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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….

Lets shift our budget to social media…

Digital sometimes feels like one big circle. From shifting all money onto banners, to websites, to emails, to search and now to social one thing is clear – brands are still focusing on one part of the channel rather than a diverse channel that has many components.

I’m not disagreeing with the fact that social media is inevitably worthy of a brands attention – it is. But what I would be wary of is brands seeing it as a replacement of their website. Somewhere that they can now house content instead of a brand site.

To name one example Brand republic said yesterday…

according to comScore, Bacardi’s unique visitor numbers fell 77% between 2009 and 2010 – it is understood that the company will be shifting up to 90% of its digital spend to its presence on Facebook in the next one to two years.

Does Bacardi really need to shift this high proportion to Facebook? What happens IF the platform as a whole sees a decline? What’s the context of this quote? Is it shifting it’s spend (and it’s content) to facebook OR shifting it’s advertising focus to Facebook? (with it’s content being enabled to live across an array of platforms). With a decline in brand site visitors it makes sense to house content where the consumers already are but what brands do need to be mindful of is that simply having a presence is still not enough.

Facebook (and the majority of social networks) work on a real-time basis. Brands who simply post a status update and “expect” consumers to see it will gradually see a decline in engagement as consumers feeds get more and more crowded, and like the email mechanic that came before it, begin to simply ignore or unsubscribe from messages that are too frequent or irrelevant (which I’ve ranted about before!). Brands will simply end up in the same scenario but a different platform – people will ignore them on Facebook rather than ignore their brand sites.

For me it’s not a channel challenge, it’s still a creative challenge.  If it’s a good idea, that you advertise and tell people about, that people then talk about and that people then engage with its irrelevent where it sits. It’s the content, not the final platform delivering that content, that is still king.

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.

The agency of 2015

My latest assignment for my Masters is about the future. Trying to figure out what the future could hold for a digital agency using a technique called scenario analysis – generating different possible scenarios and then coming to a debated agreement about which one (or which elements) are deemed most likely.

It’s proving a difficult one to pull together. Futurologists (if thats what you’d call them) in other fields tend to have some set paramaters they can use to work out roughly where things are headed. I have 15 years of data but with such massively shifting variables that affect an agency it makes it almost impossible to work out the rate of change, or types of change that can be easily expected. Think about it. Consumer behaviour, brand adoption, technology, government initiatives, viral spread, convergence of channels… The list is endless.

To carry it out I’ve spoken to a range of individuals from media, creative and production houses – tapping into their personal views as to what they thing could happen. Unsurprisingly some common themes kept cropping up…

  • Social media:  The rise and rise of facebook have made it impossible to ignore the importance of brands and clients mastering this area and staying on top of trends to create connections.
  • Data:  This topic was a double edged sword. It seems inevitable that the way we can deal with data professionally is going to continue to expand across the next 5 years but actually, when you dive into it, data is a problem already. We dont have a standard measurement tool that clients can easily understand. A client knows what a TVR is, and, in some respects, thats what they can compare like for like, cross campaign and agency. What do you get in digital – around 50 different possibilities and a danger of drowning in it all!
  • Mobile: A fall in prices of smart handsets as well as the gradual shifting of tarriffs starts to create more possibilities for many uses i.e. Web, Music and phone.
  • Industry maturity: The last 15 years has seen an immaturity and lack of experience in relation to channels such as TV and print. WIth the industry growing up we’ll see more digital experts moving into more senior client roles whilst a fresh graduate workforce of digital natives is soon going to be driven into the workplace.

Along with the above there are a huge amount of others all that will enable me to rank the most important parameters and enable me to create 3 distinct scenarios – all aimed at generating discussion and opinion amongst peers to try to come to anrealistic point of view as to what the future could hold. Deadline for end of today on these so will post up once I’ve formulated!

Facebook: The data possibilities continue..

It was with no surprise that I read the mass of press releases across the weekend and saw it announced that Facebook was planning on offering consumer insight on the back of its “150 million strong database” (Guardian.co.uk) -its been a long time coming! Since the commercialisation of the channel it was only a matter of time before the insight that was building the adsales guys cases (why you should reach your audience here) could be turned into a much more interesting tool: One that allows individuals to actual read about where people are going.

Currently we’re constantly faced with a Facebook conundrum. It’s important to play in the space – particularly when so many brands will see such a high propensity of their target audience whiling away their hours in the space BUT to what point is it accountable. Until recently we’d been stuck (in agency / client stand offs) to using fan pages (as these could be tracked) and struggled to make those in the marketing team not so familiar with the digital space to regard those interacting with the brand, away from the brand site, as important as those who visit their .com presence regardless of whether we can report back numbers or not. We’ve now moved out of fans and into the friend influencer category whereby data isn’t tracked but immediately the experience we can have with users and the experience they can have with us has increased dramatically seeing more affect in a 7 day period than previously we’d achieved across 3 months. Its with this relief that the potential for insight to be made availability that makes the numbers analyst in me excited and the creative proportion of my brain (admittedly smaller than the analyst!) groan.

Facebook has always dabbled in its potential to track and provide insight. Their new Lexicon shows quite clearly where the revenues could be coming from as the tool begins to model things like user Sentiment, Association and Demographic information on users posting about particular terms. The demo model they’ve produced merely hints at whats to come (you can’t yet input your own terms) but you can bet that unlike the current tracking tool you wont be able to simply type in your own terms and view how these things are tracking (although I’d be happily surprised if this isn’t the case!)

fullscreen-capture-04022009-130430

Interestingly the current Lexicon tool has very limited worth to a client (more a pictoral representation than anything of statistical value) but, based on the initial glance we’ve been given of the new version it has learnt from the likes of Google Anayltics and one of many of the reputation monitoring companies to be able to give agencies (and brands) the information they need to be able to listen and influence (if thats the objective).

It will be interesting to see how quickly facebook’s intention to sell data becomes a marketable product. It will also be interesting to see how much more complicated brands who are dabbling in the space suddenly find the fact that data availability suddently stops them offering the more experiential led tactics that aren’t as trackable.

Will this simply become another example of the constraint of data availability begining to put creativity and user experience back in shackles…

Wispa Gold: The comeback

Back in Oct 2007 Wispa came to market as a revived brand from the 90’s. At the time a spokesperson from cadburys said

“We get letters about the Aztec bar and the lime barrel in the Dairy milk tray”. But this is on a whole different scale. This is the first time we are going to give the internet a change to prove itself and see whether it is all hype or genuine”

The company claimed that social networks and internet pressure (with an online petition of 14k names) convinced them to revive the brand.

Cynics or the marketeers amongst us will be looking at very good PR (and with Mad.co.uk having pointed out back in August ’07 that Publicis were appointed to launch Wispa back into the market this seems likely) and now, 18 months later, the buzz is back.

The “bring back Wispa Gold” group on Facebook now wispa-goldhas 17k members and growing swiftly. According to the text on the page once they hit 20k members Cadburys will relaunch the chocolate bar. Cadbury playing to the public pressure or Cadbury engineering this perceived want in the first place?

The idea of nostalgia is always an interesting one and, if you have the right product for the right memories, something that can’t fail to eventually come back full circle and back in vogue.

Wispa, regardless, have done an amazing effort at integrating with the social networks, recruiting brand fans and fulfilling the nostalgic promise back to their brand adorers. Their recent campaign “for the love of Wispa” couldn’t help but fail to bring a smile as their site proceeded to recruit advertising stars and then film an ad, screened as their ad, just about how great wispa is.

Will be interesting to see whether the gold phenomenum comes to an on shelf product and how Wispa continue to build their fanbase around their product: How long can nostalgia last and a brand thats been brought back to life go back to being another mainstream brand that lies shouting for attention on shelf?