Archive for the ‘Social networks’ Category.

Engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand. If it’s done right.

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Day 30 - Falling dominoes

Day 30 - Falling dominoes (Photo credit: evil_mel)

I really don’t care how many people follow your brand on Twitter, or Like your brand on Facebook. Numbers like these are essentially meaningless - building the right kind of relationships with 500 targeted people will always be more beneficial to you then meaningless, un-targeted relationships with 500,000.

The same is often said about ‘engagement’ - what value is there in engaging people on social media? This is a valid question to ask, but it is not the same as just attracting more Likes or Follows. Done well, engagement is valuable to a brand.

There are two main challenges to the value of engaging people in social media as brand:

  1. Surely sharing photos and chatting to people online has no connection to sales
  2. If it does have a connection, is it just a correlation (people feel positive about our brand so they both join us in social media and spend more money with us) and not a causation (people join us in social media and therefore feel more positive about our brand and spend more money with us)

What’s the value of ‘just chatting’?

The first challenge is a valid one - you can spend forever as a brand mindlessly chatting away to people without it having any impact on what you do. Are the people you are talking to even valuable to you, and are your engagements helping at all with them to spend more money, to recommend you to more people or to do some other action that will be beneficial.

The truth is that nothing should be done in social media with a clear understanding of why you are doing it - what you want to achieve and why this will help your business - and a clear understanding of who you want to target. These can be difficult questions to answer, but if you are not completely clear on them then you just won’t get the same benefits from engaging people in social.

Imagine a luxury fashion brand. It is probably very easy to get lots of people to ‘Like’ you page on Facebook or to follow you on Pinterest, but are these people actually the ones you want to engage? Or are they just aspirants, or people who like looking at the beautiful pictures? If you haven’t clearly identified who you want to engage (who will be valuable to you) and are managing your activities to attract these, then you may just end up chatting away to people who could have little value for the brand.

Know what you want to achieve, know your audience and make sure you are working hard to attract the right people.

Is it a causation or a correlation?

The bigger challenge to the value of social media engagement is that it does not lead to greater value for a brand, but that people engage more and spend more because they already feel positive about the brand. In short - that this is an example of correlated events and not causation.

A great piece of work by Bain & Company last year addresses this. Their Social Media Consumer Survey looked at average annual spend of customers who have a meaningful engagement with a brand in social against those who do not. Overall, those with a meaningful relationship spend 30% more annually.

If we were confusing causation and correlation we would expect that it would be those who are already positive about the brand who are spending more; those who are less positive about the brand would not. But the research doesn’t show this - those who’s spending is increased the most are the ‘fence sitters’ (those ambivalent to the brand); even the brand’s ‘detractors’ spend 20% more annually if they engage in social.

Bain Social Media Consumer Survey, 2011

So what does this mean for engagement in social?

So having good engagement in social media can be valuable to a brand - it’s not another meaningless number like Followers or Likes. Meaningful engagement, with the right people can lead to greater value for the brand from those customers.

But getting good engagement is not easy - it involves having a clear view on why you are using social, on the audience you want to engage, and on how you turn them from being passive to having an active relationship with you in social media. Most brands could get better at this and a focus on quality engagement, with the right people, will always pay greater dividends than just hunting down a few more Twitter followers or Facebook Likes.

Visualising Facebook: Your social data and personal infographics

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Like (Photo credit: afagen)

The more we contribute, communicate share and talk online the more we leave a trail of personal data in our tracks. This may be data about what we say to whom on Twitter, when we are most active or the photos we take. Or it may be data that we have captured from a specific activity - data on every run I have done in the last two years is stored by Runkeeper, for example. To have such a constantly growing, structured personal data set is very new and it offers real opportunities for brands and platforms. But also for individuals themselves.

The quantity and depth of data that we are structuring about our lives even on one network comes as a surprise to many people. Taking Facebook as an example - the data we create about ourselves and our networks is vast, and often hidden from the consumer - you just can’t imagine what it might be. The first step to help you understand the amount of data you have stored and how it might be useful is to visualise it - and search engine Wolfram Alpha have now produced a report that takes this information and presents it back to you.

For any user what you uncover about yourself, what Facebook knows about you, is interesting. For example, the word I have used most frequently on Facebook is ‘run’. The peak time for me to upload photos is apparently 9pm on a Saturday. And the most common first name and surname among my friends is ‘James’.

But what is more interesting to start to explore is how this Facebook data is able to understand data better than we might be able to. Take how it clusters my friends. Just looking at connections (and their connections) you can start to map out how my friends group themselves and really start to understand something about me.

Friend Network: Matt Rhodes

You can see three clear groups:

  1. A tight cluster of yellow connections - people who are all interconnected and clearly all know each other. These are people I’ve been friends with since University.
  2. A relatively tight cluster of blue connections - less interconnected but the groups of people I’ve made friends with in 10 years in London.
  3. A more spread our cluster of green connections - a loosely connected set of people that I have worked with.

There are also the odd random connection that I have seemed to pick up along the way.

So Facebook can accurately and clearly summarise my friendships and how they interact. And you could probably make inferences from that about how likely I am to mix people across these groups - only a small number of people connect between the clusters, suggesting I am more likely to socialise in these groups separately (which to be honest I am).

There a lot of data out there, data that we are leaving in our wake with every social interaction. Currently this data is being used by the platforms and by brands, but the exciting opportunity is to see how individuals can take more ownership of their own data and get more value from it. The first step is to start to understand what data there is out there and how it is structured. The Wolfram Alpha Facebook reports make an important first step to revealing this.

5 tools to keep you up to date with the news

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Keeping track of news on twitterIt has never been more easy to be better informed. The social web has altered how we find and consume information, and also who is sharing it.

Think about how you came to find this post. What led you here? Maybe it appeared in your search results, perhaps in your Twitter feed or even an old fashioned email.

I’d argue that Twitter has been one of the catalysts for this. As an extremely simple, open platform which is based around short and easily digestible pieces of text it was built for sharing news.

However, there’s a challenge amongst all of this. How do you cut through the noise of all the conversation to find the information you want to read? How do you slow the flow to something your brain can keep pace with?

I wanted to share some tools that I’ve been using which have helped me:

Flipboard

An iOS app (and currently in beta for Android) which presents a beautiful, magazine style representation of links from various sources. You literally flip through pages of stories and photos from the places you want to keep an eye on.

One of the most useful features is the ability to read through only the links from your Twitter timeline. I find this extremely useful to keep track of the great things people have shared.

Reeder

Again, another iOS app, but this one allows you to read your Google Reader offline.

If you’ve not set up a Google Reader account, it’s definitely worth it. It’s based on RSS, which is a way of subscribing to content posted by almost every website.

I like Reeder because it has some great sharing features. You can instantly post out articles you like to Twitter or Facebook, which brings me to my next point:

Instapaper

Have you ever seen an article or post that you really wanted to read, but didn’t have time? Instapaper is a great way to save those articles for later reading.

One of its nicest features is the ability to remove ads and other formatting from articles so they’re presented in a clean, almost newspaper like format for easy reading.

Storify

This is a great tool for keeping track of Twitter conversations. Twitter’s speed is great for getting access to the latest news, but can be maddening when you try and keep track of what was shared by whom and with what comment.

Storify let’s you track all of that, and presents the results in an easy to share story format so you can share with others.

Last, but not least: your own blog

This has been perhaps the best tool for me in keeping track of the things I like. If I find an article or post which inspires me or prompts a comment I post it as a link post on my own blog.

It means I can keep track of my views on a particular topic by sharing them with people.

Image credit: faunng on flickr

Beating social media trolls

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You may have already seen yesterday’s news that the Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, has proposed changes to British defamation laws which could see websites obliged to hand over personal details (including IP address) of those posting defamatory messages online.

A number of high-profile cases of online trolling and cyberbullying have become big news of late including those of Nicola Brookes and Louise Mensch MP. The idea behind the change to the law is about shifting responsibility for user-generated content from the web platforms (who are currently treated as the ‘publisher’ under existing libel laws) to the user themselves.

We think that the change is a sensible one. It simply doesn’t make sense for websites like Facebook (25m UK users) and Twitter (10m UK users) to be held responsible for every word written on their platforms – policing content would be an impossible in terms of both the scale of the job and lack of context for judging whether offending posts are indeed defamatory or threatening.

Last night Al Jazeera English interviewed me about this and asked why I think the changes proposed are a good thing for our freedom of speech. So why do I think that? Well, at the moment, as a user of social networks and blogs, if I take offence at something someone says to me, I can contact the platform in question and demand that I want the content removed. The platform, lacking context and in fear of being responsible for potentially libellous or otherwise illegal content more often than not will just remove it – regardless of whether a law has been broken or not. And if the law is broken it would take extremely costly legal action (as in the case of Nicola Brookes) to get a website to reveal the identities of the law breaker.

Under the proposed changes, if I feel genuinely aggrieved and can provide context to prove I have a case, not only can I have the offending content removed, I can have the identity of the troll revealed to me so that I can take appropriate legal action.

The message: that trolls and cyberbullies with fake names and photo-less profiles can no longer hide behind a cloak of anonymity when they fail to act responsibly online.

How to avoid being the victim of trolls

Anyone who engages online - both individuals and brands – is at risk of becoming the victims of trolling. Here are some top tips to help you avoid being a victim:

1. Privacy settings
Tightly controlled privacy settings will help you control who can engage with you online and the places where they can do it. The tighter these are the less likely it is that trolls will be able to infringe on your most ‘personal’ places online – inbox, Facebook wall and in your newsfeeds etc

2. Know your enemy
Is the perpetrator really a troll? What can you find out about them by looking at their profile? Clearly using a pseudonym? Faceless profile photo? Lots of activity on their profile in a similarly negative vein? You may well have yourself a troll.

3. Don’t feed the trolls
A piece of advice I often to give to brands I work with who are worried about trolling is that 99% of the time the best thing to say is nothing at all.Trolls thrive on the attention they get and knowing that they’ve caused offence or got a similar reaction. If you can, avoid getting involved and tell your friends and family (or indeed colleagues) to do the same and they’ll usually just go away.

Facebook ads - focus on growing and engaging your fan base

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General Motors Facebook adsFacebook has been very much in the spotlight, with a great amount of press attention on the run-up to last week’s IPO and the company’s recent stock performance.

One big headline was the announcement that General Motors was pulling its $10million Facebook ads account. This has clearly rocked confidence in the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook, but may not come as a surprise to many, as a social media setting is not necessarily the prime location for people seeking product information on a car.

It is important to note that while GM may be pulling its advertising, it will continue to develop its large Facebook presence across its brand pages, and keep a focus on engagement.

Here at FreshNetworks we take the approach that Facebook ads need to be aimed at growing the audience and engagement level of a page or app. By keeping ads within Facebook itself, the barrier to entry for a prospective fan is much lower than sending them to an external site.  Having said that, there are some important steps to consider when planning a Facebook ad campaign:

Testing the effectiveness of a Facebook ad

As with any marketing activity, you need to test and evaluate various approaches before committing a large outlay to a campaign.

What metrics should you be looking at?

While the click-through-rate is an important measurement, we’ve found that optimisation should be focussed on Facebook’s “Connections” metric, which measures activity in terms of engagement (likes, comments, app use etc.) so that the effective reach of your ad is maximised.

Optimising your Facebook ads

Splitting your adverts into campaigns makes it much easier to segment them according to target audience and content. We’ve found that breaking your ads up into campaigns of five ads each makes it much easier to manage and measure the effectiveness of particular ads.

Selection and formatting of images is vital. The imagery used obviously has to be eye-catching, but also something that is personalised and relevant to your target audience.

Following up a Facebook ad campaign

Once you have tested, optimised, and run your Facebook ad campaign, it’s important to carry the momentum and keep your new audience engaged. As with any social media activity, it is important to keep a clear strategy in mind, and determine why a new fan will want to come back to your page or engage with you.