Why have a Facebook shop?

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Online fashion retailer ASOS recently announced that it would be opening a Facebook store at the end of January, allowing users to buy items directly from within the social network rather than having to click through to the ASOS homepage.

This is becoming a trend for major retailers and we will see more of it in 2011, but is it a fad or is there real reason to take this form of social commerce seriously?

A report from Experian shows that ASOS gets a lot of its traffic from social media sites. In December their Social Networks and Forums category was the third biggest source of traffic to the retailer’s website, accounting for 14.62% of all traffic to ASOS.com. Social networks also seem to endear more brand loyalty for ASOS than other sources of traffic: 65.5% of the visitors coming via the channel were returning to ASOS rather than visiting the site for the first time. By way of comparison, 56.9% of customers that came via search engines were returning visitors.

Facebook is clearly a very big part of the social networking visits delivering traffic to ASOS, and alone is responsible for 12% of all visits to the website. As the second single biggest driver of traffic to ASOS after Google UK, Facebook has become an integral part ASOS’s online strategy; allowing consumers to buy products directly from Facebook is the next logical step for ASOS.

Keeping consumers in one place for any period of time online is challenging, especially given the millions of other websites available for people to visit. The same report highlights that the average session time for a visit to ASOS is just over 12 minutes and interestingly their Search Sequence tool shows that the number one search term that UK Internet users type into search engines, both before and after ‘asos’, is ‘facebook’.

When people online are navigating away from ASOS, the first thing they want to check is Facebook. So if people can shop through Facebook, then they have no need to navigate away from their familiar surroundings. As the average session time for a visit to Facebook is 27 minutes, it could be argued that consumers are more likely to hang around to shop through Facebook than they are on the ASOS site.

The Facebook store is due to go live by the end of January and, although this may lead to a drop in traffic coming from Facebook to the ASOS store, overall the company will expect to offset this decline by making additional online sales that it would not previously have captured. With nearly 400,000 followers on Facebook, ASOS has a huge captive audience to target.

FreshNetworks will be monitoring what happens to see how successful the campaign has been, and what lessons should be learnt.

Facebook for fashion brands - it’s about more than the product

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WaveMetrix have published their review of Q4 2010 social media trends and it highlights some interesting moves for fashion brands using social media, especially Facebook.

Burberry and Lacoste joined Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Gucci with a greater focus on brand-related content, such as music and sport which positively affected engagement, brand sentiment and purchase consideration.

Burberry, by running their Burberry Acoustic music campaign alongside content on the Burberry clothes collections, have succeeded in engaging consumers with the wider culture of the brand and this significantly increased consumer discussion. You can see from the pie chart below which areas the audience were engaged around.

Lacoste use a mix of fashion and non fashion content, such as their ATP Tour sponsorship to engage consumers and positively affect sentiment, as this pie chart shows.

That trend is not universal however. The report also highlighted that for other brands engaging consumers closely on product range can drive purchase consideration, with Xbox and BMW notable winners here.  Zara on the other hand, with its focus on product discussion, failed to drive notable purchase consideration – which shows the importance of the right strategy.

As an aside, a new report I saw recently, which will feature in another post, showed that a high percentage of consumers ‘Like’ competing brands on Facebook showing that on social networks genuine brand loyalty is hard to come by.

The social media monitoring tool with the most up-to-date results? Brandwatch.

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social-media-monitoring-toolsOur sixth post from the social media monitoring review 2010 series will look at the issue of data latency.

While most tools prioritise key websites to ensure the fastest possible upload of conversations, we found that some tools can take several days before the  conversation that’s being held online is available in the tool. This delay is known as data latency.

Of the seven tools we tested, we found that Brandwatch was the fastest at searching for and processing new online data, while some parts of Nielsen Buzzmetrics proved the slowest at collecting up-to-date information.  It’s important to note that Brandwatch doesn’t cover as many geographies and conversation types as Nielsen does.

As mentioned in previous posts, one of the ways that social media monitoring tools gather data is by using similar web-crawlers to those that Google uses to produce its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This is an automated process that copies content from a list of websites into the tool.

Once the conversations have been collected they are processed - sometimes by analysts but mostly by automated processes. The speed at which conversations are collected by a tool is limited by the frequency of the web-crawlers and the length of time it takes the tool to process the data.

This has an obvious impact on clients wanting to look at up-to-date conversations. It can also skew historical data as it’s possible to look at a conversation trends for the last few days, but then the next day more conversations may arrive from the previous day, changing the results.

People carrying out social media monitoring need to be aware of data latency and to keep it in mind when using the tools to track online conversations.

Tracking specific influencers

In the video below, Charlie, one of the Directors at FreshNetworks,  talks through an example of a client who needed to track a small number of key influencers. They could not afford to wait days or even hours for updates and had to find a unique social media monitoring solution.

The Hare and the Tortoise

Social media has driven a yearning for real-time information. A desperation to know exactly what’s going on right now. As a result you might believe that a faster tool is the better tool. However, as with the other comparative measures between the tools, it depends on your business need.

Our experience of the different social media monitoring tools suggested that high latency was often the result of more sophisticated data processing and de-duplication. Thus if your goal is to track what’s going on with minimal effort, or to see only the really important conversations, you may be better off with an apparently ‘slow’ tool because it will cut out more of the online waffle.

To give an example, some of us at FreshNetworks like to read the most important blog posts from all of AdAge’s 150 top blogs. To do this we use Postrank to filter out the most popular posts and then Feedburner to email them once a week. It can occasionally feel like you’re a day behind on the news, but it’s certain that you will be seeing the most important posts by the end of the week. This system only works because Postrank tracks whether other people think a post is great - a process that performs better after a post has been live for a couple of days. Hence, in this case, higher latency drives better results.

Our next post will look at sentiment analysis across the seven tools.

Read the other posts in our social media monitoring 2010 review series.

Social media monitoring review 2010: Test 1 results

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social-media-monitoring-toolsThis is our second post from the Social Media Monitoring - 2010 review series.

In it we’ll be giving you an insight into how we have set up the comaprison of tools (which proved rather a challenge) and the volume of online conversations that each social media monitoring tool was able to uncover.

Setting up the search string
We decided to use Starbucks as a test brand for our social media monitoring because it’s a global brand that is frequently discussed online. Also, the word ‘Starbucks’ doesn’t have any other meaning or use other than being a brand/company name.

As well as tracking the word ‘Starbucks’, we also tracked the phrase ‘Flat White’, a new addition to the Starbucks coffee range which launched in December 2009 . We also tracked their new ready brew coffee, ‘Via’, which was released in the autumn of last year in the US and in March 2010 in the UK. We wanted to see what impact this new development was having on online conversations about the brand . Finally, because Starbucks is associated with its ‘Reward Card’ and the phrase ‘Fair Trade’ we tracked these subjects too. To keep things fair we created a similar search string for each tool.

It is important to note that some tools are capable of more sophisticated search strings than others. So we were testing to the lowest-common-denominator in this sense.

Comparison challenges
Although the tools are very different, we wanted to try and evaluate them all as fairly as possible. Thus the tools were used ‘out-of-the-box’, as they come, for the fairest comparison. Again, there are limitations with this approach. Some of the more sophisiticated options offered in some tools are only relevant to more experienced users. And some providers (e.g. Neilsen) are set up to provide a much greater level of analyst support than, for example more technology focussed firms like Radian6.

Our sense for the market is that most firms are still learning the art of social media monitoring and that tools are often managed day-to-day by people with only limited training in how to use them in anger. This drove our approach to the research.

Coverage
As the tools all have different coverage, whether it’s for different media or markets, we set up the same filters for each tool to create a comparable ‘universe’ of conversations for Starbucks. Our test was carried out using only the English language and for the same time period on each tool.

Sentiment analysis
One of the areas we wanted to test was the sentiment analysis accuracy of each tool. In order to compare the automated sentiment (ie, sentiment that is coded automatically positive or negative by the tool) with our own analysis we had to extract the conversations and manually code them. Some tools don’t allow you to extract certain conversations, others do. Where we weren’t able to extract sentiment for some reason, we’ve marked the tool:

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Number of conversations
The seven tools gave very different results when looking at overall conversations -  the smallest number of conversations was found by Biz360 and the largest by Radian6 - over 11x the difference! But remember, more conversations is not necessarily better - there is often duplication.

Picture1*You can usually make arrangements with your account manager if you need more data.

Conversation types
When you compare the conversations by media type, again each of the tools shows quite a different result:

Picture2

*Scoutlabs doesn’t allow you to extract Twitter conversations with sentiment. The tool does allow you to browse the latest twitter conversations though.

At this top-level, it’s clear the tools are each doing something quite different…

Next…
More detail on these tests, and the results,  can be found in our final report which will be available to download on Friday 16th April. We’re also holding a free social media monitoring breakfast seminar on 15th April in London, where we’ll be presenting the findings of our report, as well as giving practical tips and advice about social media monitoring and the best way to analyse results. You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

Register for Social media monitoring in London, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite

Read the other posts from our social media monitoring review 2010.

Social media sales lesson from Pharma

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image courtesy of shutterstock

image courtesy of shutterstock

In the past few days I have been discussing social media with a pharmaceutical company.

The pharma industry is necessarily highly-regulated and risk-averse. It caters very well with the ‘traditional’ use of the internet, i.e. when corporate messages are broadcast from a main website.

These traditional corporate websites issue strictly controlled and watertight messages that have been approved by internal managers and legal experts, such that there is absolutely no possibility of brand damage or, heaven forbid, any litigious patients taking action.

And yet, patients and health care professionals (i.e. the pharmaceutical industry’s customers) are increasingly seeking answers to their health care questions online.

One recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of American adults — and 83 percent of internet users — look for their health information online.

Therefore if the traditional corporate pharma website don’t provide the answers, customers can (and do) go elsewhere. e.g. WebMD and NHS Choices

Meanwhile, and rather belatedly, this week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hosts a public hearing to discuss the use of the internet and social media tools — including blogs, podcasts, and social networks — to share information about the FDA-regulated products, including prescription medicines and medical devices.

Pharma is moving in the right direction. But progress is painstakingly slow, and meanwhile the client’s customer has many other (new) outlets for online information. 

The social media  sales lesson here is… know the customer’s customer. 

When I talk with my pharma client (as with all my clients), it is with their customer in mind.  In the long run it is their customer that calls the shots. So I ensure that I can speak to the stakeholder with some authority about their customer – bringing new insight into their customers as often as possible. Given that customers use of social media is rocketing, this inevitably places social media on the company’s agenda.