Archive for the ‘Social media tools and technology’ Category.

Twinteresting: why can’t we curate tweets?

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Favourite curate tweets

It is no secret that Pinterest is a great way to share discoverable content. The “waterfall stream” format can really help rapid skimming of visual content. Take, for example, the ‘Pinterest for Facebook’,  Friendsheet, or Pinstagram, the Pinterest-style Instagram feed. People are finding ways to curate images from a variety of sources, but what about the ability to do this with items that are primarily textual, or links?

Using favourites as a stopgap

I use Twitter prolifically, but a lot of my usage focuses on finding new information - blog posts and news stories, language resources and videos - and I often ‘favourite’ posts of interest to keep tabs on the links and commentary provided.

A thousand favourites later, and this system is incredibly difficult to manage. I’ve used an interim solution in the form of sending these favourites to Evernote, but it’s not great. I need something that will let me curate these posts - divide them into categories, automatically fill out previews and be presented in an easy way to skim and share. If it can let me keep track of conversations as well, then all the better.

Curating tweets

I suppose what I’m looking for is something that crosses Storify with Pinterest. Let me very quickly ‘pin’ tweets to boards, assign a category and review them later at my leisure.

This is something that Twitter itself needs to do. I know it has a focus on providing simplicity, to ensure that all users have easy access. This doesn’t mean that heavy users should be ignored. We’re talking about improving the favourites system. It’ll be easier for me to a keep a track of others’ Tweets and it should also make it easier for brands to discover content of interest. Twitter lists let me keep a track of other people - why not let me keep track of Tweets? Why can’t I create galleries of interesting thoughts?

Image credit: liveandrock on Flickr

WalmartLabs - taking Big Data into retail

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Walmart Labs

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, acquired social media firm Kosmix just over a year ago, creating @WalmartLabs, with the intention to use this specialist R&D unit to define the future of commerce by merging social, mobile and retail.

So far WalmartLabs has released two interesting developments using social:

ShopyCat gift recommendation engine Walmart Labs• ShopyCat - the gift recommendation engine

This Facebook application uses your Facebook profile to suggest suitable products for you, based on the interests and hobbies of your friends. An interesting aspect of this approach is that the app will offer links to other retailers if Walmart do not stock a suggested item in their own stores.

The notion that the app may steer customers away from Walmart may seem unusual, but the brand sees more long-term gain in making the service as useful and relevant as possible to its customers.

• Get on the shelf - innovative product pitching

‘Get on the shelf’ was a contest that allowed innovators to pitch their products to Walmart customers, who then voted for the ones they would like to see Walmart stock.

Over a million votes were cast, narrowing the field down to three products that will now be available to purchase in Walmart: a DIY-screw replacement system for glasses; an airtight plate cover for food storage; and the overall winner - a socially conscious bottled water whose company donates its profits to provide clean water supplies.

The next step - Big Data

These examples are innovative approaches to using social media to encourage sales and generation of inventory, but the area that I think will prove the most fascinating is how WalmartLabs will leverage “Big Data” to develop the retailer’s ability to predict market demand and so optimise their supply.

Understanding and fulfilling local demand

This is where the situation becomes truly interesting - stores will be able to optimise their inventory according to their area’s specific tastes and seasonal demands.

One of the examples WalmartLabs’ Venky Harinarayan offers is that of college football. By monitoring social media buzz during college football season, Walmart is able to determine when discussion about college football in a certain locality is beginning to heat up. This lets them know when they should be stocking products that are related to the season and local teams.

Creating demand and making recommendations

As ShopyCat has demonstrated, recommendation engines enable customers to discover new and relevant products, either for themselves or their friends. As I mentioned above, ShopyCat currently directs customers to alternative suppliers, but from understanding customer behaviour and using Big Data, a logical evolution would be for these alternatives to become increasingly niche as Walmart develops supply according to consumer taste.

The ability to bring all of these channels together in-store via mobile will be significant. WalmartLabs are developing in-store navigation using mobile, so I would expect to see apps that offer customers information and the location of recommended items, or prompts for items of interest that are already in close proximity. A reminder of a friend’s upcoming birthday and interest in fishing, while you are passing the sports section, for example, would help you make a relevant purchase while saving time and hassle.

The Chinese take on Pinterest

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New Chinese social media sites have long been inspired by popular sites and trends from the West, such as Facebook’s distant cousin Renren and Twitter’s brother Sina Weibo.  It is no surprise then that they have embraced Pinterest with both arms.

Rather than just creating direct clones of the site, they have been inspired by the image-heavy, ‘waterfall-like’ layout (the Chinese describe the dynamic grid as ‘Pubuliu’, meaning ‘waterfall stream’), creating new sites that use this layout but add different features or use it in different ways to Pinterest. We’ve found over 30 Chinese Pinterest variants (and we reckon the number is growing); here are a selection of the most interesting ones.

Chinese pinterest sites
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General interest sites

Huaban (meaning ‘Petal’) and Pinfun (no translation needed; even the logo looks familiar)

These sites closely emulate Pinterest , with users collecting, pinning and sharing images, video clips (Huaban) and gif files (Pinfun) of interest.  However, the content is mainly related to Chinese culture, such as upcoming Chinese festivity, popular Chinese stars, food and scenery in China.  Pinfun also has a link called ‘Pandora’, linking merchandise images to the online shopping website Taobao.

Food-specific sites

Meishixing (meaning ‘Gourmet Journey’) and LSKong (‘Lingshi’ means ‘Snacks’; ‘Kong’ means ‘Control’)

Meishixing allows users to share pictures of restaurant dishes they’ve eaten and liked, and ones that make them drool.  Click on the images and the restaurant name and its Google Map location are displayed.  Foodies can browse images according to cities in China; so far there are 38, and likely to increase.  LSKong focuses on snacks, finger food, tea, wine and Chinese medicinal drinks.  What makes LSKong different is its focus on each user’s profile page.  Like Facebook’s profile timeline feature, user’s ID page displays pictures and comments on their snacks; this invites other nibblers to comment on your discoveries too.

Fashion-based sites

Faxian

Early in March 2012 Alibaba Group launched their social shopping website Faxian (meaning ‘Discovery’) beta version.  Specifically targeted at female users, the site allows fashionistas to share and comment on items on virtual pin boards.  By clicking on images it also allows users to purchase items on Taobao.

Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’)

Finally, we should look at the growing success of Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’), launched in 2010.  The founder Chen Qi developed the concept of combining online shopping and web forums in 2008 by first experimenting with a cosmetics community website his wife was using.  He discovered that users are often unsure of what to buy and which products are stylish, or suitable to them.   Mogujie was already popular amongst females aged 18 to 25 (hence the site’s cutesy mushroom mascot), but when the site incorporated Pinterest’s visually attractive, image-heavy ‘waterfall’ layout, its number of daily visitors soared.  Since last December there were 400,000 registered fashionistas, and 120,000 daily visitors.

Mogujie has a rigorous user registration process; not only do you have to register your name and date of birth, you can add details of your height, weight, skin condition, shoe size and vital statistics. Like LSKong’s focus on profile pages, popular users become models showing everyone what and how they dress (like the UK site What I Wore Today), and provide fashion guidance to her followers.  There are pages dedicated to fashion brands, such as Topshop, Zara and H&M, and the items all link to the relevant pages on Taobao.

Mogujie is also not only about materialism.  During the Chinese Valentine’s Day (the 7th day in July according to the lunar calendar), the site set up a forum for single ladies spilling out their singleton woes, which became hugely popular and only adds to the site’s financial success.

Chen Qi is quick to point out that apart from the ‘waterfall’ layout, Mogujie is different from Pinterest in content and community management style. It is still early stages to decide which of the few Chinese Pinterest variants are here to stay, but we know that to copy like for like will not be sustainable.

Facebook buys Instagram for $1bn. Images are becoming more important in social media

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Like by matt_london

Facebook has reportedly acquired Instagram for $1 billion in a mix of cash and shares. The photo-sharing service was launched in October 2010 and recently launched its Android app having been exclusively on iPhone before that. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will be “keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything”, but it is certain that we will now see a new level of integration between these two services.

That Facebook has made this acquisition will not come as too much of a surprise to many. Indeed their had been rumours that they would announce a tool similar to Instagram alongside the changes to Timeline and apps at the F8 conference late in 2011. Also there should be no surprise that it would be interested in a service with more than 30 million users sharing over a billion photos (and all this when it was restricted to just iPhones).

But perhaps more notably, the rise of Instagram, and its acquisition by Facebook, reflects the growing importance of images in the social media mix.

There is, of course, nothing new about us sharing messages through images. We know that we’ve been doing it for over 32,000 years. That’s a lot longer than we’ve been sharing things with the written word. But until relatively recently sharing images online was not as easy. It has been facilitated by the rise of mobile devices with cameras (to take the images) and mobile and wireless data connections (to allow us to share them online). Services like Instagram then help us to make these photos look beautiful.

With this increasing ability to take and share photos online we are seeing a shift from the written word being the main means of communication in social media. Facebook has slowly integrated photos into all actions (from events to status updates); with its most recent implementation of Timeline we have seen photos take primacy in the way that the “Matt is…” status updates used to. Twitter has also made it easier to share and view photos, buying photo-sharing services and then changing their web and other services so you can see images inline with written updates. Finally, we only have to look at the role of Pinterest and Tumblr to see how images can lead in social media.

For brands this requires a real shift in the way that many have been using social media. Many have focused on engaging people through words - status updates, questions, discussions, Q&A. For others social media has been closely aligned to their SEO strategies - creating written content in blogs and forums, and sharing links back to their site. The job of a search engine is to find good written content, and social media has provided brands with a way of creating such content. Win-win. Of course, with images search is less of a benefit, and less useful (as anybody trying to search for a particular image they have in their mind will know.

But the rise of images in social media should help brands to focus on using social media as a tool for truly engaging with your audience. The success of Instagram shows that people like creating and sharing images, they engage round images from friends but also round images in topics of interest. They are easy to reshare and provoke just as many discussions as the written word.

Brands that are truly engaging their audiences in social media will find that the rise of images supports and promotest their tactics. It will give them another way to engage their audiences in terms that they understand and care about. Those brands who are just promoting their content or using social media as just another channel for the same messages will find this changing landscape more challenging.

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.