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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

I promised myself that I’d wait a week after the launch of Google Buzz before I chimed in with my 2¢ worth of comments. I find it interesting that, in those few days, comments in the Twitterverse and on Facebook and the top social networking blogs have gone from “it’s the second coming of sliced bread” to “how do I turn it off?”

Let me interject that I’m a huge fan of Google. I was an early adapter to the now ubiquitous Google search engine. In late 2008, when Randall Stross’ Planet Google came out, I eagerly devoured it and marveled at Google’s corporate philosophy and their unique business mantra. From that book, I discovered areas that Google was participating in that I didn’t know about. Part of my business model is providing search engine optimization, and if you play that game, you play by Google’s rules.

Yet, I looked askance when Google launched Buzz. For those of us who use and teach social media as a marketing tool, we realized that this was inevitable. Basically, as Facebook and Twitter begin to act more and more like search engines, Google will counter by once again venturing into the social space (anyone remember Orkut?- a great app if you happen to live in India or Brazil). Facebook and Twitter become de facto search engines based on the premise of “who are you gonna trust? A mathematical algorithm or the advice of a trusted real-world friend?”  If you are looking for a dentist, do you call the one that tops Google’s SERP (search engine results page), or the one that your best friend recommends. If you said the latter, you buy into Facebook and Twitter’s search philosophy.

So, if Facebook and Twitter are going to compete with Google in the search arena, Google will invade their “social territory” by re-launching a social effort – Voila!  – Buzz! Google was smart to base Buzz on their latest social effort on their almost ubiquitous Gmail platform – or were they? That’s where I take issue with Google Buzz.

Google assumed that I wanted to include everyone on my Gmail list in my Buzz social network. This is like including everyone that you’ve every emailed in your Facebook “Friend” list or personal Twitterverse. Wrongo Bongo! When I looked at all the names that Google assumed that I’d want to follow via Buzz, my first reaction was “Who the hell are all of these people?” Do I really want to include the customer service rep who helped me with a problem with my HP printer in my Buzz universe? I don’t think so. Just because I emailed him three years ago, we are not exactly buds. Sure, I can manually go through my Gmail list and unclick those who I don’t want to Buzz with, but shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I choose who I want to Buzz with rather than Google doing it for me?

Secondly, Google touts (or at least someone does) about 150 million Gmail accounts. I’m one of them. But, my Gmail account is one of eight email accounts that I have. And, Gmail is not my primary email account. How does this impact Buzz? Google has selected that HP customer service rep who I emailed once three years ago to be in my Buzz group, but doesn’t know about one of my best friends that I email only from a non Gmail account. So, Google’s arbitrary building of my Buzz list is disingenuous. If I truly want to engage via Buzz, I need to delete a bunch of folks and then add a bunch of folks. Do I really have time for this? Facebook and Twitter based their platforms on my taking the initiative to select who I wanted to Friend or Follow, and I can do it on my own schedule. Oh, and did I mention that there is no interface with Facebook or Twitter? Google is intent on building their own version of the Berlin Wall around their Buzz community. Facebook and Twitter understood “synergy” early on and it works fro both of them.

As I write this, I’m also reading a blog post on Lifehacker that states that Google’s project manager for Buzz admits that the social app needed wider testing before it launched. As Lifehacker says: “In one week, Google’s Buzz social network has moved through a splashy launch, a quick fix, a major clean-up, and now, an apology.” This is almost a classic case on how not to launch a project. Inside of one week, Buzz has dealt with launch euphoria, a “whoops” on privacy issues, and now a statement that they should have worked on it more before they launched it.

Google says that they tested Buzz internally with 20,000 Google employees., Danger! Will Robinson! Any market researcher will tell you that’s a prime example of the folks at the Kool Aid factory drinking the Kool Aid (I’m more than mixing metaphors here). I’m sure that all Google employees use Gmail as their primary, if not only, email service, and many of their Buzz friends are fellow Google employees who are equally hyped on Buzz. I’m sure the (er, pardon the pun) “buzz” about Buzz was rampant around the Google campus. In other words, Google heard what they wanted to hear from their Beta testers.

Pete Cashmore and Barb Dybwad at Mashable are early evangalists for Google Buzz. They tout something like 9 million “buzzes” in the first few days.  Maybe that’s so in terms of raw numbers, but I would ask how many of those are relevant in terms of going to, and being read by, folks who actually care. Maybe it’s more like a giant plane flying over and dropping a ton of leaflets on a population, but no one cares to read them.

What do you think? Is Google Buzz the vaunted Facebook / Twitter killer? Or, is it another Orkut?

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For the past few months, I’ve been knee-deep in a local political campaign. We  were hired to do social media for a dark-horse candidate running for mayor of my hometown, Atlanta, GA. “My” candidate was barely a blip on the radar when we jumped in to create a social media presence in mid August. Yes, we were late-to-the-dance, very late, but we always love a challenge!  There were six viable candidates running for the non-partisan (non-party affiliation) office. Our client ranked #4 and had virtually zero social media presence. Of the three leading candidates, one had a very sophisticated SM presence, one was so-so and the third was mostly non-existent until the last few weeks before the November 3 election.

I will spare the suspense and tell you that my guy finished fourth out of six. The eventual winner (following a runoff held on December 1) was the candidate that had the best SM program. Did that win the race for him? Probably not – it was plain old “get out the vote” activity that caused more people to vote in the run-off election than in the regular election, BUT, the difference came from communities in Atlanta’s “intown” neighborhoods that common sense would say are among the most “wired” in the city. Social media was most likely a factor in these key neighborhoods.

What I learned from this campaign is interesting, and as far as we can determine, broke some new ground in the use of social media in local political efforts.

When we started this project in August, the eventual winner of the election already had the maximum 5,000 Facebook Friends on his personal FB page and had several thousand more on a “fan” page (ironically, this candidate polled in the single digits until just a few weeks before the election and was running a distant #3). The candidate that was polling in the #2 position had about 2,000 FB Friends and the candidate that was leading in the early polling had a SM presence next to nothing – about where our candidate was when we started.

We knew that we had to be aggressive – that we would have to be proactive in building a Facebook and Twitter presence. We would have to actively recruit “friends’ and “followers” rather than waiting for them to come to us. While our original plan called for a blog, the campaign communications people were not up to the task of keeping it up-to-date, so we eventually focused on Facebook as a message platform and Twitter to drive potential voters to the Facebook page.

Facebook worked well as a platform as we could attach videos, links to newspaper and magazine articles, links to political blogs, photos from events, etc. and we could do instant updates via an iPhone.

We met with a political consultant to get the lay-of-the-land in terms of who the key demographic / psychographic profiles elicited those most likely to vote. Atlanta is a city that is about 55% African-American and 45% White / Latino. Historic voting patterns in Atlanta city-wide elections showed this ranking of those most likely to vote:

1. African American women; 2. white women;  3. white men;  4. African American men; 5. Latinos.

We decided to concentrate our efforts on African American and White women, the top two “most likely to vote” groups. This was based on the concept that we had little time and few resources and needed to get the biggest “bang” for our effort. Furthermore, we knew that those aged 35 – 60 were more likely to vote than those younger or older.

We identified those women who fell into our target age group among the current 100 or so Facebook Friends that our candidate had in his small network when we started. Then, using the concept that most of their “friends” would be people like themselves, we went to these women’s “Friends” requesting that they become a friend of our candidate. We included a personal message stating that our candidate was running for mayor and attached a link to the candidate’s website. Since this was a City of Atlanta election, and only residents could vote, we did not pursue “friending” anyone who’s profile showed that they did not live in “Atlanta.”

We really worked this, and a small staff of three spent hours and hours “harvesting” friends in our target population from new “Friends” as they came on board. This was a laborious process – click on the profile of the potential “Friend,” copy and paste the personal message and click “send.” Even though we were using broadband and other fast connections, there was a lag as Facebook’s software processed the request.

Next, we knew that just because you post a message on Facebook, not all of your friends will see it. We determined that key policy statements should be posted multiple times in an attempt to have it impact the maximum number of people. We combined this with user info as to when Facebookers are most likely online. We focused on three dayparts: 1) early morning / early at work to reach those who log in to their Facebook accounts at home in the morning or as soon as they get to work; 2) late afternoon to reach those who may log in to their FB page while waiting fro the workday to end; 3) evening to reach those who access FB  from home between 8pm and bedtime. We would send a specific message “early morning” on Day 1, “late afternoon” on Day 2 and “evening” on Day 3. Time sensitive messages would be sent three times on the same day at the specified dayparts. Of the hundreds and hundreds of FB messages that we sent to thousands of people, we only received on complaint regarding multiple messages.

We also used Facebook applications to personalize our message. One of these was the “birthday” feature.  A list of “Friends” upcoming birthdays (today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow) appears on the right side of your FB Profile page. Each day, we would send personal birthday wishes to each Friend whose birthday was tomorrow. Although we used one of 5-6 standard messages that we created, we always used the recipient’s first name so that the message was more personal.

One of the most effective uses of Facebook was to pose questions or solutions to issues being raised during the campaign. This was most effective when our candidate’s Friends passed the 2,000 mark, as we had enough Friends in the network to elicit comments. We would create on-going discussions and have our candidate participate by making comments to keep the conversation going. Actually, our candidate was not doing this personally, it was done by us with specific input from the candidate’s senior staff.

We would also monitor the live News Feed and, when appropriate, our candidate would post comments to on going discussions. At times, we would use the “chat” feature to contact Friends one-on-one.

As our network grew, we received the ubiquitous requests to join all kinds of groups, support all kinds of causes, attend all kinds of events and become a fan of all kinds of people. Our policy was to NOT accept any of these invitations as they could become an “issue” in a political campaign, since we did not know anything about these organizations.  I cann0t stress how important it is to monitor this activity!  We learned a lesson when we accidently  “Twitter Followed”  a person in the “adult” business – who we immediately unfollowed!

By the end of the campaign, our candidate had the second largest Facebook and Twitter networks of all the candidates. We believe that had we had the opportunity to get involved with this candidate much earlier, we would have made a bigger difference. The winner of the election was the candidate that had the best Social Media presence, and defeated, in a run off, the candidate with the least impressive SMM effort. Draw your own conclusions.

Political candidates must realize that they can often reach as many people in a social media group with multiple messages much more efficiently and cost effectively than with traditional media.

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In an announcement today (September 16, 2009) that surprised practically no one, CEO Mark Zukerberg announced that Facebook’s online community has passed the 300 million mark. The US population is estimated at 307 million.

In July, Facebook announced that they had achieved 250 million members, so the addition of another 50 million, or 20% growth, in just two months is explosive. That’s about 800,000 new users per DAY!  About 70% of Facebook’s users are outside the US, according to company statistics, but that computes to some 90 million users in the States. The fastest growing demo is adults 35+.

What started out as a community portal for college kids is threatened by takeover by their parents. Personally, I have noticed fewer postings by my college aged friends as they are wary of their parents following their activities too closely. I have a friend with a college-aged daughter that has refused to “friend” her mom on Facebook for that very reason.

More importantly, Zukerburg also announced, in a post on the company’s blog, that Facebook turned a profit last quarter, putting it ahead of its goal of becoming profitable in 2010. This answers many pundits remarks that, while the social networking site has enjoyed immense popularity, it wasn’t making any money. This news is seen by many as more significant than the passing of the 300 million member mark.

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In his landmark work, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell described the subject of the title as that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.

If no one has beat me to it, I declare last week (week of April 13, 2009) as the Official Tipping Point of Social Media.

Consider:

Ashton Kutcher got almost as much news coverage as Barack Obama did last week when he challenged CNN to a “race” to see who could be first to attract one million followers on Twitter. Kutcher won, but CNN got to 1 million a few hours later.

Oprah Tweets for the first time on her top-rated TV show, and, almost overnight, Twitter garners another million Twitterers.

Update: Tuesday, April 21, 2009. From Hitwise:

“Share of US Internet visits to Twitter increased 24% on Friday, April 17, the day of Oprah’s first Tweet. Comparing visits with the previous Friday, visits were up 43%.

 

Hitwise clickstream data reveals that on April 17, 37% of visits to Twitter.com were new visitors (as opposed to returning). The service typically has a high ratio of new visitors as it is still very much in a growth phase. However, the percentage of new visitors was 5% higher on Friday than the previous day and the average for March. To give a benchmark, Facebook’s ratio of new visitors was 8% in March.

The search term “oprah twitter” was the #35 highest search term with the word “twitter” last week and the #7 with “oprah”. Considering that our search data is weekly and that the show only aired on Friday, this is impressive.”

 

–Facebook reports that the fastest growing segment of new Facebookers is women 55+, many of them grandmothers who are signing up in order to communicate with their grandkids and be in touch with their families. Obviously, gone are the days when mom thrusts a telephone at a recalcitrant grandkid with the admonition “Come talk to grandma!”

–Facebook reports membership of more than 200 million people, after just passing the 175 million mark in February.

Susan Boyle, she the surprise of “Britain’s Got Talent,” sets a record for more than 100 million YouTube views in a single week (which calculates to about 165.3 views per second for the entire week).

And the hits just keep on comin’!

–Today, April 20, 2009, Barbara Walters loses here Twitter Virginity on The View and Tweets for the first time.

–There are at least 25 Facebook Groups with membership of more than a million people, some “for” (1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T Colbert) or “against” (I Dont Care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass).

— Ironically, some of the largest groups on Facebook are those protesting some of the changes and policies of Facebook.

Making lists of whom you should follow on Twitter has become a cottage industry! Just enter “who to follow on Twitter” in your friendly Google search bar!

It seems as if there’s another race to see whether Facebook or Twitter can garner the most press and PR. (YouTube should get down on their knees and thank someone for Susan Boyle.) Right now, I have Twitter in the lead as it exits the “early adopter” and moves into the “early mainstream” phase.

And speaking of cottage industries, some celebrities have become sort of modern folk heros on Twitter. Who’da thunk that MC Hammer (MCHammer) could be so interesting that almost a half a million people follow him. Shaquille O’Neal (The_Real_Shaq) gives us his own unique take on the world, and the large shadow that he casts upon it, with his unique use of the English language and his personal spelling methodology. One of his favorite pastimes is a Twitter version of hide-and-seek, where fellow Twitterers are urged to find him in very public locations to win basketball game tickets. Personalities like The Office’s  Rainn Wilson (rainnwilson) and film director Kevin Smith (thatkevinsmith) have huge Twitter followings, as does Ashton Kutcher’s wife (mrskutcher), film star Demi Moore.

In another turn of irony, celebrities seem to have figured out Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and use it to enhance their own very interesting personal brands. Yet, most (and that’s a BIG most) companies still haven’t figured out how to use it. A recent report states that 50% of companies who launch social media efforts will fail at it!

Most marketers haven’t figured out that Tweeting only on some sort of “buy now” offer is B-O-R-I-N-G and ultimately leads to an “Unfollow.” Or, that a Facebook page for a business that fails to engage prospective consumers will not generate any traction.

There’s a whole bunch of folks who know how to do this (I humbly consider myself one of them) and I follow about 50-60 of them on Twitter. Reading their Tweets and clicking their links is like going to Social Media Marketing grad school. If I can figure this out sitting in front of my Mac in Atlanta, GA, you’d think that the marketing folks at those big Fortune 500 brands could do it too.

Obligatory Twitter Request: If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, I would appreciate it very much. You can do by clicking the little yellow Twitter bird on the right.

See how easy that was?

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 90 days with no media access, you’ve probably noticed that you can’t logon to an online news source, turn on a TV, open a newspaper or pick up a magazine that doesn’t have something to say about Twitter. You either get the concept or, like the bulk of the masses, are asking, “What’s a Twitter?”

Twitter’s growth has been explosive. It’s grown 1382% from February 2008 to February 2009, from 475,000 users to more than 7 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. And, with all of the buzz it is getting, hundreds of thousands are signing on each day. I was an early adapter and I’m about to celebrate the first anniversary of my very first Tweet (April 8, 2008). Like most marketers, I’ve waited for the trendy phenomenon to morph into a marketing force. The wait is over!

Some early marketing adapters of Twitter figured it out early (see my previous blog post about Zappos and CEO Tony Hsieh). But, it gained traction as a real-time platform for friends to stay in touch. What makes Twitter an enticing marketing platform is the population that uses it most.

The primary users of Twitter (“Tweeters”) are not the teens and college students that you might expect, it’s Adults 35-49! Teens and young adults seem to still be fixated on texting as a means of direct communication as they tend to prefer one-to-one or very small group messaging. Forty-two percent (42%) of the Twitter universe is composed of those marketing darlings, adults 35 to 49. Even more intriguing is the fact that most of the Twitter users access it from work (62% access from work only while 35% access from home only) according to Nielsen.

Think of this: If you are a restaurant with a lunch or dinner special, it’s a perfect opportunity to work the lunch crowd or offer family dinner options when a working mom is facing the daily “what’s for dinner?” question. Maybe you’re a grocery chain with a rotisserie chicken special and your target is “moms on the way home from work.” What other marketers would like to reach 35-49 year old adults during the work day? Or weekend? What about a realtor with an open house? A luxury car brand or dealership?  You get the idea. Cross media promotion is a no-brainer.

Mobile platforms play a huge role in the Twitterverse. While Twitter has allowed developers to create myriad mobile and search apps (more on that in a near-future post), the use is spread across several of the applications. However, Verizon and AT&T report that in Q4 2008, 812,000 unique visitors Tweeted from their mobile phones / devices.  This past January alone saw 735,000 unique users on just these two mobile platforms. (Note: I’m a fan of Twitterrific for my iPhone as it does double duty in also putting my Tweets on my Facebook page and I like HootSuite from my Mac.) More astonishingly, the average Verizon / AT&T mobile platform Tweeter sent 240 Tweets during the quarter, more than double the amount in the previous quarter.

An earlier post to this blog (“Don’t Forget the ‘Social’ in Social Media Marketing”) discussed some of the accepted ground rules for getting started on Twitter. I follow Richard Branson, Zappo’s Tony Hsieh and a bunch of interesting folks. And, if you’d like to follow me, just click the Twitter badge on the right side of this post.

So, marketers, it’s time to refine your marketing message to those ubiquitous 140 characters!

Unique Visitors to Twitter.com by Age Demographic

 

Age Group Unique Audience Composition %
2-17 250,000 3.6
18 – 24 ** **
25 – 34 1,379,000 19.6
35 – 49 2,935,000 41.7
55+ 1,165,000 16.6
65+ 477,000 6.8
source: Nielsen NetView, 2/09, U.S., Home and Work
**These demographics have insufficient sample sizes

 

twitter_logo

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Facebook, the social media phenomenon, turned five years old last week. This anniversary happens to coincide with a huge jump in Facebook activity as it is reported that as many as 60,000 (that’s right, sixty thousand!) people in this country are signing up for new Facebook accounts every day. The one day “new accounts” at Facebook are equal to the population of the small midwestern city that I grew up in. As of most recent figures, there are about 175 million people in the US with Facebook pages.

If I were to use this forum to discuss “all things Facebook,” I’d be writing for the next several years. Suffice to say that in the past few weeks, I’ve been getting “friended” by new Facebook users that are predominately 40 years old and older (in some cases, a lot older). I’ve discussed this with my colleagues and they report the same activity. I was an early “40+” Facebook adopter. Early on, I “friended” my adult daughter, who has a great career in the interactive marketing world. At that time, I remember the comments of one of her friends from high school on her Facebook wall. It went something like “I can’t believe that your dad is on Facebook. Mine doesn’t even use email!”  Well, now Facebook is awash with dads, moms and even grandfathers and grandmothers!

We are witnessing yet another iteration of  the Internet, one that even the most forward thinking marketers would not have predicted as late as two or three years ago. In many cases, we see people forming stronger bonds with online friends than their real world friends.

As marketers, Facebook is a conundrum. Most of us understand the role of social media. Writing in the February 2009 issue of OMMA The Magazine of Online Media, Marketing and Advertising, David Honig an Lewis Streckler state: “…as much as 70 percent of consumer time online is spent viewing content not created by professional editors, but by fellow consumers.”

While social media have certainly taken over the “space,” we, as marketers, have yet to figure out how to occupy our portion of that space. We can create a corporate or business site on Facebook and invite “friends,” but few, if any of us, have figured out how to use that Facebook page to good marketing advantage. Those with online marketing expertise are stymied when it comes to social media because CPM (Cost Per Thousand) and CPC (Cost Per Click) methodology that has worked so well in online platforms like “search” do not work in the context of social media. The problem here is that we attempt to apply standard methodology and messaging to a medium that was not only not designed for that, but penalizes us for the attempt.

Rather than applying advertising and marketing principals, we need to dig out our Sociology 201 texts and review that people tend to react and form social ties with people who think and act like them. People in a group tend to be influenced by other people in that group. Think about that. Most of us have had some purchasing decision influenced by the comments of a friend who either steered us toward or away from a particular product or service provider. Instead of “selling,” provide information or resources for those taking part in the conversation. And if it’s NOT brand specific, it’s all the better! We build brand by just taking part in the ongoing conversation.

Those marketers who attempt to apply standard metrics or traditional advertising approaches in the social media context will soon find themselves shunned like the uninvited guest to the party. In 2008, Google reported that their partnership with MySpace was “…not monetizing as well as expected.” This was because Google attempted to apply their standard search metrics to the social platform. As the standard metrics don’t apply, neither does the standard messaging. Marketers and brands can create good feelings and build positive brand attributes by taking part in the conversation, as long as they aren’t “selling.”

Other than making Mark Zuckerberg and a few others insanely rich, Facebook, of all the social media platforms, has changed the way that people interact with each other. That’s a whole lot bigger than “marketing.”

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