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.

Facebook innovation - measurement, metrics and brand strategy

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Today I attended eConsultancy’s ‘Facebook Innovation Briefing’, with Christian Gladwell from Human-Digital. Christian’s talk focused on three key areas about the commercial use of  Facebook:

1. Ensuring that Facebook is the right platform for your brand

Facebook  will often not be the correct platform for a brand’s strategy. The first question a brand should be asking itself about Facebook is ‘Does Facebook meet our business needs?’

Having a pretty Facebook page is nice. It’s better, and indeed an ego boost,  when it has several thousand fans. But if it’s not delivering against business needs, however, then it’s simply a pretty useless online channel.

Brands should, instead, use Facebook as part of their overall digital (or integrated) campaign strategy. They should be looking at Facebook as a useful tool for:

  • Channeling content
  • Communicating brand voice
  • Organic distribution
  • Fostering the right kinds of relationships with customers or consumers

The types of brands who can benefit most from this approach are megabrands (like Coca Cola), challenger brands, charities and those who have genius, creative, social ideas.

2. Measurement and Analysis

Facebook offers an unparalleled opportunity for online market research, especially for bigger brands. While the numbers are important, knowing how to use the numbers and feed back into overall strategy is even more important. We should use Facebook as a tool for tracking the behavioural patterns of consumers and we should be looking at innovative ways of doing it.

Aside from the metrics Facebook Insights offers us, advertising on Facebook provides a great way for targeted research. It allows us to engage consumers, measure the success of above-the-line advertising and, crucially, it allows us to measure that engagement. If that engagement ends in a conversion, even better. Experimenting with your Facebook advertising plan is key to your analytical success.

Going forward, Questions and Places will give brands the opportunity to obtain better, more accurate data. We’ve already discussed the impact Questions can have on your brand and Places could develop into a key way to pull customers from the streets into stores with coupon schemes, rewards and adverts targeted at individuals. Depending on the data available, brands could start to use it as part of their in-store strategy.

3. The future direction of Facebook

Forward-thinking brands will be looking to strategies that work and using Facebook in an innovative way will be pointless if it doesn’t deliver value. F-commerce (e-commerce on Facebook) is on the cusp of taking off and some airlines like the US carrier, Delta Airlines, have started to sell tickets via Facebook.

The importance of Questions and Places will continue to grow while Facebook’s group-buying scheme will ensure that business can increase their ability to measure their success, while spending less for the privilege, with the potential for selling their products direct to the consumer.

However, once again, businesses will have to ensure that using Facebook for commerce is the right business decision as it will not suit all business models.

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.

22 social media management tools - a wiki in development

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Social media management tools can help businesses listen to, manage, measure and respond to conversations about their brand on the social web.

With more and more social media management tools springing up on the market, it’s hard to keep track of what’s out there. So we’ve come up with a list…

Please think of this list as a kind of “wiki” which we will add to over time. We hope it will eventually become a useful social media management tool resource.

  • Argyle social: Social media marketing platform that helps marketers measure and justify the social channel. The system is built on a tracking and URL-shortener giving the user the ability to track social conversions on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Awareness : On-demand social marketing software  to help brands publish, manage and measure across social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, foursquare, and WordPress.
  • Buddy Media: platform of tools allows for Facebook page management and engagement.
  • Context Optional: cross-platform social marketing solution to efficiently build, manage, monitor and measure brand presence across the social web.
  • Conversocial:  helps increase engagement, manage interactions and respond to customers on Twitter and Facebook. It also helps plan  updates and enables you to assess what type of content resonates the most with your fans and followers.
  • CoTweet: enables companies to engage in marketing and response-driven customer service activities on Twitter.
  • Expion: a unified database that aggregates and tracks all employee and customer social interactions to help profile customers, identify advocates and critics, track behaviors and create best employee practices.
  • Hootsuite: one of the few tools that currently allows users to integrate and update across 10 social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare etc .
  • Involver: provides marketers with a “social markup language”, SML™, an engagement platform and customizable social applications from which to create and monitor content.
  • MediaFunnel: offers offers brand monitoring, scheduling, multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  • Objective Marketer: a social media marketing and campaign management solution to engage and reach users on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social channels, it aims to make it easy f to manage multi-channel communication while providing comprehensive analytics and reporting.
  • Postling: allows for  blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts to be managed from a single system.
  • Shoutlet: offers a multi-user application that helps build, engage, and measure social media marketing communication via one platform.
  • SocialTalk: provides integration with Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and MoveableType.
  • SocialVolt: a complete social media management platform that integrates the tools needed to engage with clients on the social web.
  • SpredFast : according to Jeremiah Owyang’s blog, (a great resource for finding out more about some of these management tools) SpredFast aim to position their product as collaborative campaign management and offer features such as scheduling content, and features that integrate with events and social stream like features similar to Friendfeed.
  • Sprinklr: Sprinklr’s SIREn (Social Intent Revelation Engine) platform is a comprehensive enterprise grade SaaS social media management system.
  • Strongmail:a traditional email marketing platform that tracks the multi-stage sharing activity of a campaign all the way to conversion and provides feedback on Facebook fan page wall posts.
  • Syncapse: product portfolio includes SocialTALK, a hosted SaaS solution that helps enterprises create, publish and measure their social media content strategy and posting schedule.
  • This moment Distributed Engagement Channel: the system allows you to publish content, moderate user-generated comments and track and optimize channel performance.  They also have features such as ID integration, media handling, and reporting.
  • Vitrue:  integration with Facebook and Twitter, they offer scheduling features, and the ability to link multiple Facebook pages together.

Additions to the list since the post was made:

  • Datasift: enables filtering and augmentation of social data to help you filter out the noise and find the information that is valuable to your business and customers.
  • MutualMind: Primarily to help PR and marketing teams analyse and monitor the social web, the tool also has an engagement platform with an integrated response system.
  • Assistly: social media management tool aimed to help with real-time customer service via email, self service FAQs, chat, and social networks.
  • Sendible: sendible is a platform for engaging with customers, measuring results and monitoring your brand across multiple social media channels at once.
  • Get Satisfaction: gives a better social support experience, increases SEO and improves customer loyalty.
  • Offerpop: end-to-end, white label campaign tools for Facebook and Twitter.
  • Hyper Alerts: sends an email when comments are posted on Facebook fan pages.
  • Posthelpers: an enterprise social selling platform for localizing news, deals and offers across an organization’s multiple Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn profiles.
  • eCairn: Aggregate conversations, trending topics and bookmark insights to help with your engagement strategy.
  • Stuzo: Dachis group owned social media management tool that enables  cross-platform (Facebook,Twitter, YouTube, etc.) social experiences and allows  clients to manage multiple social programs from one unified interface.
  • Valuevine: social media and location-based marketing and analytics software for multi-location brands.
  • Sprout social: cross-platform social media management tools that enable you to find new customers and to grow your business.
  • Skyttle: Facebook analytics for community insights and measurement
  • Zeitgeist & Coffee: a real-time marketing collaboration and management platform which includes idea exchange, content development environment, assignment and approval dashboard, posting hub, and monitoring and an analysis tool.

How do social media monitoring tools find influencers?

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0Social media monitoring tools identify influencers through a series of algorithms. Each tool uses different parameters and metrics to help identify influencers online.

The different tools look at influencer in different ways. Some can help you find an influential person or influential people; some help you find a site of influence.

Not dissimilar to Google, most of the tools don’t openly talk about the algorithms they use to calculate influence, but the majority  do take into a account a number of factors that aren’t just based around popularity.

Most of the tools we tested, including  Sysomos and  Alterian SM2, use metrics that are dictated by social media channel or platform  - eg, the tools use “number of views” to find YouTube influencers, or “number of followers” for Twitter. Rather interestingly, Attensity 360 uses information from another influence identifier,  Klout, to identify Twitter influencers.

Some tools, like Social Radar,  determine influence based on the number of posts about a topic and the number of backlinks (the number of incoming links for external sites that link to a web page or website).

Other tools, like Brandwatch, not only look at the number of inbound links but also take into account the age of the site, the PageRank and traffic to the site.

As well as using some of the more standard metrics seen throughout the tools, some of the tool providers have also developed their own terminology and measurements to help brands find influencers.

Scoutlabs use an algorithm to determine what they call “importance”. This includes their own editorial opinion about a comment or post, as well as its relevance to the topic that is being searched for.

Meanwhile, Attensity 360 uses “impact” to define influencers. Impact is a proprietary metric created by Attensity to provide “a more accurate estimate of the impact/influence of coverage related to a specific topic”. Attensity also offer users the chance to add “user defined metrics” to their search, allowing clients to customize metrics to the needs of their businesses.

It is this ability to sort and customize influencer data for individual business requirements that makes the tools valuable.  Synthesio, Radian6 and Sysomos are the most flexible when it comes to to drilling down into information about influence as users can sort and interact with the data using a variety of metrics.

As the tools all identify influencers and then segment data in different ways, it is important to carry out your own research into the tools before you use them. Research the tools before investing time and money in using them. Talk to the tool providers about your objectives so that you can really find the right fit for your brand and your social media strategy.

The final version of our social media influencers report 2010 will include detailed information about how each tool identifies influencers.

The report will be released online on 3rd December following on from the launch of the report at our breakfast seminar on 2nd December. You can sign up for the event by clicking on the button below:

You can register for the event by clicking on the button below:

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