Archive for February 2012

Facebook Timeline for brand pages

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Facebook Timeline for brand exampleFacebook has announced the new Timeline layout for brand pages and is planning to make them compulsory on 30th March.

You can preview your page now and once you’re happy with the layout, you can go ahead and publish it.

Many of the features on the new timeline for brand pages is similar to personal timelines. If you’d like to know more, here’s a few things you can expect to find:

Your cover photo

This is the first thing that people will see when they visit your page – as with personal timelines, the cover photo spans the width of your page so it makes a great impact. Of course, Facebook have a few rules in place about what you can and can’t display in this cover photo. Exclusions include: no prices, no contact information, no references to any Facebook feature such as a like and no calls to action of any kind.

The ‘about’ section

Photos, likes and apps are now at the top of your page in the ‘about’ section. Photos show first, but you can change the order of everything else. The ‘likes’ box will show the last five pages that you have liked as your brand – so it’s worth having a think about which ones you want these to be. You might also get a shock when you click on your page tabs and apps – these now all have a wide canvas, so chances are that beautiful tab you made a while ago is going to look rather slim now!

Personalisation

Your Facebook timeline brand page is now highly personalised for your fans. When they visit your page, they will be shown which of their friends have already liked the page and any activity which is associated with them, their friends and the brand. The fact that friends are now shown so prominently indicates that incentivising fans to target their friends may become a more regular goal of brands on Facebook.

Timeline layout

You now have quite a lot of control over the layout of your brand timeline. If you hover over a story or photo, you can click on the star icon to make it wide enough to fill the page (similar to your cover image). You can also use the pencil icon to pin static content to the top of your page or alternatively hide it or delete it.

Admin

However, what’s interesting from a social media management perspective are the new features for page admins. The Facebook Timeline comes with a new admin panel where you can see the latest comments on your timeline and view your insights all in one place.

And what’s really exciting is that the new timeline now comes with a private messaging system. Instead of writing on your wall, fans can now message your page privately. This means that the biggest challenge with the new page may well be customer service based – if your customers want to complain, they will message your page and expect a prompt reply, so you will have to have a system in place to deal with this.

Why “Pinterest is the next Facebook” is just a silly thing to say

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In the UK this morning many commuters would have read a piece in The Metro about whether Pinterest is the next Facebook. This is not the first article or blog post about this, and I fear that it will not be the last. The short answer to this is ‘no’. And the longer answer is ‘no, because they are fundamentally different, non-competitive things’. But the fact that the question is asked and written about is a reminder that there is still a misconception that ‘social media’ is a single type of thing rather than a set of different, often complementary tools.

Pinterest is certainly the latest social platform that people are talking about. There’s a range of great statistics on DesignTAXI and there has been a lot of coverage about how they monetise your content. The concept is very simple - a social tool that lets you gather and share images, and sort them into collections. It offers something that really wasn’t that easy to do before online - although like many social tools it mirrors an existing offline behaviour (putting things on pinboards or in scrapbooks).

There is very little in this description that is like Facebook at all. In fact it offers a tool that is not really part of Facebook’s repertoire - in fact can you imagine creating these collections in such a simple easy way on Facebook? That’s partly why Pinterest is getting such early success (and why I expect it to continue growing). Not because it is competing with Facebook (or becoming ‘the next Facebook’). But because it offers something new and different to what was previously available in Facebook or across any other social tools.

The fact that people compare the two highlights that many consider social media tools to essentially be doing the same thing (they’re where people ‘do social media’). So if a new one comes along it must threaten the existence of the previous tools. This is a fundamentally flawed understanding.

  1. Different tools do different things and we use them in different ways - Facebook is a collection of tools (a photo sharing tool, an event planning tool, a status updating tool…to name but a few). When a new tool comes along it probably adds to the mix of things we can do rather than competing directly. We all know that there are some things Twitter, or Facebook, or YouTube (or any tool) just isn’t suited for and so a gap that could be filled.
  2. Our total mass of ‘doing social media’ has not peaked - If a new tool comes along it does not have to take a share of our ‘social media time’. We have not yet reached saturation, and indeed we may never as new tools will help us do other things differently or more efficiently. For any new tools to be a ‘Facebook killer’ suggests that it is going to compete for our time or attention that would previously have been dedicated to Facebook. As new tools come along that offer new things for us to do, or solve new problems, we will find time for them.
  3. Our use of social tools is still maturing - Facebook is a collection of social tools, some people use all of them and others just a few. As we get used to sharing, interacting and engaging in different ways (and as the tools available catch up with how we behave anyway) we will change how we use the tools we have already signed-up for and the new ones. Maybe we’ll chat less on Facebook if we use Twitter for that, or maybe we’ll share photos more on Pinterest than we did on Facebook. Many of these decisions will be very personal and how we use these tools will be individual to each of us, the decisions we make and the people we connect with.

Pinterest, like many new social tools, is different to ones that have come before, and offers new ways of doing things. This is why it is successful and why it will continue to be so. It is not necessarily a threat to existing platforms and tools as it adds to the range of things that people can and will do online rather than competing with them. It will grow in a different way to Facebook and that is a good thing - it will have different growth strategies, the community will shape and change it to fit how they use the tool, and the monetisation model will drive different behaviours.

In fact if Pinterest were to become a Facebook it would probably be less successful as it would be trying to be something that it just isn’t at all like. Of course, there is probably one way that Pinterest probably would and should want to be like Facebook - a successful business that can command a huge value at IPO. That’s sadly not the comparison most of these pieces are making but is no doubt one that the people behind Pinterest would be happy with.

How to write an engaging Facebook update

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If you’ve got a Facebook account, chances are you will have seen the different ways in which brands approach updating their statuses. It’s worth putting some effort into making sure that you are creating engaging content for your Facebook fans. By ensuring that they are engaging with your content, you can develop and nurture an on-going relationship with them

The way in which you write an engaging Facebook status update will obviously vary depending on your audience, but here are a three tips which could be applied to many Facebook communities.

1. Make it short

A common mistake on a brand page is to treat status updates like blog posts. However, long copy on Facebook often doesn’t work in the newsfeed and simply doesn’t get read. Many updates I see could be cut in half with a bit of clever editing – so think about the key message you are trying to communicate and delete the fluff.

2. Make it personal

We may be working in digital marketing, but it’s worth remembering that most people haven’t ‘liked’ your page because they want you to sell stuff to them. To make your updates relevant to your fans, ensure that they show you are interested in them as individuals. Ask your fans about their opinions and their experiences – and show that you are interested in what they have to say.

3. Make it easy

If you give your Facebook fans an obvious call to action, they are much more likely to engage with your content. With so many other people and brands competing for attention in the newsfeed, you need to make sure that your update is one that stands out as simple to read and respond to.

A great way to do this is to write statements which invite your fans to fill in the blanks – for example:

“My favourite flavour of ice cream is ______”.

It only takes a few seconds for someone to read this short sentence and react. You may not be directly selling them your ice cream, but you will have made your fan stop and think about eating your ice cream for a moment.

3 ways retail banks could get more benefit from social media

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Three financial services social media ideasFollowing last week’s post exploring social media fears and opportunities for financial services brands, this blog post suggests three  ways that retail banks could make real, innovative use of social media to differentiate their products.

1. Social banking

Create a current or savings account with interest rates individually tailored based on a customers’ ability to recruit more members to the bank. New accounts could open with an average interest rate which increased by a small fraction each time a customer brought on a new member to join.

In the old days of member-get-member direct marketing, it was common for companies to offer discounts, gifts or value added services to customers who did the leg work in finding more customers. This model has now evolved into group buying from sites like Groupon, but there is evidence to suggest that “member get member” banking could work from Key Trade (under the control of Group Credit Agricole).

While Key Trade used a cash signup incentive, an interest based one would be a more meaningful commitment to a customer relationship and stronger motivator for recruiting new customers, particularly if interest rates could be competitive with current market offerings.

2. Social Micro Saving

Create a savings account which encourages you to micro-save via your social platforms. This could also be used to encourage micro-donation to charities. This could work quite effectively as a Facebook app which occasionally puts something into a subscriber’s news feed, reminding them to tuck £10 away in a savings account and make a small donation to charity.

Charitable donations website Just Giving noted the rise of social giving late last year and with the rise of applications like Snoball and SocialVibe, innovation is already beginning to harness the power of social donation behaviour to drive donations for charitable causes. If charitable donations can be contagious amongst social networks, it seems likely that social saving could be similarly rewarding and therefore contagious. Examples might include teams that are saving personal funds & raising charitable funds for expeditions, or groups saving towards a common goal such as holiday makers saving for a big trip.

3. Social Budget planning

Social gaming has proved itself remarkably addictive, but plenty of applications can the human desire to compete to good use. Mobile or social apps that let people compete over their personal budgeting targets could drive more careful budget planning & financial prudence.

As soon as NFC payment becomes a reality, mobile devices will be enabled to track spending both in terms of amounts and locations. If a couple, or group of friends decided to collectively budget towards a savings target, they could opt in to share how well they were performing against self-imposed goals. Personal financial data would remain private, but benchmarking against targets for lunch-time spending, for example, could earn gamers reward points & bonuses, just in the same way that FourSquare currently awards players with badges & Mayorships for check in achievements.

My purpose in exploring these ideas is to demonstrate the varied applications for integrating social media & social network behaviours with personal finance. With the growing popularity of The Co-Operative bank which offers customers a shared gains model and niche banks like Triodos offering consumer banking customers ethical and sustainable savings options, it’s not hard to imagine innovative, social financial products emerging as the financial services industry re-invents its public image.

5 social media misconceptions (and opportunities) in financial services

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Social media financial services

The financial services industry feels like it’s not ready for social media. You may think that this is due to regulatory restrictions, but there is more to it than that - and there are opportunities for the brands that overcome these misconceptions:

1. Financial services companies are worried about the risk of brand damage if they start talking with people online, because the industry’s public image is seriously wounded.

It’s easier to pretend a relationship hasn’t been hurt than to talk about the awkward feelings, but the current fraught market offers a big opportunity to re-invent the relationship financial services firms have with customers. The public increasingly favours honesty & transparency. Who dares wins.

2. Consumer banking isn’t where financial services firms make their money, so the compliance & customer service burden of “switching on” social media doesn’t feel worth the investment.

This is a false economy, because the thing that makes social media so powerful is the way it enables small groups of motivated people to influence many people, very quickly. Financial services organisations put themselves at risk by failing to establish ways to connect meaningfully with customers online as well as in branches and over the phone.

3. Senior decision makers in the financial services sector still believe that social media effort will create the burden of monitoring new KPIs based on engagement metrics and Facebook likes.

The reality is different: these metrics are meaningless for senior people in organisations of all kinds. However, low-level social media metrics can be aligned with existing business metrics, like those normally used to measure customer acquisition and retention. If social media effort is to be useful, it should contribute to existing business aims and measures, not create new ones.

4. Of all industries, the financial services sector has been the slowest to catch on that social media isn’t just a marketing channel (see: social business).

Strategic uses of social media can include improving recruitment & internal career development; enabling teams working in different parts of the world to collaborate effectively or customer-led product innovation. The key to understanding the strategic importance of social media to an organisation is to understand what separates a business strategy from a plan for implementation. A business strategy describes a way to win in the marketplace given the competition and any external forces such as regulation. In an organisation of thousands, the strategic opportunity with social media may not involve marketing at all.

It may involve discovering how many hours are wasted per working week per capita on ineffective document collaboration or customer relationship management. Let’s assume replacing MS Word or Excel document control with a collaboration tool could save an average employee 1 hour per week for 48 weeks a year. An organisation of 5,000 employees paying £15/hour would save £3.6M pa .This would be a strategic use of social media which could give an organisation a genuine competitive advantage.

5. The financial services sector is concerned about the ROI of social media investment.

I heard a great story from @benjaminellis at a conference last year:

When the telephone came into popular use by the 1930s, salesmen knocked on the doors of big businesses and said: “You’re going to need phones to talk with your customers. To enable this new kind of connection, you’ll also need a room in your office filled with expensive equipment and new secretaries to route calls. You’ll also need to create a new role for an electricity manager, because the telephone system uses a lot power.”

That must have been a tough sales job. Decision makers would have asked “We’ve managed with face to face meetings and letters for decades – what’s the ROI of this investment? Are our customers even going to want to call us?”

10 years later, nobody was asking the ROI of the telephone. I doubt any organisation in the world now works out the ROI of having telephones on the desks of its employees. It’s just the way we do business. In 2021, every organisation will use social media to talk with their existing customers and to talk with prospects, whether they work in retail, financial services or FMCG.

Which means that right now in the financial services industry, there is a significant strategic opportunity to win in the marketplace by being the first to make the move.

Photo by Richard Fisher