Is Facebook really more damaging to the workplace than Playboy?

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Pink Neon Bunny

Image by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr

Almost twelve times as many US firms block employee access to Facebook as block access to Playboy.com. The social networking site is the most blocked site at work - with 14.2% of all US workplaces blocking access. This is about six times as many as block access to Twitter (2.3%) and twelve times as many as block access to porn site Playboy.com according to an analysis of 2010 by Web service OpenDNS.

These statistics are based only on those sites that are blocked specifically by name - when you look at categories that are bl0cked outright, pornography and sexuality categories are blocked by over 80% of all workplaces. However, Facebook is held up on its own as a site that employees should be blocked from accessing. This trend for access to social networks to be blocked in the workplace is not new, nor is it surprising. It is, however, a sign that many firms are yet to fully embrace social media across their business.

Many workplaces, obviously, choose to control employees’ access to the Internet usually on grounds of productivity. “We don’t want employees spending all their time on Facebook or msn messenger”, the argument would go. Of course, in an era of smart-phones with quasi-unlimited access to the Internet, employees can spend as much time as they like at their desks browsing Facebook, chatting online and accessing other sites from their mobile.

But blocking sites like Facebook in the workplace is an indicator of more than just a lack of trust, or a need to stop employees from procrastinating during working hours. It is also a sign of how social the business is. We know businesses in the UK where employees are the only ones who are unable to access their brand’s successful Facebook page. Or brands where their employees are unable to view the videos they have created or the social media campaign they are running. This seems like a bizarre set of behaviours and serves to separate employees from the your brand in social media.

Employees should be the biggest advocates of your brand. They should be the ones you are engaging through social media and who represent your brand with what they say and do on social networks and other sites. Whilst encouraging employees to use Facebook rather than do their job is probably a step too far, an environment that acknowledges and respects the opportunities of social media will better prepare the whole business for how to use social media across the brand. If your employees are comfortable with social networks, and you don’t make the sites unattainable by blocking access to them, then you will find it easier to introduce social media across your business.

As perverse as it may seem to some, training you staff in social media (just as you would train them in other communication skills), is your best way of embedding social media across your organisation. You will find it easier to develop social media activities that actually work and to embed them across their organisation. You certainly won’t find this from Playboy.com.

B2B social media spend to increase to $4.8 billion by 2014

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B2B_diceAccording to a recent report by emarketer, business-to-business (B2B) spending on social media is set to increase dramatically over the next few years.

Outsell, a company who provides business intelligence for publishers and information providers, estimates that B2B marketing on social networks will grow by 43.3% in 2010.

Perhaps even more interesting is Forrester Research’s prediction that B2B firms will spend $4.8 billion on social media marketing by 2014 - an increase of $2.3 billion in comparison to 2009 spend.

Emarketer’s Evelyn Jung, author of  a new report called “B2B Social Media Marketing Heats Up”, believes that B2B marketers will realise they can use social media to generate quality leads and to position themselves as thought leaders in their industries.

Currently B2B marketers tend to spend their money on customer communities, podcasts and blogs. Paid advertising on social networks—banners, text ads and search advertising, as well as the more targeted advertising on Facebook and MySpace— accounts for just a small proportion of B2B marketers’ social spending.

The expectation is that when companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their money will go on social initiatives like creating and maintaining a branded profile page or online community, managing promotions or public relations outreach and using social media monitoring to check the impact of social media on a brand or business as a whole.

Getting started 1: Do you know what people are saying about you?

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When brands are getting started in social media, they really benefit from understanding who is currently talking about them online, what they are saying, to whom and where. After auditing what your brand footprint currently is, you can begin to make decisions about where you should have a presence, the issues of interest to people in social media and the discussions and debates that your brand can both benefit from and contribute to.

A thorough audit of your current presence in social media (or perhaps just the presence of your brand through customers, fans and others) is the first step for any social media strategy. Whilst Google Alerts provide a useful source for the latest items that are indexed by its search engine, to understand properly what is being discussed by your brand it is worthwhile investing in some detailed buzz tracking.

The best results come from using paid-for services such as Radian6. These conduct and analyse real-time, deep searching into what people are discussing in public forums and social media online that is analysed according to the reach of the posts and discussions and the influence of the people discussing your brand. You can drill-down into your keywords, understand which discussions are prevalent across different social networks and online communities and identify, measure and track your main influencers online.

As with most of our advice, however, a good first step is just to have a go. To do this you need to first establish what your keywords are and then use some tools (paid-for or free) to see what people are saying. Your keyword list is critical here and time should be put into building a list of terms about your brand, organisation, market and customers. Then you are ready to go. And if you don’t want to invest in a thorough, paid-for service right, and you are willing to put in more work and use multiple services, then there are a number of good free tools in the market. Some of these are listed below.

Only when you’ve got a clearer view of what people are saying about your brand and how it is represented online can you start to really develop a strategy to get started in social media.

In tomorrow’s post we will look at how to estabish the aims of your use of social media and how you can measure success.

You can read the full guide here: Getting Started in Social Media

Some free buzz tracking tools

Earlier this year Econsultancy produced a list of free buzz tracking tools which provides a great starting point for any brand looking to explore what is being said about it in social media. The original article is here, and the list republished below:

  1. Addict-o-matic – Allows you to create a custom-made page to display search results.
  2. Bloglines - A web-based personal news aggregator that can be used in place of a desktop client.
  3. Blogpulse – A service of Nielsen BuzzMetrics. It analyzes and reports on daily trends within the blogosphere.
  4. BoardTracker – A useful tool for scanning and tracking within forums.
  5. Commentful – This service watches comments/follow-ups on Blog posts and similar content such as Flickr or Digg.
  6. FriendFeed Search - Scans all FriendFeed activity.
  7. Google Alerts –Daily or real-time alerts emailed to you whenever a specific keyword (chosen by you) is mentioned.
  8. HowSociable? – A simple way for you to begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social web.
  9. Icerocket – Searches a variety of online services, including Twitter, blogs, videos and MySpace.
  10. Keotag – Keyword searches across the internet landscape.
  11. MonitorThis – Subscribes you to up to 20 different RSS feeds through one stream.
  12. Samepoint – A conversation search engine.
  13. Surchur – An interactive dashboard covering search engines and most social media sites.
  14. Technorati - Search engine and monitoring tool for user-generated media and blogs
  15. Tinker - Real-time conversations from social media sources such as Twitter and Facebook.
  16. TweetDeck - Not only a great way to manage your Twitter account, but the keyword search means you can see what people are saying about you.
  17. Twitter Search – Twitter’s very own search tool is a great resource. Can be subscribed to as an RSS ffed.
  18. UberVU - Track and engage with user sentiment across the likes of, FriendFeed, Digg, Picasa, Twitter and Flickr.
  19. wikiAlarm – Alerts you to when a Wikipedia entry has been changed.
  20. Yahoo! Sideline – A TweetDeck-esque tool from Yahoo. Monitor, search and engage with the Twittersphere.

Build your own community or go where people are? Do both

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A common debate among those working in marketing and social media is between engaging people on your own domain - in an online community that you build and manage yourself - and engaging people where they are - out in social networks like Facebook and MySpace or on YouTube, external blogs or forums.

There is, of course, a place for both of these things - engaging people in social networks can often be more suitable for campaign-based activities. For generating discussion and buzz about a specific campaign and to engage people on a relatively short-term basis. Your own online community, on the other hand, is better suited to real engagement - something that is long-term and sustainable rather than a one-off hit.

But in many cases this either/or debate seems rather strange to those of us at FreshNetworks. We think the answer is quite simple - use both.

The hub-and-spoke model of social media engagement

There are many reasons to engage people in social networks, where they are. And there are many reasons to engage people on your own online community or other site. In fact the best way to build a sustainable approach to marketing and engagement using social media is to do both. These two types of site are useful for different things and are used by consumers in different ways.

Social networks are great for reaching out to people. Posting videos or content, joining discussions or finding where people are. They are less good, however, at building lasting, long-term and sustainable engagement. And less good at contributing to long-term business strategy aims.

If you find somebody posting videos about your product in YouTube then this is a sign that they care about you, your product and what they do. They probably would do much more if you gave them a chance.  But it’s not easy to send them from YouTube to a discussion on a forum and then to join a group in Facebook (for example). You end up distributing all your engagement across social sites. You have little influence or control over these and your make the user-experience quite messy. You also miss out on all the benefits you should be getting of them being on your site - being able to ask them for (and use) profiling information, analyse what they do and say and create secure areas where you can talk to these engaged people about new product developments or other, more confidential things.

That’s why it’s best to have both. You cannot (and indeed shouldn’t) try to stop people talking about your brand in social networks. You should encourage it, give them information, tools and content to help amplify the word of mouth they create. But you should also create a space for them to come back to. This is the hub-and-spoke approach to social media engagement. You engage people where they are but provide a place for them to come to, a way for you to get all these enthusiastic and passionate people together.

It’s only then that you will start to get the most benefit from them, when you move beyond buzz and into real engagement.

  • Social Media For Non Profits (slideshare.net)
  • People are fed up of joining brand pages on Facebook (freshnetworks.com)
  • Social Media Marketing Budgets on the Rise (mashable.com)
  • Insights Qualitativos 2.0: Social Network Advertising Problem (jonggunlee.tistory.com)
  • FIR Interview: Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research (nevillehobson.com)

Examples of online communities in the TV industry

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We return this week to our series of Online Community Examples. There is a lot of talk about the way ‘old’ and ‘new’ media combine - how newspapers are using Twitter and how television broadcasters and production companies are working with online media. So this week we take a look specifically at examples of online communities in the TV industry

Online communities in the TV industry

The TV industry has a relatively long history of online communities - both fan sites and sites sponsored by the brand itself. People like to discuss both within the fantasy of a programme (fan plot lines, character diaries and so forth) and also discuss the content itself - evaluating what happened, talking about the acting, new characters or a twist in the plot. What is more, there is a real rise in people discussing TV programmes whilst they are being broadcast - people combining the online community experience and the TV experience simultaneously. This industry is fertile ground for online community examples, as the three case studies below show.

Rate My Space

HGTV in the US set up their Rate My Space online community to accompany their broadcast schedule which, as their full name suggests is Home and Garden Television. The concept was originally very simple. Users could upload an image and brief description of a room or part of their house that had been renovated. Others could then vote for or comment on these images.

As we’ve discussed before, simple concepts can often be the best ones in online communities, and so it proved in this case. HGTV wanted to both generate engagement and discussions with it’s viewers, and to use the increased volumes of content to increase revenue from advertising on the site. And from an outside perspective they seem to have done both quite successfully. Just looking at the site you can see the speed at which images have views, votes and comments - the engagement they have created and the interest in the site is huge. And also there are reports of considerably increased traffic and advertising revenue from those parts of their site that have online community elements.

A further sign of the success of Rate My Space as an online community site is that it has now spun off a TV programme of it’s own. Users are asked to pick rooms on the site that inspire them and then a designer will come to their home and use elements from these to make over a room in their house. So an online community grew out of the broadcast element, and then a new broadcast element grew out of the online community.

Heroes

Heroes is a well-known case study of how a range of online community and social network tools can be used to support a TV show. It is also a good example of how a hub and spoke approach to social media strategy can be the most successful. As well as a central hub (NBC’s Heroes site) they had presences in a range of spokes - other social networks and sites where viewers and fans might be. This approach allowed them to engage with users in a place and in a manner that was appropriate to them, but also to bring them back to their own site where they could share their interest for the show and meet people like them.

The range of spokes employed by Heroes was extensive and impressive, from the Ninth Wonder fan site, through social networks like Facebook and MySpace, to widgets, games and a Wiki that explained everything Heroes. The benefit of this approach for them was that it enabled them to reach out to people where they were, often in very active fan sites, and then bring them back to their own territory where they could interact with them and get value from this. They also worked the other way - letting those on their site take widgets and content out to their other social networks and communities and spread the word for the show.

This shows that sometimes, in fact in our experience more often than not, a standalone online community does not get the most benefit possible from your target audience. You need to work with the other discussions and online communities out there and build a hub and spoke model of engagement. Engage where people are but as a way to bring them back to your site, where you can both get most benefit.

The Sex Education Show

Channel 4 in the UK has run two frank and educational series on sex and sexuality as part of their public service remit. The first, the Sex Education Show, gave advice and information on sex issues. The second, the Sex Education Show vs Porn, looked at how the portrayal of sex in porn compares with real life experiences. Both shows were successful and both were accompanied by a strong online community: Sexperience.

The subject matter of the programme was clearly sensitive, but also highly suited to an online medium. Subjects that can seem sensitive or difficult to discuss face-to-face can be much easier to talk about online. Especially in an online community where you know you are with people like you. You have the benefit of the level of anonymity that online can bring, with the reassurance and community feeling that you get in a well-nurtured online community. And this is why on Sexperience you get a range of discussions that would not happen elsewhere - discussions on penis size, premature ejaculation, and sexually transmitted diseases.

An online community can be a safe place and can be a place for people to share information, ask questions and suggest answers on a common theme, subject or issue. The Sexperience site does this well - encouraging and nurturing discussions on sensitive subjects alongside videos, blogs and forums that support this content. Factual programmes and in particular programmes that deal with more sensitive issues or subject matters are prime targets for successful online communities. You can add real value and real service, and you can encourage people to engage at a level they might not otherwise.

See all our Online Community Examples

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