Archive for April 2010

Social media and the rebirth of the storyteller

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John Steinbeck on Story telling...
Image by Jill Clardy via Flickr

In online communities it is the content that matters most. People talk to and with each other not because they know each other or are already connected. Rather, because they share a similar interest, question, concern, ambition, query, challenge or other issue. People engage with each other on content and not on connections. You can meet and share ideas with strangers because you are both interested in the subject.

I love stories and storytelling, and in this environment they are all important. From the short stories on Twitter and other micro blogs, to the stories you share with people on message boards or the longer stories you might post on a blog or in a discussion. Social media is about stories that people share with each other.

This great presentation from Jenni Lloyd at NixonMcInnes highlights the importance of storytelling and of the storyteller in social media. Showing the role that stories play in the discussions that happen in social media and why they are critical to any brand to understand and to harness if they want to make the most of what social media has to offer them.

“From relevance to resonance - the rebirth of the storyteller” / Jenni Lloyd @ NixonMcInnes / April 2010
View more presentations from Jenni Lloyd.

The impact of word-of-mouth marketing: a McKinsey report

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word-of-mouthWe’ve been extolling the virtues of word-of-mouth marketing over big-budget advertising for some time now, and when a firm of consultants like McKinsey start doing the same thing it really feels like our message is hitting home.

A recent article in McKinsey Quarterly looked at the impact of word-of-mouth-marketing for businesses and how companies can take better advantage of buzz.

The article shows how many marketers are spending millions of dollars on elaborate advertising campaigns when often what’s really needed to help influence consumers is a  “word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source” which “cuts through the noise” of traditional marketing methods.

This is nothing new to us here at FreshNetworks. We’ve always said that online communities and social networks amplify word-of-mouth and that the right message can resonate and expand, affecting brand perceptions and increasing sales. But what is interesting is the way the article looks at at the impact of word-of-mouth marketing - or, what McKinsey term, “word-of-mouth equity”.

Word-of-mouth equity is a brand’s power to generate messages that influence the consumer’s decision to purchase. In essence, this is the average sales impact of a brand message multiplied by the number of word-of-mouth messages.

When assessing the impact of word-of-mouth marketing the following factors need to be taken into account:

1. What’s being said

In order to influence consumer decisions a successful word-of-mouth message should address important products or service features. (While marketers tend to build campaigns around emotional positioning, consumers actually tend to talk—and generate buzz—about functional messages).

2. The identity of the person who sends the message

The word-of-mouth receiver must trust the sender and believe that they really know the product or service in question. Otherwise that message will not trusted or spread any further.

3. The environment where the message is circulated.

Messages passed within tight, trusted networks have less reach but a greater impact than those circulated through dispersed communities (Think about the difference in hearing an opinion from someone you know and trust, to someone you’ve just met on the street), so there’s usually a high correlation between people whose opinions are trusted and the members of networks that are most valued.

If businesses take these key driving forces into account when pursuing excellence in word-of-mouth marketing, the potential benefits are huge. Yet many marketers avoid actively using word-of-mouth as it’s seen as an immature and somewhat unsophisticated approach to marketing.

As a starting point, marketers should look at word-of-mouth through social media. Social media monitoring can be used to track how the message is being spread online as well as the impact it is having on your brand or business. Marketers should also engage in social networks and online communities where they can help guide and stimulate word-of-mouth by interacting with customers and people who are interested in their business or services.  Any negativity or derogatory comments can be addressed and managed in an appropriate and timely manner and, more importantly, any good comments and recommendations will be broadcast to the entire online universe. Now that’s really spreading the word.

The McKinsey article is our Required Reading at FreshNetworks this week, and you can read the full article online.

YouTube is five - let’s look at the anthropology

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Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

YouTube is five. It was on April 23rd 2005 that the first video was posted on YouTube. Now it has become a ubiquitous social media tool allowing people to share videos with each other, to comment on them and to sort and rate videos they enjoy. But why would people upload videos in the first place and what sort of videos do they upload. As YouTube turns five it is worth reexamining the nature of YouTube videos and the anthropology that is going on here.

Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University and head of the Digital Ethnography Working Group, presents a great view of YouTube from an anthropological perspective. From exploring the fact that more content has been added to YouTube in the past six months than in a lifetime of network TV in the US, through a catagorisation of YouTube videos, this is a really informative video. It’s long (just shy of an hour) but I think time spent watching this is time well spent. Michael is a captivating speaker and manages to express things we think we know in different ways. From social media to online communities and social networks; you’ll learn something new and understand better why people are motivated to take part and contribute online.

The social media monitoring tool with the most up-to-date results? Brandwatch.

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social-media-monitoring-toolsOur sixth post from the social media monitoring review 2010 series will look at the issue of data latency.

While most tools prioritise key websites to ensure the fastest possible upload of conversations, we found that some tools can take several days before the  conversation that’s being held online is available in the tool. This delay is known as data latency.

Of the seven tools we tested, we found that Brandwatch was the fastest at searching for and processing new online data, while some parts of Nielsen Buzzmetrics proved the slowest at collecting up-to-date information.  It’s important to note that Brandwatch doesn’t cover as many geographies and conversation types as Nielsen does.

As mentioned in previous posts, one of the ways that social media monitoring tools gather data is by using similar web-crawlers to those that Google uses to produce its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is an automated process that copies content from a list of websites into the tool.

Once the conversations have been collected they are processed - sometimes by analysts but mostly by automated processes. The speed at which conversations are collected by a tool is limited by the frequency of the web-crawlers and the length of time it takes the tool to process the data.

This has an obvious impact on clients wanting to look at up-to-date conversations. It can also skew historical data as it’s possible to look at a conversation trends for the last few days, but then the next day more conversations may arrive from the previous day, changing the results.

People carrying out social media monitoring need to be aware of data latency and to keep it in mind when using the tools to track online conversations.

Tracking specific influencers

In the video below, Charlie, one of the Directors at FreshNetworks,  talks through an example of a client who needed to track a small number of key influencers. They could not afford to wait days or even hours for updates and had to find a unique social media monitoring solution.

The Hare and the Tortoise

Social media has driven a yearning for real-time information. A desperation to know exactly what’s going on right now. As a result you might believe that a faster tool is the better tool. However, as with the other comparative measures between the tools, it depends on your business need.

Our experience of the different social media monitoring tools suggested that high latency was often the result of more sophisticated data processing and de-duplication. Thus if your goal is to track what’s going on with minimal effort, or to see only the really important conversations, you may be better off with an apparently ‘slow’ tool because it will cut out more of the online waffle.

To give an example, some of us at FreshNetworks like to read the most important blog posts from all of AdAge’s 150 top blogs. To do this we use Postrank to filter out the most popular posts and then Feedburner to email them once a week. It can occasionally feel like you’re a day behind on the news, but it’s certain that you will be seeing the most important posts by the end of the week. This system only works because Postrank tracks whether other people think a post is great - a process that performs better after a post has been live for a couple of days. Hence, in this case, higher latency drives better results.

Our next post will look at sentiment analysis across the seven tools.

Read the other posts in our social media monitoring 2010 review series.

Causeworld: Using location-based apps to raise money for charity

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You are here: George Eastman House
Image by jcolman via Flickr

Location-based apps and social media tools? If you haven’t heard of them you soon will. They use the GPS functionality of the iPhone - and the sharper developers have made them platform agnostic; compatible on Android, Palm and Blackberry.

The user registers on the site then “checks-in” with their geographic location to let their friends know where they are. The idea is if you can see your friends are in the vicinity of your current location you can arrange to meet up. You can also see interesting places others are visiting. There are other neat ideas like if you have visited a location more than anyone else you are named the “Mayor” of that location or retailers nearby by your current checked-in location can offer you rewards to visit them.

We’ve written before about how we think 2010 is the year of location-based social media tools. Foursquare it appears will be the defacto as it increases its prominence over others such as Gowalla and loopt as the location aware app of choice. Foursquare is even being spoken about in some circles as the new Twitter.

One of the more interesting applications of this type in my opinion is Causeworld. This app combines the gaming interest of the location aware app along with a feel good factor of donating to a cause simply by visiting certain shops or restaurants or scanning a particular product barcode.

Causeworld has initially been sponsored by some big names such as Kraft, P&G and Citi. The user earns “karma” points based upon visiting certain locations. Users can then donate the karmas to a choice of not-for-profits who in turn can convert the karmas to real money.

Over 300,000 have downloaded the app since December and hundreds of thousands of Dollars are given away to good causes each month.

As far as I understand it is only being used in the US right now but would expect it over here very shortly. In my mind doing my bit for a good cause by visiting a shop or a restaurant beats a 10K run anyday.

Like anything first mover advantage is everything so I look forward to the first charity in the UK becoming part of this.

  • Gowalla battles Foursquare (guardian.co.uk)
  • CauseWorld: Checking in for Charity (readwriteweb.com)
  • CauseWorld Helps Nonprofits Through Social Networking (life.firelace.com)
  • Location-awareness takes SXSW by storm (lostremote.com)
  • The History of Location Technology [INFOGRAPHIC] (mashable.com)