Category Archives: Social Media

Google + – brand pages have arrived

Penetrations at 40 million (worldwide) and with Google+ still being pushed at us with a pretty hefty PR campaign and an assault from some celebs (Britney Spears and Will.i.am), and now from brands, it appears that this social network from Google is here for at least the short term when consumers will ultimately decide who survives.

The brand pages posed an opportunity for Google to give a superior offering to Facebook. At first glance they’ve failed to deliver with no unique functionality that a brand couldn’t be leveraging in another social channel.

So what can a brand do. …

The same as the rest of us. They can upload photos, videos, status updates, start a hangout (The muppets launched one at 4:30PST today) but the issue still is the lack of consumer penetration which means the numbers just aren’t there. All of this is evident from the small followings that brands are picking up, with even Kermit the frog failing to achieve big numbers!

There is also the key issue that any brand needs to consider ” How does a consumer truly see me”.

The whole premise of Google is based on circles. You HAVE to place anyone you want to follow into a circle.  Consider this…

Your mum joins – you add her to your family circle. Your Best mate joins – you add her to friends. A one night stand joins – you create and add them to a circle called “Ex-boyfs”. You see Toyota and create a circle called…. “Brands”.

In no way will brands be able to connect in the same emotive way because consumers will simply put you in a sales / marketing / product / brand bucket. It’s auto-pilot and that’s the whole point of circles. You don’t have to think to use it, it’s intuitive. And intuitive isn’t great when you’re trying to be disruptive or get under the skin of the consumer who’s given you a “marketing shit” label. Yes – until people have organised their feeds you will show up in their central thread but, after then, you are unlikely even to get exposed to your consumers updates and, be honest, how interesting is that? (I’m sure Toyota isn’t interested that I’m drinking a cuppa and eating a hobnob? Nor can glean any insight from it) Where as Facebook clearly got consumer penetration and it then took a while for brands to get on board, brands and consumers are adopting + in tandem and, as yet, the benefit (or opportunity) for brands seems to be limited.

So what should brands consider as useful for Google+ right now….

– Inexpensive market research. The ability to recruit individuals for online, Live streamed, focus groups using hangouts – despite only 9 people being able to interact at any one time, this free service definately has value for quick and fast research.

– Advocacy programmes: Being able to classify, and then market to consumers, based on actions you want them to perform and even talk directly to them – truly being able to differentiate your brand fans from brand consumers. Only snag is you have to know who they are and then create the relevent circles!

– YouTube: It’s massive and it’s inevitably going to have to be THE channel for Google getting this to all work. Video content (and capabilities) are far superior to Facebook’s offering and, as Google+ continues to evolve, and becomes integrated into YouTube’s service, it will become critical to how consumers adopt and use the service.

– Watch and learn: Yes, it’s going to get press but, at the moment it hasn’t got the numbers or reach. A bit of “watch and learn” and a slice of budget pushed aside for if it does hit mass in 2012 is the cautious marketers option….

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Facebook Interaction: When’s best to post?

One thing clients have always asked us is “How can I optimize Facebook to my advantage?” and, until recently, it has been really nigh on impossible, without dedicating a full team to manually trawl external brands Facebook pages, to sucessfully find the right information.
Today someone pointed me in the direction of a study done by a company called Momentus Media based in San Francisco. Yes it has it flaws, and admittedly is out of the US but definately provides more food for thought.

From a methodology point of view the study was done by compiling a list of 20k top pages and then looking at 15k individual posts (Phew). Based on this they were then able to develop some key learnings (distilled into a whitepaper that is accessible here).
Check out some of the key findings below!

1. What is the best time to post?
a. Weekends and off-peak hours.

2. How many times should I post
per day?
b. As many times as you want.

3. What type of content elicits the
most interaction?
c. #1 Photos, #2 Statuses

4. Should I ask fans to Like and
Comment on my posts?
d. Yes! Asking to Like increases interaction 216%

5. Should I ask my fans
questions?
e. Questions don’t increase interaction rate, but they
do increase commenting rate. Make sure to ask
fans to answer your questions with a comment.

6. How long should my status
messages be?
f. Long or short, we found no correlation between
length and interaction rate.

7. How long do my posts last in
the Newsfeed?
g. 50% of clicks happen within 1 hour, 90% happen
within 9 hours.

I think whilst this can provide some great cues to point brands in a direction that could be more effective this should by no means be taking as red. Take, for example, the comment that photos then status’ work best for interactions. Their methodology is based on total numbers of likes and comments / number of lifetime fans – argely because imps isn’t an available metric if you’re not a page admin. In addition (and perhaps this is a UK specific trend) our experiences on some of the leading brands we work with shows that it’s actually polls that generate the highest interaction rate, whilst status’ win every time if you’re wanting written feedback.

Another note worth remembering is that Impressions can play a vital part in formulating when’s best to post. Not only should you consider your interaction rate but also your reach – at first glance the recommendation is that off peak hours cause the highest interaction rate. Yes – this makes sense. Think of your own facebook feed. You personally will see a dip in the volume of items from your friends, and brands as it gets later in the evening or early hours in the morning. You have less to compete with at this time and, as a brand, can benefit from more interactions but an issue with this is that the impressions will be a lot lower. Is it interactions or Opportunities to see that are more important to your brand or your message as this should also play a vital part in informing when you’re posting.

Optimum time of day for Facebook post interactions

Social specialists (Arghhhhhh……!!!!)

No really.

I get that when new channels emerge new specialists spring up. Mobile = mobile agencies. AR = AR agencies. Apps = Application agencies I agree with this, I’d use these agencies and I understand the logic that not all agencies have all the skills (nor should have the skills to do everything under one roof) but what I am getting increasingly frustrated with is agencies that call themselves “social”.

Social agencies, as they call themselves, are positioning themselves as the future of digital. Clients, whom previously have never seen senior support are suddenly being asked “how will this campaign work on Twitter/Facebook” and, in response, we’re seeing new agencies being added to rosters as the social specialists.

Okay – I work at 20:20, a full service digital agency and yes, I’m responsible for social media so perhaps I am bias BUT I dont believe the future of social is going to be maintaning a brands Facebook Page or Twitter account. Give it 18 months and consumers (and brands) will be sick of receiving status updates from brands asking them what they are up to this weekend and, yes, yet again, we will be back full circle to it being about content. Yes social agencies can create applications (or at least have the ability to outsource them) but it’s back to the age old problem. Digital is constantly changing. A good full service agency will evolve to take into consideration these skills because, of course, they are VITAL to the success of the brand and use these, along with the skills and experience it’s learnt over the last 10 – 15 years to understand it’s role in the digital strategy.

Facebook isn’t a strategy – just like ITV isn’t a strategy. It’s a tool. There are lots of them about. Understanding what’s in that toolbox and using everything to the best of the ability is what makes great digital campaigns and for the future creating meaningful connections via social channels is key in that success.

Social media rage…

So, I was on Facebook again (that default activity when you’re up at 6am, a little bit bored and you find yourself on Facebook without consciously even navigating your way there) and got rage at yet another brand, giving me yet another pointless update.

Yes I’m enjoying the sunshine, having a good easter, the bunny has got me eggs, I’ve had a roast dinner and the BBQ has been on which I enjoyed with chicken and a glass of Jacques cider (seeing as you asked) but for the love of god why does a brandreally care…

You don’t.

AND more importantly (as your digital agency should be pointing out)  you shouldn’t.

I think there is a big piece of education work here for brands… Would you have sent out an email everyday asking people how they are? (NO) would you have posted a constant stream on your website for people to read what they already know is happening? (NO) Would you talk in you TV advert about the fact it’s BBQ time even though you’re a healthcare brand? (NO)

so please STOP doing it in social media. It’s not big and, although someone has probably told you it is, it isn’t clever.

I don’t want to harp on about content is king and relevancy is queen (see other posts!) but go back to the basics (please!!) social media isn’t a stream of status updates, nor is it a competitions application. It should be part of your digital strategy not a stand alone broadcast .

Right that’s more than enough Facebook anger for one day. Back to the sunshine….

Facebook wallpaper

This morning I logged into my facebook account and, as a fan of a number of brands (for personal and professional reasons!) I realised that 90% of the posts within my newsfeed were from brands and, of these posts, zero were interesting and relevent nor entertained me. The result – I’ve now begun to hide these brands from my status updates.

At the weekend I heard a friend say to another in the pub

OMG xxx person leaves such boring updates on her wall I’ve had to hide her from my newsfeed, imagine if she knew that?!

it begs the question, if people are doing this, what chance do brands have now that social media pages for brands is common-place not novelty.

Looking at brands facebook “strategy” (if we can be that grand) is interesting. Most brands think simply think that having a page and posting a status update is enough  , if you are an uber brand with fanatics whom think any updates is “amazing”. For the majority of the brands this is simply not good enough to engage fans and keep them from “hiding you” – the equivalent (almost) of the email unsubscribe.

Brands need to think clever. You wouldn’t produce a TV ad that says

Hi, I’m <insert brand name> did you have a good weekend?

so why do the same on facebook. The trick has to still be to intrigue and get impact not simply spam your users. Ask yourselves whats better – 100 random status updates across the month about the weather, the weekend and what you’ve got in store this week OR one post that intrigues and engages your fan-base and causes them to click and interact?

Take the recent Breast cancer awareness campaign “I like it on the….” – the campaign created around women being “in the know” and keeping men guessing uses Facebook to its advantages. A simple campaign to interact with (simply change your status) an easy mechanic to get involved with (Tell other women to change their status updates) and one that immediately causes intrigue and then the awareness. You only have to look at the spike in google searches around the campaign time to instantly see how people actively searched to find out what this meant and, thus would have uncovered the message.

I like it on "Google search traffic"

Brands need to realise that whilst status updates and keeping pages up to date are necessary for good housekeeping, to not be wallpaper brands need to have an interaction strategy – a creative idea with campaigns and tactics that keep the consumer interested to cause the shift in brand perception or consumer action away from the web. Yes – it does mean production costs increase BUT, as with any marketing channel, to get results you need to entertain and engage and, unfortunately for online, that means getting consumers to sit forward and interact. If your going to be lazy consumers will be too!

Brand motivations in social media

I think its still fascinating the amount of brands who struggle to grasp social media (or how to carry it out). For many prospective clients and people within the marketing world it’s almost seen as a dark art. How do you get these fans? What do you say to them? What will they do for us? and, the million dollar question, whats the ROI?

Brands know that they need to be in the social space but not necessarily why they are playing there, not to mention how they justify another budget back to their boss. Most common is the slicing of an already lean digital budget even more by adding yet another platform to the mix. Whilst there is no doubt digital marketing (and budgets) are expanding, when you look at the amount of platforms they have to cover, from the innovations that are constantly occurring, are they really getting bigger? But I digress, let me leave that one for another day (and answers on a postcard….!)

What prompted my thoughts around brand motivations was this graph I stumbled across in a slideshare presentation – attributed to a global research study done on social media motivations.

It’s not massively surprising that the main reason users follow or like a brand is for exclusive deals or offers – the rise of online vouchering has been testament to the growth in that.

The interesting points, and yet another reason why stats such as this should be taken with a pinch of salt are:

  • Over 32% of individuals following a brand on Facebook declare they do so because they are a current customer. Is this really an insight we can take anything from? Of course you’re going to have heard of any brands you decide to follow and, with the exception of luxury brands you might aspire to be part of or draw inspiration from, chances are you’ve purchased from them BUT this doesn’t really tell us why you’re following them over the millions of other brands you buy into every day. They must be doing something different. There must be a more insightful thing to learn?

 

  • Under 10% of individuals state it’s because they have friends who are fans or followers. Is this the death of recommend a friend? Probably not. Social snowballing is evident from any campaign you’ve ever done in the social arena. By getting a fan to post up content or promote your brand chances are you will get something back from that – even if it’s a 0.01 fan for every fan you acquire. You might not have joined “just” because your friend has but, when you see something interesting a friend has done (and this is based on the brand having given them something interesting to do in the first place) why wouldn’t you check it out? It’sPR and I can’t see it dying anytime soon!

 

  • Less than 25% of people said it was because of interesting or entertaining content and this, as far as I can tell, is where mainstream brands are getting it wrong. Iconic brands, statement brands, fashion brands are never going to struggle. Being fans of Apple, Nike or Gucci isn’t just about saying you like the brand it’s about declaring to everyone you know that you like the brand – it’s wearing the label without ever having to invest into it. These are the brands that could afford to be lazy – they ” have to work hard for their fans. They will naturally come to them. The brands that need to worry are those building a page, perhaps even investing in making it look pretty BUT then they think status updates and a photo here and there will do the trick. It wont. Unfair? Okay –  it might. For now. But as individuals get more socially crowded they will get better at screening their social spaces. As with every age-old marketing practice that came before social it will come down to being interesting, being different and saying something that a consumer thinks is worth listening to.

Foursquare: In play not one to watch?

Over the last few months foursquare has been bubbling up to the surface and increasingly been viewed as one to watch for 2010.

It’s a virtual game in which participants earn badges for checking in at various locations; those that check in most become a venue’s “mayor.” By all accounts, this mechanism is as addictive as Twitter, Facebook or checking your e-mail on a BlackBerry – pete cashmore, Mashable

Powered by your mobile, and letting you check in via mobile to your current location using GPRS its become the ultimate in social networking – merging Twitter features, with Location data and, its point of difference, a gaming mechanism that is going to let users obtain real world rewards from their virtual activity.

The simple mechanic of “checking in” when you’re out and about (and conveniantly being able to synch it to your facebook / Twitter as well) puts you in control of broadcasting to your friends where you are – no need for electric tagging!

With companies begining to give offers to those checking in it wont be long before this early adopter network begins to gain in audience and brands will need to think clever to continue to engage (and reward) en masse – particularly if stats of 60% month on month continue to be sustained (and increase!)

Bars being able to offer first come first served “early bird” drink promotions, priority discounts for the “mayor” of the venue and brands being able to analyse their real world visitors (with digital tools) will undoubtedly change the ever-changing shape of social media again.

For now I’m going to keep watching, get playing, and see if how many establishments I can rule….

Gotta go tend my farm….

So Farmville…..

Until today I’d managed to avoid this application, watching with sheer disbelief as friends on my facebook status updates were tending their faFarmville T Shirtrm and harvesting strawberries and buying cows – sort of wondering how people can be so into this sort of thing.

Today I decided to take the plunge and see what 64 million people were making such a fuss about. . . .

So the gist of it is that you’re a farmer, farming a farm and you have to grow and harvest crops. Apparently you can also buy animals, farm buildings and link up with friends but the addictive nature comes from seeing your very own farm get more and more sucessful before your eyes. Produced by Zynga I can sort of see why people get addicted. It’s not that hardwork and (I’d imagine) easy to dip in and out of it.

Below the surface the game does though have it’s addicts. Quotes on Facebook’s “Farmville Addicts Page” range from the slightly worrying calculator that helps you work out what time you need to harvest your crops (as apparently they wither and die if you dont do it within a couple of hours) through to the individual addicts who

sleep for no more than 2 hours at a time

or

Im even asking my sis who lives in France to check my farm at night thanks to the 7 hours jetlag… but she doesnt want to YET:)

Harmless enough and an easy way to pass 5 minutes but it’s the Farmville currency that can be purchased for real money (and then not exchanged back) that’s raising a host of ethical questions. Particularly amongst the younger age groups who can do it through their mobile phone accounts. Facebook has a no under 13 policy but that doesn’t stop the 13 – 16 year olds doing it – nor does it stop the adults spending but they should know better 😉 In a recent post Michael Arrington of Techcrunch stated

FarmVille makes clear in its terms and conditions that Farm Cash cannot be redeemed for “real world” money, goods or other items of monetary value from Zynga or any other party. Once real money has been used to buy virtual money, it is gone

If this was for over 18s it wouldn’t be such a problem but it’s not and, as with life, the more money you spend the better your farm…

Another interesting thing I think Farmville presents is how it will impact games such as 2nd life. Previously seen as something that “developers” would play with Farmville gives a very easy way into existing in a virtual world – getting people used to how it works and realising how easy they are to play. What will happen when they start craving more complicated games or is this as far as it will ever get? Will people start demanding animals that move, or weather climates, or watering the crops, or being able to paint buildings?

In community terms I can see how people get addicted. It’s you and your farm against your mate and their farm. It’s making sure things get harvested. It’s a frustrating 2 hour crop “death” window that means you have to keep going back and thats not causing facebook any harm…

I think it will be an interesting one to watch for developments, particularly to see if it has a knock on mainstream affect to other environments. In the meantime don’t forget to get the T shirt and makey our own judgement call as to whether these addicts are, indeed, insane.

 

 

Location, location, location

First off apologies – I’ve committed the cardinal sin of blogging and blogged off for the summer…!

I’ve been intrigued over the last month or so by the amount of discussion and developments around “where are you” or the tweeting (or facebooking) your exact location.

Towards the end of August twitter blogged about its latest API making it an option for users to tweet ther longitude and latitude so that individuals know exactly where each other is tweeting from. Whilst, as the article notes, it could be interesting when you look at following response to a location specific event, or even following opinion in the neighbourhood it also would offer an amazing opportunity for brands to view regional insight that previously could have been difficult to track. The problem is how insightful would it ever really be? And is it yet more “social buzz / networing / word of mouth / reputation management” clutter that actually isn’t much use at all!

Take as an example a general election scenario. The government, using those posters willing to share their location could use real time tracking to see issues and glean insight to help them tailor conversation messages. Likewise brands can begin to compare keywords against regions to look at uplift by region (against geographic opinion or even test campaign beds) as opposed to across the nation in general – again giving digital that edge over offline buzz – its all so measurable!

That said when I look at my twitter account   and the conversations I follow I dont know whether this could ever be valuable or what you could get. I sat in a meeting earlier today and pointed out to people that Twitter is a buzz word right now and not many brands are doing it well, simply jumping on the bandwagon (as they probably did with Facebook) because its the latest fad. Its perceived to be free therefore why shouldn’t they be “trying” to use it – regardless of the fact they have 10 followers and a mere 2 tweeters. I wondered how long it would take for agencies to start throwing in the importance of conversation tracking by region (despite the fact most haven’t worked out how to value track a total universe conversation in the first place).

The location thing seems inevitable for take off. The “youth” are self-obsessed with highlighting their every move and using networks to create their own PR campaigns for their “self”. Gypsii is also surely a tried and tested example of how powerful a location based network can be. Apparently compatible on 350 handset devices (a reach of approx 1 billion) users are able to search using mobile GPRS for things of interest, friends, and events local to them, at that point in time. Huge in Asia but not seeing mainstreamuptake in the UK (yet) the interesting point will be if Facebook and Twitter can get their location uptake substantial enough to make market entry difficult for Gypsii and its competitors (Brightkite, Plazes and Loopt).

It will be interesting to see how the location debate unfolds, how adoption spreads (and within which demographics) then, finally, what marketeers think they can do (or effect) with that data….

Twitter Quitters and Hitters…

Twitter hits the world wide web again this week with yet more chat around whether Twitter is (or isn’t) a success or failure!

To start with the quitters… Nielsen has reported that 60% of users who sign up to Twitter fail to remain using the site after the first month – This compares to Facebook and Myspace who (reportedly) hit a contrasting 70% retention rate when they were at their peak.

For me the reason for these contrasting results is relatively clear. Taking facebook and Twitter as contrasting examples, facebook is easier… Twitter can suddently feel like this all consuming tool, you need to keep up with your own (and others) micro-blogs or you miss full conversations, titbits and information. Facebook, on the other hand, is easier to dip in and out of it. Photos can be explored when you fancy it, you can nose at people profiles on you own terms and the wall functionality means you dont miss notes that are relevent to you.

Twitter on the other hand… 3 days out and you’re behind the times!

I guess this poses the question as to where brands should sit on the twitter wagon. For me it seems like a no-brainer. Profile is setup for free. Individuals will follow you for free because they love you and, as long as you have something to say, then let your personality run and connect with your consumers. If someone offered you a free ad in a magazine being sent to 10k people who have overtly said they love your brand would you say no? No. You’d say yes so why should Twitter be viewed differently?

As with everything there are 2 sides to this. The side that annoys me is the brands that sign up who think that simply posting URLs is significant communication equally annoys me. Twitter should be about connecting with your consumers, listening to their conversations and revealing your personality in a way that no other brand does. Innocent drinks does a stirling job on this but I have heard plenty of excuses as to wjhy “innocent” can do it and they can’t. Innocent has a playful brand, a brand you expect to be personable and a brand that can get away with posting about what the receptionist is having for lunch. Other brands dont have that freedom. The brands are too functional for personality, or too corporate, or too cool. REALLY? Is that the failing of a brand manager in allowing a personality to develop or is it really the case that some brands can have a conversation and some can’t?

I’m not sure I know the answer on that one but its one I’m going to keep investigating as I think it unlocks the answers to some interesting questions (and excuses!)