Archive for the ‘Social networks’ Category.

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.

What the social graph is and why it matters to brands

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A simple social graph

A simple social graph

The social graph is not a new thing. The concept has been spoken about since at least the 1960s and is simply a way of representing (drawing) all the connections between people. Imagine a small island community of three people with no links to the outside world; you could represent this community as a social graph - showing all three connected to each other. As well as people we might add on other things - places, events, animals - and so use a social graph to show the connections between all of these objects rather than just between people.

The concept of the social graph is not a new thing, and it is not unique to social media. But what social networks do provide is a systematised way of storing these objects and these connections. Facebook is currently the largest social graph in the world but any social network builds a social graph based on what you tell them about yourself, who you connect to and the actions you do.

An example of Facebook, the biggest social graph

Facebook, for example, knows who you are friends with (and who they are friends with). It knows when you and a friend are connected by an event (that you both attend) or by a photo (that you are both in), or by a film (that you both ‘Like’), or by some music (that you have both listened to on Spotify). It then stores this data in a systemised way and so has structured data on you, your life and the way all of the things around you connect. Think of it as a mass of data that can be used to help to define an individual. And Facebook gives brands access to this through their ‘Open Graph’ API.

Benefits for Facebook

For Facebook the benefits of building and storing these social graphs is obvious - the more they know about an individual, the more they can tailor and personalise their experience and the more useful Facebook becomes to them. They can use this data to monetise the network - mainly by selling targeted advertising. They currently earn almost $1.20 a year from every individual Facebook member, and the more data they collect the better then can personalise the experience and the more they can earn. Finally, the quicker they build an individual’s social graph, and the more information they capture in it, the bigger the barrier they build to others being able to come in and compete with them.

Benefits for Facebook members

For the individual members of Facebook there are benefits too. Whilst personalisation can be difficult to get right, there is no doubt that a personlised experience can be much more useful to an individual than a more generic one. It helps you suggest things that they might actually want to read, things you might actually be interested in, and even show you adverts for things you might actually want to buy. The more data you share with Facebook, the better they can personalise your experience and more useful you will find it. Of course, you need to remember to be informed about what you choose to share and why.

Benefits for brands

It is probably fair to say that brands so far have not taken the most advantage of the social graph. Partly this is because many are still experimenting with social media and many think of it just as a way to engage and build their own communities and networks, rather than exploring the pure data benefits that they can get. But applied correctly, brands can use this data to provide a better targeted and more personalised service, and even to help shape products themselves. Whether you are Amazon, using Facebook’s social graph to help you choose products for your friends’ birthdays, or KLM using Facebook and LinkedIn social graphs to help you choose who to sit next to on the plane, there are opportunities across sectors and audience types. In fact the biggest barrier to brands using the social graph effectively is their own creativity and ability to explore how the data they can get from social graphs (including Facebook) can help your business. And the biggest opportunity is to explore ways that data from these social graphs can be combined with a brands own proprietary data to build a bespoke data set that can let you develop products and personalise services for customers.

All brands should be exploring and understanding the different social graphs out there (including Facebook’s) and the data that these can offer. Social media is much more than just a means of communicating to and engaging with people. In fact the possibilities that this kind of data offers can often be much more interesting.

Should your brand be on Pinterest?

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Pinterest value for brandsOver the past few months, activity on the social network Pinterest has exploded.

Pinterest is focused on the lifestyles of its members and encourages them to create different virtual pinboards onto which they can ‘pin’ things they like.

From September to December 2011, unique visitors to pinterest.com increased by a staggering 429% and over 3.3.million people have signed up to the website so far. In fact, it’s recently been announced that Pinterest has more than 11 million monthly visitors, making it the fastest website to surpass the 10 million mark.

The value of Pinterest to brands?

The demographics of Pinterest are particularly interesting for brands - an impressive 80% of users are women, and 55% of these are aged between 25 to 44.

So what does this suggest? Well, if you’re a brand targeting this demographic, you might want to start thinking about whether you should be on Pinterest.

Interestingly, Pinterest states in its terms and conditions that it is not a platform for self-promotion, but an online space for members to share their lifestyle, tastes and interests.

This means that (as with any social media platform) if you’re considering creating a Pinterest account for your brand, it’s worth putting a lot of thought into it beforehand, as part of an overall social media strategy. Whilst it might be okay to have a board dedicated to your current collection, the idea is that you will curate a wider selection of images and videos which tell the story behind your brand. You shouldn’t just be pushing product, but showing the lifestyle which is associated with that product.

How brands can use Pinterest

So for example, if you are a stationery company, you could have boards dedicated to doodles, great calligraphy or fun origami as well as those showcasing your best products. These do not have to come from you, but are just a curated collection of images which are already out there on the web.

The fact that Pinterest doesn’t have to be so focused on your brand may be intimidating for some – especially if you don’t have a concrete idea about who your target demographic is or what you’re trying to communicate to your customers. However, it also provides a lot of scope for some really fun social media marketing. Indeed, Pinterest even allows you to have other people contributing to your boards, which means that members can create user-generated fan content for your account if you wish.

With the freedom to use fresh content which isn’t necessarily generated from your design team, you can really investigate the different personalities of your brand. That could be anything from a pinboard dedicated to your employees favourite things, to one exploring where your products are made. Let your imagination go wild and dig deep into which niches your brand could become a Pinterest expert on.

Finally, don’t forget what your brand Pinterest account is ultimately there for. Whether you’re wanting to encourage online sales of your product or just looking to experiment, make sure you drive users back to your website and track the results. After all, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.