Social media vs traditional news sources: How the UK differs from other countries

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The first Reuters Institute Digital Report has attracted much coverage in the UK for the finding that 16-24 year olds in this country now use social media as their primary news source. This highlights the changing way that consumers are getting information, and what they are doing with it. But perhaps more interesting for us to learn from is how social media as a new source varies by country - showing not only how consumer behaviour changes by market, but how traditional brands are innovating.

Traditional brands vs aggregators vs social media

Traditional brands vs aggregators vs social media

The research, conducted by YouGov, compares news consumption in the UK, USA, Germany, France and Denmark, looking at how traditional brands (online news and broadcasters) compares with aggregators (such as Google News) and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the like).

Behaviour in these countries varies, with the USA leading for use of social media as a news source (41% of all consumers), followed by Germany (30%) and Denmark (28%) before the UK (22%) and France (21%). So when compared against these countries, use of social media for news in the UK appears to be less developed than reports are suggesting. However, the truth is probably a little more complex than this.

In the UK, traditional news sources are still very strong - with 86% of consumers having used them in the previous week; and it is striking to compare this with Germany and France where only 69% of consumers have gone to these sources. Perhaps there is a connection between the relatively high use of traditional news sources in the UK, and the relatively low use of social media when compared to the other countries in the study.

The study distinguishes social media sites (Facebook, blogs and Twitter) from traditional brands - focusing on the different places that people get information. However, how social media is changing consumer behaviour is often less about the places people go and more about the changed behaviour itself. And in the UK, the more traditional news brands have been fast to change the way they engage with their audiences - the BBC and Guardian, for example, have been quick to innovate with live blogging, data journalism and other ways to adapt their delivery of information as consumer behaviours change.

So, in the UK at least it is these ‘traditional’ news brands that are offering the new ways of engaging with people and content that better reflect how consumer behaviour itself is changing.

The impact of social media on news, as with any industry, should not just be measured in how many people go to new destinations for content and information. Perhaps even more important is to look at how traditional players in the market innovate and change as consumer behaviour itself changes; how they offer new and engaging services which mean that consumers don’t look elsewhere for their needs.

Developing a great social media channel strategy

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Which social channel to use in your strategy?When working with a brand to help define its social media strategy, a crucial area to get right is how it should engage with its online audience.

I’d define a social media channel strategy as a process that outlines what social media channels the business should use, and the purpose for each channel based on predefined business objectives.

What should your social channel strategy include?

From my experience, the top five things that make a great social media channel strategy are:

  1. All social channels contribute to the business strategy and objectives
  2. The strategy considers the available resources to effectively manage these channels
  3. It confirms that there is sufficient audience demand for each channel to make it a success
  4. There’s a clear, coherent content plan for each channel
  5. Every channel has a clear primary marketing objective

Why is it so important?

Getting the social media channel strategy right for a brand is crucial as it will help them support their key marketing objectives. As there are so many potential channels and ways in which they can be used, an in depth analysis of what we want to talk about and why is also key, so that the most effective channels can be chosen.

It also offers an opportunity to have a two way dialogue with your audience, which provides insight, stronger relationships and brand advocacy. At the same time, brands can be faced with real risk if a channel strategy is not implemented correctly or with a properly thought out direction. If a PR event occurs (either positive or negative), social media will often magnify this sentiment accordingly in a very short space of time, so it’s also important to get in place a social media policy that sets guidelines around a reaction and response strategy and a crisis escalation plan.
If you’re a brand and want to expand your social media activity, make sure you have a clear, coherent channel strategy – it might just be the missing piece in your marketing jigsaw that will help you achieve real results.
Image credit: HarcoRutgers on Flickr

The science of social media ROI

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Last week I presented at a webinar as part of a series looking at the science of social, focusing on social media ROI and demystifying the confusion that surround it. The problem with social media ROI is that it is so easy to measure so many things that we become overwhelmed by measures. We think that everything is important and that everything is a measure of ROI. It isn’t. And it isn’t. Followers and Likes do not make ROI; moreover they stop us from thinking about the bigger business benefit of social.

We need to measure different things for different reasons, not just for ROI. There are three broad areas of measurement that we should be looking at in social:

  1. What’s the business benefit? How does any activity contribute towards our business objectives and how do we measure this? Often overlooked in the plethora of social media specific measures, the single most important ROI piece is to think about the business, how social contributes to it and then how we might measure this link.
  2. How successful are my channels and campaigns? More of a quality measure but an important one for anybody who is in charge of social media. With a clear business objective that we have to deliver against, what do I need to measure to make sure that we have the quality of engagement and interactions to get there.
  3. How suitable is my engagement and content? Finally we get to the range of social media measures that are out there - Likes, Followers, views and the like - these are incredibly useful for the people working in social media and managing your channels and engagements. If they write a blog post that gets 10 times as many views as a previous one, these are the people who should be questioning and querying what has caused this change.

The first, and most important, measure is the business one. Why are we doing this? What business objective is social contributing towards? We should ignore, for the moment, the different things we can measure and focus on what social should be contributing to our organisation. Only when we are clear on that will we be able to establish clear ROI measures. And only when we have these should we think of any of the other measures that we can look at and report on.

The presentation I gave at the webinar included this and some case studies of work we have done at FreshNetworks showing business benefit.

The Science of Social
View more presentations from Our Social Times

The next Science of Social webinar is on Wednesday 20 June and looks at How to Identify and Reward Advocates. You can sign-up here.

Three simple ways B2B marketers can get value from LinkedIn

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When thinking about social media and how to use it for your brand, our initial reaction is often to think about the channels we can use and the conversations we can have. But using social media does not necessarily mean having a channel or joining a conversation. There can often be as much value (and sometimes even more) from listening to what others are saying. For B2B brands LinkedIn is a great example of where social media can be used as much to listen and learn as to talk and engage.

From ambassadors, to market information and even competitor research, here are three ways that LinkedIn can be a useful source for any B2B marketer.

1. Finding ambassadors for your brand

Within LinkedIn Groups and in the Questions and Answers section of the site you will find, if you look carefully, brand champions, ambassadors. People talking about your brand and recommending your product. The Questions section in particular is full of people asking for advice and information - about products and solutions. A quick search for some of your product names will uncover people who recommend you to others. A quick search for names of competitor products will uncover those who don’t recommend you but could.

Identifying these people is a first and useful step. Think next about what you can do with them and how you can build them into real Ambassadors for your brand.

2. Understanding how people talk about market issues

One useful insight for any marketer is to understand how people talk about the issues they face. Whilst they can be mixed in quality, some LinkedIn groups provide vibrant communities of people sharing links and talking about issues. Joining groups about your market and for your customers lets you see the kind of conversations they start, the language they use and how they talk to each other in a professional environment.

3. Learning about what you competitors are doing

Social media is a great way of sharing what you are doing but it is always important to think carefully about who you are sharing with. LinkedIn allows you to control who sees your connections and who you are connecting with but many people leave this as public information. This can be useful - learning who your competitors have been meeting and connecting with on LinkedIn may provide you with insight into who they are talking to and potentially even into who in the market is looking to buy similar products to the ones you have.

Of course, it’s important to think about your own privacy settings on LinkedIn as well!

To really understand social media, you must also understand online communities

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Audience at a Dan Deacon concert

It is very easy to get excited by social media. By “Likes” and “Follows”. To think about the tools you can use. To worry about creating content. To feel you must rush to be on the latest platform or site. But in all this excitement it can be easy to forget something that is more important than the tools, platforms and sites that you can make use of - the skills and expertise you need to identify, manage and grow a true online community.

When we talk about social media we are really only talking about tools that we can use to help us and the people we engage to achieve a task. To make a success in social media we need to understand online communities. For those of us who have been working in this space for many years this has long been the basis of all our work.

What is an online community?

There is a temptation to assume that all use of social media is the same - that we are ‘doing social media’. But this is just not true. There is a fundamental difference in how people behave when they are primarily in a group of actual friends (such as on Facebook) and how you interact with people not because you know them and are friends with them, but because you share a common interest (such as in a forum for fans of Arsenal football club, a site for mum chatting about nutrition in early years or a group of runners helping each other with training advice and tips as they prepare to run a marathon).

An online community is a group of people who exhibit this second behaviour. They do not necessarily know each other, and may not have any desire to become friends in that broader sense of the word. They do have a common passion, interest, concern or question. And they can find and engage with others online because of this.

Working with online communities

For most organisations looking at social media, it is only by identifying, building and engaging with online communities that they will start to get real benefit. Online communities are truly scalable because they do not rely on becoming ‘friends’ with people but mean that you (the organisation) and the rest of the community engage on topics that you all share in common. This is real engagement in a way that just amassing Likes or Follows is not.

Social media just provides the set of tools you can use to do this. But the real skill is threefold:

  1. Firstly to be able to identify the community you want to engage and understand why they would engage with you. What is the passion, problem, concern, issue or question that you can connect with your community about? And why would they connect with you at all about it?
  2. Then how do you find these people and help them to find you? Likes on Facebook or Followers on Twitter do not necessarily make an online community.
  3. Finally how do you manage them. There is a valuable and often heated debate elsewhere about the differences between a social media manager and a community manager, but any community does need the ‘party host’ role. A community manager who facilitates conversations and activities, helps to moderate the community so that it is a productive and friendly place for all, and who acts as the link between the organisation and the online community.

With all the excitement of social media it often feels like we have forgotten what we have known for many years about online communities and the way they work and interact. For anybody looking at or working in social media a solid grounding in how online communities work and how we should work with them is essential.