Facebook’s action links - new potential for branded apps

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On Wednesday Facebook launched action links: “a new way for people to interact with your timeline app directly from Facebook”.

An action link is a customised link which sits alongside the classic “comment” and “like” options in open graph stories on the timeline, newsfeed and ticker.

Action link Facebook Foursquare save this place

One of the examples of an action link, given by Facebook, is foursquare. When someone checks in, friends now have the option to “Save this Place” in addition to commenting and liking the story. Clicking “Save this Place” adds the location from Facebook, directly to your foursquare to-do list.

The other example is Fab.com, where the action link “Fave this Product” will enable people to add an item into their own Fab.com favourites.

What action can brands take?

The potential for action links is great. Each app now has the option to drive more people to engage in a single action. For example, after completing a purchase on Amazon, you are given the option to share what you have just bought with friends by posting a story to your Facebook timeline. On this story, Amazon could include the action link: “Add to Basket” or “Add to Wish List”, allowing friends to easily make the same purchase.

This new release will allow open graph apps on Facebook to integrate personalised actions into their stories, increasing the possibilities and removing barriers for interaction. With this extra level of integration, it appears that the Facebook timeline, newsfeed and ticker are becoming a more interactive and potentially engaging space. However, as apps become increasingly integrated, the line is further blurred between being on the Facebook platform and the wider web.

SXSW learnings: Dynamic Pricing

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Why we have price tags

The concept of a price tag on every product is actually a relatively recent idea. Up until about a hundred years ago, the expected method of purchasing something from a store was to select what you wanted and then barter for the price you wanted to pay.

The problem with this process was that customers felt  disadvantaged to the shop keeper, who was a much more experienced trader, and so the price tag was born. This ensured that every customer got the same deal.

And today?

Skip forward to today and we are starting to see a change in how products and services are priced. In several industries, such a travel, companies are changing prices frequently based on environmental variables like supply and demand. Take hotels at SXSW as an example, hotel rooms cost much more around the time of the festival due to the huge increase in demand.

This trend of dynamic pricing hasn’t spread to far into the retail sector yet, but with the increase in mobile usage retailers are starting to look for ways to tap into the vast amount of personal data you are carrying around with you.

We already have some services trying to work in this space. Tools like foursquare and Groupon are allowing retailers to offer savings to certain groups of people, but that’s just a scratching the surface of dynamic pricing,

With the increased adoption of NFC in the next 12 months we could see increasing numbers of retailers offering personalised pricing, that is just for you, based on anything from the amount of friends you have on Facebook, to the last time you tweeted.

There are some risks associated with this model. A few years ago Amazon experimented with a system which offered users a unique price based on location, time on the site and even what browser they were using. There was huge backlash because Amazon didn’t inform customers about the system and so users felt that they were being discriminated against.

The key to a successful dynamic pricing model is to be transparent about why you are offering each price otherwise your customers could feel alienated and cheated.

Photo credit: NeilT on Flickr

Social media perks - how @ChilternRailway rewards its regular customers

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Earlier this year I wrote about how Chiltern Railways were using twitter for customer service.

Aside from their responsive Twitter account, I was also impressed by the company’s use of foursquare to reward the “mayor” of Marylebone station with the privilege of switching on the Christmas lights -  an innovative way to recognise a loyal customer.

Last year the mayor of the station was approached unexpectedly and asked to turn on the lights, but this year Chiltern Railways adjusted the format, turning it into a competition. So with Christmas approaching, I set myself the target of being the mayor of Marylebone station this year.

As there were more people aware of this special reward this year, the company elected to create a new location on foursquare (in this case, the location was for the tree itself) and promoted the event with signage in the station and on Twitter. This gave a fresh start and level playing field to all customers.

As it turns out, I was successful in my campaign to secure the mayorship, and so on Monday evening I had the rather surreal experience of being introduced by Chad Collins, General Manager South of Chiltern Railways, as the person counting down and switching on the lights at Marylebone.

The whole event was both weird and wonderful, but has definitely left me feeling like a mobilised advocate for Chiltern Railways. I was touched by the effort and arrangements, the official photographer, the PA system (that rivalled the station’s tannoy) and the special signage and music - it was all pretty serious, even if for a minor internet celebrity (at best!).

I’m certainly looking forward to next year, and hope to see other companies using social media to offer this sort of special one-off reward. As well as being fun, I expect that Chiltern Railways may also be able to discover new advocates by identifying those who were really driven to check in multiple times for the mayorship.

Incidentally I came across this fantastic foursquare perk, with an American mall reserving a parking space for the mayor - what a clever idea!

Social media case study: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

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Social media campaigns are absolutely everywhere now. Seldom that original, and often poorly executed, the space is becoming so turgid with a mix of good, bad, ugly and downright embarrassing examples of campaigns that it’s becoming harder to stand out from the crowd.

But as with everything, there are a few shining stars in the ether, and one of those in the social media space is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Granted, they are incredibly vocal and they are never not doing something, but there are 3 campaigns in particular that stand out for me from KLM that deserve some recognition.

KLM Surprise

First up is the KLM Surprise campaign. KLM wanted to reach out to KLM passengers in the real world to reward them for flying with KLM. They monitored check-ins on Foursquare at KLM locations and did some social media monitoring to find the people that mentioned KLM in their check-in. When they had a picture of who the person was, their activities, interests and personalities, they hunted them down, bought them a small gift,  and gave it to them as they waited for their flight.

This campaign really punched above its weight for a few reasons. The numbers paint the first picture: 1 million impressions on Twitter alone came from the few weeks of gifting. The shady area of impression analysis aside, that’s a pretty major number and one to shout about (which they do indeed do). The other side, and the real gem here, is their insight in taking the offline conversation back into the real world, albeit briefly, and managing to turn an average day in a few customers lives into a pretty awesome day that they felt the need to share. Brands these days are so hung up on the digital conversation that they often forget the power of the offline element too.

Tile & Inspire

The Tile & Inspire campaign is another great example of KLM both engaging their fans but also re-affirming their Dutch brand identity in one fell swoop. Using a Facebook app, fans could upload a photo of themselves that would be made up in the style of a delft tile and entered with a chance of being painted onto a real Boeing 777-200.

In doing this, KLM sent out a very clear message to their fans: we’re serious about you. We want to have our customers woven into the fabric of our brand, and we’re excited about a future where our customers shape how the world perceives us. It’s an important lesson – if a brand is not sincere in their involvement of their customers then they won’t reap the rewards that they are after.

Live Tweet

The Live Tweet campaign took a bunch of KLM employees (140 to be precise) and used them as a ‘live’ tweeting medium for a single day. Each person had a character, and they were used to spell out tweets as replies to the tweets that KLM were receiving.

Yes there will be those that are screaming that they are just re-hashing the work of W+K on the Old Spice campaign, and yes there is some cross over, but it was executed pretty well. The purpose of this campaign was to highlight their social media services – to let people know that there are people on the other end of Facebook and Twitter 24/7 waiting to help out. It’s just another example of how KLM is telling their customers that they are invested in being as accessible and helpful as they can be, and social media is one of the best ways that this can happen.

You can pretty much sum up KLM’s ideas on how important their social media audience is with this advert; drawing a parallel between football fans and the passion inherent in supporting a team with an airline is an unusual association to create, but with the hyperbole aside, it’s one they seem to believe in none the less.

Using Twitter for customer service: @ChilternRailway

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Chiltern Railways cow disruptionLast night I was pleasantly surprised at how well Chiltern Railway are using Twitter for customer service.

Like many other commuters, my journey home was disrupted by cows! Even though it was a very unusual situation, I wasn’t too surprised as I’d already seen a tweet from the Chiltern Railway account before I had even left the FreshNetworks office.

As I already follow @chilternrailway , I immediately had all kinds of updates in the palm of my hand - relevant information on alternative travel arrangements and even news about the steps being taken to get the stranded passengers and train moving. I felt informed and was able to make my way home using the information they provided - while it was frustrating to a certain degree I was glad that Twitter was being used, even though it was well after office hours.

I also saw lots of engagement and individual questions being answered, and even received a personal apology in reply to one of my tweets about the disruption. The Twitter account was in full swing until about 1am this morning, and back with updates at the usual rush-hour time just a matter of hours later, all in a cheerful tone of voice and personality.

However, even as a social media advocate, it took me a while to learn that Chiltern Railway even had a Twitter account, which is a shame.  Chiltern Railway appear to be very pro-social, having given the Foursquare mayor of Marylebone the privilege of turning on their Christmas lights (which I’m hoping will be me this year!). Before seeing another commuter tweet Chiltern Railway, I was unaware that they were providing such a great service, and even using it for promotional messages and general announcements such as the introduction of a brand new train.

I think their execution of Twitter for customer service is excellent and it has changed my perception of them for the better. Chiltern Railway are the only train company I have available to me, and before following them on Twitter my perception of them was neutral at best - viewing them as a means to an end. Now, though, I feel much more involved and informed about the company and their service, and feel more forgiving when unexpected incidents like this one take place.

What I would suggest to Chiltern Railway is only a small thing - they could improve their promotion. They currently have about 2,000 followers and I imagine there are many many commuters like me who may use social channels but don’t know what they are missing.

A quick fix suggestion to this could be that the in-carriage scrolling LED signs on trains, giving a Welcome message, next stop and other stop information could have a simple ‘Follow @chilternrailway on Twitter for travel news and updates”, which would surely reach the eyes of thousands of smart-phone equipped commuters.