Archive for October 2010

Brands 50% more popular than celebrities in social media

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Internet users in the UK are more likely to follow brands in social media than they are to follow celebrities. A study of over 1,000 internet users (by the IAB, Opinion Matters and RMM) found that whilst only 13.4% of users follow celebrities, more than one in five (20.3%) follow brands. Brands are, therefore more than 50% more popular than celebrities in social media. This is good news for brands and shows the benefits they can get of using social media and using it well. But it also reinforces the importance for all brands of getting a social media strategy in place.

The research also showed than more than one in eight UK consumers have given feedback to a brand or organisation in social media. That is more than half of those who say they are following a brand in the first place and shows that, when consumers are following brands in social media, they are also likely to interact with it.

Another way to ‘interact’ with a brand in social media is not to follow it or to give it feedback directly, but to complain about it in a public arena. The survey found that 7.7% of UK consumers had done just this and in 40% of cases brands had responded rapidly to these complaints and comments. Getting your social media monitoring in place is important for brands as it helps you to find and, if appropriate, respond to mentions and such complaints. The research also shows the benefit of brands monitoring and responding like this - almost four out of every five (77.8%) people who were contacted by a brand were left with a positive feeling about the brand.

So consumers are more likely to follow a brand than a celebrity. Of those who follow a brand, more than half will interact with it and give it feedback. Consumers are also complaining about brands and organisations through social media, and those who receive a response from the brand through the same medium and highly likely to leave with a positive feeling about that brand.

In an environment where we know that most people will happily consume, and be influenced by, discussions and comments. The number of UK consumers actively discussing and feeding back on brands in social media is relatively high, and underlines how critical it is for all brands and organisations to address how they are using social media and to make sure they are using it in a way that makes sense for them, and adds value to them as well as to their audience.

RSA and Social Media: Nasza-Klasa in Poland

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When I head out to conferences and seminars, the value for me often is not so much in the content of the event itself, but more with the surprising people you meet and their great stories and anecdotes about social media.

One such person that I met was Roberto Hortal Munoz, the eBusiness Director for RSA Emerging Markets.  He has a great interest in social media for financial services and over a brief lunchtime chat he told me about Poland’s first financial services social networking game, “National Driving Test”, that was created by  Link4 - part of the RSA group and the market leader for direct insurance in Poland.

RSA’s National Driving Test game was launched in February this year on Poland’s equivalent of Facebook, Nasza-Klasa. Nasza-Klasa has 14 million active members and 16 million online users.

The Driving Test  game works by asking players 10 questions about driving habits and their knowledge of  car insurance. Players are allocated a driver profile depending on the response to their question. The six different driver profiles are inspired by, and aligned to, RSA’s consumer segmentation. The driver profile badge is displayed on their page for all their friends to see:

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Depending on the player’s answers at the end of the game the player is then directed to relevant, targeted RSA insurance product information that relates to the answers they have given during the game.

So in a fun, engaging way the game serves to highlight the benefits of Link4′s driving insurance.  It’s obviously working as Link4′s  social driving game has achieved some great headline results, including 10,000  users requesting an insurance quote during the first seven days of going live.

You can read more about the campaign, as well as find more information about Roberto Hortal Munoz, on his blog at www.hortal.com.

Interested in social media case studies? Want to get practical advice about corporate social media use?

Why not attend the Corporate Social Media Summit Europe on 17th -18th November 2010 in London and get exclusive insights into how brands like Vodafone, Cadbury’s and Nokia are using social media for real business benefits.

Financial services: transparency through social media?

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TransparentWe’ve already looked at two of the key topics  from our social media in financial services round table event (niche communities and customer driven markets) and now it’s time to move on to a topic that comes up time and again in relation to the financial services industry - the issue of transparency.

The current situation

Matt Colebrook, CEO of First Direct bank, defines transparency in 2 ways:

  1. People need to feel secure and know that their money is protected - part of this is knowing what banks and other financial services institutions are doing with it.
  2. Clear, simple fee structures  and products that are easy to understand and help people make sure they know what they are signing up for.

While the conversational, sharing mentality of social media has enabled this information to exist intrinsically, albeit on a small scale, very few financial institutions are hosting open discussion platforms for customers and investors because of data and security restrictions.

A recent survey from the Institute for Private Investors (IPI) has shown that high net worth investors are integrating social media into their lives more than ever before. The survey, conducted in May this year, found that 38% percent of respondents actively participate in social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, forums and blogs.

Other recent studies indicate that wealth management clients are increasingly using social media to compare notes on advisors, funds, fees, strategies and deals.  And according to the findings from a report in the Harvard Business Review in June, private equity firms, venture capital and private investors are also using social networks to discuss industry related information.

Whether social media use of this kind actually exposes bad practices and forces better levels of transparency is debatable. However, the increased use of social media in the financial services industry certainly highlights the need for greater transparency online in order to stay ahead of the game.

What does the future hold?

The willingness to engage in open conversation through social media is vitally important for building trust in today’s world. In the future, customers will need an increased level of disclosure, peer review and transparency from their financial services providers, and social media offers the perfect medium by which to do this.

A recent article in Computer Weekly highlights that when new modes of social media interaction intersect with the regulatory demands for transparency, it will form essential part of how financial services function online. Failures in transparency (like the Madoff scandal) will be challenged more robustly and at an earlier stage as customer and investor decisions will be predicated on better practice, better communication and clearer fee and product structures.

Transparency through social media may even take the form of something similar to what  Saffron building society do. The Chief Executive, Andy Golding, writes his own blog offering his views on Saffron news and the industry as a whole, as we all communicating with Saffron’s members and staff, in order to develop a level of transparency.

Yes, Saffron is a relatively small institution but perhaps Golding’s activity is what’s needed in order for financial services brands to retain and acquire new customers and investors in the future.

Our next blog post will look at the risks and regulations surrounding the use of social media in the financial services industry and what the future holds for the sector.

How much is a share on Facebook or Twitter worth in sales?

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Social Commerce

Every time people share an event from Eventbrite with their friends and contacts in social media or by email, they generate $1.78 in ticket sales. This figure comes from a recent study by the event ticketing site which analysed their user data and how shares in social media and by email tracked back to ticket sales. This is a surprisingly powerful number and shows the growing importance of social shopping - using recommendations in social networks and online communities to influence purchase decisions.

Eventbrite is, undoubtedly, a prime candidate to be benefiting from social shopping before others. Events are, by their nature, things which connect people with similar interests - people like you. If you love jazz and connect with people like you in social media, then were you to share a jazz event with you then the chances of this appealing to them is quite high. Events are a prime candidate for social shopping and this study by Eventbrite highlights just how powerful it is.

How much is a social media share worth?

The study by Eventbrite found that, on average, every time an event was shared that resulted in $1.78 in ticket sales. Drilling down into this number shows how valuable different types of share are:

  1. Facebook: $2.52. Facebook resulted in the highest average ticket sales per share with every ‘Like’ on the social network resulting in $2.52 in ticket sales. That this is the most valuable type of share is not surprising - Facebook has grown with events and users are accustomed to inviting people to or accepting events on the platform. Overall this is a very important driver of traffic and sales for Eventbrite - it is the sites biggest referrer of traffic and every ‘Like’ drives 11 visits back to the site.
  2. Email: $2.34. The second most valuable sharing mechanism was not a social media tool at all, but email. This is not surprising - email is likely to be much more targeted as users need to select individual people with whom they want to share the event, rather than just publicising it to all people they connect with in a social network. That this is not the most valuable type of sharing is a surprise and shows the ever increasing power of Facebook and other social networks as a communications and sharing mechanism.
  3. LinkedIn: $0.90. LinkedIn shares are the third most valuable with an average of $0.90 in ticket sales generated every time an event is shared on the social network. This is much less than for shares on Faccebook or via email but is still significant driver of sales.
  4. Twitter: $0.43. Shares on Twitter are the least valuable of all four means, with each share worth $0.43 - almost a sixth the value of a Like on Facebook. This is, perhaps, a sign that connections on Twitter are less focused than on Facebook, or perhaps that on Twitter shares and messages are less engaged with - indeed recent research from Sysomos showed that over 70% of all Tweets get no response. So Twitter messages may be less engaging than those on Facebook, leading to fewer clicks and so fewer ticket sales.

These numbers are impressive and the data from Eventbrite is a great insight into social shopping and how, at least in the event ticketing market, recommendations and shares in social media can lead to significant ticket sales. People are using social media to connect with people who have similar interests and passions to them - this makes for a potentially valuable territory for social shopping. Recommendations from people like you carry a lot of weight - for Eventbrite, each recommendation leads to $1.78 in revenue from ticket sales.

Social media, financial services and customer driven markets

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RevisedAs we’ve already looked at the increase in niche online communities and how this could impact the future role of social media in financial services, this blog post will look at another key topic from our senior level executive round table event: customer driven markets.

The current situation

With the rise of social media, financial service businesses have started to think less about controlling their brand and more about how they manage their presence on the social web.

Social media and online communities have given consumers the opportunity to easily discuss online what they want, and don’t want, from a product or service.  In this way, the consumer is slowly but surely influencing the market place.

In general, financial services brands have been somewhat slow on the uptake when it comes to letting their consumers dictate their offering. There is one area of the industry that has taken this on board, though it’s a relatively new emergent in the market - social lending.

Social lending sites like Zopa and Prosper are consumer focused online marketplaces. Members of these communities borrow and lend money to eachother, avoiding  traditional banks and ensuring that the consumers themselves have more control over the transaction, as well as giving competitive interest rates.

Zopa, for example,  also has a place for members to meet up and discuss all things Zopa - be it lending tactics, where they see Zopa going in the future, or even what they don’t like about the site. This allows Zopa to tap in directly to their customer’s needs, helping them shape their offering based around the demands of the customer.

What does the future hold?

More and more financial services brands will learn to embrace their customer’s opinions and realise that they are shaping the market place.

Reviews, blogs, forums, and tips and advice sections will appear more frequently on both branded and non-branded sites and the financial services industry will realise the value of not just listening to, but also acting on their customer’s conversations and suggestions.

Sites like Zopa are already challenging and reducing the market place of the more traditional lenders. As more and more social-based entrants emerge, this reduction is likely to continue unless financial service institutions get more creative in how they address the needs of their customers.

A good example, from another industry, of where things are heading for financial services could be the Patientslikeme site. Patients like me is an independent community for patients who are suffering from illnesses. It is a place to share information about their conditions and treatments, providing support for other patients. Traditionally this advice comes from hospitals, doctors or other traditional medical sites like the NHS, not an independent community of people.

What’s more, with  over 80,000 unique visitors a month and 65,000+ members, patientslike me is used by pharmaceutical companies as a source of reliable consumer insight; it is helping to shape the pharma marketplace.

Could something like patientslikeme be the future direction for financial services brands? Perhaps independent communities of people, where the site is built by the community itself, discussing, say, loan options, will influence the financial services market place by providing valuable, actionable consumer insight to financial services brands. It remains to be seen…

Our next blog post will look at the issue of transparency in relation to social media and the financial services industry.