Archive for January 2012

What’s hot in social media - January 2012 round up

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With seven in ten brands saying they plan to increase their presence across social media in 2012 (according to a recent survey by Awareness) we thought it would be a good idea to take a regular look at the current social media landscape.

So here’s a quick run down of  what we think has been hot in social media this January:

1. Farfetch.com - the future of social retail?

2012 looks set to be the year of the social online retailer. Luxury retailer farfetch.com announced that it saw a 73% rise in traffic from Facebook in the second half of 2011 and it recently raised a second round of funding to the tune of $18m.

And it’s not just luxury online retailers who are seeing the value of social. As part of its strategy to encourage social shopping, fab.com launched its live feed for members to easily check out what others are buying, liking, tweeting and sharing – all in real time.

Just 7 months since launching, fab.com already has 1.4m members – over half of which have joined as a result of social sharing, so it clearly makes business sense to encourage this channel.

2. KLM and Scandinavian Airlines encourage social flying

Following on from their popular ‘Surprise’ campaign, KLM are getting even more social by launching their ‘Meet and Seat’ campaign. The idea is that when customers book flights, they have the option of creating a public profile and then choosing who they sit next to on the plane. Romantic stuff or creepy as hell? You decide.

Scandinavian Airlines has also got in on the act by encouraging members to use their air miles by booking flights together. Their ‘Couple up, to buckle up’ campaign shared QR codes with members who had to put their phones together in order to access a unique 2 for 1 booking code.

3. Soundcloud gives Instagram a personal touch

It looks like sound hosting just got interesting with the launch of Soundcloud’s new slideshow app, ‘Story Wheel’,this month. The idea behind ‘Story Wheel’ is that members can look through their Instagram photos and record an audio description to go with them. The effect is an old-school slide-show with a personal soundtrack - you can see the founders of Soundcloud’s own version here.

Audio-hosting platform Soundcloud has grown by about 1 million members in the last couple of months and is now fully integrated with Facebook. This month, it reached a milestone of 10 million users, so diversifying their offering is a smart move to show that sound can make images that bit more personal.

With such a large audience behind them, perhaps now may be the time for brands to think about how they can use audio-hosting as part of their social media strategy.

Instagram and the growing power of photography in social media

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Into the valley of Death

Into the valley of Death

The Crimean War of the 1850s was a revolution in communication. For the first time reports from the battlefield were returned in what felt like near-real-time thanks to the electric telegraph transmitting messages in just hours rather than them having to be sent by horse across Europe. Many people complained about the impact of this real-time news, and the harm that it did reporting on the events tragedies of the war as they happened.

Perhaps more contentious, however, than this written word reporting was the use, for the first time, of war photography with photographs from Roger Fenton showing the real detail of what was happening. Whereas once newspapers had to rely on words, etchings and drawings to report what was happening, they could now show actual photos of war, of people and of suffering. Photos proved to be more powerful than even the real-time written word back in the 1850s.

If 2011 was the year Twitter and citizen journalism came of age, 2012 is set to be the year that social photography comes of age. And it could be even more powerful.

Whilst we have been used to Facebook focusing on photography for some time, that platform is more often about sharing photos with a (relatively) close group of friends. Family events, babies, parties, special holidays. These kind of events are very personal and reflect the nature of Facebook - where you (broadly speaking) network with people that you know or that you have chosen to share personal connections with. The growth of photography in more public social networks and online communities is more nascent, but is one of the most interesting and powerful areas where social is developing.

Photography is different. It allows you to share a moment and allows you to give people a real insider view of what you are doing or what is happening. It also travels across linguistic boundaries with ease. For individuals, photography is a simple way of sharing what you are doing, capturing the essence of your life at a particular moment and sharing that with others. It often has more social currency than the written word (especially than the written Tweet) - imagine trying to describe what is happening in any photograph in a single tweet and you will see it conveys so much more ‘information-per-instance’. It can also be appreciated on a number of different levels - the content of the photograph, the moment it is capturing, the framing, the use of colour - increasing its value and shareability to different people and different communities.

Brands and celebrities can also benefit from photographs. There is still a huge amount of social currency in going ‘behind the scenes’ - allowing people to see things that they cannot normally see. Because of the high rate of ‘information-per-instance’, a photograph can often give people much more than endless status updates or Tweets. For celebrities, it is a way of letting people into your lives (and controlling this) - imagine the power of you sharing your own holiday photos or photos of your weekend. People will consume this content avidly as it provides what feels like real access to their lives (just look at Justin Bieber or Barack Obama on Instagram). Brands can also benefit from using photographs in the same way to show behind the scenes and to control the access people get into events, decisions and the brand itself from Starbucks sharing photos from stores worldwide, to Tiffany & Co showing people what happens behind the scenes to their jewellery and diamonds.

Photography offers real power to individuals, celebrities and brands to capture and share much more information that can easily be shared in a written Tweet. It allows you a window into what they are doing and seeing right now and can be shared easily between communities and across borders. 2011 saw the rise of camera phones and more importantly of social photo sharing apps - notably Instagram - which lower the barriers to social photography. As these continue to rise in popularity and usage in 2012, we should expect to see more photography shared by more people.

Whereas 2011 saw people getting used to messages from Twitter being used in traditional media (from newspapers and TV reports) we should expect 2012 to be the year of social photography. Bringing insights into events around the world through photographs and showing, as Roger Fenton did in the Crimean war, the power of photography alongside the written word.

Why Capital One and American Express are the top financial services brands on Facebook

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Capital One and American Express are the top financial services brands on Facebook, according to a chart compiled by social media analytics tool socialbakers.

While Capital One’s Facebook page features within the top 150 brands on this list, and the American Express Facebook page is just outside it, the next most successful financial services brand on Facebook is US based direct banking and payment services company Discover, which charts at the 300 mark, saying a lot about the use of Facebook among global financial services brands.

In fact, this forms a large part of the reason why Capital One and American Express are the top financial services brands on Facebook  - it’s the fact that they are on and engaging with their audience in the first place.

Plus, as both brands are credit card providers they have the opportunity to engage their audience with content that is not directly related to the financial world, ie, topics  related to the deals they have secured with other travel and leisure brands for example, or discussing areas where their customers and prospects may choose to put the spend on credit cards, like holidays or cars.

Using socialbakers to dig a bit deeper into the content and engagement strategy for both Capital One and and American Express reveals some interesting results.

An overview (to the left) of both Facebook pages shows that Capital One has 125, 813 more fans than American Express, which, in the grand scheme of things of the total number of fans they both have, is not that much of  a difference.

However, looking at the  ”people talking about” and engagement rate levels is where things get interesting.

American Express has over 10 times the number of people talking about them than Capital One, and an engagement rate that is triple that of Capital One. In fact, as the chart below shows, Capital One’s “people talking about” rate seems to be consistently low, with little sign of improving:

What’s interesting to note is that American Express had a similar level of “people talking about” to Capital One until a staggered increase from 15th December 2011 onwards and then a massive peak, and then subsequent slower increase,  from 23rd January this year.

The reason for this dramatic climb was likely to be the Facebook status update that advance tickets to the 2012 NBA All-Star Jam Session were available to all American Express Cardmembers.

In actual fact, it’s status updates along these lines that are the key driver for American Express’ high engagement levels. They don’t post regularly, and in fact have only posted content 5 times since the start of 2012, but their status updates are carefully crafted to ensure maximum engagement by highlighting the benefits of being an American Express cardholder.

In the mean time, ever since early September, Capital One has let their content strategy dip completely and they have  barely posted anything since. Previously posting regular content, almost on a daily basis, has probably helped to keep their ranking quite high in the socialbakers chart, but I wonder how much longer this will be the case. Their most recent post, back in early December read:

And having not posted since suggests some kind of unresolved technical or social media management error. This is not a good post to leave hanging at the top of the feed and someone from Capital One would do well to look into resolving the issue and adding new content, rather than leaving the page hanging.

With only one financial services brand in socialbakers top 150 Facebook pages chart it will be interesting to note how many other financial services brands start engaging through Facebook, and whether they have the same success as the likes of American Express.

Why internal culture is much more important than employee social media guidelines

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Image via Wikipedia

January has seen a spate of people tweeting things they shouldn’t - from Diane Abbott to Ed Miliband in the UK to countless people working for brands across the world. We’ve also seen a renewed debate in the UK about how the professions should use social media - notably about teachers befriending their pupils on Facebook. One way that many organisations deal with this is to create social media guidelines but even more important than any guidelines you might right is the internal culture change needed to real to make yours a true social business.

Surveys in the UK last year consistently showed that between 35% and 40% of UK firms have no social media guidelines in place. And even for those firms that did, many employees claim that they do not know what they are. Guidelines are useful, but really they are just the starting point, something every firm should have in place. Much more useful than any social media guidelines is the cultural change you need across your business to really take advantage of the opportunities social can bring.

This change is broadly in two main areas: bringing your staff closer to your customers, and building your staff as your biggest advocates. Both of these are important tasks and done properly can start to have a real impact on your organisation.

1) Bringing your staff closer to your customers

In any organisation some employees are customer-facing and some are not; and only a few of those that are customer-facing really understand what a range of your customers are thinking. This often leads to a real gap in understanding between what your customers think about you, your brand and products, and what yous staff think that they think. Maybe your staff think that customers are more critical than they are. Or that some things are more important to them than they are. Or even that customers like you a lot more than they really do. There are always gaps in understanding, and social provides a way to close this gap.

At the simplest level, all organisations could benefit from using real-time comments and discussions as part of internal comms. Show what people are saying about your brand on screen around your office or on computer desktops will begin to connect people to conversations. Analysing this and showing positive and negative trends and the topics of conversation will being to let people understand the weight of discussion and opinion online.

You can go much further than this. Rather than just showing real-time information to staff you can start to really connect them to customers. Develop an advocate programme not just for the external benefits that they will bring but also to bring information into the business. Have a formal mentoring relationship where customer-advocates mentor your key staff gives them a real role in the business and allows you to use your most connected customers and contacts to support your business. On a broader level encouraging each employee to build their own networks and connections onine (be that through Twitter or through specialist forums and groups) will help them to be more involved and engaged and will help them to solve problems - giving them an extended team of people from which to source ideas and support.

Connecting your staff (be it passively or actively) will help them be more informed and help to focus your efforts on what really matters - the customer.

2) Building your staff as your biggest advocates

Your staff should already be your biggest advocates and you should be encouraging them to use social media to help them project this advocacy and support for your brand.

Many organisations develop comlpex and valuable advocacy programmes for customers and influencers online, but fail to develop similar programmes for their biggest advocates - their staff. Your staff care about the brand, and your products and are often emotionally involved in what you do and why you do it. Sharing this externally is valuable; getting them to share it even more so. Encourage your staff to build networks that are appropriate to them - if they work in product development they could build contacts through forums and groups with people who could help them. If they work in sales they could use Twitter as a way to build their own brand and reach out to people to fill the top of their sales funnel. And everybody across your business could connect with people using your products, in your industry or customers looking for help and advice.

You staff will be doing this already (whether you know it or not) and encouraging and training them to really use social tools will help their efforts benefit you more. Rather than them leaving a review on a product of yours saying it is great, imagine how much more powerful it would be if they went in and said “I was part of the team that worked on developing this product. We’re really proud of it and hope you like it too”. Encourage and enable them and make sure your guidelines are more about setting boundaries and providing support for this.

For many brands reach of your messaging and engagement is important. Your staff provide the single best vehicle to do this. Empowering, practically encouraging, your teams to all engage in social media will be good for their development and also good for you.

Social media for financial services: Wedbush Securities firm-wide social media use

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Social media use in the financial service industry is a tricky area given the issues around compliance with regulations and risk.

This is why I was interested to read that Wedbush Securities, a privately held financial services and investment firm based in USA,  has announced that they will give the “green light” for firm-wide adoption of social media.

With 100 offices across the United States, employees at Wedbush Securities are now free to craft their own networks and conversations,  and so can move away from “canned responses”.

It’s certainly a bold move - but one that I’m sure will be viewed closely by those in the financial sector. Handing over the brand’s reputation to the entire firm could be a very problematic move, but Wedbush Securities has clearly thought about their overarching social media strategy and are taking a variety of precautions:

  • Staff will be trained on appropriate use of social media in a financial context, and have a social media policy to follow.
  • Initially, the channels permitted will just be the “Big 3″ networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
  • Staff will have to create separate, professional accounts for all their Wedbush activities.

These steps will simplify Wedbush’s ability to monitor the accounts, which will undoubtedly aid with compliance. Having separate accounts for personal and professional use means that staff can be clear who they are representing at any given time (although it pays to be prepared for mistakes such as tweeting from the wrong account).

Personally, I wonder if Google+ would have been a better choice than Facebook at this stage - while Facebook is of course the larger network, I would consider the social search benefits of Google+ and benefits of separating contacts into Circles to be better suited to a professional social networking. While the Wedbush Securities accounts will clearly be professional, presumably the accounts they interact with will be personal, and perhaps Facebook is not the environment where investment decisions are influenced.

However, as a starting point, Facebook certainly offers the largest audience and an already familiar interface for many, if not all, of the 1,000 Wedbush Securities employees.