Social Media Coming of Age – at the tipping point?

Super Bowl Advertisers Tap Social Media:

“Brands employed social media, whether to poll consumers to determine how well their ads were received, or to drive additional traffic to Facebook where they could actively engage with their potential customers – something that TV simply can’t facilitate. To generate additional traffic for the social sites and online communities that have been integrated into their marketing strategies, several brands enhanced their Super Bowl microsites with social content, and in turn added promotional content from their brand sites to their social efforts.”

BBC says Use Social Media – or Leave:

“BBC news journalists have been told to use social media as a primary source of information. For BBC news editors, Twitter and RSS readers are to become essential tools, until now the broadcaster has been very cautious about social media.”

Meet The First Miners of the New Social Graph :

“These days, it’s all about who you don’t know. That’s the theory behind a group of very interesting software projects being built on top of the giant graph of friend/follower connection data that Twitter exposes about its users. Name 3 people whom you admire, despise, work with or otherwise pay attention to and tools like HiveMind, Follower Wonk and Twiangulate will quickly calculate who all those people are following in common on Twitter. Say you’re a reporter covering New York city schools. Who might be a good source to contact? Here’s what Copeland recommends: Look at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s list of followers on Twitter. See which ones look like education-related organizations.”

The State of Social Media Around the World 2010:

This is an extensive post and well worth clicking through to see the well illustrated detail.

The Conversation Prism

“Upon review, it’s clear that Facebook, at 400 million, is truly earning a global audience, which naturally burrows its social roots with every new connection and the connections of connections forged within the network. According to research, Facebook dominates in 100 out of 127 countries measured. In 50% of the countries included in this study, online photo sharing dominated the list of social media applications. It is also among the oldest of social services within the included mix. 44% of the countries in this survey embrace online profiles in social networks suggesting that their personal brand, whether for engaging in personal or professional interactions, is becoming increasingly important. 81% shared photos and online profiles as the top 1 and 2 activities with the exception of Japan, China, and South Korea where blogging displaced social profiles as a top application. 94% of countries reported that micro-blogging (think Twitter) were among the least pervasive with the exception of Japan, where it ranked fourth – just below social network profiles and above video.”

The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things

Reading “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald A Norman (published in 1988), I came upon a passage that was worth posting, because so many application user interface designers seem to have forgotten:

“If you set out to make something difficult to use, you could probably do no better than to copy the designers of modern computer systems. Do you want to do things wrong? Here’s what to do:

  • Make things invisible. Widen the Gulf of Execution: give no hints to the operations expected. Establish a Gulf of Evaluation: Give not feedback, no visible results of the actions just taken. Exploit the tyranny of the blank screen.
  • Be arbitrary. Computers make this easy. Use nonobvius command names or actions. Use arbitrary mappings between the intended action and what must actually be done.
  • Be inconsistent: change the rules. Let something be done one way in one mode and another way in another mode. This is especially effective where it is necessary to go back and forth between the two modes.
  • Make operations unintelligble. Use idosyncratic language or abreviations. Use uninformative error messages.
  • Be impolite. Treat erroneous actions by the user as  breaches of contract. Snarl. Insult. Mumble unintelligble verbiage.
  • Make operations dangerous. Allow a single erroneous action to destroy invaluable work. Make it easy to do disastrous things. But put warnings in the manual; then, when people complain, you can ask, ‘But didn’t you read the manual?’ “

Dilbert User Interface

The section on ‘Explorable Systems’ in the same chapter provides the following advice:

“One important method of making systems easier to learn and use it to make them explorable, to encourage the user to experiment and learn the possibilities through active exploration.  There are three requirements for a system to be explorable:

In each state of the system, the user must readily see and be able to do the allowable actions. The visibility acts as a suggestion, reminding the user of possibilities and inviting the exploration of new ideas and methods.

The effect of each action must be both visible and easy to interpret. Thus property allows users to learn the effects of each action, to develop a good mental model of the system, and to learn the causal relationships between actions and outcomes. The system image plays a critical role in making such learning possible.

Actions should be without cost. When an action has an undesirable result, it must be readily reversible. This is especially important with computer systems. In the case of an irreversible action, the system should make clear what effect the complicated action will have prior to its execution; there should be enough time to cancel the plan. Or the action should be difficult to do, nonexplorable. Most actions should be cost-free explorable, discoverable.”

Dilbert Crazy Talk

10 Uses for Twitter in 2010

What is ElephantEar going to do with Twitter this year?

  1. Listen to customers – by monitoring traffic to @overtone and hashtags #overtone and #openmic – and engage with them personally and en-masse
  2. Watch competitors – by monitoring traffic with their @userids and #hashtags
  3. Listen to leading edge thinkers
  4. Make instant complaints (or just rant) using the hashtags #fail and #servicefail and talk to hotels, airlines, retailers and online sites tweeting using their @userids
  5. Virtually attend conferences – by monitoring hashtags like #sn09 (Supernovahub) and #w2e (Web2.0Expo)
  6. Listen to bleeding edge thinkers
  7. Logging my checked baggage when I travel
  8. Find amusing web content: xkcd @shitmydadsays
  9. Get Stock tips from StockSource
  10. Tell my friends where I am using Foursquare

What is Social Media Engagement?

Copyright Overtone Inc. 2010

PASSIVE / BROADCAST (top left) – organizations listening to their entire market, say, by doing a keyword search on the fire-hose and analyzing the posts that come back over time for sentiment and topic

PASSIVE / PERSONAL (bottom left) – organizations or probably marketers or product managers following or listing individual influencers to hear what they are saying with regard to the product or brand

ACTIVE / PERSONAL (bottom right) – individuals within the organization watching Twitter and making direct responses (More Evidence that Social Network Marketing can Work , Hyatt McCormick Place Twitter Account)

ACTIVE / BROADCAST (top right) – marketing groups watching Twitter and making direct responses to the poplation that follows them via their own @corporate_account (e.g. Seesmic’s Twitter Account ,VirginAmerica’s Twitter Account or Wholefoods’ Twitter Account)

Three recent articles discussing Twitter

Follow the Tweets by Huaxia Rui, Andrew Whinston and Elizabeth Winkle (November 30, 2009)

Rui, Whinston and Winkler’s post discussed how “executives can make accurate predictions about sales trends by analyzing tweets that mention their products or services”

Their research followed 3 movies – and observed correlations between box office sales and the sentiments expressed about those movies by Twitter users. Their findings concluded that revenues could be predicted using Twitter postings as a leading indicator.

These lessons can be applied equally in other industries and the article offers advice to executives on how to use Twitter:

  1. Listen to and engage customers
  2. Be a part of the Twitter ecosystem
  3. Identify influencers
  4. Pay attention to shifts in opinion
  5. Follow trending topics

Twitter and Me! Why It’s The Only Social Media Tool I Use by Vivek Wadhwa  (January 1, 2010)

Vivek Wadhwa voted for Twitter in the Crunchies because of how it has impacted him despite his reluctance to embrace Social Media.

He likes the conciseness of communication, the real time communication aspect – how Twitter has created a low overhead, rapid focus group, opinion gathering, market research mechanism. He adds that “it’s the most efficient mechanism I have ever seen to allow me to peruse the thoughtstreams of others who live all over the world”.

In the comments, @douglasputman so eloquantly says: ” I have a home on Twitter, where I can sit by the River and watch the world flow by. And I can dip my toe in the water if it pleases me.” – which makes for a very pleasant picture indeed.

Why Twitter Will Endure by David Carr ( January 1, 2010)

David Carr overcomes his initial skepticism over Twitter amongst other Social Media ‘web-bourne life intrusions’

He points out how Twitter allows him to be “in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible”.

He comments on the user-defined folksonomy of #hashtags and describes Twitter as being “so friction-free” and again the river analogy “Twitter can be overwhelming, but think of it as a river of data rushing past that I dip a cup into every once in a while. Much of what I need to know is in that cup”

Generally though, he comments on how Twitter has become part of the online fabric and has to potential as the river where content can easily flow into and be captured from – and this will fuel its continuance.

Semantic Ear to the Ground

I just read an interesting post on SemanticWeb.com – Web 3.0 Leaders Look to the Year Ahead

Worth reading if you’re keen, but if you’re short on time, here’s my four point summary:

  1. Most User Generated Content will remain unstructured during 2010 – so blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums, communities will still have volumes of text
  2. Websites with published content will begin to semantically enable – if only to increase their placement with search engines
  3. Shared taxonomies, ontologies and folksonomies will appear in 2010 and in 2011 will begin to take their place as formal ontologies that can be reliably referenced
  4. Triple-stores will not be widely adopted, but their adoption will continue to increase and we will see one or two triple store vendors in ascendance

Things to do in 2010 (for consumer facing organizations)

Here’s a quick primer on the Semantic Web by Jamie Taylor from MetaWeb ‘Integrating the Cloud into Content

  • Enrich your online content with Semantic Tags – Search Engines are gaining Semantic Capabilities – Bing and Yahoo Search Monkey are able to recognize semantic tags and will use these to provide a much richer search experience to the user. Take a look at Google Squared where I did a search for hotels . OpenCalais analyzes your text, extracts certain entities (typically people, places and organizations) and cross references them with the Linked Open Data Cloud to make sure they are meaningful. There’s a good post on RDFa, SEO and Semantic Technology on WebBackPlane.

The Linked Data Cloud

  • Publish Product Catalogs, Availability and Locations and encourage mashupsBestBuy in the USA and Tesco in the UK are two retailers that have exposed via APIs details of their businesses. Tesco held an open developer evening called Tjam where developers were encouraged to use the APIs to create new and innovative user experiences. BestBuy’s API has resulted in 3 interesting applications. These pilot efforts I see as the shape of things to come.
BestBuy Remix

BestBuy Remix

  • Think about how your own internal systems might benefit from Semantic enrichment. Most Business Intelligence applications maintain a dictionary of metadata known as Master Data Management. When given semantic meaning, this data becomes far more useful – enabling discrepancies to be resolved, new linkages to be found and utilized when analyzing facts. There are a couple of very good articles at Information Management and Semantic Universe on this topic.

Semantic Companies and Projects to keep an eye on

Triple Store Databases

Twitter as a bi-directional channel for engagement

In 2008, holiday retail sales amounted to approximately $245 billion, a decline of about 2.8% from 2007 sales. … Based upon the above observations, Anthony L. Liuzzo forecast’s that holiday retail sales will increase by 2% in 2009 (from the HOLIDAY RETAIL SALES FORECAST: 2009 so retailers anxious to capture a greater share of the holiday wallet are turning to Social Media to increase sales.

The New York Times article, Buying, Selling and Twittering All the Way says “Many people use it to send mundane updates to their friends, but increasingly, the nation’s retailers see it as a business tool.
It gives customers a practical way to cajole a retailer, complain about something or ask questions.”

Other quotes from major retail chains include:

“It’s one of the greatest emerging communication channels out there,” said Greg Ahearn, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce for Toys “R” Us. “This is a way people can stay connected with the brand in a way they’ve never been able to before.”

“It’s 24-hour access to our employees,” said Brad Smith, director of interactive marketing and emerging media for Best Buy. The Twelpforce had fielded about 25,000 questions even before gearing up for Thanksgiving weekend.

Pete Blackshaw’s article in Advertising Age, What Best Buy Learned About Service as Marketing and Empowering Employees notes the servive Twitter user has 15,000 followers and how Twelpforce tops his 2009 list for breakthrough holistic marketing

Elephantear’s perspective is that for Retailers, Twitter should be ascending its use as a opt-in marketing communications channel to a true bi-directional communications mechanism between marketer and consumer.

Sunday Morning Twits

As Twitter increases in popularity I thought I’d spend my Sunday morning searching out some anecdotal evidence to back up my gut feel – just how popular, how much is hype, where’s it all going, where is it going sideways and how might one get it right. Here are a few of the articles that helped me get to the bottom of things:

50 Million Twits: 50 million unique visitors worldwide

A TechCrunch post this week, Twitter Flew Above The 50 Million Uniques Mark For the First Time in July,  reported “ComScore now counts it as the No. 47 largest site in the world, increasing from the No.52 spot in June and (surpassing the BBC and Craigslist)”. and “It is important to note that since more than half of Twitter users don’t even go to the Website and use Twitter apps to consume and publish Tweets, Twitter’s total audience is even larger. But clearly Twitter is still growing.”

Pointless Twits: How Useful is Twitter Content

A post on Pear Analytics by Ryan Kelly, Twitter Study Reveals Interesting Results About Usage – 40% is “Pointless Babble” analyzes 2,000 Tweets on the public timeline over a two week period in a white paper study. The exercise categorized Tweets into 6 buckets – News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-along value.

Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total tweets captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the tweets captured.

Corporate Finance Twits: Twitter Use by Investor Relations

A post this week on Q4blog – Report reveals early adopters using Twitter for Investor Relations discusses Social Media adoption outside of Marketing and PR.

Key statistics revealed include that of the 80 public companies surveyed, 55% are using Twitter for investor relations and 62% provided a link to their Q2 earnings release.

Tennis Twits: Important. Player Notice. Twitter Warning

A post on the BBC News site yesterday Roddick questions Twitter ruling, mentions World number five Andy Roddick describing attempts at the US Open to regulate players’ updates on social networking site Twitter as “lame”.

The Tennis Integrity Unit warns that Twitter messages could violate anti-corruption rules, and that tweeting is not allowed on court during matches.

They add that sending “certain sensitive information concerning your match or other matches and/or players should be avoided. Depending on the information sent out this could be determined as the passing of ‘inside information.’

Football Twits:  NFL clampdown on Twitter and Other Social Media

An Associated Press article on the NFL.com site Teams struggle with policies on Twitter usage as site’s popularity grows states: “The only tweets during the Miami Dolphins’ Saturday scrimmage will come from the officials’ whistles.

The Dolphins are at the forefront of an NFL clampdown on Twitter and other social media, with new restrictions imposed on players, reporters and even spectators.”

The general fear across many teams is that opponents might gain a competitive advantage from even the briefest tweet about injuries, personnel decisions, trick plays or food.

Sports Media writers expressed a different fear, “It would be a shame for a beat writer to get beaten on a story by a 12-year-old in the stands who is allowed to blog” – the view of The Professional Football Writers of America.

Movie Twits: Tweets Don’t Equal Ticket Sales

In a ReadWriteWeb article Twitter Effect’s Power Overstated when it Comes to Making and Breaking Movies on Aug 28, Sarah Perez discusses how “the early buzz on Twitter – much of it negative – that caused these movies to crash and burn”

The post concludes that “the online chatter taking place on the popular microblogging site, while still an important vector for studying sentiment, is not powerful enough on its own to truly impact the overall success or failure of a movie”

Teen Twits: Twitter’s Youth Sees Growth

Another ReadWriteWeb post by Sarah Perez,  Teens Don’t Tweet, May they Start Soon notes that teens are more likely to use text messaging than Twitter for keeping up with their friends and that only 11% of Twitter users are aged 12 to 17, according to comScore.

Commentary to this post suggested that “teens don’t tweet because they are already using Facebook, which has everything they’re looking for. Twitter would just be extra work for them” Another comment pointed out that “there were few kids on Twitter in 2008 because it was being used by people who were already sophisticated social media users and who had a blog/website. I see Twitter as both a leading edge information source and a networking tool.”

The commentary to this post is as valuable as the post itself and worth paying attention to.

17 Twits: Dipping your toe in the water

Another post on DoshDosh, 17 Ways You Can Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners, Marketers and Business Owners provides a useful brainstorm of ways that Twitter can be used in a business context – event updates, customer notifications, prospecting and hiring. A useful listing to dip your toe in the water.

Strategic Twits: Successful Social Media Strategies

In her article, 5 steps to a successful social media strategy, Amy Sample Ward discusses how a Social Media strategy should serve your organizational goals – a principle that organizations seem to forget in their feet first efforts to adopt Twitter, Facebook, Review Sites and Online Communities.

Each step comes with a dialog and a number of links for more information:

Step 3, Strategy, has 5 important sub-steps of things to Identify –

  1. The audience or community you want to engage
  2. The resources currently available within your organization
  3. What success will look like
  4. What technologies are most appropriate
  5. What measures of success can be used

Whether you are for-profit or non-profit there are some sensible tips here.

Golden Twits: Following thousands of people is just ridiculous

TechCrunch this week discussed Twitter’s Golden Ratio (That No One Likes To Talk About) – specifically the ratios between the number of followers a user has, the number of tweets the’ve made and the number of people that user is following.

Worth reading and worth considering when your Twitter strategy becomes more successful and pertinent to your organizational goals – particularly if you are considering an Online Influencers program.

Monitoring Twits: Social Media Monitoring Tools

While seeking out statistics for this post I noticed that the latest Neilsen report states that Twitter is enjoying a 1382% monthly growth… back in February 2009 – a somewhat ironic date in a long and distant past that made me ask the question is traditional market research the best place to pick up the latest buzz? Or can you get 80% of the value for 20% of the cost using well thought out Social Media Monitoring tools.

Ken Burbary’s Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions provides a Master List of useful tools ranging across the board from the most simple and free like Twitfeel to the more expensive full service solutions such as TNS Cymfony. The list also includes my own OpenMic Social Media Analysis solution.

I’m a Twit: My Conclusions

I still maintain my geeky belief that Twitter is a protocol (like Facebook is a set of permissions) – Twitter is a communications channel that can be used in a broad range of ways for both personal and business reasons. It is at its roots a subscribable broadcast mechanism. The beauty is its API that has allowed a variety of applications where its content can be consumed. The crowdsourcing of #hashtags, its use as a pointer system via Bit.ly, photos on Twitpic and the ability to address other @users has allowed it to really flower, yet we have yet to see the killer apps and revenue models appear.

In the meantime, work out what you  are trying to achieve from a business perspective and develop your Twitter tactics as part of a broader social media strategy. And listening to the buzz can be as valuable as broadcasting.

Thinking about Influencer Marketing

As we are now implementing the OpenMic Influencer Identification Algorithms, we want to provide some suggestions as to what you’d do with them once you’ve found them – in the meantime, here are some notes on related articles:

Influencer Marketing Guidelines

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) defines an INFLUENCER as a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace. And INFLUENCER MARKETING as when a marketer identifies, seeks out, and engages with influencers in support of a business objective.

WOMMA also identifies 5 broad categories of influencer (from formal to informal) – 

1) Formal Position of Authority (e.g. Political / Business leaders)
2) Subject Matter Experts (e.g. Academics, Scientists, Authors)
3) Media Elite (e.g. Journalists, Talk Show Hosts)
4) Cultural Elite (e.g. Celebrities, Designers, Musicians)
5) Socially Connected (Community members, Business Networkers)

WOMMA’s Influencer Marketing Guidelines provides a set of best practices for running influencer campaigns – here are the items that I found most valuable:

1. Understand the influencer’s point of view before engaging them in any way – much of the time, they are acting to help other users rather than your brand
2. Make participation voluntary and by invitation only – and respect their privacy at all times, allowing them to freely opt-out
3. Build a relationship with the influencer
4. Ensure that your communications with the influencer are timely – ie respond promptly
5. Never ask an influencer to hype product claims, make usage claims without experience or back claims that cannot be substantiated
6. Provide incentives that do not create conflict of interest or shilling – keep awards simple and relevant to community objectives
7. Thank influencers who participate in your programs.

The set of guidelines goes on to discuss in more detail Thanking, Engagement and Enablement, I have noted a few worthy tips to follow:

* Creating legendary stories can be very powerful ways to both generate conversation and affinity

* Moments of truth about product failures are important

* Your biggest influencers may not always be positive about your product / company / services – your biggest fans may at times be your harshest critics – the fact that they are sometimes negative may make them far more credible to their networks

* Influencer programs are long term multi-year commitments designed to build a relationship – they are not marketing campaigns

* Private access is an excellent way to engage your influencers and influencers also love to connect to one another – Consider both online and offline connection opportunities and even deeper engagements with NDAs in place

* Influencers are a great source of product feedback – your programs should be designed to close the loop demonstrating that their feedback is being heard and acted upon

Trends In Social Influence Marketing

The Razorfish Blog, Going Social Now has an post from March 2009 entitled Trends In Social Influence Marketing

Razorfish defined SOCIAL INFLUENCE MARKETING as “marketing to the network of peers that surround and influence the customer across social platforms and on brand Web sites

The post identified and detailed 10 trends – my highlights are below:

* Reaching the influencers gets easier via the social graph and the plethora of technology vendors that make targeting easier.
* Different influencers will matter at different stages of the marketing funnel, too.
* Agencies will find ways to put a valuation on each consumer’s potential influence for specific product categories.
* Google and a few others are already taking a crack at defining your influence rank.
* Consumers will define the brands by the sheer volume of their opinions. They’ll be shaping the brands more than the brands will be shaping them.
* Social advertising will grow up (whatever that means!)
* The portable social graph will fuel marketing innovation (this is Facebook and Twitter Connect)
* Loose ties (like the friendsters of yours on Facebook) are as valuable as your strong ties (close friends) because they’re the ones that bring new ideas into your world and share your opinions with people who are further removed from you
* Social influence research will become more important than social measurement – n evolution from measuring sentiment to understanding opinion and synchronizing it with the Net Promoter scores

There are a few more, go read the post – if you’re an agency, it’s probably worth the read.

Creating A Healthy Influencer Marketing Program

Finally, here is a Powerpoint deck by Emre Ersahin available on SlideShare entitled: Creating A Healthy Influencer Marketing Program

Definitely worth a look – it contains a step-by-step process, refined from a set of good and best practice examples of how to run an Influencer Marketing Program – not the only way, but certainly one proven way. It presents a methodology based on Discover > Create > Execute > Measure centered around ‘Social Capital’ that leverages the value of online networks.

Here are the basic steps:

Discover – target audience and identify and recruit influencers

Create – influencer concepts and programs

Execute – program implementation online and offline

Measure – the results and evaluation of the benefits