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

3 ways retail banks could get more benefit from social media

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Three financial services social media ideasFollowing last week’s post exploring social media fears and opportunities for financial services brands, this blog post suggests three  ways that retail banks could make real, innovative use of social media to differentiate their products.

1. Social banking

Create a current or savings account with interest rates individually tailored based on a customers’ ability to recruit more members to the bank. New accounts could open with an average interest rate which increased by a small fraction each time a customer brought on a new member to join.

In the old days of member-get-member direct marketing, it was common for companies to offer discounts, gifts or value added services to customers who did the leg work in finding more customers. This model has now evolved into group buying from sites like Groupon, but there is evidence to suggest that “member get member” banking could work from Key Trade (under the control of Group Credit Agricole).

While Key Trade used a cash signup incentive, an interest based one would be a more meaningful commitment to a customer relationship and stronger motivator for recruiting new customers, particularly if interest rates could be competitive with current market offerings.

2. Social Micro Saving

Create a savings account which encourages you to micro-save via your social platforms. This could also be used to encourage micro-donation to charities. This could work quite effectively as a Facebook app which occasionally puts something into a subscriber’s news feed, reminding them to tuck £10 away in a savings account and make a small donation to charity.

Charitable donations website Just Giving noted the rise of social giving late last year and with the rise of applications like Snoball and SocialVibe, innovation is already beginning to harness the power of social donation behaviour to drive donations for charitable causes. If charitable donations can be contagious amongst social networks, it seems likely that social saving could be similarly rewarding and therefore contagious. Examples might include teams that are saving personal funds & raising charitable funds for expeditions, or groups saving towards a common goal such as holiday makers saving for a big trip.

3. Social Budget planning

Social gaming has proved itself remarkably addictive, but plenty of applications can the human desire to compete to good use. Mobile or social apps that let people compete over their personal budgeting targets could drive more careful budget planning & financial prudence.

As soon as NFC payment becomes a reality, mobile devices will be enabled to track spending both in terms of amounts and locations. If a couple, or group of friends decided to collectively budget towards a savings target, they could opt in to share how well they were performing against self-imposed goals. Personal financial data would remain private, but benchmarking against targets for lunch-time spending, for example, could earn gamers reward points & bonuses, just in the same way that FourSquare currently awards players with badges & Mayorships for check in achievements.

My purpose in exploring these ideas is to demonstrate the varied applications for integrating social media & social network behaviours with personal finance. With the growing popularity of The Co-Operative bank which offers customers a shared gains model and niche banks like Triodos offering consumer banking customers ethical and sustainable savings options, it’s not hard to imagine innovative, social financial products emerging as the financial services industry re-invents its public image.

Empire Avenue, social capital and the value for brands

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Homepage logo for Empire AvenueRecently quite a few of the FreshNetworks team have started buying and selling each other on the internet.

…It’s not as bad as it sounds!

What’s happened is that Empire Avenue, a gamified approach to measuring social influence, has sparked off some friendly rivalry as we work out just how much social capital we hold.

So how does Empire Avenue work? Basically, it measures your activity on certain social networks, and is not dissimilar from other influencer measuring tools such as Klout and Peer Index.

Where Empire Avenue differs is that your value can effectively be peer-reviewed by others buying and selling shares in your score, giving you an incentive to remain a valuable commodity and remain active on your social networks.

What’s the value for brands?

While it can be a fun (and distracting) way for individual users to interact, the value of Empire Avenue for brands is especially interesting.

Xbox is currently the most valuable branded stock, but other businesses in the top 20 include Nokia, Audi, Toyota and Ford.

The early adoption of automotive brands is interesting, as one of the features of Empire Avenue is the option to buy “luxury items” - like a fancy badge that displays a manifestation of your virtual wealth. At present these are generic items - cars, boats, houses etc. but I expect we’ll soon see branded versions being offered by companies as aspirational items, or even rewards for loyal fans.

Brands will also be able to communicate with their users as the Empire Avenue platform offers real time chat and status updates. It also offers users the chance to  purchase in-game adverts to encourage visits to their profiles and, hopefully, investment in their stock. The relationship works both ways and brands can also invest in their fans, which is certainly a new type of engagement that goes beyond what we have seen before.

If you or your company are already active on social media, now may well be the time to think about “investing” in Empire Avenue.

Social media case study: Crowdsourced crops and FarmVille in real life

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National Trust MyFarm branded bull

Courtesy of the National Trust

Most Facebook users will have heard of FarmVille, one of the most popular games on the social network, with almost 47 million monthly active users. And as social gaming has a massive following in the UK,  it’s interesting to hear that the National Trust have launched a real life interpretation of the popular FarmVille game.

The project, called MyFarm, hands over control of the real-life Wimpole Estate to online users, who then vote on all major decisions about running the farm. It’s worth noting that while membership is open to anyone, it costs £30 to sign up for a year, perhaps as a way of ensuring a level of commitment from members.

As the experiment aims to improve education about food-sourcing, their is the potential for families and schools to join in the debate. The project will accept up to 10,000 “farmers” and is actively driving recruitment through Facebook and Twitter.

It seems that MyFarm aims to eventually become an online community as the site has been seeded with blog content and they are using a community manager to liaise between the virtual and real life farmers. Discussions will be held after voting to reflect on how and why a decision was made, and at least one major decision is expected to be voted on per month. There is already a promising amount of high quality video content available, and I hope that be more produced as a great way of giving engaging feedback to the farmers, as well as showing how their online decisions have affected the real world.

While the site includes The National Trust branding in the main banner of the site, the call to action for signing up to the National Trust is featured well below the fold of the website-potentially a wasted opportunity to promote membership to the main charity. Perhaps it has been designed this way to reduce diversion from the primary aim of signing on farmers.

The first vote will open on May 26th and the National Trust aims to reach 10,000 farmers within 3 months. I hope that they are successful in reaching this goal, as the experimental and educational value of this project is exciting and it will be worth keeping an eye on to see how things develop.

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.