Archive for the ‘Richard Dalke’ Category.

DrupalCon 2010 and the future of Drupal

Last week a few members of the FreshNetworks development team went over to Copenhagen to find out about the latest developments in the Drupal world at DrupalCon 2010.

Drupal is the open source content management system that we use here at FreshNetworks to develop our online community sites.

Drupal has various advantages over other content management systems (as described in our post on why Drupal is a great social media platform (in layman’s terms)) and has grown rapidly in use over the last seven years or so.

Paul Oram and James Andres, both experienced “Drupalistas” and  members of our tech team,  attended the conference this year to speak  find out more about the latest Drupal developments.

In the video below Paul explains these developments and what we can expect from Drupal in the next release and what developments it is taking over the next few years.

Social media campaigns and long-term engagement

As social media is still regarded as a new form of marketing and engagement, lots of companies seem to be more comfortable “trying out” social media as a one-off campaign.

Social media campaigns are an attractive proposition as they can generate a lot of buzz and excitement and are usually the basis for a lot of the social media case studies you will find on the web.

Even though we’re a social media agency, here at FreshNetworks we don’t just focus on campaign work; we also look at long-term engagement through a sustainable social media strategy.

In our experience, social media campaigns are perfect for raising awareness on a short-term basis. They’re also a great way of getting exposure for brands, companies or products that might not be that well known, or have fallen from favour in some way.

Campaign work is high impact but due to the cost and resource involved it’s not good for driving value over a long period of time.That’s not to say that campaigns should be disregarded completely. In fact, they are very effective when used alongside a sustainable engagement strategy.

Campaigns generate the high level of buzz that brands so desire. However, if there is a long-term strategy for engaging with the people who have come across your brand or product as a result of the campaign then the impact won’t drop off once the campaign has finished. Using campaigns as part of a wider social media strategy will help you build awareness and drive value over a longer period of time.

In order for a sustainable engagement strategy to succeed it must be set up with the needs of both the company and the user in mind. The reason why single, one-off social media campaigns are often favoured by brands is that engaging with people on a long-term basis takes time and effort. You need to build up relationships and develop trust with your audience. However, it’s worth the time and effort as ultimately the people you engage with will become a valuable asset to your company.

The video below from Richard gives a brief summary about our approach to social media campaigns and sustainable engagement:

Using social media in the travel and leisure industry

One sector that is really embracing social media is the travel and leisure industry. And it is an industry well suited to social media and online communities - people share an experience or situation and this provides a reason for them to connect and engage with each other (and with a brand). We have seen some great uses commercially from companies like Marriott and InterContinental and Expedia but social media really works well in the travel and leisure industry when it is used in real time. In the latest FreshNetworks Video, Matt Rhodes describes three areas where this works well:

  1. For customer service - Social media is a great customer service tool - not only does it allow you to connect with and engage customers online, but it also means that when you solve one query you do so publicly for all to see and for all to share. This winter I was skiing in the French Alps this winter when snow back in the UK  caused a halt to most of the flights leaving Geneva for London. I knew that Easyjet were using Twitter, but rather than tweet them myself to ask if my flight was going I saw that somebody else already asked the question and I could see the response. Saving me from having to ask the question and Easyjet the hassle of having to respond to the same question multiple times.
  2. For real time experience capture – Social media is quick and easy making it the perfect media for allowing people to express the way they are feeling in the moment, which does not always come through if you are writing a review after the experience has finished.
  3. For real time information sharing – Holidays and stays don’t always got to plan and things change: the weather, the times, the traffic etc and so social media is great for being able to transmit information in real time.

See our video post on Social media in the travel and leisure industry below.

Why social networks aren’t like offline friendships

Image by HubSpot via Flickr

Social networks online are fundamentally different to our offline social networks - our friends, acquaintances, colleagues and others. Offline we have distinct groups of people that we interact with in different ways, whereas online in social networks we tend to merge all of our friends into one main pool.

This great presentation from Paul Adams, head of user experience at Google, looks at how we interact offline and online and takes a sociological approach to understanding how people interact in social networks and the consequences of this. From the dangers of two groups of friends colliding to the challenges for brands in social networks, this is a great presentation and our Required Reading at FreshNetworks this week. The presentation has a lot of detail in and is worth a good look through and although these are his own findings I know from my experience studying this area that there are a lot of research papers to back up his results.

There are a few points that I think are key take always for companies looking to use social networks:

  1. Social Networks are not always the best places for brands to interact. Social networks are very user centric places. All the diagrams that are in Paul Adam’s research are cantered around the user it is about their connections, their friends, their family, their swimming group etc. because of the size of the audience on social networks there is a tendency for brands to go into them and want to tell everyone about their products and services, some brands can work very well in social networks but most of the time people don’t want to be interrupted in what they are doing and there are more beneficial ways to engage.
  2. The power of weak ties is decreasing. Paul Adams talks about tie strength which is based on sociological theory (see the work on Mark Granovetter on “The Strength of Weak Ties”) this theory explains the links between people in different social circles. Strong ties are the links that you have with friends and family and are thought to be most influential when a recommendation is needed. Weak ties are links that you have with people that you have an affinity to but are not in regular contact. Weak ties are important to bridge the gap between different social circles and for getting information disseminated throughout different groups on the internet. People naturally build a large network of these weak ties and the process of identifying influencers who are willing to share opinions is becoming more and more important. It’s not who you know in your network it’s how likely they are to speak about your company and be trusted.
  3. People have different personalities in different areas. Everyone acts differently in different social groupings and when they are hanging out with their mates they might want to be associated with a bar or a beer or certain places but they might not want their family or co-workers knowing.

Social networks yield a high reward if companies can engage people but are a hard place for brands to get it right and are just one part of social media.

The Real Life Social Network v2
View more documents from Paul Adams.

Developing a European social media strategy

An issue for many brands who are developing a social media strategy is how they translate what they do in one country into other markets in which they operate. As a European social media agency, we are very used to helping clients take a US or UK strategy and then roll this out across the rest of Europe. And in doing this we have looked at organisations who have done this well. And those who have done it badly. The usual mistake is to assume that what works in one country can be taken and implemented in another country with no changes. More often than not this is not the case.

In this week’s video post, Matt Rhodes talks about how to approach developing a European social media strategy and why what works in one country might not work in others. Matt discusses how each country in Europe has different ways of using social media, and how these influence the way strategies should be developed. He gives three areas that brands should investigate when launching social media activities across Europe:

  1. The audiences are very different in each country in Europe - they behave in different ways and have different needs
  2. The social media landscape is different in each country - Facebook is not always the right tool, you need to understand what is right in different markets
  3. The position of a brand is different in each market - your brand may be different in different countries and your aims in each might change

As more brands are looking to develop European and even global social media strategies really understanding these issues is becoming critical. It would be great to hear about your experiences in this area so far and how you see the differences across Europe.