Archive for March 2012

What’s hot in social media: March 2012

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From SXSW to new apps on the scene, this month has seen another big month for social media. Let’s take a look at our what’s hot in social media round-up for March 2012…

Charity and social media

The beginning of March saw a host of charities using International Women’s Day on 8th as an opportunity to do something interesting in social. One of the most striking examples was Bollock’s to Poverty’s Facebook app which turns your timeline into that of an oppressed 1950’s housewife to highlight gender inequality issues.

Another charitable issue which came to light in March was the hotly debated Kony 2012 video from Invisible Children. If you’re one of the last people on earth not to watch it (over 86 million people have watched it on Youtube) the video is about raising public awareness of Joseph Kony, who is head of guerrilla group, the LRA in Uganda. Despite being a complex issue, this campaign has simply mushroomed in a way which other marketers could only dream of for their brands.

Social entertainment

On a lighter note, March saw the explosion of ‘Draw Something’, the app ‘du jour’. With a staggering 35 million downloads and a billion drawings a week, this Pictionary-style app has been making hundreds of thousands of pounds from in-app adverts per day. No surprise then, that social gaming powerhouse Zynga has just bought OMGPOP, the creators behind ‘Draw Something’ for a cool £113 million.

Meanwhile, social TV has been gaining traction in the UK with Social TV app Zeebox seeing a strong increase in user numbers following a TV advertising campaign, supported by BSkyB’s recent investment in the company.

Pinterest

This month the buzz around Pinterest has continued. British airline BMI has launched what could be Pinterest’s first lottery by encouraging fans to re-pin images from popular holiday destinations for the chance to win free flights. Pinterest itself has been suffering the common annoyances that come with popularity – clones and spammers. Take a look at this site for example – look familiar at all?

Finally, this month sees the launch of Facebook’s full screen photo viewer and the changeover for brands from pages to timeline is anticipated tomorrow. Are you ready?

Why training staff how to use social media will help your business

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The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK has warned employers not to ask for the Facebook username and log-in details of their staff or of people who apply for jobs. That this even has to be ruled on will come as a surprise to many - I wouldn’t expect to give my employers access to my house, or to my diary or to my holiday photos. But apparently some employers in the UK (but more in the US) have been asking for this data so that they can get an understanding of a candidate before they hire them, or of an employee they have working for them.

That this is being done, or even being talked about, reinforces the negative attitude there can be to social media in many organisations and in many recruitment processes. At its worst, it is a way to spy on people and something that should be banned from all workplaces and all workplace activities. This is clearly wrong.

Rather than banning social media or turning into a tool that is used to spy on employees, organisations should be encouraging and educating them to use social media to support their work and to support the brand they work for. A more restrictive attitude to social media is most likely to lead to a lack of respect of the medium and, potentially, of the brand you work for in that medium.

For many leaders and managers, social media can feel scary and like the unknown - there are new channels and networks and tools all the time, and the chances are others in your organisation will be more knowledgeable about them. The openness and sharing that social media enables is new to us all and is very different to the way that most businesses and managers have been used to. And for many there is a real concern that social media is about chat with friends and so it is wasting time in the workplace. None of these areas should lead to restrictive policies on social media, rather they should lead to training, sharing and education so that businesses can use social media in the most effective way.

The most successful businesses, and those that are set to make the greatest advantage from social media are those with a clear programme of training and educating staff about how the brand, and how they as individuals, can use social media. Both for personal reasons and for the brand. The line between the two is drawn, employees understand how and where social media can help them at work and so understand what kind of usage is acceptable.

For example, you might not want one of your sales team to be spending an hour chatting to a friend on Facebook. You might, however, love them to spend this time building initial relationships and credibility with contacts across a target segment or sector. You equally wouldn’t want one of your concierge or front of house teams in a hotel looking at YouTube videos for an hour, you probably would like to spend downtime searching for new places and tips in their city through YouTube or Foursquare so that they can better advise your clients.

Social media can help people to do their jobs more effectively and more easily - helping you to find people, find information, find solutions and learn things. At a conference in Cambridge last week, this was summed up most effectively for me by Charles Elvin, the CEO of the Institute of Leadership & Management in the UK:

Employees need to be constantly learning to help them and to help their employer; and social media is the best way of them doing this

To make the most of this, employers need to take responsibility for training their staff. The true social business has a process of training and educating all staff about social media, how they can use it, how they should use it for work and what they should not do. They may go on to train employees about how the brand uses social media and how they can contribute.

Social media offers many great opportunities for brands and for their employees to be more efficient and do things in new ways. Most people need support and training to make the most of this and it is this that should be put in place, not restrictive policies behaviours.

Social media analysis: what data can teach us

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At SXSW 2012 Gilad Lotan from SocialFlow spoke about the “math that matters”.

Gilad’s R&D team spend a huge amount of time looking at data provided by the Twitter firehose and the bit.ly stream, using this information they are able to gain valuable insight into how Twitter users interact, and so predict the potential virality of certain content.

The team at SocialFlow applied this analysis to their own tweets. The results were interesting, as some tweets generated a large number of clicks but a low number of retweets, and vice versa. Using this information and by determining the characteristics of each “type” of tweet, SocialFlow were then in the position where they could target amplification (retweets) or engagement (clicks).

If you take this approach to your own tweets, you can work out when your users are paying attention and when they are likely to respond to your communications. You can also understand what topics are most interesting to your users. Once you have these two pieces of information you can start to ensure your brand is writing content, across your platforms, that will engage with your audience.

The focus of Gilad’s talk was on understanding audiences. One example below shows what topics the audiences of four major news networks are talking about:

News networks clicks from social flow

When looking at this information Gilad noticed that users clustered together into groups, further analysis showed that these clusters in some cases were geographic but in others they were groups around a single topic or even a single core influencer.

Geographic Socialflow social media data

They key take away from talk was that data can help you know your audience, understand what’s important to them, and when they are paying attention. Analysing this data into insight allows you to make every tweet count.

While this information is definitely useful, and a great starting point, the way that we would apply such insight is to go one step further and link it into existing business KPIs, such as measuring conversions from engagement into sales opportunities.

Facebook announces full-screen photo viewer

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Today Facebook announced that they have made improvements to their photo viewer so that users will see the best photos possible.

Changes such as high-resolution photos and full screen viewing will means that high quality photos could be viewed up to 4 times bigger than previously.

Facebook photo viewer

In order to view photos full screen, users simply have to click on the arrows in the top right-hand corner of the photo to expand it to the maximum size, so photos which are large enough could fill the entire screen.

Facebook photos full screen

Obviously, this is big news for brands, who can now share really high quality images which could fill their fans’ screens, removing any other distractions. Brands with lots of visual content such as our client Park Bench are sure to enjoy these changes.

The changes also mean that Facebook will likely allow applications to upload larger images and potentially update the image presets offered by the Graph API.

Interestingly Facebook’s introduction of a full-screen photo viewer is also another indicator of its move away from side bar advertising. When images are viewed full-screen, they block out the adverts which usually appear on the right hand side.

This suggests that Facebook may be intending to take an approach more in line with Twitter’s sponsored stories.

Social media and influence: Don’t forget the offline

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Image courtesy of Shoot

There was a time (not too long ago) when brands were learning the value of considering how customers are behaving online – learning from them, listening to what they are saying and engaging with them. Now we have reached a stage where this kind of benefit and learning is commonplace. In different ways and for different reasons, brands are listening to, learning from and engaging with people online. And they are getting huge benefits from this.

But with these changes and benefits comes a word of caution – just because it is often easier to find, identify and engage with people online we shouldn’t forget the offline. In fact the real benefit comes from when these two work together.

Social tools allow us to find people, sites and conversations that are influential - on a particular topic or with a particular audience. They allow us to get a more nuanced view about things (people might be influential on a very specific issue only, or for a limited time). And to some extent the automate this process. We can debate the concept of ‘influence’ and the way tools from Kred to PeerIndex and Klout measure it another time (and there is a debate to be had). But what is clear to anybody is that when it comes to the influence somebody has over others the lines between the offline and the online worlds are not just blurred, they overlap.

Let’s look at just two stories (based on work we have done with clients at FreshNetworks) that show the importance of offline to your social media influencer programmes.

1. The critical friend online; influencer offline

We had a community of influencers – a private space where these key customers were being talked to and asked their opinions on new products and services, potential changes to these and about the brand. A small tight-knit community of people chosen specifically on their propensity to recommend or influence others to buy from the brand.

In this mix was one customer who was usually only ever critical – they would be negative about ideas, critical of developments and were not evidently engaging in conversations about the brand externally. We thought this person might have made it into the group by mistake – they were not acting as we expected an influencer or brand advocate to act. It was when we brought these influencers together for an offline event that it became clear what was happening.

This influencer was acting as a critical friend online – they were in fact a huge brand advocate and were critical for this very reason (there is some good academic work on this behaviour). But offline their behaviour was very different. From what they were learning online they had converted people across the town they lived in to our client’s services and were even continuing to support them after they had purchased the product – providing support and advice on upgrades and other things to buy.

So this influencer was not exhibiting the behaviours we expected to see online. But by treating them as an influencer and engaging them online we were seeing huge offline impact.

2. How offline events power online influencer

Many influencer engagement programmes rely on engaging people online so that they carry out an action online. Brands talk to them via their blog or Twitter; from time-to-time they might email or call them so they can speak to them directly. But all these communications are one-to-one and don’t really help us bond or get to know each other.

The value of getting your influencers together offline can help to really kick-start their online activity. In one case we had a group of professionals who we knew had the right connections and were leaders in their own fields online but that were not sharing and talking as much as we might expect. One evening in a pub they could all get to changed that. We talked, exchanged ideas, got to know each other as people. We didn’t sell to them, or use nay gimmicks. We just got to know them, and they us. And when they left that evening their behaviour online changed.

That one evening in the pub had helped us to understand them more and helped them to understand us. Not only did just have the connections and respect online, they also had a real bond with us and would grow into useful influencers for the client online.