Should your brand be on Pinterest?

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Pinterest value for brandsOver the past few months, activity on the social network Pinterest has exploded.

Pinterest is focused on the lifestyles of its members and encourages them to create different virtual pinboards onto which they can ‘pin’ things they like.

From September to December 2011, unique visitors to pinterest.com increased by a staggering 429% and over 3.3.million people have signed up to the website so far. In fact, it’s recently been announced that Pinterest has more than 11 million monthly visitors, making it the fastest website to surpass the 10 million mark.

The value of Pinterest to brands?

The demographics of Pinterest are particularly interesting for brands - an impressive 80% of users are women, and 55% of these are aged between 25 to 44.

So what does this suggest? Well, if you’re a brand targeting this demographic, you might want to start thinking about whether you should be on Pinterest.

Interestingly, Pinterest states in its terms and conditions that it is not a platform for self-promotion, but an online space for members to share their lifestyle, tastes and interests.

This means that (as with any social media platform) if you’re considering creating a Pinterest account for your brand, it’s worth putting a lot of thought into it beforehand, as part of an overall social media strategy. Whilst it might be okay to have a board dedicated to your current collection, the idea is that you will curate a wider selection of images and videos which tell the story behind your brand. You shouldn’t just be pushing product, but showing the lifestyle which is associated with that product.

How brands can use Pinterest

So for example, if you are a stationery company, you could have boards dedicated to doodles, great calligraphy or fun origami as well as those showcasing your best products. These do not have to come from you, but are just a curated collection of images which are already out there on the web.

The fact that Pinterest doesn’t have to be so focused on your brand may be intimidating for some – especially if you don’t have a concrete idea about who your target demographic is or what you’re trying to communicate to your customers. However, it also provides a lot of scope for some really fun social media marketing. Indeed, Pinterest even allows you to have other people contributing to your boards, which means that members can create user-generated fan content for your account if you wish.

With the freedom to use fresh content which isn’t necessarily generated from your design team, you can really investigate the different personalities of your brand. That could be anything from a pinboard dedicated to your employees favourite things, to one exploring where your products are made. Let your imagination go wild and dig deep into which niches your brand could become a Pinterest expert on.

Finally, don’t forget what your brand Pinterest account is ultimately there for. Whether you’re wanting to encourage online sales of your product or just looking to experiment, make sure you drive users back to your website and track the results. After all, if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.

Five trends all marketers should watch in social media in 2011

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New year card 2011 (II)

Image by DailyPic via Flickr

Through December we’ve run an informal series on social media in 2011 - trends and developments that we are witnessing at FreshNetworks with our work with clients across Europe. Social media budgets are set to rise across Europe and they are not just in marketing or communications functions. The real shift that has started in 2010 and will develop and mature in 2011 is a move from social media marketing to social business. Recognising and capitalising on the fact that social media has impacts and benefits across a business and using social media strategically where it can have the biggest and most important impact.

The task in 2011 will be for brands to consider where social media can have the biggest impact across their business and how they will adapt and change to realise these benefits.

Here are five trends that we are seeing in social media marketing (and beyond) and that we expect to see more of in 2011.

1) Social media marketing budgets set to rise

Research shows that not only are budgets for social media marketing rising, but an increasing number of brands are prioritising this spend over other media. The truth behind this may just be that spend in this area has moved from being exceptional or experimentation to more regular spending. Or it may be that more areas of the business are starting to see social media as a a core part of their activities. But whatever the cause, overall budgets to spend on social media is rising and will rise more in 2011.

This will reinforce the need to make sure that brands are using social media strategically, and that it is not just being used by one function or team. A brand that is just using social media as a PR tool is almost certainly missing out on other opportunities or ways in which it can help.

2) Location-based marketing should be about more than just vouchers

Location-based tools and services continue to develop and with them opportunities for location-based marketing. If 2010 was the year that these tools developed and were used by more people, 2011 will be the year that more brands use them, where appropriate, in a way that adds value. We should see more location-based marketing and more innovation with these tools.

Innovation means both doing old things in new ways, but also doing new things altogether. Whilst there is a role for using location-based services to distribute vouchers and discounts (of the ‘check in here and get 10% off’ variety), location-based services can and should be used for so much more. The trend in 2011 should be for experimentation and trying completely new things, things that we can only do because we know where people are.

3) The rise and rise of the social graph

The social graph has yet to be used effectively by many brands. We’re seeing some innovation - such as the use of Facebook’s social graph on Amazon.com to tell you when it is a friend’s birthday and suggest books they might like based on their Facebook profile. But such uses are rare at the moment.

The real opportunity for the social graph to bring social elements to an existing website - allowing a brand to pull the best and most useful information and relaitonships from Facebook and other sites to their own site. In doing so they break the argument there has often been between engaging on platforms like Facebook or on your own site. With social graph you can engage people offsite and onsite using the same data.

4) We should all be talking about value from social media

As brands spend more on social media, they will be forced to prove the value they are getting from this spend. This will move us from measuring what can be measured (Twitter followers, traffic etc) and working out how these show benefit, to having to show the business benefit that is being realised by using social media. It may be a reduction in contact-centre calls because you are servicing customers online, it may be an increase in spend per year from those customers you are engaging online, or it may be direct sales you can attribute to activities in social media.

2011 will see brands building models and showing the value that they are getting from their expenditure on social media. We will move from measuring what can be measured to showing value.

5) Social media is not just about marketing

Finally social media has always been about much more than just marketing. It is about communications, public relations, customer service, insight, new product development. In fact there are many areas of a brand that can benefit from engaging with people through social media. And the areas where a brand can realise most value may not be in marketing but in other areas. 2010 has seen increased discussion of ‘social business’ - where social is used across a business, changing processes, products and services to bring more value to the brand and to consumers. In 2011 we will hear much more about social business, and probably less about social media marketing.

Social media marketing budgets set to rise in 2011

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Ladder to Sun
Image by Anas Ahmad via Flickr

Social media marketing budgets are set to rise for 40% of firms across Europe in 2011 and budget for social media marketing is an issue for only 18% of brands. These findings come from Meltwater Group‘s Future of Content report, a survey of with marketing and social media decision makers from 450 brands across the world, including the US, UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Singapore and Australia. The news is undoubtedly good news for social media agencies, but also reflects a growing maturity of how brands are viewing social media as part of their marketing and communications mix.

Of those interviewed, 40% said that their organisation fully embraced social media, and a much larger proportion (82%) reported that budget was not a constraint. Social media sits alongside more established tactics for those interviews - being the third most popular means of getting content out, after e-newsletters (the most popular) and printed magazines (the second most popular). But with 40% of firms reporting that their budgets will rise in 2011, social media marketing is a growing part of this mix and is challenging the more established media.

This pattern is one that we have seen in 2010 at FreshNetworks - clients moving from traditional print magazines to social media, especially in the B2B market. Engaging customers and stakeholders in social media has grown significantly over the last 4-5 years, and we are now witnessing it taking over traditional methods of communication as opposed to just complimenting and adding to them. Brands are starting to rethink their overall marketing and communications mix and are putting social media at the heart of it.

This study from Meltwater Group supports this trend and reinforces a trend we expect in 2011 for successful brands to dedicate a greater proportion of  their marketing spend to social media marketing. Reviewing existing campaigns and processes and working out how social media can add greater value than what they have already. We have moved beyond social media marketing being experimental and for individual projects alone, and into it being central to a brand’s marketing and communications mix. In 2011 we will see this become more pronounced, see more experimentation, and see more brands able to report, and prove, the value they are getting.

2011 will see social media marketing budgets rise, but it will also be the year when we should expect, even demand, to see more demonstrable value from this expenditure. But that’s the subject of another post in this informal series of predictions for 2011.

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

3 ways social gaming can benefit brands

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VideoGamingClub

According to video game research company  GameVision,  20.1 million people in the UK regularly play games across a variety of platforms and over half these people (10.4 million) visit online social gaming websites every month.

With the likes of Disney,  Google and MTV Networks investing heavily in this industry, social gaming could become a popular medium for brands to interact with their audience.

But aside from being a fun and exciting way to engage with customers, what benefits does social gaming offer to brands and businesses?

1. Increase purchase rates

This is the biggy and probably the main factor that will push businesses into investing in social gaming.

According to Ravi Mehta, Vice President of virtual goods company Viximo, the secret to increasing revenue through gaming lies in branded social games.

Mehta estimates that non-branded social games generate 5 to 20 cents per user through the sale of virtual goods, while branded social games will earn 10 to 35 cents per user because the games reach an “already interested”, pre- established community for that brand.

Mehta also believes that branded social games encourage a higher rate of conversion. User testing of  Facebook credits, Facebook’s virtual currency that will enable gamers to  buy virtual goods across the Facebook platform, has already shown that people paying with Facebook credits are more likely to complete a purchase than those who don’t.

Aside from utilising Facebook credits, brands also have other options for generating revenue from social gaming. Games could incorporate virtual stores, for example, where users can then click through to a brand’s website or ecommerce store  as part of the game.

Brands could also generate revenue through downloads. This could either be in the form of  game or app downloads,  or virtual goods. Market Research company NPD group estimates revenue from game related downloads will reach $6bn by 2013.

2. Advertising

Another obvious way for brands to make use of social gaming is through advertising.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has found  that 79% of gamers respond positively to in-game advertising and brands should make the most of this.

Advertising could take the form of anything from simple product placement within a game to interactive videos or a fully themed social game.

Social gaming could also be used to push offers and discounts where gamers are rewarded with virtual credits when they interact with in-gaming advertising. These virtual credits could then be used to buy goods either within the game or from a brand’s ecommerce site.

As we’ve discussed before, social media doesn’t just take place online and social gaming could be the right place for brands to experiment with offline/online advertising and social media. Brands could develop games where the reward is a discount code that can be redeemed against in-store purchases. This type of discount scheme or reward will also help encourage brand loyalty and develop customer advocacy.

3. Targeted Marketing

Social gaming forces marketers to think carefully about their target market. In order for a game to succeed it must directly appeal to the needs, wants and interests of the people you are trying to sell to. But get it right and you will reap the rewards of  developing a game that engages the right audience.

Brands who do create and develop social games can learn a lot about their audience, including gaming habits, demographic and  location. If the game is a download it will also enable brands to collect email addresses and even perhaps telephone numbers in a more effective way than other outbound marketing activity.

However, before implementing a social game, brands should ultimately think about two key things - is their target audience participating in social gaming, or likely to do so, and, more importantly, how to measure the success of the game against key objectives.

What type of brand are you online?

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Ripstop nylon is the primary material used in ...
Image via Wikipedia

There are four types of brands online, and you can distinguish between them by listening to and analysing the conversations about the brands. This is an insightful takeaway from one of the most interesting presentations at the Social Media Marketing 2010 conference in London earlier in June. The presentation from web monitoring company Synthesio presented these four types of brand, showed the nature of conversations about them online and then showed some best practice examples of how such brands can engage online.

Given that we’re a social media agency, and we’ve just published our Social Media Monitoring 2010 review , we were interested by these four types of brand. We certainly recognise some and the types and the characteristics of them. The full presentation is at the bottom of this post, but Synthesio’s four types of brands online are:

1. The Boring Brand

The boring brand does not generate spontaneous interest in it - insurance, home cleaning products and some FMCG brands can typically fall into this category. Whilst there is an average level of buzz about the brand the conversations rarely express positive or negative sentiment, presence online tends to be low and there are few long conversations about the brand.

A great example of where a typically boring brand has been turned around is Compare the Meerkat. You can also often generate interest in these brands by focusing not on the product itself but on other elements of the experience, such as the Keep Britain Biking site for Devitt Insurance.

2. The Functional Brand

Functional brands go beyond the name or image of the brand, the products they represent have to deliver a certain level of service or experience - mobile phone companies or business hotels would be typical examples. These brands have a high volume of buzz, and a relatively high proportion of these are expressing positive or negative sentiment. They also have a high presence in social media, but the conversations still tend to be more descriptive than discursive. There are typically a lot of individual comments about the brand rather than long discussions and debates online.

3. The Exciting Brand

Exciting brands are ones that people desire and that signal much about consumers who buy them. Apple would be a typical brand in this type. These brands generate a lot of buzz, although much of it is neutral in nature (people discussing the brand rather than expressing an opinion either way). The brands have high presence in social media and also tend to attract discussions between people rather than just a lot of individual comments.

The best thing for such brands to do is to find a way to nurture this enthusiasm and these conversations. The best such brands will turn these volume of conversations into positive word of mouth and value for them.

4. The Vital Brand

Vital brands are ones that concern issues you really care about, concerns and needs that are important to you. Health and environmental brands are typically in this category. They attract a lot of buzz online, although this tends not to be overly positive or negative in sentiment. There is a high presence in social media and a very high proportion of comments are discussions between people online rather than just isolated comments.

Do you recognise your brand as being one of these four? Is this a good way of segmenting brands online based on discussions about them?

How to Monitor and Measure Viral Marketing Campaigns?
View more presentations from Synthesio.