Want better digital strategy, ban seven dirty words

Picture 12.pngIf you love strategic planning as much as I do then I am sure that one of your biggest pet peeves is when people jump to tactics straight away in a planning meeting. Despite your most desperate attempts to steer things back on course, and define what the overall strategy looks like, you die a little when someone blurts out "Let's set up a YouTube channel and Tweet about it!".

How do you get around this? Here is what I have started doing in my initial planning sessions and it seems to be working well so far. I've banned what I consider the seven dirty words of digital strategy. They are:


  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. YouTube
  4. MySpace
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Flickr
  7. Ning

Why are they so bad? Because it allows people to jump to a tactic without thinking about brand essence, audience, voice, etc. It also takes attention away from a more integrated digital approach (email, loyalty programs, SEM, etc.). The pure hype behind these seven words has turned mass media and corporate boardrooms on their heads trying to figure out how to best leverage them.

So, the next time you walk into a planning meeting, lay out your list of dirty words and create a penalty for anyone who mentions them. You'll be surprised how quickly your discussions turn to audience, engagement and how fast you come up with more creative, innovative solutions. Once you have that, you can see talk about these platforms if, and when, they are determined to be the right tools to be most effective in reaching your audience.

Oh, there are more dirty words like Friendfeed and Delicious, even more general terms like blog and wiki, but removing those seven from your planning vocabulary will help you reach a new strategic mindset and come up with better solutions for your clients.

What are your seven dirty words? Let me know how this works for you!

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Maximizing ROI: content as commerce

iStock_000009060484XSmall.jpgIn my career working in the digital marketing space, I have worked on hundreds of projects for clients in practically any industry you can think of. In that time, I have had the pleasure of working on a number of e-commerce sites that provided me a fantastic perspective on designing with conversion in mind.

One of my key takeaways in doing business online is that no matter how you execute (basic website, social media engagement, search engine marketing, etc.) and no matter what industry you are in, you MUST treat your content as commerce.

I cannot tell you how many meetings I had been in where people say, "We are not an e-commerce site, how can we measure ROI?". That's a bad point of view to have and this post will hopefully work to change your mind.

So, what do I mean by content as commerce? There are a couple of steps in this process. First, you have to do the little things right from the start. Usability is, as in e-commerce, a key to making sure that users can find what they are looking for quickly.

Second, map out your site and weight content that is a priority, then compare it to your actual traffic. See a difference? Here is a good model that I have used before to help with this mapping. This is from a guest post that I did for Drew McLellan back in 2007.

step1.png Draw a map of your current site. You can use Visio, Word, pen and paper or anything else you have at your disposal. Just treat each page/object/action as a block and show them in their hierarchy.
step2.png Now, create a copy of the map and color code each page so that is aligns with your business goals. For this example we'll say red is a top tier page that generates revenue, orange is a second tier support page, yellow is a third tier information page and blue is non-essential.
step3.png Now, create a copy of the color-coded map and roughly scale each section as it relates to your page view metrics so that pages with more views are larger and less views are smaller. Try to keep them in proportion. This is where people go on your site compared with your business goals. In our example, we need to create tactics that shift more views to the red blocks and less to the blue. (Note: you could also scale based on time spent on each page or other key metric)

Third, we need to assign values to content in order to get some more concrete numbers. For example, you could assign a value of $5/5 points when a consumer downloads a PDF or $25 when they sign up for your email newsletter or $30 when they become a fan on Facebook. The more you roll these numbers up across all of the channels you participate in the better. This is obviously behind the scenes, so you can try it in your own time.

Action NameValue#Total
Download White Paper$15.00750$11,250.00
Became a Fan on Facebook$25.002,500$62,500.00

How do you get those numbers? You can obviously make them up, but this has more impact when the numbers are real and when they have executive buy-in. Another way is to use some old school comparisons like impressions or cost-per-acquisition. Ideally you can get to a place where you start to see the metrics take shape and the more that shape is printed in dollars, the more successful you will be. (You wouldn't spend time and money promoting something useless would you?)

Keys to succeeding with content-driven sites:


  • Create a clear interface for your users
  • Rank content in the order it is valuable to the business, weigh that with the value to the consumer (these should ideally be aligned)
  • Visualize your traffic to see where it is going and shift it to the content you value
  • Adapt over time. You can A/B test content, tease it with advertising or promote it in email to see what works. This makes the rest of your marketing better as well.
  • Assign values for specific actions and track it over time.

What are your thoughts? What would you add to this list?

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Text to newsstand

I was flipping through the Economist the other day (because it exhausts me to try to actually read the whole thing) while I was on the plane and came across this insert in the magazine. I found it quite interesting and wanted to get your take.

Economist SMS ad Economist SMS ad part 2

The point of the service is to send a text message to receive alerts when the print publication is hitting newsstands. It's an interesting idea in the promotion of print with digital platforms. Obviously the content strategy is to release at the stands first and then online to keep print subs up.

What do you think of this? Would you sign up? Would you want this service for other printed materials? There are a number of magazines that I read but don't subscribe to for which this is an interesting idea.

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Launched: Papa John's Road Trip augmented reality

Launched is a series that highlights practitioners who are using social media in consumer and B2B campaigns. The goal is to cut out the theory and rhetoric and focus on real world examples of social media in action.

This example is for a Papa John's campaign created by Fleishman-Hillard (my employer) and includes physical events, social media hooks and includes a cool augmented reality example. The campaign is in support of Papa John's 25th anniversary and ties into the Road Trip program. This post looks at the augmented reality application and tie to the broader campaign.

Here is a quick video overview of the technology:

[Feed readers please click through to the post to see the video.]

Marketing takeaways:


  • Good use of technology to tie physical customer interactions back to virtual elements and then through to transaction
  • Measurement through unique coupon codes in the augmented reality environment

If you have a suggestion for a future episode of Launched, drop me an email.

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The cohesion of conversations; brands taking a #(pound)ing

iStock_000007087342XSmall.jpgThe hashtag (aka the pound sign, #) is a ubiquitous part of social networking at this point. The purpose of the hashtag is to be able to track and lump a strong of asynchronous messages together for later review and analysis.

For example, a group of people coordinate and use the same keyword at the end of every tweet. You probably saw this at SXSW this year when people were ending their messages with #sxsw. You can use third party sites to aggregate those messages into a single string that is ordered by date to see how events unfold.

However, the hashtag is also being used to track the community's brand engagement. Situations like #motrinmoms, #dominos and #amazonfail now have a public timeline that will remain in place forever. The massive volume of similarly tagged content will make it very easy for anyone to find what happened and see how the company responded across search engines and social platforms.

An argument that people have used to avoid engagement in this space is that it's a relatively small sampling of people who engage in these networks. Regarding the Motrin Moms controversy, an Advertising Age article quoted a Lightspeed research study that stated 90% of women had not seen the Motrin ad that spawned the backlash online. Of the 10% who did, 8% said it negatively impacted their brand impression. While that is a small number, you cannot underestimate the power of small, passionate groups of people who use turbocharged platforms to connect with and influence other like minded people. Wildfires can start with a single match, right?

Internal listening is paramount

I can partially understand when companies have some hesitation in listening to the broad community and engaging. It's time consuming and you have to have a corporate culture to make it work. However, I do not understand companies that do not listen in the social space for employee engagement issues, brand perception problems and platform breakdowns. These types of issues are having an impact on Dominos and Amazon right now.

#dominos: This one is picking up steam now. For more info on what happened, go here.
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#amazonfail: This ramped up a couple of days ago when a "glitch" in the Amazon system starting delisting GLBT titles. People responded to the "glitch" with the hashtag #glitchmyass. It seems to be trending down at the moment.
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[Update] Here is page one of the Google search result for Dominos as of 10:30am on April 15, 2009. Notice entry #3 from YouTube, the top news story as well as the next three stories after the new results.

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The bottom line is that these companies should have been listening and engaging all along, should have been prepared earlier with real, honest, personal responses and taken proactive steps to make things right with their community. Waiting a day to respond is WAY too long, waiting hours may even be too long.

Some things to think about:


  • Listening is more important than ever
  • Active listening can pick up issues before they become crises
  • Community building is key (in advance of an issue)
  • Events are being linked together by consumers for all to see
  • The content of those interactions will live on forever
  • The content also appears in search
  • A few, passionate individuals can dramatically hurt or help a brand in its interactions online

Do you go back through hashtags to see conversations over time? Have you come across them in search results?

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Great technology is transparent

iStock_000004728491XSmall.jpgDo you remember what the web looked like in 1995? Do you remember the pain it took to dial up and wait for the page to load? Do you remember early email systems like Pine? If you do, you know what highly visible technology feels like. You basically had to write code to make some of the things work and the experience was clunky and hard to manage.

Contrast your experience in 1995 to today. Your network is likely always on, surfing happens in seconds and your mail is a natural extension of your body (well, almost). You don't think about the technology behind Twitter, you just use it. You don't think about the hosting infrastructure behind Facebook, it's just there for you.

If you look at the Web2.0 movement and the development of social technologies, it's all about making the technology disappear. The less we think about our interactions the better the experience.

Ways to spot unnecessary technology:


  • If your site was designed by a developer, chances are this is abundant
  • If you have to think about options before you click, you need to simplify
  • If you have to do any type of calculation in your head, you need to clarify
  • If your site is 100% in Flash, you're probably dead on mobile platforms

What other ways can you spot unnecessary technology?

Take a look at the experience you create for your customers. Look at it across platforms (mobile, web, applications, widget, etc.) and ask yourself if you have to think about the technology. If you do notice it, you need to look at alternatives to improve. Can you make the process shorter, more simple or just generally more enjoyable?

How would you rate the experience with technology at the following sites? Does the technology get out of your way or do you have to think about it?


  • Amazon.com
  • Apple.com
  • Moo.com
  • GetSatisfaction.com
  • Twitter.com
  • MySpace.com
  • Facebook.com
  • Your local newspaper site
  • Your website

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Visualizing the growth of Facebook around the world

facebook_logo.jpgToday at some point, Facebook passed the 200 million user mark. If you've been keeping up with my Face of Facebook global updates you know the details of this growth. If not, what are you waiting for?

As part of the momentous occasion, Facebook released a very cool heat map of the site's global growth from zero users through today. Below are the major milestones. Note the early US and european growth and how quickly it's moving throughout APAC, India, South America and parts of Africa.

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First//Look: Augmented reality

Picture 10.pngWhat do you get when you take a webcam, a piece of paper and some cool 3D animation? You get augmented reality (AR). This is relatively new though it's been experimented with for a couple of years at least. In short, AR is the combination of objects in the real world being combined with virtual objects using a webcam and some programming.

Sounds pretty cool eh? You have to see it to know what I'm talking about.

[Feed readers please click through to the post for the video]

Examples you can try yourself right now:

Potential uses:


  • The symbols that it uses can be printed on anything; paper, t-shirts, ads, etc.
  • Any time you want to make a physical connection with virtual objects
  • Allows interaction and engagement with printed pieces
  • People are working on using mobile device cameras to do this while you're on the go
  • It's just plain cool. Give it a try!

BMW looks at using AR to diagnose issues and help mechanics be more efficient

Turn the real world into a huge video game

Really bring Second Life into first life

This is pretty cutting edge, so not every company is going to be comfortable with it. The hardware barrier is pretty low (webcam) so this can hit a mass audience. It's great for presenting things when in conceptual mode (architecture, cars, etc.) as well as adding interactivity to existing items.

My advice is try one of the models above and think about the possibilities in your business. The hardest part may be to stop thinking of them.

[Hat tip to the Fleishman-Hillard digital team in St. Louis for putting this back on my radar screen.]

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The Face of Facebook Global Report - Q1 2009

C50791CC-025A-467E-8A51-5144D7AD930D.jpgWelcome to my Q1 2009 Global Trend report for Facebook. I prepare this quarterly look at Facebook to help you visualize patterns in the community and have a realistic view of the population free from marketing hyperbole.

As always, I use the data that Facebook provides directly from their advertising management system. Actual numbers may be larger, but we're marketers and these are the people who can be marketed to. Each country's data includes all age ranges. The data compares the populations at the end of Q4 2008 to the same population's numbers at the end of Q1 2009.

Key Takeaways:

  • Large gains in western Europe and the Pacific Rim
  • In total Facebook has 183,771,740 worldwide users as of the end of Q1 2009
  • The U.S. only makes up 1/3 of the total Facebook population
  • The Philippines and Indonesia has massive gains of over 160% from Q4
  • The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ecuador, Macedonia and Oman all had greater than 100% gains from Q4
  • Nearly 40% of the population of Iceland is on Facebook
  • 30% of the total population of Canada, Denmark and Norway are on Facebook
  • The U.S. (14.4), Italy (2.91), UK (2.85), France (2.47), Turkey (2.18), Spain (1.67), Indonesia (1.46), Argentina (1.15), Colombia (1.10) and Australia (1.08) had gains of over 1 million users in Q1 2009

Top 25 Countries by total users

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): US, UK, Canada, Turkey, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Hong Kong, Norway, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, India, Greece, Finland, South Africa, Indonesia, Israel

top25bytotal.png
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Top 25 countries by highest % of total population on Facebook

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, UK, Chile, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sweden, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, USA, Switzerland, New Zealand, Bahamas, Malta, Puerto Rico, Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, Israel, France, Ireland

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*Note: This chart uses the total population of each country (not the online population)

Top 25 largest Q1 percentage gains

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): Philippines, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ecuador, Macedonia, Oman, Portugal, Romania, Brazil, Taiwan, Lithuania, Austria, Bulgaria, Paraguay, Kenya, Ghana, Hungary, Netherlands, China, Russia, Spain, Tunisia, Thailand, Vietnam

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Top 25 largest total population gains

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): US, Italy, UK, France, Turkey, Spain, Indonesia, Argentina, Colombia, Australia, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Philippines, India, South Africa, Belgium, Egypt, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile

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Raw country population data for Q1 2009

Country Q1 2009 Q4 2008
Argentina 3,406,520 2,254,200
Australia 5,412,300 4,327,920
Austria 462,540 258,780
Bahrain 66,340 50,660
Bangladesh 284,660 198,780
Belgium 2,150,920 1,666,340
Bolivia 251,820 184,920
Bosnia 288,880 198,660
Brazil 392,840 209,100
Bulgaria 244,480 136,980
Canada 11,552,120 10,851,420
Chile 4,441,640 4,152,060
China 375,200 220,620
Colombia 4,743,920 3,636,320
Costa Rica 116,140 73,100
Croatia 598,320 491,240
Cyprus 134,260 109,420
Czech Republic 433,700 176,660
Denmark 2,060,440 1,778,440
Dominican Republic 163,060 115,680
Ecuador 201,320 130,860
Egypt 1,270,520 821,760
El Salvador 90,580 67,360
Finland 1,032,140 920,960
France 9,072,360 6,595,300
Germany 1,970,740 1,255,480
Ghana 93,160 53,880
Greece 1,348,920 1,000,320
Guatemala 127,880 93,960
Honduras 72,780 54,180
Hong Kong 1,706,780 1,456,740
Hungary 154,840 90,260
Iceland 148,380 120,520
India 1,602,860 1,072,080
Indonesia 2,358,400 898,360
Ireland 594,640 401,280
Israel 1,028,140 895,520
Italy 8,499,940 5,582,980
Jamaica 91,960 64,780
Japan 314,700 213,420
Jordan 317,800 266,700
Kenya 227,160 130,920
Kuwait 142,620 105,160
Lebanon 441,380 414,240
Lithuania 75,280 41,800
Luxembourg 94,780 87,400
Macedonia 140,000 78,180
Malaysia 1,183,860 851,240
Maldives 41,320 33,880
Malta 65,040 45,820
Mauritius 81,280 57,060
Mexico 2,141,500 1,439,580
Morocco 487,000 369,660
Netherlands 602,280 351,540
New Zealand 738,620 534,320
Nicaragua 43,920 29,560
Nigeria 331,240 212,780
Norway 1,795,040 1,455,080
Oman 35,600 24,240
Pakistan 546,360 376,800
Palestine 89,320 69,660
Panama 279,180 236,200
Paraguay 33,960 19,200
Peru 455,700 295,620
Phiilippines 1,030,340 390,700
Poland 300,880 194,960
Portugal 168,900 84,760
Puerto Rico 636,660 541,640
Qatar 98,020 67,840
Romania 108,460 56,300
Russia 203,180 122,780
Saudi Arabia 448,240 325,860
Serbia 753,720 557,480
Singapore 1,038,620 740,220
Slovakia 290,560 138,120
Slovenia 271,440 184,120
South Africa 1,406,120 920,860
South Korea 161,100 113,940
Spain 4,266,660 2,591,640
Sri Lanka 210,820 154,780
Sweden 2,043,980 1,697,100
Switzerland 1,382,540 1,122,900
Taiwan 205,060 112,840
Thailand 273,780 168,840
The Bahamas 54,300 43,900
Trinidad and Tabago 177,980 136,080
Tunisia 392,220 239,600
Turkey 10,105,380 7,924,640
UAE 593,560 485,540
UK 17,781,800 14,922,560
Ukraine 65,440 41,400
Uraguay 292,360 198,160
USA 56,462,020 42,017,280
Venezuela 2,732,860 1,872,840
Vietnam 63,360 39,120

Does anything surprise you on this? Anything else you would like to know?

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When everything becomes social, what is "social media"?

iStock_000005140921XSmall.jpgWhat do you think of when I say the term "social media"? Do visions of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels, blogs and wikis dance through your head? If you do, I think you're selling yourself short. VERY short.

Social media is a fad. All media will be social.

For the past year, I have included a slide in my presentation decks that says "Social media is a fad. All media will be social". We're already seeing instances of this in mainstream media. Just look at the Facebook/CNN partnership for the inauguration. It nearly crippled business networks around the world as people chatted with their Facebook friends while watching broadcast TV online.

This is an experience that has been taking place through divergent platforms for more than a decade (IM + TV), but is now becoming integrated into a single user experience. Just open Twitter during prime time TV and see what dominates the conversation. It's people talking together around a common topic enabled by whatever show is on.

Current showed us another example of the integration of TV with social technology as it flowed in real-time messages from Twitter during broadcast. This is a clunky solution for now until cable platforms integrate these services into the broadcast or they focus more on online delivery of content.

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In-person events are even taking advantage of social technology to make the event even more engaging. Speakers (including myself) take questions on Twitter and engage people beyond the four walls of the room. Live streaming of video allows a global audience to participate in a local event.

Social technology is allowing radio broadcasts to expand their conversations as people engage online while listening or even while not listening. Smart stations are engaging with their audiences through multiple platforms. Each morning I listen to the BBC's Radio 1 on my drive to work. The Chris Moyles Show uses multiple platforms including Twitter, Facebook, email and SMS to engage the audience in real time. The hosts are savvy and the technology is simple and fast.

Mobile device experiences will become increasingly more social. You're seeing the start of this now with applications like Loopt and FourSquare, but you will see social interactions around news content via iPhone apps or any other platform that brings people together.

Does news become more relevant when discussed with my peer group? Absolutely. Once of the main problems with most social content is that the group of people commenting/creating are not relevant to my interests (see YouTube comments for example). If I can select who I have conversations with on certain topics, it's very valuable to me. I'm not saying we should censor people, but the technology allows for added relevance that we should be taking advantage of.

Even outdoor ads have started to become vaguely social. Mini Cooper took the lead on this a few years ago by using RFID technology to display custom messages to their customers as they drove by.

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So, instead of taking a narrow, short-term view of "social media", we need to step back, look at all media and see what the social technology potential is and look at how to take advantage of that to deliver more relevant experiences.

How does this notion that all media will become social change your view of media? Is TV/radio dying? What about magazines? Do these have to be digital to be social?

Let's hear what you have to say!

Note: If you're interested in having me speak to your group or organization, check out my speaking page to get in touch with me.

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The age of Facebook vs. MySpace: February/March edition

iStock_000005753573XSmall.jpgSo sorry for the delay in this report. MySpace seems to only update their ad targeting stats every other month (Facebook is done in real time). This is the latest edition of my look at social networks and their populations from a marketing perspective.

All numbers in this post are US-only and are collected using each site's advertising management systems so they are up to date and accurate from a marketer's perspective. (Who wants to talk about populations that can't be reached by marketing? Not me.)

What you need to know right now:

  • For the first time, over half of the population of Facebook is over 25 (60% MySpace is still under 25)
  • Overall Facebook is up 22% while MySpace is down .5%
  • Facebook has now surpassed MySpace in 31-50 age ranges
  • Facebook's 50+ group is the fastest growing followed closely by the 41-45 group
  • MySpace's largest losses are ages 35 and under
  • Facebook growth under age 25 is still slow (this group is maxing out)

MySpace down overall; Facebook over 50 booming; Facebook overtakes MySpace in the 31-50 populations

Total US populations of MySpace and Facebook:

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Looking at Women on both sites:

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Looking at Men on both sites:

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Here are the actual Feb/March numbers:

AGE RANGEFacebookΔ last periodMySpaceΔ last period
13-176,051,940+7.58%17,072,104-0.18%
18-2111,572,420+6.65%19,840,744-0.81%
22-258,715,060+11.61%12,346,236-1.46%
26-30 7,703,320+22.55%10,949,876-1.86%
31-355,859,840+29.63% 5,778,080-0.44%
36-404,941,180+38.16%3,744,776+1.27%
41-453,000,860+47.33%2,226,476+1.80%
46-501,950,220+50.57%1,510,488+3.39%
51-65+2,945,680+51.90%7,692,972+0.91%

Other key takeaways:


  • These numbers represent all total users who can be reached through each site's advertising systems (not all worldwide active users)
  • MySpace's reporting system is not real time like Facebook's. Keep this in mind if you're planning a campaign.
  • MySpace skews younger than Facebook, engaging more of the highschool population
  • Facebook engages much more of the college population (inverse to MySpace)
  • Women make up well over half of the Facebook population across all age ranges
  • MySpace's 50+ population is over 70% female, Facebook is over 63% female

What do you think? What other networks are you investigating? The demographics and targeting options on both sites let you reach your audience in targeted/tailored ways and minimize waste. Knowing where your customers are is key.

Data sources: If you're curious, here is where the data comes from on both sites.

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Inside//Out: Radian6

Picture 23.pngIf you are at all involved in social media, either on the client side or the agency side, you have heard of Radian6. This Canadian-based company has used its own tools to grow their influence and broaden their customer base. Post nearly anything about the company or its employees and you will have someone stop by your site to leave a comment or lend a hand. (Disclosure: Radian6 is a partner of Fleishman-Hillard, my employer.)

Just this past weekend, Radian6 released an updated version with a new set of features. If you remember in my post 'Executing a listening plan' there are three layers to doing this well. Radian6 handles the social media/forum/micromedia data very well and helps coordinate the people layer. It does not include print news, TV or radio.

Radian's new release adds more team monitoring elements to enable multiple people to coordinate. The new release also tracks comments by integrating BackType into the system.

I think it's time to give you a tour of the product, show what it is capable of and discuss how it may fit into your listening plan (current or future).


[Feed readers please click through to the post for the video.]

I am going to do more of these videos on other measurement tools to show you what the landscape looks like. If you have a suggestion or recommendation for a future video here on Techno//Marketer, drop me an email!

For my complete library of my videos for marketers, click here.


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Facebook finally learns from its mistakes (or did they?)

facebook_logo.jpgAfter a few weeks of controversy over a change in their terms of service (TOS) agreement, Facebook today has announced it has apparently learned from its mistakes and will open this process up to the users. It is hard for me to fathom why this has taken such a long time given that this is what social media is all about. Why has it taken five years for the world's fastest growing social network to start listening and engaging its community?

Why has it taken five years for the world's fastest growing social network to start listening and engaging its community?

Facebook is opening up two documents for discussion. The first is basically a user's bill or rights called the Facebook Principles. The second document is a replacement to the TOS called the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Both documents are housed in separate groups that invite conversation and engagement. Once that dialogue happens, the community will vote for and against changes a la Wikipedia.

They're still keeping a nice big loophole open.

All of this is great, but the wording in Mark Zuckerberg's post about this topic is very interesting. He talks about innovation and "disruptive technologies" that "will not be subject to the notice and comment or voting requirement". So they're still keeping a nice big loophole open.

The overall management of the operation is what I see being the largest problem. Facebook's Groups are not good at handling a large conversation. It's a glorified message board. When 10,000 people respond, how do you ensure people are heard? How do you filter down the hot items? Who does that filtering? Sounds like a big hurdle that could backfire.

A couple of thoughts and questions on this move:


  • The command and control approach Facebook has taken in the past seems to be dying off
  • Still unclear what happens if something is enacted that impacts Facebook's business if they will adopt it
  • In Facebook's five year existence, it's hard to imagine why this hasn't happened sooner
  • How can they effectively manage thousands of points of feedback and narrow it down? Who does the narrowing?
  • Does the loophole I note above make this futile?
  • What are the legal implications of the community dictating policy? What if there is a conflict?
  • Should businesses look at adopting this approach to their online engagement?

So, what are your thoughts on this? Are you satisfied with the new process? Do you feel they've learned from their mistakes? Let me know!

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Executing a listening plan

iStock_000000564491XSmall.jpgLast week I wrote a post on the lack of listening that is taking place among top marketing executives. In my opinion, most of the problem with listening stems a lack of the right tools and a lack of an action plan for what to do with the information.

Two of my top key takeaways from that post got me thinking.


  1. You have to have humans involved
  2. You have to have an escalation plan

I'm a visual person, so I wanted to come up with a construct that could frame this challenge in the enterprise for further discussion. Here is what I cam up with, let me know what you think:

layersoflistening.png
[Click to enlarge image.]

The data layer

The data layer has been getting a lot of attention lately. Many companies are very active in this space and provide great solutions. However, data without human filtering is useless. The key to the data layer is that you're listening to the spaces that matter and that it spans media types.

Data alone without human filtering is useless.

Aggregating news, TV, radio, blogs, micromedia, message boards, etc into a single location is becoming a necessity. People are doing this now, but the information is rarely synchronized and shared in a coordinated manner. Good filtering in the data layer can help to eliminate work in the human layer, but it's a fine line to make sure that emerging trends aren't excluded. The solutions that exist in this space at the current time are not adequate for major global brands.

The human layer

This, in my mind, is the key to success. No matter how good the data layer, you still need a human looking at it who knows the business, challenges and processes. You need to spot trends across media, uncover new innovations, and listen to what is happening with internal department responsibilities in mind.

The humans in this layer should span media formats, look for trends and spot emerging issues to flag for appropriate follow up. Within a company, these flags will need to be communicated to the right department at the right level. That's where the action level takes over.

The action layer

Listening without action is a waste of money and is one of the reasons I think more companies are not engaging. Companies are huge, siloed beasts that eat disorganization for lunch. Rolling out a listening plan is a challenge, but not one that can't be overcome.

The humans who review data need to know the structure of the organization and the people involved. In other words, these people need to be 100% integrated in the company's culture/process. They need to know the legalities of the business, HR issues, communications opportunities, brand/product feedback, how employees are engaging and representing the company and what is being said about the companies media properties.

In a company that is fully engaged in social media, this structure is VERY flat and responsive to even the smallest issues/opportunities.

Within each layer there needs to be an escalation plan. I didn't show that in this diagram, because each department will be different. You need to think about how the business operates and look at the possible issues that could arise. For each possible issue, determine who needs to know what and how fast they need to know it.

Here is an example for a consumer product company:


  1. Issue is detected. What is the issue?
  2. It's a product safety problem. How serious is it?
  3. Lives could potentially be threatened.
  4. Alert all heads of departments by SMS/email as well as key contacts within each department
  5. Schedule call as soon as possible

A cross-functional team needs to sit across all related departments to bind this process together and ensure success. They determine alerting protocol and responses. In a company that is fully engaged in social media, this structure is VERY flat and responsive to even the smallest issues/opportunities.

Listening as step one

If you remember my post from late September "Should your company blog?" (it applies to your company/CEO/VP/or yourself), the first step in the process is listening. The more companies that take this first step and listen are on their way to a solid foundation in customer engagement. You can't start truly engaging with a strategic insight until you listen. What's stopping you?

blog decision tree.png

How would you improve this? What am I missing? I'd love to have your feedback.

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You suck at listening!

iStock_000002581157XSmall.jpgWell, not you personally (I hope). A recent CMO Council study, however showed that only 16% of 400 executives they surveyed have an online listening plan in place. 56% have no plan to track of drive word-of-mouth and only 30% thought they had the ability to resolve complaints quickly. Why such a low percentage? What is stopping these CMOs from implementing a plan?

Personally, I think that creating a listening plan is pretty easy. It's what you do with the information that you are collecting that is the hard part. This is where these marketing executives are falling down.

What you do with that information once you have it? How do you get all of the other departments to commit to the initiative? How do you execute on it without losing productivity? It really comes down to creating a customer service culture, where the customer is the priority. This is not how a lot of companies operate, however.

From my post earlier in January, here are three keys to listening online:

  1. Find your customer and spend your time there. While Twitter is great for some brands, you will find that message boards, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, etc. may hold the majority of your customers. If you're listening in the wrong place you're not doing any good.

  2. Use technology to speed the process. Instead of watching Twitter for 12 hours a day, subscribe to the RSS feed for your keywords on Twitter Search. Do the same with keywords on Google and your Technorati page. Check this a couple of times a day. On top of that, you can overlay that information on top of the monitoring tools.

    Big tip, I've seen monitoring companies sell their services as the end-all of this area and they are not. This requires a human being who knows the industry and company to make it worth while.

  3. Create your active listening plan. Listening is a good first step, but a lifetime of listening without action is not going to move the needles that you need to move for your business. Creating an plan for what to do with the information you learn is key.

    I wrote this post in February of 2007 on active listening and it still holds true today. This quote sums it up:

    "Agile marketing companies are leveraging new technology to create real, one-to-many and many-to-many conversations. They are using the outcome from that interaction to make meaningful, remarkable, relationship-enhancing changes that impact their clients in a positive manner. Are you listening?"

Key Takeaways

  • You have to have humans involved. This is often overlooked with all of the technology that we have out there, but humans can spot trends, flag issues that matter and ignore ones that don't. Whatever automation you employ, make sure you have a smart person reviewing it.
  • Have an escalation plan. Don't just listen for listening's sake. You need to know what to do when you hear something. Set action alerts when a certain criteria is met, set a clear path for issues to be escalated through and assign a person to follow up and make sure they're resolved.
  • Use the community to improve your ideas. Just like the examples I mentioned in this post listening can give you insights into your customers that would otherwise cost you millions in testing and research. Listen hard and act on what you hear.

At the end of the day, listening is easy. Setting up the systems and processes that take what you hear and turn it into a business resource is the hard part. What steps would you take if you were in their shoes?

2/3/09 - IMPORTANT UPDATE: I think that it's important to note that 75% of journalists get story ideas from blogs. How can you not be monitoring the space that has this much influence over the editors who cover you? This single reason alone should be enough to get people off of their butts and starting to plan their strategy.

Also, check out Jon Burg's great follow up post "10 reasons CEOs need social insights and 6 steps to setting this up".

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Killing Google

google-.jpgToday, I am featured on Louis Gray's fantastic blog with a post that I've been working on called "The time is right to kill Google (if they don’t kill themselves first)". The post comes out of a couple of experiences I have had with the company at a time when user loyalty and customer service should be paramount. Click here to read the post, and if you don't subscribe to Louis' blog I suggest you do!

[Update:] Some great comments on Louis' blog as well as on the FriendFeed thread. Check em out.

If you're visiting here from Louis' blog, welcome to Techno//Marketer. I hope you stick around!

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Transparency in 140 characters

iStock_000003551768XSmall.jpgOver the past couple of weeks I have seen a number of people on Twitter who seem to forget that transparency extends to micromedia platforms. I think we've been through this drill with blogs and social media profiles, but the need for honesty and transparency does not diminish with the number of characters you type.

Let's take a look at the challenges that micromedia presents to marketing folks, when to disclaim, guidelines of what counts as needing disclosure and what to do.

The need for honesty and transparency does not diminish with the number of characters you type.

The challenges

There are only 140 characters: A lot of people are trying so hard to get every single word into their messages that adding a note for transparency's sake falls off the radar. Tweets look much more like text messages at this point and it's going to get worse. KNIM?

Twitter is asynchronous: People begin listening and stop listening when they want. We jump in and out of conversations. If you only disclose something one time, someone may not see it and be under a false impression. Better to be safe than sorry.

[Update] Context takes effort: The two previous issues compound the difficulty of providing context. It is more an art form than a process and everyone needs to learn for themselves. Just remember, people are reading your stream of thought over time and possibly out of order. Will they get what you're saying and know what your involvement is?

When to disclaim

When you talk about a client: If you talk about a client for any reason, in any way just add the tag [client] to the message. Yes, it's an extra eight characters, but it is highly important. The risk to not doing this is looking like an idiot to your peers and looking underhanded to the broader community.

Picture 3.pngWhen you stand to gain from what you say: Robert Scoble recently got caught "red handed" by my friend Louis Gray. Scoble mentioned the Amazon Kindle in a Twitter message (he has 20,000+ followers) and linked to Amazon using his affiliate link. Thus, any sales would give him revenue. I have no problem with him doing it, but he should have been more transparent (or naked if you will). [Note that I did not use my affiliate link.] This is relatively new to micromedia, but could be simply noted with the tag [AD]. It is still to be seen if this could be successful.

Fictional users: If a user is created in support of a campaign, it should be disclaimed when not clearly fictional. Entertainment characters like the Mad Men Twitter users would be an exception. I am sure we will see more of this in the near term.

WOMMA Guidelines

When you send a message on Twitter et. al. you are driving word of mouth. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has some very good guidelines on disclosure that dovetail in nicely to new formats.
Honesty of Relationship
  • We practice openness about the relationship between consumers, advocates, and marketers. We encourage word of mouth advocates to disclose their relationship with marketers in their communications with other consumers. We don't tell them specifically what to say, but we do instruct them to be open and honest about any relationship with a marketer and about any products or incentives that they may have received.
  • We stand against shill and undercover marketing, whereby people are paid to make recommendations without disclosing their relationship with the marketer.
  • We comply with FTC regulations that state: "When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product which might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience) such connection must be fully disclosed."

Honesty of Opinion

  • We never tell consumers what to say. People form their own honest opinions, and they decide what to tell others. We provide information, we empower them to share, and we facilitate the process -- but the fundamental communication must be based on the consumers' personal beliefs.
  • We comply with FTC regulations regarding testimonials and endorsements, specifically: "Endorsements must always reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser. Furthermore, they may not contain any representations which would be deceptive, or could not be substantiated if made directly by the advertiser."

Honesty of Identity

  • Clear disclosure of identity is vital to establishing trust and credibility. We do not blur identification in a manner that might confuse or mislead consumers as to the true identity of the individual with whom they are communicating, or instruct or imply that others should do so.
  • Campaign organizers should monitor and enforce disclosure of identity. Manner of disclosure can be flexible, based on the context of the communication. Explicit disclosure is not required for an obviously fictional character, but would be required for an artificial identity or corporate representative that could be mistaken for an average consumer.
  • We comply with FTC regulations regarding identity in endorsements that state: "Advertisements presenting endorsements by what are represented, directly or by implication, to be "actual consumers'' should utilize actual consumers, in both the audio and video or clearly and conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers of the advertised product."
  • Campaign organizers will disclose their involvement in a campaign when asked by consumers or the media. We will provide contact information upon request.

What to do

When in doubt, disclose. If you are talking about a client or making direct profit just add a tag at the end. Don't just add it once, but each time you mention it.

Would you add anything to this?

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Marketing imperatives for 2009 (free eBook)

AEB6B71C-CCA7-4F88-BD8A-42352B2099D8.jpgMy good friend and blogging role model Valeria Maltoni has done it again. Valeria has created a free eBook written by 12 marketers (myself included) about our execution imperatives for 2009. There are some new voices and fresh thinking inside and is absolutely worth a read.

Here are some quotes from the book and links my fellow co-authors:


  • "Basic metrics you can initially use to match up before, during and after sales deltas are frequency, reach, and yield"
    - Olivier Blanchard, The Brand Builder, @thebrandbuilder
  • "There are three imperatives for execution programs in 2009 - start with measurement, create content for the open Web and for mobility"
    - Matt Dickman, Techno//Marketer, @MattDickman
  • "The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C's. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution"
    - Mike Fruchter, My Thoughts on Social Media, @Fruchter
  • "With social media as a platform for participation, people can behave the way they were hardwired to behave in the first place - humanly, tribally"
    - Fancois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing, @fgossieaux
  • "Social media enhances marketing efforts as an additional indirect communication channel"
    - Beth Harte, The Harte of Marketing, @BethHarte
  • "Companies with greater social intelligence have stronger bonds with employees and customers, and that translates into revenue"
    - Lois Kelly, Beeline Labs, @LoisKelly
  • "Change ensures our own livelihoods - new opportunities and trends to capitalize upon, unique products and profit centers that merit development, robust innovation to leverage"
    - Christina Kerley, CK Epiphany, @ckepiphany
  • "Social media interaction allows us to have… well, interaction with our customers. It lets us see them as people instead of statistics and it lets us hear their voices"
    - Jennifer Laycock, Search Engine Guide, @JenniferLaycock
  • "Goals absolutely must be built on business objectives"
    - Amber Naslund, Altitude Branding, @AmberCadabra
  • "A proper social media education is more than just learning new tools. The most important lesson we can impart is the necessity to think 'humans'"
    - Connie Reece, Every Dot Connects, @ConnieReece
  • "Social media isn't causing problems, but it is revealing them. And the problems aren't new; they've been around for a while"
    - Mike Wagner, Own Your Brand!, @bigwags
  • "The secret of success in social media is a product or a service that people actually like and use"
    - Alan Wolk, The Toad Stool, @awolk

Take a read and let me know your thoughts. What are your execution imperatives for 2009?

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Inside//Out: QR codes

QR.pngWouldn't you love to drive people from your physical world marketing efforts to the web in real time? Who wouldn't? This has been a dream of marketers since the popularization of the web and technology is starting to catch up. QR (or quick response) codes are, quite simply two dimensional bar codes. The codes were designed in Japan for the auto industry and they remain popular today.

In marketing, QR codes have started to pop up sporadically in ads and catalogs. I did a post on this technology in 2007 which you can read here. In that post, I noted that this was a potential technology for marketers to leverage in the future. To be blunt, this is still in the future, but the trend is one that is coming quickly (though it may take another form). The ability to grab information and go will build momentum over time.

The entire system works by taking a picture of the code with a cell phone camera, decoding the symbol on the device and taking an action. That action can be directing someone to a URL, passing them a phone number, giving them marketing copy or sending them a text message.

Here is a demo of the technology in this edition of Inside//Out

[Feed readers, click through to the post if you cannot see the video]

Pros:
  • Quick and cheap to create
  • Simple and compact design
  • Able to be placed on myriad surfaces (paper, cloth, etc.)
  • Convey complex information to mobile customers

Cons:


  • Lack of consumer education about how QR works
  • Hardware/software readers are scarce
  • Lack of adoption in the US

Key Takeaways:


  • QR should be used for nothing more than a test/experiment at this point
  • The ability for mobile users to get complex content very quickly is a major trend
  • Scanning codes, text message response or the next generation of this idea will push the need further
  • You already see this in real estate in major markets using SMS
  • Integration between physical marketing and digital marketing will continue to converge using new technology

Have you seen these in mainstream ads? Would you consider using them in your campaign? Are you looking at SMS response? Let me know!

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The Face of Facebook Global Report - Q4 2008

C50791CC-025A-467E-8A51-5144D7AD930D.jpgFirst off, let me apologize to you for not publishing this monthly as promised. It was taking me around 15 hours to compile and edit the PDF each month and it was just overwhelming. I'll keep publishing it on a quarterly basis as a blog post moving forward. Thank you for understanding!

As always, I use the data that Facebook provides from their advertising management system. The actual numbers may be larger, but we're marketers and these are the people who can be marketed to.

Key Takeaways:

  • The fourth quarter of 2008 saw a 27.55% increase in the total population of Facebook going from 100 million users to 138.6 million. That's a larger increase compared to past months on this report.
  • The US is still the largest segment of Facebook at around 42 million users. This is 282% greater than the next closest country (the UK)
  • Italy and Romania had over 400% gains on Facebook leading the pack while the US led by total population gain at 9 million new users
  • Norway and Canada have the largest percentage of their total populations on Facebook (over 25% each)
  • South Africa was the only country to lose population in Q4
  • Macedonia and Oman were the only new additions in Q4 2008

Top 25 Countries by total users

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): US, UK, Canada, Turkey, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Hong Kong, Norway, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, India, Greece, Finland, South Africa top25bytotalpop.png [Click image for larger version]

Top 25 countries by highest % of total population on Facebook

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): Norway, Canada, Denmark, UK, Chile, Iceland, Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Puerto Rico, US, Luxembourg, Maldives, New Zealand, Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel, Malta, UAE, Switzerland, Belgium, The Bahamas, Colombia top25bypercentpop.png [Click image for larger version] *Note: This chart uses the total population of each country (not the online population)

Top 25 largest Q4 % gains

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): Italy, Romania, tunisia, Slovakia, Indonesia, Spain, Argentina, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, Iceland, Ecuador, Macedonia, Oman, Belgium, France, Turkey, Switzerland, The Bahamas, Austria, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Morocco Q4_pct_change.png [Click image for larger version]

Top 25 largest total gains

Top countries (in order greatest to lowest): US, Italy, turkey, France, UK, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Chile, Denmark, Indonesia, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Venezuela, Colombia, Greece, Hong Kong, Serbia, India, Mexico, Finland, Malaysia Q4_total_pop_gains.png [Click image for larger version]

Raw country population data for Q4 2008

*Note that Macedonia and Oman are new additions to Facebook for segmenting purposes and don't have Q3 data.
Country Q4 2008 Q3 2008
Argentina 2,254,200 936,540
Australia 4,327,920 3,650,260
Austria 258,780 144,800
Bahrain 50,660 42,360
Bangladesh 198,780 135,220
Belgium 1,666,340 833,600
Bolivia 184,920 150,480
Bosnia 198,660 90,720
Brazil 209,100 155,600
Bulgaria 136,980 79,300
Canada 10,851,420 10,025,320
Chile 4,152,060 3,477,540
China 220,620 196,200
Colombia 3,636,320 3,226,980
Costa Rica 73,100 55,080
Croatia 491,240 300,500
Cyprus 109,420 78,660
Czech Republic 176,660 75,900
Denmark 1,778,440 1,174,500
Dominican Republic 115,680 91,800
Ecuador 130,860 105,700
Egypt 821,760 838,480
El Salvador 67,360 51,540
Finland 920,960 656,780
France 6,595,300 3,382,840
Germany 1,255,480 817,620
Ghana 53,880 36,780
Greece 1,000,320 639,340
Guatemala 93,960 76,980
Honduras 54,180 41,660
Hong Kong 1,456,740 1,111,580
Hungary 90,260 63,700
Iceland 120,520 57,700
India 1,072,080 807,040
Indonesia 898,360 321,980
Ireland 401,280 308,100
Israel 895,520 663,240
Italy 5,582,980 1,035,900
Jamaica 64,780 49,560
Japan 213,420 170,080
Jordan 266,700 211,700
Kenya 130,920 105,120
Kuwait 105,160 91,520
Lebanon 414,240 378,580
Lithuania 41,800 29,880
Luxembourg 87,400 49,480
Macedonia 78,180 0
Malaysia 851,240 591,880
Maldives 33,880 31,220
Malta 45,820 36,160
Mauritius 57,060 40,620
Mexico 1,439,580 1,174,600
Morocco 369,660 214,180
Netherlands 351,540 283,700
New Zealand 534,320 433,360
Nicaragua 29,560 23,740
Nigeria 212,780 145,000
Norway 1,455,080 1,315,880
Oman 24,240 0
Pakistan 376,800 286,340
Palestine 69,660 55,660
Panama 236,200 219,760
Paraguay 19,200 11,440
Peru 295,620 208,560
Phiilippines 390,700 233,300
Poland 194,960 113,900
Portugal 84,760 61,860
Puerto Rico 541,640 455,160
Qatar 67,840 54,820
Romania 56,300 10,760
Russia 122,780 94,100
Saudi Arabia 325,860 265,740
Serbia 557,480 266,120
Singapore 740,220 539,660
Slovakia 138,120 46,060
Slovenia 184,120 86,640
South Africa 920,860 1,022,240
South Korea 113,940 86,500
Spain 2,591,640 1,031,780
Sri Lanka 154,780 96,500
Sweden 1,697,100 1,242,240
Switzerland 1,122,900 609,640
Taiwan 112,840 84,780
Thailand 168,840 109,980
The Bahamas 43,900 24,280
Trinidad and Tabago 136,080 94,300
Tunisia 239,600 66,440
Turkey 7,924,640 4,087,640
Ukraine 41,400 26,860
UAE 485,540 358,560
USA 42,017,280 32,923,620
UK 14,922,560 12,662,320
Uraguay 198,160 89,320
Venezuela 1,872,840 1,456,420
Vietnam 39,120 26,580

Does anything surprise you on this? Anything else you would like to know?

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Five big social media contradictions and how to manage them

iStock_000002248298XSmall.jpgWhat's fast to build, slow to grow and needs constant attention? No, not a Chia Pet. It's social media! I've given this post a lot of thought over the past couple of months as I talk with executives and marketers who are discussing their entry into the social media space. Some are skeptical, others are passionate. Most have incorrect pre-conceived notions that are contradictory to the way things actually are. Ironically, most of these contradictions have been used as selling points in the early days of the space. So, here we go.

Contradiction 1: Fast setup, slow build

Yes, it is true that you can create a blog in less than five minutes. However, a five minute blog is going to have the same marketing impact as letting an 2-year-old create your brand identity. The physical build of a blog will take months to get right. It needs to be professionally designed or at least customized to look unique.

That, however, is the easiest part of blogging. The real build comes in building your community. It took me around 8 solid months of posting 4-5 days a week to really start making traction. Only around a year and a half in did I start to feel like I was making an impact.

Tip to manage: Look around at people who are successful here. Look at companies like Zappos, Dell or Comcast and see how they use it. Look for other companies in your space and seek out what they are doing. Ask experts, people are very accessible here.

Contradiction 2: Cheap up-front, financial marathon

I think way too many companies think of social media as an inexpensive alternative to pricey paid media options. On the contrary. The physical build/setup/design/etc. is in line with traditional digital implementations (think website/microsite). The real investment comes in the personal time necessary to make an impact. The build is just the tip of the iceberg.

Personally, I estimate that I spend 3-4 hours a day on this blog and within my online space. That's reading, commenting, writing and thinking about digital marketing and social media. That's on top of my workload and travel.

Let's say you have a community evangelist to work your digital marketing as well as social media. There are around 260 work days a year. I am a proponent of companies dedicating AT LEAST 2 HOURS A DAY to do this right. (Obviously, the more time spent the better.) Take agency rates of around $150/hr and that works out to around $78,000/year minimum just to manage the work. More time = more chances for engagement = a better chance for success.

Tip to manage: Look at the people/companies who you admire and ask them how much time they spend. Do your own estimations. Look a the content they're creating and estimate what it took to build. You have to show that this requires a continued commitment from a financial perspective.

Contradiction 3: Open/transparent/mashed-up meets legal and regulatory

While the spirit of social media and participatory marketing is open and extensible, there are real fears that MUST be addressed with the legal team. The best way to do this is to address them head on. Legal teams have been trained to defend brands, stop "unauthorized use" and do it quick. That doesn't fly in this space, it backfires.

Extending marketing and customer service into social media requires the full commitment of the organization at all levels. Everyone needs to be comfortable with the strategy and be kept aware of the execution. If this doesn't happen, it can lead to big trouble.

Tip to manage: There are a ton of examples here. Look at Scrabulous for example. The best idea is to sit down with legal and draw parallels to help them put this in a framework. Can you compare traditional media outreach to blogger outreach? Can you compare your phone reps to your Twitter reps? You can and you should.

Contradiction 4: Creating real estate turns to building on other people's property

Up until social media, digital marketing has been all about creating real estate. Websites, microsites, Flash demos, webinars, virtual offices, etc. Marketing around these spaces required volume to be successful. Email lists were crucial, online ads drove volume and measurement supported these tactics.

Social media is about finding where customers already exist and finding ways to add value within that space. Solving problems, crowdsourcing product and service development, creating cool applications, etc. all add value. Customer service may be the silver bullet in this space. Measurement needs to adapt to your business. Throw out the standards and find what matters to you, then measure it.

Tip to manage: Again Zappos, Dell and Comcast are case studies in the making here. Think about how Nike+ shifted the paradigm of tracking runner's progress and extended it to widgets, Facebook apps, etc. The iPhone is another example where you can add value and get the marketing benefit.

Contradiction 5: Unlimited opportunities to engage, finite places to make real impact

There are literally thousands of places to engage with your customers online. The challenge for brands is to find out where they are, how they move and what they find of value. The other challenge is to dedicate resources to support customers in the places that make sense while limiting waste. Facebook is a great platform to use if you add value to your customers through your marketing. However, if your customers aren't there it's a waste. If you don't see that they shift to a niche network on Ning next month you will continue spending time and begin wasting money.

Listening is key to keeping the pulse of your audience. It lets you see changes in location, sentiment and identify memes that resonate in real time. It lets you be able to pounce and that's key.

Tip to manage: Follow big brands and follow personal brands too. Look at how Chris Brogan engages with his community and grows his business. Look at how Mario Sundar advocates for LinkedIn. Watch Guy Kawasaki extend his business and build new ones (seemingly) on the fly. Watch Jeremiah Owyang redefine what it is to be an analyst while helping to empower an amateur analyst army. See Gary Vaynerchuk kill it every day and inspire everyone he touches like in this video:

What contradictions would you add? Any other examples that people should pay attention to beyond the ones I noted?

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The age of Facebook vs. MySpace: January edition

iStock_000005753573XSmall.jpgWhat does the real population of Facebook look like? How does it compare to MySpace? This is the latest edition of my look at social networks and their populations from a marketing perspective.

All numbers in this post are US-only and are collected using each site's advertising management systems so they are up to date and accurate from a marketer's perspective. (Who wants to talk about populations that can't be reached by marketing? Not me.)

What you need to know right now:

  • MySpace's total population is down 4% in the US
  • Facebook now for the first time has more people ages 36-45 than MySpace, soon will overtake 46-50 as well as 31-35
  • Facebook's over 30 growth is still booming at around 24% per category
  • Facebook's under 30 growth was stagnant
  • MySpace still dominant in HS and college age groups

Facebook Overview:

Facebookhad fairly consistent gains across most age groups, however for the first time I see slowdowns in the under 35 population. Surprises include:
  • Less than 2% growth in the 18-21 and 22-25 year old groups (down from approx. 22% gains over past 4 months)
  • 13-17 year old growth is under 8% and the 26-30 year old group gained just over 11%
  • Facebook is 56.89% female and 43.11% male

MySpace Overview:

There were some surprising shifts in the population of MySpace this month. Of note:
  • Overall, the US population on MySpace dropped by 4.16%
  • 26.87% drop in the 36-40 age group from November's numbers
  • 32.93% drop in the 41-45 age group from November's numbers
  • 40.65% drop in the 46-65+ age group from November's numbers
  • MySpace is 52.71% female and 47.29% male

MySpace down 4%; Facebook under 30 stagnant; Facebook finally overtakes MySpace in 36-45 populations

January's look at the real age of MySpace vs. Facebook (US)

Totals.png
Click to enlarge image.

Here are the actual December-January numbers:

AGE RANGEFacebookΔ last monthMySpaceΔ last monthoverall variance
13-175,593,200+7.21%17,072,104-2.94%305%
18-2110,802,300+1.24%20,326,180+1.89%188%
22-257,703,340+1.87%13,029,345+3.32%169%
26-305,966,040+11.19%10,528,581-5.70%176%
31-354,123,740+18.27%4,958,016-15.37%120%
36-403,055,720+23.90%2,843,813-26.87%93%
41-451,580,460+26.74%1,577,310-32.93%100%
46-50963,900+23.88%981,911-40.65%102%
51-65+1,416,820+23.41%7,030,912-7.51%697%

Other key takeaways and burning questions:


  • These numbers represent all total users who can be reached through each site's advertising systems (not all active users)
  • I'm continually interested in the Boomer audiences on these sites and how they engage
  • MySpace's reporting system has been on the fritz, we'll have to see next month's numbers to get a real sense of the space
  • MySpace skews younger than Facebook, engaging more of the highschool population
  • Will need to look at Facebook under 30 numbers next month to see if the growth remains slow

What do you think? What other networks are you investigating? The demographics and targeting options on both sites let you reach your audience in targeted/tailored ways.

UPDATE: Data sources: If you're curious, here is where the data comes from on both sites.

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You can't do that on Facebook

youcantfacebook.jpg

Hopefully you got the reference to that great TV show of the 80s "You Can't Do That on Television". This post, however, is the first in a series of posts covering a couple of common mistakes that marketers are making on Facebook. First up...

You've gotta be you.

A post on drew McLellan's blog prompted me to write about this in more detail. I think most marketers are not aware of the limitations of Facebook and they port over bad habits from other social networks. Unlike on MySpace where companies, brands and spokespeople (real or imaginary) can have a profile, on Facebook you cannot create an account that does not belong to a real person. Comprende? If it's not a real person, don't create an account.

Let's break down the Facebook terms of use that specifically cover this:

Facebook clearly states that "except for advertising programs offered by us on the Site (e.g., Facebook Flyers, Facebook Marketplace), the Service and the Site are available for your personal, non-commercial use only"

Users agree NOT to:


  • register for more than one User account, register for a User account on behalf of an individual other than yourself, or register for a User account on behalf of any group or entity;
    This means: Don't sign up for somebody else or a group

  • impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity;
    This means:Don't sign up and impersonate somebody else (no ghost accounts), don't create fictitious accounts and don't lie about who you are, your name, how old you are or who you represent

Hopefully this is pretty clear. Like I said, I don't think marketers read the terms and conditions on most of these sites, but it's important to know how they work and engage in appropriate, more successful ways.

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Success in social media means being ready to pounce

iStock_000003890669XSmall.jpgReaction time is a major competitive advantage in social media. What I mean by reaction time is the difference between an event or popular meme and the opportunity for your brand. This is one of the reasons that a comprehensive listening plan is so vitally important to any company. It takes one blog post, one media mention or one video phenomenon to present you the opportunity of a lifetime.

Don't get me wrong, it's crucial to create a social media strategy and have a plan, but part of that plan needs to give you the tools to stay fluid and react in real time. The strategy needs to act as a guide.

Listening

Monitoring Plan: Listening is key to success in social media. It's the first thing I recommend to my clients in this space and it takes a real commitment. The tools for this are all around. You can use any combination of options. Most programs that I use involve the following:


  • Monitoring Service: Radian6, Collective Intellect, Nielsen, Cision, Vocus, BackType (per Jason Baer) etc.
  • Google Alerts: They're easy to set up, they're real time and they are proactively sent to you
  • RSS Reader as aggregator: I use Google Reader to subscribe to the following two options to stay on top of things in an easy, manageable way.
  • Blog Search RSS: Go to any search engine and enter your keywords then look for the RSS symbol. They'll let you subscribe to those results and monitor changes (try Google, IceRockey, Technorati, etc.)
  • Twitter Search: The ultimate in real-time listening, enter your keyword and subscribe to the RSS feed

Analytics: Having analytics and using analytics are two very different things. This is one of the most powerful tools that we have as digital marketers. Know your site, look at the keywords that are bringing people there, what sites are they coming from, why are these things happening? Also, find out what is important in your analytics package and go over it regularly. It only takes one week of skipping a report to miss the next big thing. You can isolate opportunities through analytics. I'll cover this in more detail in January.

Popular memes: Keeping your ear to the ground and staying active in sites like YouTube, watching what's popular on Digg/Delicious/Facebook/Techmeme/etc. gives you a way to stay relevant to your audience. If you're trying to reach women ages 40-55, you need to find what they're watching, what they find funny and what moves them. Think about Mentos and Diet Coke. Mentos found out and embraced the meme. Diet Coke was late to the game, reacted negatively and finally saw the light.

Taking Action

Shortening Time to Customer: Too many companies have an unnecessarily long delay between identification of market opportunities and the time the customer is aware of the response. Legal review, group think and death by committee are killers. There needs to be a clear path to the customer and a knowledge of what is critical to get review (some things do need legal input) and what is good to go. I would suggest making this path as short as possible.

Opportunity Report: Create a daily/weekly opportunity report for your client or management. List key trends, key partners, memes that impact your customers, pop culture trends, etc. Doing this a couple of times will prove easier. You can have a junior person compile this, but it should have senior review to make sure all of the opportunities are seen.

Content is Key: Marketers need to have a mind shift. We are content creators. Not the usual content either, the content we're creating is open source. It needs to be free from copyrights, open to the public and easily repurposed. It could be video, photos, copy, a logo, a story, etc. This is not a website, but content that finds the customer and rings true to their ears. It shows up in their social sphere, on their turf and in their language. The best marketing is doing this now. Examples are hard to find, but agencies/companies are making it work. More on this in January too.

Keep Your Mind Open: This is also important. Not everything that comes out of this will be new media. It may require doing more events, possibly advertising in a new place. Alternatively, an opportunity may come up quickly in the online space. It seems marketers are finding/leveraging new services at breakneck pace. I caution clients and I'll caution you, be strategic about your selections of platform and service. Make 100% sure your customers are there.

Measure. Measure. Measure. Any digital campaign should have measurement at the heart. Key interactions need to be recorded and have meaning assigned in order to manage performance. A/B testing messages is easier than ever. Unlike offline marketing, we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to maximize the dollars we spend on behalf of our clients in real time. Allowing money to underperform is negligent in this day and age. If an ad isn't getting clicks, find why. Test the copy, test the target. It may mean taking it down and refocusing the spend. It's up to us to measure and respond.

What would you add?

[UPDATE: David Alston from the comments below was profiled on Shel Israel's Twitterville notes. Another great case for listening and reacting.]

[UPDATE 2: Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the need to pounce in this video. Listen up PR folks!]

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Inside//Out: Backtype

2D39C42A-6EA8-4A6F-8FD8-B6724F0DE243.jpgOne of the most confounding issues in social media for most people/companies is finding, tracking and staying in the conversation. Backtype is a service that I've found helpful in monitoring comments that I leave, as well as reviewing comments that others have made.

As most of the value in blogs comes "below the post", monitoring comments is vital

On top of monitoring your own comments, the service also lets you track keywords inside all of the comments they index. This is an area that you will find hard to manage if you're monitoring with Google (who doesn't index most comments). As most of the value in blogs comes "below the post", monitoring comments is vital.

Here is a video overview of how it works:

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the player.]

Key Takeaways:


  • Listening in the comment stream is normally difficult because Google does not index comments (so no alerts, etc.)
  • Uses a simple interface and method to track where you leave comments
  • Tracks replies to your comments or other comments in the same thread
  • Allows you to see how other people are commenting
  • Allows you to track keywords in comments (also hard to do with Google)
  • Built around a social network platform, add friends to see their comments when you log in

Do you monitor comments? If do, how do you monitor comments? If not, why?

If you have a suggestion for my next video, let me know. You can send me an email or you can leave me a comment.


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