Friday Dec 21, 2012

Social Media Study: What Will You Do About It?

GlacierIt’s likely you’ve already seen the Nielsen State of Social Media Report 2012. This social media study outlining how users are approaching social has really been making the rounds (that’s called good engagement), mostly among marketing types.

What the study doesn’t show is how brands are approaching social. It would be an interesting thing to hold beside the user study to see if companies are in tune with what their social fans and followers want and how they’re behaving. Let’s see what the Nielsen study says and ponder what brands should be doing about it.

For users, social isn’t new. It’s not still being figured out. But even though modern social’s been around 20 years, it’s perpetually growing and changing. Users have jumped in with both feet. More time is spent on social than any other kind of site. And evolutionary shifts to the platforms happen frequently and quickly. Mobile apps are driving even more social usage, wherever users may go. And they love that. When asked why they use social, the terms “connected” and “informed” came up most often.

However…after 20 years, too many brands still treat social as some green creature that just stepped out of a flying saucer. There are still discussions in C-suites about if, and how, to “deal” with social. As innovations to social, mobile, and app technology pop like lightning, corporate decisions, strategies and investments around social move glacially slow. And now, social is extending across the entire enterprise, meaning businesses must not only embrace social, but highly integrated social management systems.

The study covers which social networks are growing the most. The stunning player for 2012 was Pinterest, a network many brands have embraced reluctantly, if at all. On PCs, Pinterest grew 1,047%. On the mobile app, it grew 1,698%. On mobile web, Pinterest grew 4,225%. I’ll give you a moment to pick your chin up off the table. Frankly, Pinterest may not make sense for non-visual brands. It’s also very female, and very 25-34 if those aren’t your targets.

However…Pinterest’s success screams that people are busy, don’t have time to read copious amounts of text, are used to taking in information and entertainment visually, and want to consume social content quickly. Can you enthrall someone in 2 seconds? That may be all the time you get as users scroll down News Feeds, mostly taking in images and headlines. Companies could read about themselves all day and night. But that’s not what their customers want to do. Brands who aren’t serious about multimedia content production won’t be competing for eyeballs.

Why would a person want to be “friends” with a brand on a social network? They want to stay informed, but 47% do it to get social customer service. 1 in 3 already prefer using social rather than phone support. (Gee, how did that happen? Could it be companies made such a hopeless disaster of phone customer service that no customer wants to go near it?) If users have a question or comment about a product, they primarily go to the brand’s Facebook Page for satisfaction.

However…at far too many brands, nobody’s listening. Customers are left crying in the wilderness, getting an increasingly negative feeling about the company. It’s anti-relationship-building, the exact opposite of what should be happening on social.

Lastly, the Nielsen survey reveals 33% think ads on social networks are more annoying than other online ads. Is this fair? Remember, social users want to connect, share, be entertained, and see what’s going on. They don’t want to be “pitched.” If they go to your web site, they expect ads. But when desperate selling is injected into their News Feed or Twitter stream, it’s jarring because it doesn’t fit in with the other desired content that’s there.

However…far too many brands still believe, deep in their hearts, that their ads are “content.” It’s a deeply rooted philosophy that if a social post doesn’t sell a widget, it’s a waste of time and resources. The right thing to do is branded entertainment/information content that operates at the tippy top of the funnel. Any conviction brand affinity and customer relationships have no value will likely lead to a deleted or abandoned social presence. Let me know how that works out for you.

The study concludes, “Consumer decisions and behaviors are increasingly driven by the opinions, tastes and preferences of an exponentially larger, global pool of friends, peers and influencers.” That means brands don’t have the control they used to. That’s uncomfortable, and could be the real reason the social public is at full speed ahead while corporations dig their heels in behind them.

Photo via stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 18, 2012

YouTube SEO: Video Optimization

SEO optimization is still regarded as one of the primary tools in the digital marketing kit. However and wherever a potential customer is conducting a search, brands want their content to surface in the top results. Makes sense.

But without a regular flow of good, relevant content, your SEO opportunities run shallow. We know from several studies video is one of the most engaging forms of content, so why not make sure that in addition to being cool, your videos are helping you win the SEO game?

-Decide what search phrases make the most sense for your video. Don’t dare use phrases that have nothing to do with the content. You’ll make people mad.
-Research those keywords to see how competitive they are. Adjust them so there are still lots of people searching for it, but there are not as many links showing up for it.
-Search your potential keywords and phrases to see what comes up. It’s amazing how many people forget to do that.

Video Title:
-Try to start and/or end with your keyword.
-When you search on YouTube, visual action words tend to come up as suggested searches. So try to use action words.

Video Description:
-Lead with a link to your site (include http://).
-Don’t stuff this with your keyword. It leads to bad writing and it won’t work anyway. This is where you convince people to watch, so write for humans. Use some showmanship.
-At the end, do a call to action (subscribe, see the whole playlist, visit our social channels, etc.)

Video Tags:
-Don’t over-tag. 5-10 tags per video is plenty.
-If you’re compelled to have more than 10, that means you should probably make more videos specifically targeting all those keywords.

Find Linking Pals:
-45% of videos are discovered on video sites. But 44% are found through links on blogs and sites.
-Write a blog about your video’s content, then link to the video in it.
-A good site for finding places to guest blog is
-Once you find good linking partners, they’ll link to your future videos (as long as they’re good and you’re returning the favor).

Tap the Power of Similar Videos:
-Use Video Reply to associate your video with other topic-related videos. That’s when you make a video responding to or referencing a video made by someone else.

-Again, build up a portfolio of videos, not just one that goes after 30 keywords.
-Create shorter, sequential videos that pull them deeper into the content and closer to a desired final action.
-Organize your video topics separately using Playlists. Playlists show up as a whole in search results like individual videos, so optimize playlists the same as you would for a video.

Meta Data:
-Too much importance is placed on it. It accounts for only 15% of search success.
-YouTube reads Captions or Transcripts to determine what a video is about. If you’re not using them, you’re missing out.
-You get the SEO benefit of captions and transcripts whether the viewers has them toggled on or not.

-This accounts for 25% of search success.
-Promote the daylights out of your videos using your social channels and digital assets. Don’t assume it’s going to magically get discovered.
-You can pay to promote your video. This could surface it on the YouTube home page, YouTube search results, YouTube related videos, and across the Google content network.

-Accounts for 10% of search success.
-Make sure your YouTube home page is a fun place to spend time. Carefully pick your featured video, and make sure your Playlists are featured.
-Participate in discussions so users will see you’re present. The volume of ratings/comments is as important as the number of views when it comes to where you surface on search.

Video Sitemaps:
-As with a web site, a video sitemap helps Google quickly index your video.
-Google wants to know title, description, play page URL, the URL of the thumbnail image you want, and raw video file location.
-Sitemaps are xml files you host or dynamically generate on your site. Once you’ve made your sitemap, sign in and submit it using Google webmaster tools.

Just as with the broadcast and cable TV channels, putting a video out there is only step one. You also have to make sure everybody knows it’s there so the largest audience possible can see it. Here’s hoping you get great ratings.


Saturday Dec 15, 2012

Where Facebook Stands Heading Into 2013

2013confettiIn our last blog, we looked at how Twitter is positioned heading into 2013. Now it’s time to take a similar look at Facebook.

2012, for a time at least, seemed to be the era of Facebook-bashing. Between a far-from-smooth IPO, subsequent stock price declines, and anxiety over privacy, the top social network became a target for comedians, politicians, business journalists, and of course those who were prone to Facebook-bash even in the best of times.

But amidst the “this is the end of Facebook” headlines, the company kept experimenting, kept testing, kept innovating, and pressing forward, committed as always to the user experience, while concurrently addressing monetization with greater urgency.

Facebook enters 2013 with over 1 billion users around the world. Usage grew 41% in Brazil, Russia, Japan, South Korea and India in 2012. In the Middle East and North Africa, an average 21 new signups happen per minute. Engagement and time spent on the site would impress the harshest of critics. Facebook, while not bulletproof, has become such an integrated daily force in users’ lives, it’s getting hard to imagine any future mass rejection.

You want to see a company recognizing weaknesses and shoring them up. Mobile was a weakness in 2012 as Facebook was one of many caught by surprise at the speed of user migration to mobile. But new mobile interfaces, better mobile ads, speed upgrades, standalone Messenger and Pages mobile apps, and the big dollar acquisition of Instagram, were a few indicators Facebook won’t play catch-up any more than it has to.

As a user, the cool thing about Facebook is, it knows you. The uncool thing about Facebook is, it knows you. The company’s walking a delicate line between the public’s competing desires for customized experiences and privacy. While the company’s working to make privacy options clearer and easier, Facebook’s Paul Adams says data aggregation can move from acting on what a user is engaging with at the moment to a more holistic view of what they’re likely to want at any given time.

To help learn about you, there’s Open Graph. Embedded through diverse partnerships, the idea is to surface what you’re doing and what you care about, and help you discover things via your friends’ activities. Facebook’s Director of Engineering, Mike Vernal, says building mobile social apps connected to Facebook in such ways is the next wave of big innovation. Expect to see that fostered in 2013.

The Facebook site experience is always evolving. Some users like that about Facebook, others can’t wait to complain about it…on Facebook. The Facebook focal point, the News Feed, is not sacred and is seeing plenty of experimentation with the insertion of modules. From upcoming concerts, events, suggested Pages you might like, to aggregated “most shared” content from social reader apps, plenty could start popping up between those pictures of what your friends had for lunch. 

As for which friends’ lunches you see, that’s a function of the mythic EdgeRank…which is also tinkered with. When Facebook changed it in September, Page admins saw reach go down and the high anxiety set in quickly. Engagement, however, held steady. The adjustment was about relevancy over reach. (And oh yeah, reach was something that could be charged for).

Facebook wants users to see what they’re most likely to like, based on past usage and interactions. Adding to the “cream must rise to the top” philosophy, they’re now even trying out ordering post comments based on the engagement the comments get. Boy, it’s getting competitive out there for a social engager.

Facebook has to make $$$. To do that, they must offer attractive vehicles to marketers. There are a myriad of ad units. But a key Facebook marketing concept is the Sponsored Story. It’s key because it encourages content that’s good, relevant, and performs well organically. If it is, marketing dollars can amplify it and extend its reach.

Brands can expect the rollout of a search product and an ad network. That’s a big deal. It takes, as Open Graph does, the power of Facebook’s user data and carries it beyond the Facebook environment into the digital world at large. No one could target like Facebook can, and some analysts think it could double their roughly $5 billion revenue stream.

As every potential revenue nook and cranny is explored, there are the users themselves. In addition to Gifts, Facebook thinks users might pay a few bucks to promote their own posts so more of their friends will see them. There’s also word classifieds could be purchased in News Feeds, though they won’t be called classifieds.

And that’s where Facebook stands; a wildly popular destination, a part of our culture, with ever increasing functionalities, the biggest of big data, revenue strategies that appeal to marketers without souring the user experience, new challenges as a now public company, ongoing privacy concerns, and innovations that carry Facebook far beyond its own borders.

Anyone care to write a “this is the end of Facebook” headline?

Photo via stock.schng

Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

Where Twitter Stands Heading Into 2013

2013 keyAs Twitter continued throughout 2012 to be a stage on which global politics and culture played itself out, the company itself underwent some adjustments that give us a good indication of what users and brands can expect from the platform in 2013.

The power of the network did anything but fade. Celebrities continued to use it to connect one-on-one. Even the Pope signed on this year. It continued to fuel revolutions. It played an exponentially large factor in this US Presidential election. And around the world, the freedom to speak was challenged as users were fired, sued, sometimes even jailed for their tweets.

Expect more of the same in 2013, as Twitter has entrenched itself, for individuals, causes and brands, as the fastest, easiest, most efficient way to message the masses so some measure of impact can come from it. It’s changed everything, and it’s not finished.

These fun facts reveal the position of strength with which Twitter enters 2013:

  • It now generates a billion tweets every 2.5 days
  • It has 500 million+ users
  • The average Twitter user has tweeted 307 times
  • 32% of everyone using the Internet uses Twitter
  • It’s expected to bring in $540 million in ad revenue by 2014
  • 11 new accounts are created every second

High-level Executive Summary: people love it, people use it, and they’re going to keep loving and using it.

Whether or not outside developers love it is a different matter. 2012 marked a shift from welcoming the third party support that played at least some role in Twitter being so warmly embraced, to discouraging anything that replicates what Twitter can do itself…or plans to do itself. It’s not the open playground it once was. Now Twitter must spend 2013 proving it can innovate in-house and keep us just as entranced.

Likewise, Twitter is distancing itself from Facebook. Images from the #1 platform’s Instagram don’t work on Twitter anymore, and Twitter’s rolling out their own photo filter product. Where the two have lived in a “plenty of room for everybody” symbiosis up to now, 2013 could see the giants ramping up a full-on rivalry.

Twitter is exhibiting a deliberate strategy. Updates have centered on more visually appealing search results, and making finding and sharing content easier. Deals have been cut with some media entities so their content stands out. CEO Dick Costolo has said tweets aren’t the attraction, they’re what leads you to content. Twitter aims to be a key distributor of media and info. Add the addition of former News Corp. President Peter Chernin to the board, and their hashtag landing page experience for events, and their media behemoth ambitions get pretty clear.

There are challenges ahead and Costolo has also laid those out; entry into China, figuring out how to have Twitter deliver both comprehensive and relevant, targeted experiences, and the visualization of big data.

What does this mean for corporations? They can expect a more media-rich evolution and growing emphases on imagery. They can expect more opportunities to create great media content and leverage Twitter for its distribution. And they can expect new ways to surface in searches.

Are brands diving in? 56% of customer tweets to companies get completely and totally ignored. Ugh. A study Twitter recently conducted with Compete shows people who see tweets from retailers are more likely to buy a product. And, the more retailer tweets they see, the more likely they are to purchase on the retail site. As more of those tweets point to engaging media content from the brand, the results should get even better.

Twitter appears ready for 2013. Enterprise brands have some work to do.

Photo Stuart Miles,

Friday Dec 07, 2012

The Social Content Conundrum

stageHere’s the social content conundrum: people who are not entertainers are being asked to entertain.

Despite a world of skilled MBAs, marketing savants, technological innovators, analysts, social strategists and consultants, every development in social for brands keeps boomeranging right back to the same unavoidable truth. Success hinges on having content creators who know how to entertain the target audience.

You can’t make this all about business-processes. You can’t make this all about technology, though data is critical and helps inform content. This is about having human beings who know the audience, know what they’d love to see, and can create the magic that will draw and hold them.

Since showing up in the News Feed is critical for exposition and engagement, and since social ads primarily serve to amplify content that’s performing well, I’m comfortable saying content creators are becoming exponentially recruited and valued. They will no longer be commodities. They’ll be your stars.

Social has fundamentally changed the relationship between brand and consumer. No longer can the customer be told to sit down, shut up, and listen to our ads. It’s now all about what consumers are willing to watch or read. Their patience for subjecting themselves to material they aren’t interested in is waning.

Therefore, brands must now be producers of entertainment and information content, not merely placers of ads within someone else’s content. Social has given you a huge stage, with an audience sitting out there waiting to see what you’re going to do. What are you putting on that stage?

For most corporate environments, entertaining is alien. It’s risky and subjective. Most operate around two foundational principles: control and fear. To entertain and inform with branded content, some control has to go. You control the product. Past that, control is being transferred into the hands of the consumer. The “fear first” culture also has to yield. If you strive to never make waves, you will move absolutely nothing.

Because most corporations don’t house entertainers, they must be found then trusted. They’re usually a little weird. The ideas they’ll bring may seem “out there.” But like any business professional, they’ve gone through the training and experiences that make them uniquely good at what they do, even if you don’t quite understand them. It’s okay. It’s what the audience thinks that matters. Get it right, and you’ll be generating one ambassador after another who’s proud to be identified with the brand and will regularly consume and share your content.

Entertainment entities are able to shape our culture and succeed beyond their wildest dreams by being beholden to one thing…what the public likes and wants. When brands put the same emphasis on crowd-pleasing content, they too will enjoy brand fame the likes of which they’ve never seen. The stage is yours. Now get out there and go for that applause.

Tuesday Dec 04, 2012

How to Set Up Your Enterprise Social Organization

The rush for business organizations to establish, grow, and adopt social was driven out of necessity and inevitability. The result, however, was a sudden, booming social presence creating touch points with customers, partners and influencers, but without any corporate social organization or structure in place to effectively manage it.

Even today, many business leaders remain uncertain as to how to corral this social media thing so that it makes sense for their enterprise.

Imagine their panic when they hear one of the most beneficial approaches to corporate use of social involves giving up at least some hierarchical control and empowering employees to publicly engage customers. And beyond that, they should also be empowered, regardless of their corporate status, to engage and collaborate internally, spurring “off the grid” innovation.

An HBR blog points out that traditionally, enterprise organizations function from the top down, and employees work end-to-end, structured around business processes. But the social enterprise opens up structures that up to now have not exactly been embraced by turf-protecting executives and managers. The blog asks, “What if leaders could create a future where customers, associates and suppliers are no longer seen as objects in the system but as valued sources of innovation, ideas and energy?”

What if indeed? The social enterprise activates internal resources without the usual obsession with position. It is the dawn of mass collaboration.

That does not, however, mean this mass collaboration has to lead to uncontrolled chaos. In an extended interview with Oracle, Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang and Oracle SVP Reggie Bradford paint a complete picture of today’s social enterprise, including internal organizational structures Altimeter Group has seen emerge.

One sign of a mature social enterprise is the establishing of a social Center of Excellence (CoE), which serves as a hub for high-level social strategy, training and education, research, measurement and accountability, and vendor selection. This CoE is led by a corporate Social Strategist, most likely from a Marketing or Corporate Communications background.

Reporting to them are the Community Managers, the front lines of customer interaction and engagement; business unit liaisons that coordinate the enterprise; and social media campaign/product managers, social analysts, and developers. With content rising as the defining factor for social success, Altimeter also sees a Content Strategist position emerging.

dandelion modelAcross the enterprise, Altimeter has seen 5 organizational patterns. Watching the video will give you the pros and cons of each.

Decentralized - Anyone can do anything at any time on any social channel.

Centralized – One central groups controls all social communication for the company.

Hub and Spoke – A centralized group, but business units can operate their own social under the hub’s guidance and execution. Most enterprises are using this model.

Dandelion – Each business unit develops their own social strategy & staff, has its own ability to deploy, and its own ability to engage under the central policies of the CoE.

Honeycomb – Every employee can do social, but as opposed to the decentralized model, it’s coordinated and monitored on one platform.

The average enterprise has a whopping 178 social accounts, nearly ¼ of which are usually semi-idle and need to be scrapped. The last thing any C-suite needs is to cope with fragmented technologies, solutions and platforms. It’s neither scalable nor strategic.

The prepared, effective social enterprise has a technology partner that can quickly and holistically integrate emerging platforms and technologies, such that whatever internal social command structure you’ve set up can continue efficiently executing strategy without skipping a beat.



Get the latest changes and innovations to social technology platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube, and learn where social marketing trends are headed.

Connect With Us


« December 2012 »