Why you shouldn’t join every conversation about your brand online

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Keep calm and carry on
Image by scottroberts via Flickr

When brands start social media monitoring, the ability to get real-time alerts whenever your brand is mentioned can be enlightening. Your inbox is suddenly filled, almost in real time, with every mention of your brand. The good, the band, and the ugly. The temptation can be to respond to all of these. To counteract every negative comment. To respond to and then spread every positive experience. To answer and resolve every question. This is only natural for people who care about the brands they work for. But the best approach is often not to respond. In fact, in many if not most instances, a brand should not respond to people talking about it online.

The real benefit of social media monitoring for brands is that it allows you to be aware of and listen in to conversations that you might not have known were going on otherwise. People who express their frustration with your product but would never have told you, advocates telling others just how great you are, or people sharing useful feedback and product development ideas. It’s great to see all of these things and the temptation is to respond. But more often than not, the best thing a brand can do is to not respond.

Doing nothing is often the most difficult thing to do. But it is often the right thing to do. If you overheard two people ranting about your brand on a train you would be unlikely to interrupt. If you heard people talking in a cafe about great customer service they’d received from your team you would probably listen, feel proud and let them tell each other how great you are. There is no need to interrupt in these cases. A rant is probably just a rant and there is little you can do to change this. And people being positive are probably doing lots of good for you on their own without you needing to add anything. Whilst things are different in social media - notably that the comments can be seen by a much larger audience and that they are archived and searchable. But often the same rules apply.

If you have nothing to add, don’t say anything, and if you will only inflame a situation then stay out of it

Overall, brands should be careful about engaging online and have a clear process of when to respond, and when not to respond. There are two very clear cases where a brand should always step in:

  1. Where an actual customer service complaint is being expressed - you should step in to respond to this, pointing people in the direction of where they can get support or dealing with this complaint through your existing channels.
  2. Where incorrect things are being said about your brand, products or organisation - you should correct the incorrect messaging that is being spread and answer any questions

In all other instances you should be more circumspect about getting involved. You should have a simple process for reacting and responding online and use this to help guide you. But overall you should do nothing more than you do something. Monitor, report on and learn from everything people say about you online. But don’t feel the need to get involved in every conversation.

Why we’ll all be talking about the value of social media in 2011

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337/365: The Big Money
Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

The debate and discussions about measuring social media, and those about social media ROI, often focus more on what can be measured than on the value that social media is creating for a brand. Over the last few years as brands have been experimenting with social media this is not unexpected. When we go through periods of innovation and experimentation we always tend to explore and discover the new tools we are using. But as social media has become more mainstream for brands, both as part of the marketing mix and more broadly across the business, we need to move from discussing the things we can measure to the things we should measure. From measurements to the actual value that social is adding to a brand.

Measuring and then evaluating the value that social is adding to a brand will be different from brand to brand. They are using social in different ways, across different parts of their business and are used to measuring value in different ways. There is not one solution, a panacea for all our social media measurement ills. Things are more complicated than that. However, this does not mean that we cannot measure the value we are having when we use social media. And as social media has moved from innovation and experimentation to more mainstream we need to take a more mainstream approach to value. And we need to talk about what we are measuring and the value social is creating.

There are many things that are not examples ‘value’ from social media - a large number of followers on Twitter or Likes on Facebook for example, or a large number of visits to an online community. Such things, whilst easy to measure, are not, in themselves, examples of business value. It is relatively easy to get more Likes of your brand on Facebook (running Facebook advertising being one obvious example), and this may open up more people you can broadcast your messaging to via their wall, but business value comes not from having Likes, but from what these people do for you. Brands and social media agencies need to talk more about this, about what their social media is doing for them and the value it is adding.

Now that social is a mainstream part of business, value should be expressed in more mainstream terms. We should be talking about things such as a lowered cost of new customer acquisition, and increased lifetime value of customer, a reduction in average customer serving costs, increased customer satisfaction, or greater brand awareness. We should be talking about actual value to the business rather than social media measurements. We should be talking about why we started using social in the first place and the impact it is having across the business

There are many things we can and should measure, but in 2011 the conversation will be about the value social is adding to a brand. Brands should be talking internally in these terms and they should expect any social media agency that works with them to be talking in these terms too.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

The rise and rise of Facebook’s social graph

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Frosty Morning Web

Image by foxypar4 via Flickr

There has long been a debate in social media marketing between engaging people where they are at the moment (on Facebook or Twitter for example), and bringing them together to engage on your own site (such as your own forums or online community). This is, to some extent, an unhelpful argument. There has been no clear-cut answer, and the truth is that it all depends what you are using social media for, who your audience is, and how you want to engage them. The best approach has often been to combine both - in a hub-and-spoke model where you engage both in social networks and on your own site.

Through 2011 we expect this issue to become at the same time more complicated and more simple with the continued rise of the social graph.

To date, Facebook’s social graph has been underused by brands. It’s not surprising. The concept is quite complicated, and it also challenges what we think we know about social media marketing. Including the debate about going where people are or bringing them to your site. Social graph lets you do both. At the same time.

The social graph, at its simplest, allows you to use your friends, likes and other interactions in Facebook when you are browsing other sites. To put this in practical terms - on the Amazon.com site, you can use social graph to generate recommendations of things your friends might want you to buy them. It will recommend authors a friend says they like on Facebook, or if they say they like Football it will recommend products that might appeal to them. And what’s more it will recommend things for certain friends around their birthday so you get useful advice on what to buy people when it is relevant for them.Social graph brings insight and social to the shopping experience on Amazon.com - adding value and doing something that just hasn’t been possible before.

Through 2011 we expect to see more experimentation with social graph. More brands using the data and information on Facebook to add value to a consumer’s experience on their own site. This is part of a broader trend towards distributing social across a company’s consumer journey and contact points, and even across their business. But that’s the topic for another post in this informal series on social media in 2011.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

UK Internet Statistics

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I am a sucker for uplifting videos about UK internet statistics. Particularly if accompanied by a happy jingle and sprinkled with start-up success stories. It’s warming for us little-islanders to occasionally  feel important “we’re on the map!” And here’s a video that delivers just that.

According to the film, produced by The Boston Consulting Group, “In the global internet league table, the UK sits at number six. Ahead of the US, Germany and France”. Nice.

I hope you enjoy it and the cameo from @Acton who is starting to look like a Moshi Monster.

Consumers in brand communities 71% more likely to purchase (Universal McCann)

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Universal McCann have just published Wave5 of their Social Media Tracker. It provides a great snapshot of social media usage from around the world. The overall report is useful for brands and social media agencies alike and provides particular insight to people planning multi-national soial media strategies.

Among other things, they asked internet users if and why they join brand communities (see diagram below). And found that those who had joined brand communities were 71% were more likely to make a purchase as a result.

This backs up what we have found with clients in a range of industries and shows the power that online communities can bring to brands.

Why people join brand online communities (McCann)

Why people join brand online communities (McCann)

The report is well worth a read and is Required Reading from FreshNetworks this week. You can find a full version to download here.