Tuesday Oct 16, 2012

Social Search: Looking for Love

binocularsFor marketers and enterprise executives who have placed a higher priority on and allocated bigger budgets to search over social, it might be time to notice yet another shift that’s well underway. Social is search.

Search marketing was always more of an internal slam-dunk than other digital initiatives. Even a C-suite that understood little about the new technology world knew it’s a good thing when people are able to find you.

Google was the new Yellow Pages. Only with Google, you could get your listing first without naming yourself “AAAA Plumbing.” There were wizards out there who could give your business prominence in front of people who were specifically looking for what you offered. Other search giants like Bing also came along to offer such ideal matchmaking possibilities.

But what if the consumer isn’t using a search engine to find what they’re looking for? And what if the search engines started altering their algorithms so that search placement manipulation was more difficult? Both of those things have started to happen.

Experian Hitwise’s numbers show that visits to the major search engines in the UK dropped 100 million through August. Search engines are far from dead, or even challenged. But more and more, the public is discovering the sites and brands they need through advice they get via social, not search.

You’ll find the worlds of social and search increasingly co-mingling as well. Search behemoths Google and Bing are including Facebook and Google+ into their engines. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have done some integration of global web search into their platforms.

So what makes social such a worthwhile search entity for brands? First and foremost, the consumer has demonstrated a behavior of acting on recommendations from social connections. A cry in the wilderness like, “Anybody know any good catering companies?” will usually yield a link (and an endorsement) from a friend such as “Yeah, check out Just-Cheese-Balls Catering.” There’s no such human-driven force/influence behind the big search engines.

SpyFacebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and others call it “Friend Mining.” It is, in essence, searching for answers from friends’ experiences as opposed to faceless code. And Facebook has all of those friends’ experiences already stored as data. eMarketer says search in an $18 billion business, and investors are really into it. So no shock Facebook’s ready to leverage their social graph into relevant search.

What do you do about all this as a brand? For one thing, it’s going to lead to some interesting paid marketing opportunities around the corner, including Sponsored Stories bought against certain queries, inserting deals into search results, capitalizing on social search results on mobile, etc.

Apart from that, it might be time to stop mentally separating social and search in your strategic planning and budgeting. Courting your fans on social will cumulatively add up to more valuable, personally endorsed recommendations for your company when a consumer conducts a search on social.

Fail to foster those relationships, fail to engage, fail to provide knock-em-dead customer service, fail to wow them with your actual products and services…and you’ll wind up with the visibility you deserve in social search results.

Tuesday Oct 09, 2012

Is Your Company Social on the Inside?

water coolerAs we talk about the extension of social from an outbound-facing marketing tool to a platform that will reach across the entire enterprise, servicing multiple functions of that enterprise, it might be time to take a look at how social can be effectively employed for internal communications.

Remember the printed company newsletter? Yeah, nobody reads it.

Remember the emailed company newsletter? Yeah, nobody reads it.

Why not? Shouldn’t your employees care about the company more than anything else in life and be voraciously hungry for any information related to it?

The more realistic prospect is that a company’s employees don’t behave much differently at work where information is concerned than they do in their personal lives. They “tune in” to information that’s immediately relevant to them, that peaks their interest, and/or that’s presented in a visually engaging way.

That currently makes an internal social platform the most ideal way to communicate within the organization. It not only facilitates more immediate, more targeted (and thus more relevant) messaging from the company out to employees, it sets a stage for employees to communicate with each other and efficiently get answers to questions from peers. It’s a collaboration tool on steroids.

cocktailsIf you build such an internal social portal and you do it right, will employees use it? Considering social media has officially been declared more addictive than cigarettes, booze and sex…probably.

But what does it mean to do an internal social platform “right”? The bar has been set pretty high. Your employees are used to Twitter and Facebook, and would roll their eyes at anything less simple or harder to navigate than those. All the Facebook best practices would apply to your internal social as well, including the importance of managing posting frequency, using photos and video, moderation & response, etc.

And don’t worry, you won’t be the first to jump in. WPP's global digital agency Possible has its own social network called Colab. Nestle has “The Nest.” Red Robin’s got one. I myself got an in-depth look at McGraw-Hill’s internal social platform at Blogwell NYC.

Some of these companies are building their own platforms, others are buying them off the shelf or customizing readymade solutions.

But you won’t be the last either. Prescient Digital Media and the IABC learned 39% of companies don’t offer employees any social tools. Not a social network, not discussion forums, not even IM. And a great many continue to ban the use of Facebook and Twitter on the premises.

That’s pretty astonishing since social has become as essential a modern day communications tool as the telephone. But such holdouts will pay a big price for being mired in fear while competitors exploit social connections unchallenged.

Fish where the fish are. If social has become the way people communicate and take in information, let that be the way communication is trafficked in the organization.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Announcing Hackathon for Social Developers

Continuing our Social Developer theme, we're excited to announce a week long hackathon put on by the Oracle Social Developer Lab (OSDL). The event starts at JavaOne Oct 2nd and runs through Oct 9th. A winner will be announced and profiled in the following issue of Java Magazine.

What's it about?
The OSDL is on a mission to make social development easier for the Java community. You may have noticed the biggest social networks have created tools for Ruby, PHP, and other languages, but not as much for Java. We've decided to help fill the gap with a SocialLink social publishing library. You can learn more about it on Java.net. We're also interested in promoting other tools that facilitate social development such as DaliCore Framework

For our hack, you've got one week to leverage our library and/or DailCore to create a social app. The only rules are it must be a new application, and it must leverage one or both of these tools. 

How to submit
Create a project that uses either the SocialLink library or the DaliCore Framework to read or publish social data.

1. Upload your hack to a new project on java.net

2. Submit the URL to your java.net project through the project submission form on the Oracle Social Developer Community Facebook page.

Involver

Only projects that have been submitted to the Oracle Social Developer Community will be reviewed.  In addition to the review process, we'll be adding some projects to the SocialLink project as a "sibling" project.

Should you participate?
If you're a developer who aspires to integrate some social functionality into your Java application, then yes! 

How else can I participate with OSDL?
If you're not ready to participate in the hackathon but have ideas for how we can make social development easier for the Java community, come join our social developer community on Facebook. 

Saturday Sep 29, 2012

Sneak Peak: Social Developer Program at JavaOne

By guest blogger Roland Smart

OpenWorldWe're just days away from what is gunning to be the most exciting installment of OpenWorld to date, so how about an exciting sneak peak at the very first Social Developer Program?

If your first thought is, "What's a social developer?" you're not alone. It’s an emerging term and one we think will gain prominence as social experiences become more prevalent in enterprise applications. For those who keep an eye on the ever-evolving Facebook platform, you'll recall that they recently rebranded their PDC (preferred developer consultant) group as the PMD (preferred marketing developer), signaling the importance of development resources inside the marketing organization to unlock the potential of social.

The marketing developer they're referring to could be considered a social developer in a broader context. While it's true social has really blossomed in the marketing context and CMOs are winning more and more technical resources, social is starting to work its way more deeply into the enterprise with the help of developers that work outside marketing.

Developers, like the rest of us, have fallen in "like" with social functionality and are starting to imagine how social can transform enterprise applications in the way it has consumer-facing experiences. The thesis of my presentation is that social developers will take many pages from the marketing playbook as they apply social inside the enterprise. To support this argument, lets walk through a range of enterprise applications and explore how consumer-facing social experiences might be interpreted in this context.

Here's one example of how a social experience could be integrated into a sales enablement application. As a marketer, I spend a great deal of time collaborating with my sales colleagues, so I have good insight into their working process. While at Involver, we grew our sales team quickly, and it became evident some of our processes broke with scale.

For example, we used to have weekly team meetings at which we'd discuss what was working and what wasn't from a messaging perspective. One aspect of these sessions focused on "objections" and "responses," where the salespeople would walk through common objections to purchasing and share appropriate responses. We tried to map each context to best answers and we'd capture these on a wiki page. As our team grew, however, participation at scale just wasn't tenable, and our wiki pages quickly lost their freshness.

Imagine giving salespeople a place where they could submit common objections and responses for their colleagues to see, sort, comment on, and vote on. What you'd get is an up-to-date and relevant repository of information. And, if you supported an application like this with a social graph, it would be possible to make good recommendations to individual sales people about the objections they'd likely hear based on vertical, product, region or other graph data.

Taking it even further, you could build in a badging/game element to reward those salespeople who participate the most. Both these examples are based on proven models at work inside consumer-facing applications.

If you want to learn about how HR, Operations, Product Development and Customer Support can leverage social experiences, you’re welcome to join us at JavaOne or join our Social Developer Community to find some of the presentations after OpenWorld.

Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

The New Social Developer Community: a Q&A

Roland SmartIn our last blog, we introduced the opportunities that lie ahead for social developers as social applications reach across every aspect and function of the enterprise. Leading the upcoming JavaOne Social Developer Program October 2 at the San Francisco Hilton is Roland Smart, VP of Social Marketing at Oracle.

I got to ask Roland a few of the questions an existing or budding social developer might want to know as social extends beyond interacting with friends and marketing and into the enterprise.

Why is it smart for developers to specialize as social developers? What opportunities lie in the immediate future that’s making this a critical, in-demand position?

Social has changed the way we interact with brands and with each other across the web. As we acclimate to a new social paradigm we also look to extend its benefits into new areas of our lives.

The workplace is a logical next step, and we're starting to see social interactions more and more in this context. But unlocking the value of social interactions requires technical expertise and knowledge of developing social apps that tap into the social graph.

Developers focused on integrating social experiences into enterprise applications must be familiar with popular social APIs and must understand how to build enterprise social graphs of their own. These developers are part of an emerging community of social developers and are key to socially enabling the enterprise.

Facebook rebranded their Preferred Developer Consultant Group (PDC) and the Preferred Marketing Developers (PMD) to underscore the fact developers are required inside marketing organizations to unlock the full potential of their platform. While this trend is starting on the marketing side with marketing developers, this is just an extension of the social developer concept that will ultimately drive social across the enterprise.

What are some of the various ways social will be making its way into every area of enterprise organizations? How will it be utilized and what kinds of applications are going to be needed to facilitate and maximize these changes?

Check out Oracle’s vision for the social-enabled enterprise. It’s a high-level overview of how social will impact across the enterprise. For example:

HR can leverage social in recruiting and retention
Sales can leverage social as a prospecting tool
Marketing can use social to gain market insight
Customer support can use social to leverage community support to improve customer satisfaction while reducing service cost
Operations can leverage social improve systems

That’s only the beginning. Once sleeves get rolled up and social developers and innovators get to work, still more social functions will no doubt emerge.

What makes Java one of, if not the most viable platform on which to build these new enterprise social applications?

Java is certainly one of the best platforms on which to build social experiences because there’s such a large existing community of Java developers. This means you can affordably recruit talent, and it's possible to effectively solicit advice from the community through various means, including our new Social Developer Community.

Beyond that, there are already some great proof points Java is the best platform for creating social experiences at scale. Consider LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tell us more about the benefits of collaboration and more about what the Oracle Social Developer Community is. What opportunities does that offer up and what are some of the ways developers can actively participate in and benefit from that community?

Much has been written about the overall benefits of collaborating with other developers. Those include an opportunity to introduce yourself to the community of social developers, foster a reputation, establish an expertise, contribute to the advancement of the space, get feedback, experiment with the latest concepts, and gain inspiration.

In short, collaboration is a tool that must be applied properly within a framework to get the most value out of it.

The OSDC is a place where social developers can congregate to discuss the opportunities/challenges of building social integrations into their applications. What “needs” will this community have? We don't know yet.

But we wanted to create a forum where we can engage and understand what social developers are thinking about, excited about, struggling with, etc. The OSDL can then step in if we can help remove barriers and add value in a serious and committed way so Oracle can help drive practice development.

Friday Sep 21, 2012

How to Hashtag (Without Being #Annoying)

chimpThe right tool in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. Giving a chimpanzee a chain saw would not be a pretty picture. And putting Twitter hashtags in the hands of social marketers who were never really sure how to use them can be equally unattractive.

Boiled down, hashtags are for search and organization of tweets. A notch up from that, they can also be used as part of a marketing strategy.

In terms of search, if you’re in the organic apple business, you want anyone who searches “organic” on Twitter to see your posts about your apples. It’s keyword tactics not unlike web site keyword search tactics. So get a clear idea of what keywords are relevant for your tweet.

It’s reasonable to include #organic in your tweet. Is it fatal if you don’t hashtag the word? It depends on the person searching. If they search “organic,” your tweet’s going to come up even if you didn’t put the hashtag in front of it. If the searcher enters “#organic,” your tweet needs the hashtag. Err on the side of caution and hashtag it so it comes up no matter how the searcher enters it.

You’ll also want to hashtag it for the second big reason people hashtag, organization. You can follow a hashtag. So can the rest of the Twitterverse. If you’re that into organic munchies, you can set up a stream populated only with tweets hashtagged #organic. If you’ve established a hashtag for your brand, like #nobugsprayapples, you (and everyone else) can watch what people are tweeting about your company.

So what kind of hashtags should you include? They should be directly related to the core message of your tweet. Ancillary or very loosely-related hashtags = annoying. Hashtagging your brand makes sense. Hashtagging your core area of interest makes sense. Creating a specific event or campaign hashtag you want others to include and spread makes sense (the burden is on you to promote it and get it going).

Hashtagging nearly every word in the tweet is highly annoying. Far and away, the majority of hashtagged words in such tweets have no relevance, are not terms that would be searched, and are not terms needed for categorization. It looks desperate and spammy. Two is fine. One is better. And it is possible to tweet with --gasp-- no hashtags!

applesMake your hashtags as short as you can. In fact, if your brand’s name really is #nobugsprayapples, you’re burning up valuable, limited characters and risking the inability of others to retweet with added comments. Also try to narrow your topic hashtag down. You’ll find a lot of relevant users with #organic, but a lot of totally uninterested users with #food.

Just as you can join online forums and gain credibility and a reputation by contributing regularly to that forum, you can follow hashtagged topics and gain the same kind of credibility in your area of expertise. Don’t just parachute in for the occasional marketing message. And if you’re constantly retweeting one particular person, stop it. It’s kissing up and it’s obvious.

Which brings us to the king of hashtag annoyances, “hashjacking.” This is when you see what terms are hot and include them in your marketing tweet as a hashtag, even though it’s unrelated to your content. Justify it all you want, but #justinbieber has nothing to do with your organic apples.

Equally annoying, piggybacking on a popular event’s hashtag to tweet something not connected to the event. You’re only fostering ill will and mistrust toward your account from the people you’ve tricked into seeing your tweet. Lastly, don’t @ mention people just to make sure they see your tweet. If the tweet’s not for them or about them, it’s spammy.

What I haven’t covered is use of the hashtag for comedy’s sake. You’ll see this a lot and is a matter of personal taste. No one will search these hashtagged terms or need to categorize then, they’re just there for self-expression and laughs. Twitter is, after all, supposed to be fun.  What are some of your biggest Twitter pet peeves? #blogsovernow

Monday Sep 17, 2012

Mobile Deals: the Consumer Wants You in Their Pocket

special offerMobile deals offer something we talk about a lot in social marketing, relevant content. If a consumer is already predisposed to liking your product and gets a timely deal for it that’s easy and convenient to use, not only do you score on the marketing side, it clearly generates some of that precious ROI that’s being demanded of social.

First, a quick gut-check on the public’s adoption of mobile. Nielsen figures have 55.5% of US mobile owners using smartphones. If young people are indeed the future, you can count on the move to mobile exploding exponentially. Teens are the fastest growing segment of smartphone users, and 58% of them have one. But the largest demographic of smartphone users is 25-34 at 74%. That tells you a focus on mobile will yield great results now, and even better results straight ahead.

So we can tell both from statistics and from all the faces around you that are buried in their smartphones this is where consumers are. But are they looking at you? Do you have a valid reason why they should?

Everybody likes a good deal. BIA/Kelsey says US consumers will spend $3.6 billion this year for daily deals (the Groupons and LivingSocials of the world), up 87% from 2011. The report goes on to say over 26% of small businesses are either "very likely" or "extremely likely" to offer up a deal in the next 6 months. Retail Gazette reports 58% of consumers shop with coupons, a 40% increase in 4 years.

When you consider that a deal can be the impetus for a real-world transaction, a first-time visit to a store, an online purchase, entry into a loyalty program, a social referral, a new fan or follower, etc., that 26% figure shows us there’s a lot of opportunity being left on the table by brands.

cashierThe existing and emerging technologies behind mobile devices make the benefits of offering deals listed above possible. Take how mobile payment systems are being tied into deal delivery and loyalty programs. If it’s really easy to use a coupon or deal, it’ll get used. If it’s complicated, it’ll be passed over as “not worth it.”

When you can pay with your mobile via technologies that connects store and user, you get the deal, you get the loyalty credit, you pay, and your receipt is uploaded, all in one easy swipe. Nothing to keep track of, nothing to lose or forget about. And the store “knows” you, so future offers will be based on your tastes.

Consider the endgame. A customer who’s a fan of your belt buckle store’s Facebook Page is in one of your physical retail locations. They pull up your app, because they’ve gotten used to a loyalty deal being offered when they go to your store. Voila. A 10% discount active for the next 30 minutes.

Maybe the app also surfaces social references to your brand made by friends so they can check out a buckle someone’s raving about. If they aren’t a fan of your Page or don’t have your app, perhaps they’ve opted into location-based deal services so you can still get them that 10% deal while they’re in the store. Or maybe they’ve walked in with a pre-purchased Groupon or Living Social voucher.

They pay with one swipe, and you’ve learned about their buying preferences, credited their loyalty account and can encourage them to share a pic of their new buckle on social.

Happy customer. Happy belt buckle company. All because the brand was willing to use the tech that’s available to meet consumers where they are, incentivize them, and show them how much they’re valued through rewards.

Thursday Sep 13, 2012

In Case You Weren’t There: Blogwell NYC

Your roving reporter roved out to another one of Socialmedia.org’s fantastic Blogwell events, this time in NYC. As Central Park and incredible weather beckoned, some of the biggest brand names in the world gathered to talk about how they’re incorporating social into marketing and CRM, as well as extending social across their entire organizations internally.

Below we present a collection of the live tweets from many of the key sessions

GE @generalelectric
Jon Lombardo, Leader of Social Media COE

How GE builds and extends emotional connections with consumers around health and reaps the benefits of increased brand equity in the process.

GE has a social platform around Healthyimagination to create better health for people.

If you and a friend are trying to get healthy together, you’ll do better. Health is inherently.

Get health challenges via Facebook and share with friends to achieve goals together.

They’re creating an emotional connection around the health context.

You don’t influence people at large. Your sphere of real influence is around 5-10 people.

They find relevant conversations about health on Twitter and engage sounding like a friend, not a brand.

Why would people share on behalf of a brand? Because you tapped into an activity and emotion they’re already having.

To create better habits in health, GE gave away inexpensive, relevant gifts related to their goals.

Create the context, give the relevant gift, get social acknowledgment for giving it.

What you get when you get acknowledgment for your engagement and gift is user generated microcontent.

GE got 12,000 unique users engaged and 1400 organic posts with the healthy gift campaign.

The Dow Chemical Company @DowChemical
Abby Klanecky, Director of Digital & Social Media

Learn how Dow Chemical is finding, training, and empowering their scientists to be their storytellers in social media.

There are 1m jobs coming open in science. Only 200k are qualified for them.

Dow Chemical wanted to use social to attract and talk to scientists.

Dow Chemical decided to use real scientists as their storytellers.

Scientists are incredibly passionate, the key ingredient of a great storyteller.

Step 1 was getting scientists to focus on a few platforms, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Dow Chemical social flow is Core Digital Team - #CMs – ambassadors – advocates.

The scientists were trained in social etiquette via practice scenarios.

It’s not just about sales. It’s about growing influence and the business.

Dow Chemical trained about 100 scientists, 55 are active and there’s a waiting list for the next sessions.

In person social training produced faster results and better participation.

Sometimes you have to tell pieces of the story instead of selling your execs on the whole vision.

Social Media Ethics Briefing: Staying Out of Trouble
Andy Sernovitz, CEO @SocialMediaOrg

How do we get people to share our message for us? We have to have their trust.

The difference between being honest and being sleazy is disclosure.

Disclosure does not hurt the effectiveness of your marketing. No one will get mad if you tell them up front you’re a paid spokesperson for a company.

It’s a legal requirement by the FTC, it’s the law, to disclose if you’re being paid for an endorsement.

Require disclosure and truthfulness in all your social media outreach. Don’t lie to people.

Monitor the conversation and correct misstatements.

Create social media policies and training programs.

If you want to stay safe, never pay cash for social media. Money changes everything. As soon as you pay, it’s not social media, it’s advertising.

Disclosure, to the feds, means clear, conspicuous, and understandable to the average reader.

This phrase will keep you in the clear, “I work for ___ and this is my personal opinion.”

Who are you? Were you paid? Are you giving an honest opinion based on a real experience?

You as a brand are responsible for what an agency or employee or contactor does in your behalf.

SocialMedia.org makes available a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit. Socialmedia.org/disclosure.

The point is to not ethically mess up and taint social media as happened to e-mail.

Not only is the FTC cracking down, so is Google and Facebook.

Visa @VisaNews
Lucas Mast, Senior Business Leader, Global Corporate Social Media

Visa built a mobile studio for the Olympics for execs and athletes.

They wanted to do postcard style real time coverage of Visa’s Olympics sponsorships, and on a shoestring.

Challenges included Olympic rules, difficulty getting interviews, time zone trouble, and resourcing.

Another problem was they got bogged down with their own internal approval processes.

Despite all the restrictions, they created and published a variety of and fair amount of content.

They amassed 1000+ views of videos posted to the Visa Communication YouTube channel.

Less corporate content yields more interest from media outlets and bloggers.

They did real world video demos of how their products work in the field vs. an exec doing a demo in a studio.

Don’t make exec interview videos dull and corporate. Keep answers short, shoot it in an interesting place, do takes until they’re comfortable and natural.

Not everything will work. Not everything will get a retweet. But like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Promoting content is as important as creating it.

McGraw-Hill Companies @McGrawHillCos
Patrick Durando, Senior Director of Global New Media

McGraw-Hill has 26,000 employees.

McGraw-Hill created a social intranet called Buzz.

Intranets create operational efficiency, help product dev, facilitate crowdsourcing, and breaks down geo silos.

Intranets help with talent development, acquisition, retention.

They replaced the corporate directory with their own version of LinkedIn.

The company intranet has really cut down on the use of email. Long email threats become organized, permanent social discussions.

The intranet is particularly useful in HR for researching and getting answers surrounding benefits and policies.

Using a profile on your company intranet can establish and promote your internal professional brand.

If you’re going to make an intranet, it has to look great, work great, and employees are going have to want to go there. You can’t order them to like it. 

Tuesday Sep 11, 2012

Content Challenge: You Can Only Get it Here

Part of the content conundrum for brands is figuring out what kind of content customers would find cool, desirable, and relevant. The mere fact many brands have no idea what this content might be is, in itself, pretty alarming. You’d have to have a pretty thorough lack of involvement with and understanding of your customers to not know what they might like.

But despite what should be a great awakening in which consumers are using every technology and trick in the book to shield themselves from ads and commercials, brand self-obsession continues as marketers concentrate on their message, their campaign, what they want to say, and what they want social users to do.

When individuals conduct themselves in that same fashion on Facebook and Twitter, it gets tiresome and starts losing value pretty quickly. Their posts eventually get hidden. Conversely, friends who post things that consistently entertain or inform, with little self-marketing desperation involved, win the coveted “show all updates” setting.

Of course brands are going to use social to market. It’s pretty much the point of having social in the marketing mix. And yes, people who follow a brand’s Twitter account or “Like” a brand’s Facebook Page implicitly state they want to know what’s going on with that brand’s products and services.

But if you have a Facebook friend that assumes you want every one of her posts to be about what wine she likes (Mitsubishi’s current campaign is even based around weeding out pretentious Facebook friends, then running them over), then you know how it must feel for your fans and followers to get a sales pitch for your crackers or whatever you’re selling every single time.

Is there such a thing as content that doesn’t sell but that still advances the brand and makes the consumer more involved and valuable? Of course. And perhaps there are no better companies than enterprise brands to do it. Enterprise organizations are large enough to go beyond a product and engage readers/viewers at higher, broader levels…communicating expertise across entire sectors, subjects and industries. You’re going from pitchman to news source, and getting full credit for it as the presenter.

A recent GigaOM article pointed out the success a San Francisco-based startup called Crunchyroll is having. Their niche (and they proudly admit it’s a niche) is providing Japanese anime, Korean drama and Asian live action content to countries that can’t get it any other way via licensing deals. Shows are available in HD and on the same day they air in the host country. Crunchyroll not only gets 8 million viewers a month, they have 100,000 paying subscribers at $7-12/month.

Got a point, Mike? I do happen to have one. Crunchyroll illustrates the content opportunity enterprise companies have…which is to determine your “area,” the interest graph of your customers, then provide content that speaks to and satisfies those interests that can’t be found anywhere else. At least not in the same style, or of the same quality, or with the same authority. Do what no one else is doing. Provide what no one else is providing in your sector.

If underserved users are willing to pay monthly for access to awkwardly moving cartoon dragons, imagine the audience you could attract with free, useful, non-sales content in your customers’ area of interest. It’s an audience you’ll want in place when the time does come to put out that marketing message.

A content challenge is better than a content conundrum any day.

Friday Sep 07, 2012

Exposed: Fake Social Marketing

Emperor has no clothesBrands and marketers who want to build their social popularity on a foundation of lies are starting to face more of an uphill climb. Fake social is starting to get exposed, and there are a lot of emperors getting caught without any clothes.

Facebook is getting ready to do a purge of “Likes” on Pages that were a result of bots, fake accounts, and even real users who were duped or accidentally Liked a Page. Most of those accidental Likes occur on mobile, where it’s easy for large fingers to hit the wrong space. Depending on the degree to which your Page has been the subject of such activity, you may see your number of Likes go down. But don’t sweat it, that’s a good thing.

The social world has turned the corner and assessed the value of a Like. And the verdict is that a Like is valuable as an opportunity to build a real relationship with a real customer. Its value pales immensely compared to a user who’s actually engaged with the brand. Those fake Likes aren’t doing you any good. Huge numbers may once have impressed, but it’s not fooling anybody anymore. Facebook’s selling point to marketers is the ability to use a brand’s fans to reach friends of those fans. Consequently, there has to be validity and legitimacy to a fan count.

Speaking of mobile, Trademob recently reported 40% of clicks are essentially worthless, because 22% of them are accidental (again with the fat fingers), while 18% are trickery. Publishers will but huge banner ads next to tiny app buttons to increase the odds of an accident. Others even hide a banner behind another to score 2 clicks instead of 1. Pontiflex and Harris Interactive last year found 47% of users were more likely to click a mobile ad accidentally than deliberately. Beyond that, hijacked devices are out there manipulating click data. But to what end for a marketer? What’s the value of a click on something a user never even saw? What’s the value of a seen but accidentally clicked ad if there’s no resulting transaction?

shady salesmanBack to fake Likes, followers and views; they’re definitely for sale on numerous sites, none of which I’ll promote. $5 can get you 1,000 Twitter followers. You can even get followers targeted by interests. One site was set up by an unemployed accountant out of his house in England. He gets them from a wholesaler in Brooklyn, who gets them from a 19-year-old supplier in India. The unemployed accountant is making $10,000 a day. That means a lot of brands, celebrities and organizations are playing the fake social game, apparently not coming to grips with the slim value of the numbers they’re buying.

But now, in addition to having paid good money for non-ROI numbers, there’s the embarrassment factor. At least a couple of sites have popped up allowing anyone to see just how many fake and inactive followers you have. Britain’s Fake Follower Check and StatusPeople are the two getting the most attention. Enter any Twitter handle and the results are there for all to see. Fake isn’t good, period. “Inactive” could be real followers, but if they’re real, they’re just watching, not engaging.

If someone runs a check on your Twitter handle and turns up fake followers, does that mean you’re suspect or have purchased followers? No. Anyone can follow anyone, so most accounts will have some fakes. Even account results like Barack Obama’s (70% fake according to StatusPeople) and Lady Gaga’s (71% fake) don’t mean these people knew about all those fakes or initiated them.

Regardless, brands should realize they’re now being watched, and users are judging the legitimacy of their social channels. Use one of any number of tools available to assess and clean out fake Likes and followers so that your numbers are as genuine as possible. And obviously, skip the “buying popularity” route of social marketing strategy. It doesn’t work and it gets you busted…a losing combination.

Wednesday Sep 05, 2012

Social Targeting: This One's Just for You

Think of social targeting in terms of the archery competition we just saw in the Olympics. If someone loaded up 5 arrows and shot them straight up into the air all at once, hoping some would land near the target, the world would have united in laughter.

But sadly for hysterical YouTube video viewing, that’s not what happened. The archers sought to maximize every arrow by zeroing in on the spot that would bring them the most points.

Marketers have always sought to do the same. But they can only work with the tools that are available. A firm grasp of the desired target does little good if the ad products aren’t there to deliver that target. On the social side, both Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to enhance targeting for marketers. And why not? As the demand to monetize only goes up, they’re quite motivated to leverage and deliver their incredible user bases in ways that make economic sense for advertisers.

You could target keywords on Twitter with promoted accounts, and get promoted tweets into search. They would surface for your followers and some users that Twitter thought were like them. Now you can go beyond keywords and target Twitter users based on 350 interests in 25 categories.

How does a user wind up in one of these categories? Twitter looks at that user’s tweets, they look at whom they follow, and they run data through some sort of Twitter secret sauce. The result is, you have a much clearer shot at Twitter users who are most likely to welcome and be responsive to your tweets. And beyond the 350 interests, you can also create custom segments that find users who resemble followers of whatever Twitter handle you give it.

That means you can now use boring tweets to sell like a madman, right? Not quite.

This ad product is still quality-based, meaning if you’re not putting out tweets that lead to interest and thus, engagement, that tweet will earn a low quality score and wind up costing you more under Twitter’s auction system to maintain. That means, as the old knight in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” cautions, “choose wisely” when targeting based on these interests and categories to make sure your interests truly do line up with theirs.

On the Facebook side, they’re rolling out ad targeting that uses email addresses, phone numbers, game and app developers’ user ID’s, and eventually addresses for you bigger brands.

Why? Because you marketers asked for it. Here you were with this amazing customer list but no way to reach those same customers should they be on Facebook. Now you can find and communicate with customers you gathered outside of social, and use Facebook to do it. Fair to say such users are a sensible target and will be responsive to your message since they’ve already bought something from you.

And no you’re not giving your customer info to Facebook. They’ll use something called “hashing” to make sure you don’t see Facebook user data (beyond email, phone number, address, or user ID), and Facebook can’t see your customer data.

The end result, social becomes far more workable and more valuable to marketers when it delivers on the promise that made it so exciting in the first place. That promise is the ability to move past casting wide nets to the masses and toward concentrating marketing dollars efficiently on the targets most likely to yield results.

Friday Aug 31, 2012

Facebook Sponsored Results: Is It Getting Results?

man with magnifying glassSocial marketers who like to focus on the paid aspect of the paid/earned hybrid Facebook represents may want to keep themselves aware of how the network’s new Sponsored Results ad product is performing.

The ads, which appear when a user conducts a search from the Facebook search bar, have only been around a week or so. But the first statistics coming out of them are not bad.

Marketer Nanigans says click-through rates on the Sponsored Results have been nearly 23 times better than regular Facebook ads. Some click-through rates have even gone over 3%. Just to give you some perspective, a TechCrunch article points out that’s the same kind of click-through rates that were being enjoyed during the go-go dot com boom of the 90’s. The average across the Internet in its entirety is now somewhere around .3% on a good day, so a 3% number should be enough to raise an eyebrow. Plus the cost-per-click price is turning up 78% lower than regular Facebook ads, so that should raise the other eyebrow.

Marketers have gotten pretty used to being able to buy ads against certain keywords. Most any digital property worth its salt that sells ads offers this, and so does Facebook with its Sponsored Results product. But the unique prize Facebook brings to the table is the ability to also buy based on demographic and interest information gleaned from Facebook user profiles. With almost 950 million logging in, this is exactly the kind of leveraging of those users conventional wisdom says is necessary for Facebook to deliver on its amazing potential.

So how does the Facebook user fit into this? Notorious for finding out exactly where sponsored marketing messages are appearing and training their eyeballs to avoid those areas, will the Facebook user reject these Sponsored Results?

Well, Facebook may have found an area in addition to the News Feed where paid elements can’t be avoided and will be tolerated. If users want to read their News Feed, and they do, they’re going to see sponsored posts. Likewise, if they want to search for friends or Pages, and they do, they’re going to see Sponsored Results. The paid results are clearly marked as such. As long as their organic search results are not tainted or compromised, they will continue using search.

But something more is going on. The early click-through rate numbers say not only do users not mind seeing these Sponsored Results, they’re finding them relevant enough to click on. And once they click, they seem to be liking what they find, with a reported 14% higher install rate than Marketplace Ads.

It’s early, and obviously the jury is still out. But this is a new social paid marketing opportunity that’s well worth keeping an eye on, and that may wind up hitting the trifecta of being effective for the platform, the consumer, and the marketer.

Tuesday Aug 28, 2012

Moms on Mobile: Are They Way Ahead of You?

woman working with babyYou may have no idea how much and how fast moms are embracing mobile.

Of all the demographics that can be targeted by marketers, moms have always been at or near the top of the list. And why not? They’re running households, they’re all over town, they’re making buying decisions, and they’re influencing family and friends.

They, out of necessity, become masters of efficiency and time management. So when a technology tool, like mobile, comes along that assists with that efficiency and time management, we would obviously expect them to take advantage of it.

So if it’s obvious, why are so many big, sophisticated brands left choking on the dust of moms who have zoomed past them in the adoption of mobile, and social on mobile?

Let’s break down some hard truths as presented by a Mojiava report:

-Moms spend 6.1 hours per day on average on their smartphones – more than magazines, TV or radio.

-46% took action after seeing a mobile ad.

-51% self-identify as “addicted” to their smartphone.

-Households with an income of $25K-$50K have about the same mobile penetration among moms as those with incomes of $50K-$75K. So mobile is regarded as a necessity for middle-class moms.

-Even moms without smartphones spend 2.5 hours on average per day on some connected mobile device.

woman working on tablet-Of moms with such devices, 9.8% have an iPad, 9.5% a Kindle and 5.7% an iPod Touch.

-Of tablet-owning moms, 97% bought something using their tablet in the last month.

-31% spend over 10 hours per week on their tablet, but less than 2 hours per week on their PCs.

-62% of connected moms use shopping apps.

-46% want to get info on their mobile while in a store.

-Half of connected moms use social on their mobile. And they’re engaged. 81% are brand fans, 86% post updates, and 84% comment.

If women and moms are one of your primary targets and you find yourself with no strong social channels where content is driving engagement and relationship-building, with sites not optimized for mobile, or with no tablet or smartphone apps, you have been solidly left behind by your customers and prospects. And their adoption of mobile and social on mobile is only exponentially speeding up, not slowing down.

How much sense does it make when your customer is ready to act on your mobile ad, wants to user your iPad app to buy something from you, wants to be your fan on Facebook, wants to get messages and deals from you while they’re in your store…but you’re completely absent? I’ll help you cheat on the test by giving you the answer…no sense at all.

Catch up to momma.

Friday Aug 24, 2012

Social Targeting: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

darts on a targetAre you the kind of person that tries to sell Clay Aiken CD’s outside Warped Tour concert venues? Then you don’t think a lot about targeting your messages to the right audience. For your communication to pack the biggest punch it can, you need to know where to throw it. And a recent study on social demographics might help you see social targeting in a whole new light.

Pingdom’s annual survey of social network demographics shows us first of all that there is no gender difference between Facebook and Twitter. Both are 40% male, 60% female. If you’re looking for locales that lean heavily male, that would be Slashdot, Hacker News and Stack Overflow. The women are dominating Pinterest, Goodreads and Blogger.

So what about age? 55% of tweeters are 35 and up, compared with 63% at Pinterest, 65% at Facebook and 70% at LinkedIn. As you can tell, LinkedIn supports the oldest user base, with the average member being 44. The average age at Facebook is 51, and it’s 37 at Twitter.

babyIf you want to aim younger, have you met Orkut yet? 83% of its users are under 35. The next sites in order as great candidates for the young market are deviantART, Hacker News, Hi5, Github, and Reddit. I know, other than Reddit, many of you might be saying “who?” But the list could offer an opportunity to look at the vast social world beyond Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (which Pingdom did not include in the survey at all due to a lack of accessible data).

As for the average age of social users overall:
26% are 25-34
25% are 35-44
19% are 45-54
16% are 18-24
 6% are 55-64
 5% are 0-17
 and 2% are 65

Now you know where you stand on the “cutting edge” scale for a person your age. You’re welcome.

Certainly such demographics are a moving target and need to be watched and reassessed on a regular basis to make sure you’re moving in step with the people you want to talk to. For instance, since Pingdom’s survey last year, the age of the average Facebook user has gone up 2 years, while the age of the average Twitter user has gone down 2 years.

With the targeting and analytics tools available on today’s social management platforms, there’s little need to market in the dark. Otherwise, good luck with those Clay CD’s.

Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Social Content: Creativity + Common Sense

Are you stuck trying to figure out how to generate a consistent flow of quality content?  You're not alone.  Here are some the reason why brands get stuck and a formula for getting un-stuck. 

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