Archive for January 2011

Brands need to use social media strategically, not get advice from gurus


Image courtesy of Shutterstock

2011 is the year of the social media backlash. Well, apparently. Whether or not you believe this, there’s one thing that’s certainly true: this is the year when things will change for social media agencies and for brands.

A  quote in a recent article by Tim Sanders really got me thinking about social media strategy. Some of the language used in the article is intended to provoke a response, but the content of the blog post, in essence, is excellent.

The article was based on a quote by Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi:

“You don’t need a social media strategy - You need a brand strategy that leverages social media.  Don’t get off the brand strategy just because there’s a new communication channel; that’s how you lose the plot as a brand.  Technology is the tail, not the dog.”

As you can probably imagine, this led to a lot of  “social media consultants” backing into a corner or pulling together overly verbose, nonsensical reasoning to justify their existence. Instead, what they should have focused on is that everything, including social media,  comes back to the company aims, brand strategy and more importantly business value.

As part of the social media strategy team at FreshNetworks (and I say that without worrying about that definition) our job is to look at how social media can be used to contribute to how the business operates. Yes, we do know alot about social media. But what sets us apart is that most of us come from a variety of business backgrounds with different skill sets and experiences.  This really helps us get to the crux of how and why  social media can be used for different business functions. By applying this knowledge, and providing pragmatic, expert advice, legitimate social media consultants have nothing to fear.

One way that we think about a strategic approach to social media is based on a model used by Prof. Gerry Johnson, Prof.Kevan Scholes and  Prof Richard Whittington in Exploring Corporate Strategy (2006), which shows all the different aspects we consider when thinking about how social media could be used to meet business objectives. Key to this process are the following three areas:

  1. Analysis: understanding why you want to use social media, what is already out there, what your consumers want and the resources that are available within your organisation.
  2. Strategic choice: given all the information available from your analysis , the next step is to consider which tools and concepts will produce the best results for your company.
  3. Strategic implementation: social media is not just about a good idea or a campaign; it is as much of a cultural change as it is a technical one. It requires proper planning to ensure that what you have chosen is executed in a way that makes sense to the rest of your business.

I think by now most companies will have either tried social media themselves, or might have  reached out to agencies for help, and will be wiser about the value of social media; they will know when they are being fed rubbish.

As  a result, will the  “blood-sucking social media gurus” , as Milo Yiannopoulos describes them, simply disappear? Lets hope so. And will there be a market for people who actually understand social media? Definitely. 2011 will just be a year of distinguishing between the two.

Conversocial & the benefits of social media management tools


Following on from our social media management tools wiki we thought it would be nice to catch up with our friend Joshua March, CEO and co-founder of Conversocial about his tool, social media management and the value to brands and businesses.

What do you feel is the most accurate definition of a social media management tool?

Social media management covers quite a wide area. Conversocial focuses on the core communication management through social channels, in terms of team workflow, content publishing and engagement analytics. We call Conversocial a social-media-management-system.

It’s also important to differentiate monitoring tools, that look at what people are saying about you, to management tools, which help with what people are saying to you. In our opinion, if people are saying something directly to you it’s much more business critical than if they’re talking about you generally on the web.

Why do you think they are valuable to brands or businesses (ie, time savers etc)?

Social channels like Facebook and Twitter are different from other marketing channels in two important ways. First, distribution is largely governed by fan engagement. No matter how many fans or followers you have, if they don’t like your content, it won’t be seen.

Almost all engagement with brands happens in the newsfeed - fans rarely go to a Facebook page directly. Facebook explicitly holds updates in the newsfeed for longer if they get more engagement such as comments and likes; and in Twitter, @replies and re-tweets directly increase visibility in the feed. So engagement with content is key - but how do you know how to increase this? Measuring and analysing engagement is therefore key - otherwise brands risk losing out of most of the value in social channels. If they’ve spent a lot of money to build up their fan base, this value can be huge.

Secondly, the nature of social channels is two way. Companies are used to having separate marketing and customer support channels - but in social these are the same. The more you push a Facebook page or a Twitter account for marketing, the more customers will use it to ask questions or grieve their complaints. But, responses from the brand are usually public, and directly from the brand - not a private email from Jenny in customer services. This means that new tools and processes are needed to manage this relationship between the two functions; without it, companies are at series risk of jeopardizing both the marketing value of social channels, and their customer relationships.

Social media management systems like Conversocial also of course save time and make team management easier; but this is secondary to ensuring the marketing and customer services are managed effectively for maximum value.

What do you think is the most accurate way of tracking social media activity without using a tool?

The key metrics are to compare not just fan growth, but also the engagement with content. There’s no use in increasing your fan base if they’re ignoring what you’re saying - unengaged fans have no value.

Explain how Conversocial works and why it is an effective tool for social media management.

Conversocial is a website that connects to your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It provides tools to help publish content, measures the engagement with content via our own metric - IPM (interactions per thousand fans)- and makes it very easy for a team of people to manage all the incoming comments from fans in terms of moderation and community management workflow.

We work really hard to keep the system as simple and intuitive as possible to allow minimal training, with the tool being very fast to use. One of the moderation teams for a large media brand who use Conversocial for all their fan pages state that they can moderate 1,000 comments an hour using our system, which is pretty fast!

For reporting, we also try and just focus on the most important and useful data - ie the key engagement stats - rather than overwhelming users with everything available. We want to give real actionable data that allows customers to straight away start enhancing the content they publish and increase the engagement with fans, as well as making it easy to generate reports.

What platforms does Conversocial cover?

Right now it covers Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and Facebook comment wall plugins on third party websites. Coming up we have plans to integrate YouTube.

How are you different from other social media management tools on the market?

Our key differentiator is our focus on increasing engagement and large-scale moderation of Facebook pages. There are quite a few tools out there that help with general management of Facebook and Twitter, but none that provide the engagement analysis we do, or that make it so fast and effective to moderate.

Who do you see as your main competitors?

We view CoTweet as our primary competitor; however Vitrue, Buddy Media, and Hootsuite are all in similar spaces, depending on the client requirements.

Picking a social media agency in Europe - list of the best


european social media agency

Image courtesy of shutterstock

During 2010 we saw a significant jump in the demand for pan-European social media strategy and execution. In some cases we’ve championed centralised operations and in others we’ve worked with local social media agency partners. We thought it might be useful to provide a social media agency list to help you find the very best in-country agencies out there.

Here’s our starting list of Europe’s top social media agencies. We’ve focused on independents and pure-plays where possible. Please let us know what other firms (and countries) deserve inclusion and we’ll keep it updated.


Affinitz – an independent social media agency with over 10 years of experience, Affinitz offers their own community platform which has been implemented by the French Military to create their own social network, and they have also developed a blogosphere for French lawyers. Affinitz also offer services for Facebook, with clients that include Virgin Megastores.

Social Strategie – a pure-play social agency that offers a variety of approaches to social strategy and community management.

Vanksen – a digital agency that offers social media, the group also has offices in Luxembourg,  Switzerland and the USA. They have considerable experience working with perfume brands such as Chanel, Givenchy and Roxy, and have recently launched the Facebook page for Citroen France.

There’s also some interesting discussion about this on Quora.  


KKLD* – as a creative advertising agency KKLD* has been working since 2005 in fields other than digital. Their clients for social media include BMW, Mini, Lufthansa and Telekom (T-Mobile).

Nodes – a pure-play social media agency with a team of 15, Nodes is particularly focussed on Facebook, and has developed apps, games and landing pages for clients that include VW Denmark, McDonalds, GSK, Pepsi and Dove.

TLGG – proclaim they are “Germany’s first social media agency”. Their clients include Subway, Triumph Motorcylces. Their work with Nutella has brought the brand’s Facebook fan count up to 110,000 and places it 10th out of all German brands on Facebook.


Ambito5 – the 5 refers to the different areas of digital that Ambito5 covers, however social media occupies a large portion of their portfolio. Clients for this team of 16 include Gucci, Sony and Virgin Active.

TheBlogTV – this innovative agency focus on user generated advertising, primarily via video and TV shows, but also offers community creation and management. Their crowdsourced video content has been used by Fiat, Honda and

Populis – the 6 different languages that the homepage is available in give a clue to the expansive range of Populis’ content, with articles and videos created by native speakers. Based in Italy and Ireland, their professional Italian blog network Blogosfere is the largest of its kind.

The Netherlands

Favela Fabric - more of a social business consultancy, they seem open collaboration and value creation. Clients include KLM, Shell and ABM AMRO.

Finchline – this social media monitoring and analysis agency focuses exclusively on media and comments made in Dutch, reducing noise and clutter. They also offer free social media boot camps twice a month.

Tribewise – in addition to social media services, Tribewise are offering a white paper which describes 20 case studies of Dutch companies that have started utilising social media (a registration is required to access it).

Yocter – a pure social agency, Yocter offer companies advice and presentations on how to best use social media, and is an innovator of their own software solutions. Their name comes from the term yocto, the smallest SI prefix at 10−24 (still a long way off from the inverse of a googol!)


Face2Face – are using social media to take their 1:1 field marketing experience online. Their social strategy has been used by the Oslo Camerata orchestra, and their Word-of-mouth clients include American Express and Shell.

Isobar Norway – Norwegian social media agencies Sermo and Suddenly Oslo have recently become part of the super-agency Isobar Norway.  Sermo’s clients included Dell, Siemens and Universal Music.


Layerbit – this full service digital agency is based in Madrid, Houston and Buenos Aires. Their social media activity includes community building, and importantly also covers Tuenti, the “Spanish Facebook”, another example of the value of using local experts in different markets.

UK social media agencies

At present, coming from a larger market, UK agencies are running the most pan-European campaigns. There are probably 20 UK agencies with around 10 people. This list includes a couple of them alongside the bigger independents. I have put in the agencies we most respect because of what we’ve heard directly from clients and the work we’ve seen them produce.

FreshNetworks – That’s us. We’re not #1 in Europe yet, but we’re working on it.

Nudge - A nine person team with a Facebook focus. I particularly liked their PoweRBrands Facebook page for a graduate recruitment.

We Are Social – One of the UKs first social media agencies to get to scale. Most well known for their excellent Marmite campaign. They also have offices in both Italy and France - both have been going for around a year now, and they”re up to 10 people in each of the office.

iPlatform – especially good for Facebook fan page builds - a number of large advertising and digital agencies outsource Facebook dev to them.

Made by Many - They don’t call themselves a social media agency but they did do an inspired website takeover for SXSW last year and I’m looking forward to whatever they have in store for 2011.

1000 Heads - A word of mouth agency that must know every Nokia lover on the web - they’ve been managing their social campaigns for a few years now. Also good on offline/online integration.

eModeration and Tempero - both have excellent moderation capabilities built over 5+years (a number of social media agencies outsource moderation to them). More recently both have been developing community management capabilities.

NixonMcinnes - Brighton’s best social media agency, now calling themselves a social consultancy - so I hope you don’t mind being included.

Also worthy of note:
- Once independent but now part of a group: Headshift (Dachis - I loved their One and Other work), Jam (Engine) and Techlightenment (Experian - but a tad skewed towards social tech rather than social agency).

- PR firms turned social: Wolfstar, ImmediateFutures and 33Digital (a small team punching above their weight). It’s hard to find a PR agency that is not turning itself “social” at the moment, but I think these have made the shift better than most.

Anyway, that’s our starting point. Have we missed you out? Or are you a client working with an agency worthy of note due to scale or the quality of work they are delivering? Feel free to let us know.

Why have a Facebook shop?


Online fashion retailer ASOS recently announced that it would be opening a Facebook store at the end of January, allowing users to buy items directly from within the social network rather than having to click through to the ASOS homepage.

This is becoming a trend for major retailers and we will see more of it in 2011, but is it a fad or is there real reason to take this form of social commerce seriously?

A report from Experian shows that ASOS gets a lot of its traffic from social media sites. In December their Social Networks and Forums category was the third biggest source of traffic to the retailer’s website, accounting for 14.62% of all traffic to Social networks also seem to endear more brand loyalty for ASOS than other sources of traffic: 65.5% of the visitors coming via the channel were returning to ASOS rather than visiting the site for the first time. By way of comparison, 56.9% of customers that came via search engines were returning visitors.

Facebook is clearly a very big part of the social networking visits delivering traffic to ASOS, and alone is responsible for 12% of all visits to the website. As the second single biggest driver of traffic to ASOS after Google UK, Facebook has become an integral part ASOS’s online strategy; allowing consumers to buy products directly from Facebook is the next logical step for ASOS.

Keeping consumers in one place for any period of time online is challenging, especially given the millions of other websites available for people to visit. The same report highlights that the average session time for a visit to ASOS is just over 12 minutes and interestingly their Search Sequence tool shows that the number one search term that UK Internet users type into search engines, both before and after ‘asos’, is ‘facebook’.

When people online are navigating away from ASOS, the first thing they want to check is Facebook. So if people can shop through Facebook, then they have no need to navigate away from their familiar surroundings. As the average session time for a visit to Facebook is 27 minutes, it could be argued that consumers are more likely to hang around to shop through Facebook than they are on the ASOS site.

The Facebook store is due to go live by the end of January and, although this may lead to a drop in traffic coming from Facebook to the ASOS store, overall the company will expect to offset this decline by making additional online sales that it would not previously have captured. With nearly 400,000 followers on Facebook, ASOS has a huge captive audience to target.

FreshNetworks will be monitoring what happens to see how successful the campaign has been, and what lessons should be learnt.

15 essential articles for online community managers #CMAD


On the platform, reading

Image by moriza via Flickr

To celebrate the second annual Community Manager Appreciation Day, we’ve brought together 15 essential articles for online community managers and social media managers. From why community managers should get involved with their online community before it is even launched, through how to manage and grow a community, to how to measure the impact you are having.

This collection of articles, resources and thinking should have something for everybody to learn from or to add to. We’d love your thoughts on these and also your own favourite community manager articles and resources.

  1. When does a community manager’s job begin?: Why it is critical that your community manager is involved in helping to plan and design the online community before it is launched.
  2. The Ten Commandments of managing online communities: An insightful presentation on how to manage online communities from Julius Solaris.
  3. The biggest mistakes an online community manager can make: From lack of engagement to a lack of discipline, we look at five of the biggest mistakes an online community manger can make.
  4. How word of mouth grows online communities: A case study on the role of word of mouth helped to grow an online community at a critical early stage.
  5. Five things to consider when engaging social media influencers: Influencers in social media can be a great help when growing your community and become advocates of your site. However engaging them can be difficult. Here are five things to consider when engaging them.
  6. How to react if somebody writes about your brand online: A simple guide to help you decide when, and how, you should respond if somebody comments on your brand online.
  7. Why you shouldn’t join every conversation about your brand online: When you should, and when you shouldn’t, join conversations about your brand online (and why you shouldn’t feel the need to respond to them all).
  8. Champions, active users and trolls: Defining the different types of users in an online community and exploring how they behave and how you should manage them.
  9. Moderation and safety: Why moderation is important, the four types of moderation you can choose from and how to decide which approach is right for you.
  10. Should anonymous comments be allowed in your online community: The pros and cons of allowing anonymous comments in your online community, and those times when it really is the best option.
  11. Comparing paid and organic search strategies for online communities: Which are more successful drivers of traffic? And which are more likely to drive engagement?
  12. Eight ways you can use your online community to get insight: Eight tools and activities you can use in your online community to get insight from your members.
  13. What online community managers can learn from gaming: How to use gaming techniques to help manage and grow your online community.
  14. Using experts to encourage real engagement with your community: How experts can add value to your online community if used sensibly, and in a way that meets the needs of your community members.
  15. Is time on site a useful measure of how successful your online community is?: The short answer is ‘no’. This article tells you why, and where time on site is a useful measure.