Archive for the ‘Social media Beginners’ Category.

Social Media ROI and Obliquity

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

image via FlickR courtesy of LucyFrench123

“The problem with brands in social media is that they act like 19 year old dudes”.
Yelled Gary Veynerchuck at SXSW, excited as ever.

His point was that there is a tendency to approach every interaction with a single goal - sex for the dudes, sales for companies. And to rush towards that goal without pausing for breath.

I have been reminded of Gary’s comment a few times this week. Mostly by the economist, John Kay.

John has a new book out: Obliquity – why our goals are best pursued indirectly. And as a result he’s cropping up everywhere at the moment.

The premise of his book is that the greatest, most profitable companies achieve success as a result of focussing on higher ideals than cash generation. This is not an especially groundbreaking theory - I’ve rarely met a successful entrepreneur who was primarily money-motivated. However I do think he has coined a super phrase and one with a distinct social media relevance.

Obliquity - why social media goals are best pursued indirectly
Success in social media rarely comes from being the 19yr old dude. Sustained social media ROI relies on building realtionships, not converting one-night-stands. The tools of social media provide a new form of communication. As a result they can help you improve products, processes and customer relationships. An indirect, or oblique benefit, might be more sales.

However, obliquity is a tough message when you’re a nervous marketing manger who only likes to spend money on safe bets where ROI has been proven upfront or in advance.

The tragedy of social media is that “digital can be measured”. This drives a desire is to spend £1 and get £1 and 10 pence back before investing more. Whilst such an approach is fine for Google Adwords or other search marketing, social media plays by different rules.

Please don’t act like the 19yr old dude. Customers can spot it a mile off. You’re far more likely to achieve social media ROI if you focus on a different (oblique) business goal first. Use social media to engage customers. Use social media for deeper customer insight or to improve your customer service. The cash will follow.

The Economist on Social Networking

The Economist on social networking - world of connections

The Economist on social networking - world of connections

What joy. This week,  The Economist, every Capitalist’s favourite magazine, has published a special report on on social networking.

A World of Connections, provides an excellent overview of the current state of social media for those still trying to get to grips with it. You can download a free pdf of the report here. Or check out my summary of key highlights below.

Introduction: A world of connections

  1. “Online social networks are changing the way people communicate, work and play”
  2. Facebook users post over 55m updates a day. 70% of users live outside the US.
  3. Social networks are superb tools for mass communication [NB the report is a bit light on their strategic use as a driver of 1-to-1 customer-to-company communication]
  4. “the most avid online networkers are in Australia, followed by those in Britain and Italy”
  5. Social Networks have “become important vehicles for news and channels of influence”. Indeed, they “played a starring role in the online campaign strategy that helped sweep Barack Obama”
  6. To sceptics all the “talk of twittering, yammering and chattering smacks of another internet bubble in the making“. Social networks still “need to prove to the world that they are here to stay”

“This special report … will argue that social networks are more robust than their critics think … and that social-networking technologies are creating considerable benefits for the businesses that embrace them, whatever their size. Lastly, it will contend that this is just the beginning of an exciting new era of global interconnectedness that will spread ideas and innovations around the world faster than ever before.”

Facebook’s growth: Why social networks have grown so fast—and how Facebook has become so dominant

  1. How the network-effect can drive lightning fast growth on a relatively modest marketing budget.
  2. An openness to external developers helped create thousands of apps. These apps provide part of the service and additional reasons to spend time on Facebook.
  3. Social networks have been beneficiaries of a fall in the cost of data storage and have also been “able to use free, open-source software to build systems that scale quickly and easily”
  4. In a feat of technical wizardry, Facebook’s engineers “quintupled the performance of an open-source memory system called memcached, which allows frequently used data to be retrieved faster than if stored in a database.
  5. Facebook Connect is one of the firm’s most important innovations as it allows members to take their social graph wherever they go on the web.

Twitter’s transmitters: The magic of 140 characters

  1. A key difference between Facebook and Twitter comes from the nature of relationships that underlie them. “On Facebook, users can communicate directly only if one of them has agreed to be a “friend” of the other. On Twitter, people can sign up to follow any public tweets they like”
  2. The most prolific 10% of Tweeters account for 90% of all tweets
  3. Another big difference between Twitter and Facebook is in the kind of content that gets sent over their networks. Facebook allows people to exchange videos, photos and other material, whereas Twitter is part-blog, part e-mail [I disagree with this. On the surface Twitter looks like a text tool, but many tweets link to videos, photos or other media].

Social Networks making money: Profiting from friendship

  1. When it comes to turning users into profits, social networks face two issues. Firstly, users are taking part to spend time with friends, so they do not pay attention to ads. Secondly, brands are nervous about appearing alongside unregulated comments and other content.
  2. Click-through rates are low, but the amount spent on adverts is increasing despite the recession.
  3. In part this may be because Marketers recognise the value that personal recommendations can have on buying behaviour. And social networks provide an opportunity for viral marketing.
  4. During 2009, Facebook turned cash-flow positive on revenues thought to be in the region of $500m.
  5. Games, virtual gifts, premium services and search rights are becoming an important part of some social networks’ revenue streams

Social Media for Small Business: A peach of an opportunity

  1. They cover the well known Kogi BBQ social media success story and mention that according to Razorfish 44% of people follow brands on Twitter  for deals [NB the methodology used in this research was rightly brought into question by Susan Braton in a recent DishyMix podcast]
  2. Social networks can provide a great launchpad for startups thanks to their reach.
  3. This article then randomly veers off into social gaming. A subject that deserves it’s own dedicated piece. But you can’t have everything.

Internal social networks: Yammering away at the office

  1. Social networks are being used to break down internal barriers in the corporate world.
  2. Informal conversations they allow can be a catalyst for creativity and new ideas.
  3. “The networks are also a great way to capture knowledge and identify experts on different subjects within an organisation”

Recruitment in a social world: Social Contracts: the smart way to hire workers

  1. Social networks, such as Linkedin and Xing help firms cut search costs
  2. Business social networks help improve the efficiency of the labour market
  3. They have also made recruitment more transparent as recruiters go onto social networks to check up on candidates ahead of making an hire

As an aside, if you’re interested in social media for recruitment here are a few relevant posts from our sister company, FreshMinds Talent:

How to use Web2.0 for recruitment
Social Media and the forefront of the job market
How to imporve your Linkedin profile

Privacy in social media: Privacy 2.0

  1. Privacy could be the Achilles heel of social networks. Users could decide to start reducing what they are prepared to share with the world online.
  2. Social networks have been developing privacy controls that give users the ability to edit what can and cannot be seen. However these are often hidden away within sites and social networks are making blatant attempts to encourage more sharing of data not less.

The Future of Social Media Towards a socialised state

  1. Social connectivity could become ubiquitous
  2. Mobile adoption will fuel future growth in social networking
  3. Facebook says that mobile users of the site are almost 50% more active than regular users
  4. Geo-networking apps may be the next big thing [unsurprisingly, the Economist can't resist a fleeting mention of Foursquare, the social network tipped for big things in 2010]


It’s great to see social media and social networking getting reported in such depth by mainstream media. This Economist report is not exactly cutting edge when it comes to social media insight or analysis. However it does provide a great base level for the 99% of the business world who do not spend their days glued to Tweetdeck.

Even if the above is not new to you, I recommend you read the report purely for a lesson in good business writing. As ever, The Economist delivers on elegant prose that neatly and efficiently flows from point to point.

Was there anything in the report that leapt out at you?

Dear Social Media: Sorry I took you for granted

Sorry - On Australia DayImage by spud murphy via Flickr

Hi I’m Nick - the FreshNetworks marketing intern. Sadly, my time as an intern at FreshNetworks is quickly drawing to a close so I thought it might be of interest to talk a bit about what I’ve learnt – particularly around social media. Even though I may not have known it before, social media has had a huge impact on my life. Here are four things I’ve learnt during my internship:

Web 2.0 is part of an internet revolution…
So what is Web 2.0? A meaningless marketing buzzword, tech jargon for computer geeks, or an internet revolution? I never really understood the full meaning of the phrase. However since being here I have definitely gleaned a clearer definition. Web 2.0 refers to a supposed second-generation of Internet-based services that let people collaborate and share information online in ways previously unavailable. On the web, people can publish whatever they want, when they want and this has led to the growth of social networking sites, wikis, support forums and online communities. My answer now? Internet revolution.

Could I live without social media?
Being part of the Nintendo generation I’ve grown up with the worldwide web so I’m an avid user of web 2.0 and social media; sharing photos on facebook, discussing my travelling plans on, providing feedback on ebay, downloading an mp3 and finding out how to fix a computer problem through online forums. The ability of the internet to allow users to share and discuss information has definitely been beneficial to web surfers like me. No doubt I’ve taken social media for granted up until now, but now I realise that without it my life would surely have been much less productive, organised and social!

Social media can make companies $$$
Next week I jet off to do the typical backpackers route – Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam. The unbiased, user-generated content provided by has been an invaluable planning tool – yet another benefit of social media. But I was fascinated to learn that this website generates its owners (Expedia) a third of their revenue. And here I was thinking it was just for fun.

Word-of-mouth is four times as trusted as TV advertising…
Word-of-mouth is the most trusted decision-making tool for consumers. And today, more and more people use the web for word-of-mouth - reading other users reviews and comments on particular products and services. In fact, online communities are increasingly a first choice for this sort of research. As a result, marketers are adapting their campaigns to allow for this change in consumer behaviour; it makes a lot of sense, as online communities allow one person’s recommendation to reach thousands around the world.
Without me knowing it, social media has become and integral part of my life. Could I live without social media? Probably not, but at least now I know it!

  • Should schools ban social media practice and education? - ZooLoo … (
  • What IS a Social Media Expert? (
  • Using Social Media As A Sales Tool (

Social Media Beginners: Lesson 4 - Principles of engaging people online

It’s been a while since the last installment, so apologies for that. This time we’re going to look at a few principles for engaging people online.

  1. Understand who you want to engage. The first stage is critical - know who you want to engage. This may be a certain type of consumer, your most loyal customers or maybe people you are targeting in the future. Do some work to understand these people, what makes them tick and what inspires them. What do they do online at the moment and where do they hang out? Get a real and full understanding of the people you want to engage so that you know how to approach them, what content and discussions are relevant to them, and where to find them.
  2. Explore what’s in it for them. You’re engaging people and they’re engaging with you - it’s a two-way process. To make sure that you get the most out of people you need to make sure there is something in it for them. They may not be as enthusiastic to learn about your latest product as you think (or maybe just hope) they should be. Whatever you’re engaging them with, and however you’re doing it, make sure there really is something in it for them.
  3. Create a space people feel comfortable in. Think of hosting a party or inviting friend over for a chat. You know that the party wouldn’t be good if the venue and atmosphere wasn’t right; or that the chat would be abrupt if the chairs were uncomfortable. Online it’s critical that you create a space that people feel comfortable in. If you are to truly engage with them you need to make sure you create a space they want to visit and then want to return to. Work on the previous two stages to get this right.
  4. Be open and honest in the way you engage. Honesty is critical online. You need people to trust you and to do this in the online space it’s best to be clear and frank about who you are and what you’re doing. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not and don’t pretend you’re looking to do something you’re not. People will trust you more if you’re honest with them, and if you want this engagement to be most successful then you want them to be honest back.
  5. Reward participation. Don’t reward with payment or free products, but reward by letting people know you care. They want to engage with you and will be even more motivated if you show them how this engagement is impacting you. Feedback to them any changes you make on the back of this engagement, let them inside the firm and make them a real part of the organisation. People want to help and want to feel a stronger link to a brand they love and so make the most of these feelings and use them to your advantage.

Whether you are engaging people through blogs, email newsletters, their social networks or your own online communities, these principles are critical. The online space is different to traditional means of engaging with or marketing too customers and so it’s critical that you take a new approach. Honesty really is the best policy.

Next time we’ll be looking at how you can make use of video and photos online as part of a social media strategy.

Social Media Beginners: Lesson 3 - User generated content

When people talk about new media, social media or Web 2.0, there is often one thing in common: user generated content (UGC). This is really what the essence growth of Web 2.0 is. Web sites are crammed full of videos, photos, reviews and articles written by users. This reflects a shift not only in the amount of time people are spending online (more), but also a change in the reason for going online. People no longer go just to read and find a piece of information; they go to contribute information, share ideas and interact with other users. Wikipedia has over seven million articles in 200 languages - all user generated content. YouTube has over 150,000 new videos uploaded every day. People want to contribute to the debate and we need to give them the opportunity to do this.

The internet has changed from being about individual users interacting with websites, to individual users interacting with each other through websites.

This change is massive and the opportunities it opens up for you are equally large. For brands it’s about getting rid of traditional marketing approaches and engaging customers in what you are doing - involve them and use the content and ideas they generate to help you.

One simple but effective way to start use UGC in your business is to get customers to rate products on your site and write reviews. Many firms are worried about this, but they really shouldn’t be. Businesses like Amazon have been using customer reviews on their main site for years, others like Expedia have a customer reviews site that sits separate to the ecommerce site (TripAdvisor in their case).

To get the use of UGC in this way right, there are a few simple rules to follow:

  1. Be clear why people are reviewing - they should be doing it so that they can let other people know what they think about the product rather than it just being feedback to you on your brand.
  2. Allow people just to give a rating and use a five point scale. People tend to be very positive, in fact the average score given to products when rated online is 4.3 out of five!
  3. Allow people to post reviews in real-time. You can moderate them afterwards and letting them see that their post is live will be the reward they need for taking the time to write something.
  4. Don’t fake reviews. Not only is this going to become illegal, there is also no need. I’ve heard of companies that fake positive reviews, and ones that fake negative reviews. There’s no need to do either, so don’t.

Pretty soon your reviews will become an integral part of your site. It stops being somewhere customers go to perform a transaction and starts being somewhere they go to interact. They spend more time on the site and research suggests will spend more money with you. Products with reviews generate a much higher conversion rate than those without. Now there’s a real benefit of UGC!

Next time we’ll build on this and look at a range of ways you can start to engage customers online.