some improvement.

Three reasons Twitter Lists are great

  1. They let me keep up with people who Tweet less often. I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly added the people I meet, people I respect and people I enjoy listening to and I now have quite a few of them. One of the problems with Twitter is that it lists the latest Tweets from all my friends in chronological order. Those people who don’t Tweet that often therefore get swallowed up by the mass of people who do it more often. I can put together a Twitter List of friends, for example. And now actually see what they say even if they only Tweet a couple of times a day or even less.
  2. They let me group people who Tweet about similar things. One of the real benefits for me of Twitter is that I can follow people who are interested in similar things - people who run and work in Online Communities in London, for example. Twitter Lists allow me to create my own groups of people based on my own interests. I choose people that I think are similar and group them together. If I want to know what people working in online communities in London are thinking and saying, I now have a place to go to. Twitter Lists give the List creator significant control over what the list is for and who is on it. They are my lists that I can, if I choose, share with others.
  3. They let me keep some groups of people private from others. There are lots of reasons I might want to group people together and follow them on Twitter. I’m interested in Client-Side Social Media People, for example, and have grouped them together for me and if anybody else want to follow that list too then that’s great. Other lists I want just for me. A group of friends from University, for example, who I want to follow but don’t necessarily want to advertise or share with the rest of the world. The list will mean nothing to them and I might not want to advertise this list to everybody who follows me on Twitter. That I can control which Lists are private and which are public for all to see gives me, as the List creator, even more control.

Two areas where Lists could be improved

  1. Better search of my own ‘following’. Lists highlight a real problem with Twitter as a tool for organising people you follow. There is no real search just of people I follow in Twitter. I cannot find the people I follow who are in London, for example, or even everybody I follow called Matt. When I created my list of French Social Media People, for example, I knew that I already followed a whole bunch of people that I wanted to group together in this way. I just couldn’t find them easily. Even a simple search and filter function on the ‘Following’ page would have helped me to organise people more easily.
  2. Allow me to make my List collaborative. There are currently two types of List that I can create: private ones (such as a list of people I work with) and public ones (such as my list of people who say things that make me think). I’d like a third level: collaborative Lists. Some of my public lists I’d love other people to add to. This would help me - I would find new people because others would add them to my list. It would also help to mitigate against a proliferation of Lists which contain the same core of people with a few different and new people that an individual knows. Giving the List creator the power to make some, but not all, of their Lists collaborative would still give them significant control over what they create. They could just allow other people to help them.

The FreshNetworks guide to getting started in social media

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Roads At Night: It's Picking Up
Image by Cayusa via Flickr

Over the last ten days we have shared our thoughts on four steps any brand should do when they are getting started in social media. The aim is to give any brand who is looking to use social media (or indeed to use it better) a framework to work through, some ideas and also a lot of questions and decisions that will need to be made. As I say in a recent article in the Independent: “The biggest mistakes companies make, are implementing a tool-based, as opposed to people-based, strategy”.

The four posts in the guide are below. Many of these posts raise as many questions as they offer answers and getting your use of social media right is not easy. But they should provide a useful framework for any brand looking to get started in social media. And if you need some help with this you can always give us a call!

The FreshNetworks Guide to Getting Started in Social Media

  • Part One:  Do you know what people are saying about you? Buzz tracking, social media monitoring, the power of understanding who is talking about you where and why, and some great free tools for any brand to use
  • Part Two: What do you want to achieve? Working out your brand’s aims and objectives (and making these measurable) is the single most important factor in a successful social media strategy. Do this before you think about technology.
  • Part Three: Have a go and experiment with social media Once you have clear objectives that are measurable it’s time to get going. Try things out and experiment, but make sure you do them where you know you will have the greatest chance of achieving these aims and engaging the people you want to engage.
  • Part Four: Track and evaluate the success you are having When you are using social media tools it is essential that you are measuring and tracking your performance against these aims. Measurement is critical and assessing the benefit you are having will help you to refine and improve your strategy overall.

Getting started 4: Track and evaluate the success you are having

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Curly measuring tape
Image by Marco D via Flickr

For any brand getting started in social media, the most important thing is to be able to show the impact you are having. To be able to evaluate and assess what is working and what isn’t having the results that you might expect. To show the return on investment that your efforts are having and how this compares to other methods.

There is a lot of talk about social media measurement and it is true that in isolation it is difficult to know where to start. But for businesses with a clear social media strategy, it is actually much easier than many people think. We stressed earlier in this guide to Getting Started in Social Media the importance of thinking about the reasons you are using social media before you jump in to use any tools or to engage people. We talked though a process to define clear and measurable business objectives and aims for your use of social media. It is important that you make these both clear and measurable. Typical objectives that a brand might consider include - acquisition of new customers, retention of existing ones, number of new insights or ideas into the business, or number of customer problems solved. These are just some of the objectives that brands may have for using online communities and social media, and all of them are measurable. At the simplest level they either save money for a brand or they generate revenue.

In the online communities that we manage at FreshNetworks a lot of time is spent defining the objectives and then working out first what metrics should be measured against these, and then monitoring and reporting on these to make sure we understand how the community is performing. It is important to establish a set of metrics that you can measure to assess how you are performing against your aims. In many cases you will want to measure a mix of things for each aim, but overall you should be able to show and prove what impact you are having.

Example: If you want to use social media as an efficient way of resolving customer queries, for example, you probably want to measure the number of unique customer problems you have on the site, the number of problems that are solved by other members of the community. You can then put an equivalent cost that it would have taken to service these queries through other channels and measure the actual reduction in, for example, call centre costs that you witness over time. This is what Dell did, and this is how Dell managed to work out that one member of its customer support community saved them $1m a year in support costs. That’s real ROI.

So the final stage to getting started in social media is to make sure you are ruthless about measuring what you are doing. It’s the only way you will know what works (and what doesn’t) and prove the impact you are having with social media. To do this you need to have clear objectives and these need to be measurable. Then you can measure the actual impact you are having on business aims. The actual benefit your social media strategy is bringing to your brand.

You can read the full guide here: Getting Started in Social Media

Getting started 3: Have a go and experiment with social media

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Have a Bite
Image by basheertome via Flickr

There are too many stories of brands having tried and failed to use social media effectively. It may have been a disaster or, more usually, just not have had the impact and return on investment for the brand as it might have had. The most effective way to avoid this is to make sure that when you are getting started in social media you have done some effective planning first. Listen to what people are saying about your brand in social media so that you know what people are saying about you and where they are saying it. Then think about what you want to achieve with your social media strategy. Only by doing this will you be able to develop a clear and focused plan and, perhaps most importantly, measure the benefit your social media efforts are having.

Once you’ve got a clear plan it’s time to start thinking about technology and tools that you can use, and most importantly to start experimenting. This is where it gets fun.

When you are working out how to use social media tools, which to experiment with and how there are four main things to think about to help you get going:

  1. Use your buzz tracking to understand where people are talking about you. Compare this with the people you want to engage in social media, those who will help you meet your aims. This will give you an understanding of where the people you want to engage and the conversations you want to join are. This obviously only gives you half the story as you may also want to engage people in a new place or in your own space online.
  2. Decide which of these tools will help you to meet the aims you have set out. If you want to capture potential new customers, for example, using Twitter or Facebook may not be the most useful tool as these will not give you the contact details you probably want. If you want ideas into your business, there may be better ways of doing it than a forum or blog. Think carefully about what you want to achieve and the full range of tools available to you.
  3. Get cracking. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and planning so far. Now it’s time to just try some things out. One of the benefits of social media is that it can be relatively low cost to experiment. Start small and try a few tools. If you need blog then put one up quickly and invest time in getting it creating content and encouraging and growing engagement. Experiment with a small number of tools and evaluate how effective these are being, switching on more tools over time.
  4. Work hard to get the engagement. Getting the tools up and running are really just the first step. The tough work starts when you start to engage people in social media, whether that’s in Facebook, on Twitter, in blogs, forums and other sites or indeed on your own online community. Engagement is hard and it needs a clear plan and dedication to make it work. The benefit of experimenting and having a go with different tools, and growing your use of social media in a controlled way is that you can see what is working, amend your techniques and try new things. If you have the right measurements in place you will know if you’re reaching your targets and if not you need to evaluate if you are using the right tools and if you are engaging people in the right way.

Once you have tools up and running the final stage for any brand getting started in social media is to make sure you are tracking and measuring your success. That’s what we will look at in the final post in this series.

You can read the full guide here: Getting Started in Social Media

Live TV and real-time chat: X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing

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The End Of Telly-
Image by l-b-p-2010 via Flickr

Watching TV is almost always a social experience.  We talk to the people in the room with us. We talk to our friends on the phone, by instant messenger or on Facebook. We talk to people with similar interests in forums and chat rooms. Some of us even just shout at the TV on our own. However we do it, TV often makes us want to talk, share opinions and express ourselves. And some TV programmes make us want to do this more than others.

This week in the UK we saw one TV programme that drove many of us to chat in online communities and social media during the show. Thursday’s Question Time on the BBC featured the leader of the British National Party, saw a record number of viewers and reportedly 12.5 Tweets every second about what people were watching on their screens. Tonight we have two shows which typically attract and a much greater volume of discussions in chat rooms, forums and social media: the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.

The discussions and chat that accompanied these shows have been on other sites and using other tools. Tonight, for the first time, both shows have incorporated chat and social media functions into their own sites. This is a significant step for TV broadcasting in the UK. Consumer patterns have changed. We no longer watch a programme with friends and relatives and then discuss it with others the next day or read reviews in newspapers. We discuss and share our opinions in real-time through social media. The discussions and chats that accompany the show are, for the viewers, an integral part of the experience. By integrating chat and social functions into their sites, the broadcasters are hoping to recapture the viewers’ attention and give them the full experience they want.

Strictly Social

Of the two shows, the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing offers a richer experience. Their Strictly Social site allows you to watch the show via BBC iPlayer and chat in real time with viewers alongside the screen. If you don’t want to join the discussions (as many people won’t), you can express your opinions by ‘reacting’ - clicking on ‘wow’, ‘boo’ or ‘gasp’ and seeing the word gain more prominence on screen. You can also guess what votes the judges will give the acts and vote in polls.

The Strictly Social site is clearly designed to appeal to a wide range of Strictly Come Dancing viewers. Both to provide a space for those who want to chat during the live show to do this alongside the show itself. And also to provide tools for other viewers to get engaged. It will be interesting to see how popular these other tools are and how many people use the site this week and in coming weeks. There is much talk that this is the future for the BBC’s website - providing a richer experience for the viewer by combining activities and tools they can use online during the show. The Strictly Social site could be the start of a shift in the BBC’s integration of broadcast and social medias.

X Factor Chat

The X Factor has a simpler site with ITV’s X Factor Chat. The chat site does not sit alongside an online broadcast of the show itself and instead relies on people sitting in front of a TV with their computer. Something we know many people do anyway. On the site, viewers can chat about what they are seeing and this chat is punctuated with polls, controlled by the moderator.

The site replicates more closely the experience viewers would have using tools on other sites. A real-time chat function that allows people to discuss and debate what they see on screen. The difference is that being on the ITV site gives this chat more credence. The role of the moderator should be critical here - being the official online host of the X Factor and letting the viewers and chatters feel that they are getting exclusive access and exclusive discussions.

Overall it will be interesting to see which format is most successful for the broadcasters. Which manages to engage people and, perhaps most critically, keep them viewing the show throughout the show this week, next week and for the rest of their respective runs. TV viewers have always been social creatures. For many this has involved the use of social media, online communities and other tools. Tonight the BBC and ITV caught up with them.