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Does Coke “get” Twitter?

on Oct 04 in advertising, trends, Twitter posted by

Last week, Marketing Pilgrim’s Frank Reed posted a thoughtful analysis of Twitter’s recent foray into advertising.

Twitter’s advertising platforms are indeed headed into uncharted territory. And it’s going to be hard for Twitter, let alone advertisers, to confidently predict the optimal configuration.

Frank cites an AdAge article that quotes Coca-Cola marketing chief Michael Donnolly as saying that Coke is not interested in tens of thousands of people but millions.

One important point to make, and one that I’m not sure Michael Donnelly gets, is that the value of Twitter is not in the quantity of followers but the “quality.” Of course, the quality of a follower might be hard to define, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try. And trying to evaluate the quality of followers might an anathema to someone like Donnelly who seems limited to thinking terms of in millions of people.

Indeed, most of Coke’s tweets seem rather inane. Their tweets provide no links that might be of interest. They consist of tweets such as:

  • @euribjs Coca-Cola loves you, Talita! ^SS
  • @thomasbrunskill Yay! Thanks for celebrating with Coca-Cola, Thomas! Enjoy! ^SS
  • @diogopontes2010 Coca-Cola helada, siempre deliciosa y muy refrescante, Diogo. ^GD
  • @alexaliggio Thanks for following Coca-Cola Alexa! We’re following you too! ^CA
  • @Mahrukh_ That’s enough to open happiness with friends! Enjoy! ^CA

Yawn. There aren’t even any special offers, which might be why most followers are following.

CocaCola ranks 31st among social media brands. And it shows. This performance might lose the company a couple of places in that ranking. What Coke needs to understand is that the key to success in Twitter is to cultivate loyalty through providing value among a cadre of followers who trust you and enjoy your content as I have pointed out in this blog (as have many others more sagacious than me). Focusing on quality of your followers puts the emphasis back on the individual. And it is individuals that wield power in social media.

It really makes me wonder if Coke “gets” Twitter. If I was Donnelly, I’d be much more interested in a hundred thousand followers who I could consider to be brand ambassadors and influencers rather than a million who just wanted a coupon for 10 percent off their next six pack of Coke. In the long run those influencers would give a higher and much more sustainable ROI than an army of marginally interested followers.

Is Apple’s Ping a Facebook-killer?

on Sep 02 in blogging, business, facebook, strategy, tools, trends posted by

Apple’s Ping logoBlogger Jesse Stay just wrote a thoughtful post about Apple’s launch of Ping its music social platform for sharing music.

Just announced by the company’s CEO Steve Jobs, Ping is a social application within Apple’s popular desktop app iTunes.

Jesse called Ping “the biggest announcement we saw come out of Expo, primarily because it’s of importance not just to Apple followers, but to every consumer in this digital age.”

I agree with Jesse, that Apple is going about this the right way, sticking to their core offering and growing the network to build a user base.

But I think Jesse’s off the mark when he suggests, “This is perhaps bigger than Facebook.” Other authors expressed the thought even more directly. Nick O’Neill asserts that “Apple Has Become Facebook’s Biggest Threat With Ping.” And so on.

Is Ping a Facebook-killer? I don’t think so. Even in the longer term, if Ping become the Apple’s Social Graph, as Jesse suggests, it has a lot of catching up to do. For one thing, Facebook already has more than twice as many users. iTunes users will need to transition from using it mainly as a desktop app to using it online. And of course, Facebook offers much more than just music. In fact, music is the one thing FB doesn’t do particularly well.

MySpace is the musician’s social network. So if anything, Ping will challenge MySpace. This makes sense — MySpace is in a downward spiral anyway. Apple is too smart to take on Facebook. MySpace is lower hanging fruit. Blogger Austin Carr would probably agree. In his Fast Company article, he wrote “”Ping won’t replace Twitter or Facebook… But MySpace should be scared as hell.”

I probably won’t use Ping that much. music is a personal thing, a rather private enjoyment. It’s never been much of a social activity for me, online or off. I’m not especially interested in the musical tastes of my friends. And I’m not too fussed if they’re interested in what I enjoy. But perhaps I’m a minority, and folks like me won’t stop Ping from being successful.

Video killed the cartoon star: Disney’s social media disaster

on Sep 01 in branding, celebrities, fun stuff, marketing, reputation management, social media, trends posted by

Donald Duck is sure to be mad with what Disney has done to his classic cartoonsI just love those classic cartoons. You know, Roadrunner, Sylvester the Cat, and, of course, Disney’s famed cast of characters.

But Disney have made a big mistake trying to “modernize” some of their classics, notably Donald Duck, in a series called “Blam!” The videos provide a voiceover that humorously points out Donald’s misdeeds and mistakes in a way that Disney evidently presumes is palatable to today’s youngsters.

Unfortunately, Disney’s misguided effort has fallen, true to cartoon form, flat on its face.

On YouTube, comments on one video, unimaginatively titled And Another Blam! go the whole way. Here’s a few:

  • ahermit Annoying and insulting. Whose stupid idea was it to do this?!
  • BrianSchultze There is a special place in hell reserved for the person who approved this. 
  • sbl195207 …I had no idea that my childhood was being raped.
  • r3dk9 This is the worst thing. Ever.
  • electrojones This is spectacularly lousy in every way. 
  • FrankieSmileShow Oh my god. What the fuck is this. This ruined my day.

And so on. Not one of the 157 comments (at the time of writing) can be in any way construed as positive.

And serious bloggers (well, as serious as they can get) are lambasting the effort left and right. Cartoon Brew says “ These Blam! episodes, which are probably named so because the viewer wants to blam their head off after watching them, destroy the spirit of the Disney cartoons and over-explain every joke to the point where it becomes unfunny.” The 103 comments on that post are similarly unimpressed with Disney.

Cartoon forums such as Animationforum.net are also buzzing with negative response to the Blam! videos. 

Could Blam! be Disney’s big social media disaster? Disney’s heading over the cliff, but its executives won’t be laughing about it.

Popularity versus influence: what’s the difference?

on Aug 12 in business, celebrities, social media, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted by

What’s the difference between popularity and influence? Is it important? Brian Solis has an insightful article that highlights the differences and why we should be interested.

It’s easy to get bogged down in numbers. How many followers do I have? Is your Klout score more important than your Twinfluence? How many clicks did I get on URLs that I tweeted?

Just to clarify for those that have trouble wrapping their head around the concepts(I do!): You can be very popular (a lot of people know you) but have low influence (they don’t care too much what you have to say). Or your popularity can be low (few people know you), but you can have strong influence (they listen to what you say and act upon it). For example, Tim Berners Lee, who invented the Web has undoubtedly had a huge influence, but hardly anyone knows who he is. Practically everyone on the planet has heard of Muhammad Ali, but his influence is not very strong.

So where do numbers fit in? Let’s look at an example. On Twitter Brian Solis has about 62,000 followers, whereas Guy Kawasaki has about 265,000 followers. So Guy is more popular than Brian. But I have never commented on articles tweeted by Guy whereas I’ve commented a few times on Brian’s articles. So for me, Brian is more influential (using his definition).

Personally, popularity has never particularly interested me. So after three years on Twitter I still have only 945 followers. But I hope that among those that know me, I have some influence — so that a good proportion of my Tweets are RT’d, for example.

My baseline is simple: to provide value (to my Friends, Followers, clients, whoever). By providing value one’s influence will grow, and presumably popularity.

For social marketers, the next step is to evaluate the motives and needs of different users to categorize them as influencers or popular users (let’s call them celebrities).

For example, a business that wants to increase brand awareness might want to target celebrities. The business is not necessarily interested in a call to action so being known among celebrities with a large audience is likely to achieve goals faster than being known among influencers who have a smaller audience.

But say the business has a campaign to promote a special. They have a call to action (e.g. “buy my widget”). Now they will want to connect with influencers whose followers or friends will likely act.

My guess is that we will see a refining of user definitions and categories based on data. The influencer/celebrity dichotomy is too simplistic for targeted social marketing. We will want more sophisticated models that incorporate the various dimensions of user online behavior to ensure our messages have the greatest impact.

Hootsuite’s tweaks for tweets

on Jun 24 in hints and tips, social networks, tools, trends, Twitter posted by

Hootsuite logoHootsuite just keeps getting better and better. 

It calls itself “The professional Twitter client” and today it went several steps further toward reinforcing that position. The company rolled out a new version of its app, called Hootsuite5 (see blog post). Aside from a a touched-up dashboard, improvements include:

  1. Extensive use of HTML5, which runs quietly behind the scenes to bring yummy goodness such as drag and drop, geo-search and quicker switching between tabs and streams. Anything that improves user experience is a good thing.
  2. Themes to customize your dashboard’s appearance. Not such a big deal but definitely keeping up with the times.
  3. Publish photos to your Facebook wall. This won’t manage your Facebook albums, but it means that when you post a link you can include an image, just as you would posting directly onto Facebook.
  4. Retweet options include using the traditional RT, which Hootsuite incorporated in the early days, or now using Twitter’s built-in retweet option (which sucks IMO). According to the company’s blog “HootSuite users can choose whether to Re-Tweet with initials “RT” or to use the Twitter native auto-Re-Tweet tool.” However, I couldn’t see how to RT in the way you used to with Hootsuite. Now, the function is like Twitter’s. Here’s how:  “Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck “Use Twitter Web retweets” (Thanks to @Hootsuite_Help for clarifying.)
  5. Access your Google Analytics data. Hootsuite now integrates your Google Analytics data into its dashboard. Great time saver, since you don’t need to login to Google to get your latest stats. But wait, there’s more! You can overlay your tweets from various Twitter accounts to evaluate which tweets are providing the most traffic to your sites. This will be a great tool for marketers. 
  6. Attachments! This is getting almost like email. You can include an image or other file as an attachment to your tweet (or hoot). The attached file is automatically linked with a shortened URL.
  7. More goodness! Hootsuite has speeded up the interface, and provided easier access to support, and Japanese users can now use the app in their own language (not so useful for me, I confess).

These improvements are sure to keep Hootsuite as leading application for those looking to streamline management of their Twitter outreach. It certainly came out tops in a recent online discussion on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter to do more than update your timeline on what you’re having for breakfast, I strongly recommend Hootsuite. To get the most out of it, read Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite.

Facebook privacy concerns aren’t impacting traffic

on May 27 in facebook, social networks, trends posted by

The recent kerfuffle over Facebook’s privacy blunders hasn’t impacted traffic, according to stats company Compete.com.

According to data published by the company in an email, daily reach for Facebook is up over last month and unique visitors reached an all time high of 135MM in April (see charts below).

Calls for people to quit Facebook over its privacy policies (or inadequacies thereof) have got a lot of buzz online and in the mainstream press, including an interview with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore on PBS’s Newshour last night. In the interview, Cashmore said that “There’s not a lot of evidence that users fully understand their [Facebook privacy] settings.”

But overall, the confusion among users and negative attention in the press hasn’t translated into loss of face for Facebook. People just can’t get enough of the social networking site, apparently. And they keep on coming. Compete’s email refers to a New York Times article that points out previous Facebook user protests have not affected the company, which continues “to add new users at a record clip.”

Facebook traffic, April 2008 to April 2010

 Facebook reach, April 24 to May 24, 2010

Ning phasing out free social networks

on May 04 in business, social networks, trends posted by

Leading social network provider Ning is phasing out its free option for social network creators.

In an email today, Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote that the company will be phasing out all free Ning networks. In its FAQs, the company announced that it was focusing 100% on paid solutions.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. The lowest tier of pricing is $3 per month. Presumably the company did its market research and found this price point would minimize loss of users.

That said, any cost is going to deter experimentation and innovation. Social media’s dramatic rise to the forefront of the Web has been driven partly by the plethora of free applications. Ning has played a significant role in making that happen.

How long will it be before another free social network application (as easy to set up and use as Ning) emerges?

Is social media monitoring a bubble?

on Apr 04 in business, monitoring, reputation management, tools, trends posted by

Image courtesy of WikipediaAaron Koh, Social Media Director at That Social PR Agency, posted an interesting question on LinkedIn: Is social media monitoring a gold mine or a bubble?

During my work developing social media strategies for a variety of clients, I have had the opportunity to review the social media monitoring space in some detail.

Yes, there are a lot of companies jumping on the bandwagon. Some of the free services are useful. Used appropriately, they can meet the needs of many situations. Who hasn’t heard of Google Alerts? (List of free tools.) But some free services, while enticing, seem inaccurate at best, or even misleading. Larger enterprises will most likely need to consider paid solutions.

The big players (Techrigy, Radian6, Nielsen, Filtrbox, etc.) will likely buy out the best of the small scale solutions. (See Nathan Gilliat’s excellent Guide to Social Media Analysis for a list of companies offering paid solutions for social media monitoring.) 

My sense is that the trend will shift away from technological solutions and to the human element. A monitoring program can alert you to a mention or conversation. It can even indicate whether it’s positive or negative. But software can’t tell you how to respond.

The nuances of building relationships through social media simply cannot be left to software. And even humans get it woefully wrong as Nestle’s recent social media disaster on Facebook testifies. Monitoring is important but experienced people with the expertise to manage specific situations will always be needed.

To answer Aaron’s question, the plethora of sub-par social media monitoring tools suggest a bubble is growing. The bubble will deflate in due course. But as with most bubbles, the strong players will survive and most likely come out even stronger.

Can social media help save endangered species?

on Apr 01 in biology, trends posted by

The BBC News website reports a CITES Convention proposal to limit online trade of endangered species. According to Paul Todd of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Internet is the greatest threat to endangered species. (See BBC report.) 

Over-hunting, pollution, habitat destruction and even climate change are usually cited as the main threats to a species’ existence.

But, according to the BBC article, the speed and anonymity of online commerce has made it easier than ever to engage in illegal trade for endangered species. You know the sort of thing: bears’ gall bladders, tiger bones, rhino horn, and so on.

The question is, can social media be part of the cure rather than the disease? In a guest post on The Pimm Group blog I argue that it can. (Dr. Stuart Pimm is a world-renowned conservation biologist at Duke University in North Carolina.)  

Indeeed, it must! Social media can and should play a crucial role in combating illegal commerce in endangered species.

I propose at least two ways this could happen.

  1. Form an online community (tentatively called SpeciesWatch) that searches for such activity and reports it to authorities.
  2. We can form social network groups to pressure ISPs to block hosting of companies that support ecommerce or auction sites. Such groups can also lobby lawmakers to enforce and toughen up existing rules. 

Of course these ideas are not mutually exclusive. And they may or may not work, but species faced with extinction from these ghoulish peddlers can’t wait. We must act and act now.

Please share your thoughts.

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page when considering you for a job?

on Feb 17 in business, facebook, search, social networks, trends posted by

An important question is presented in an online poll by a local North Carolina website this morning.

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page, or other social media sites, when considering you for a job?

Employment is a contract of trust between the employer and employee. Both parties have the obligation and right to ensure by any legal means necessary that the relationship will be of benefit to both parties. Does this include reviewing social profiles?

I believe yes, but whether you agree or not background checks are already entrenched as part of the hiring process, and searching online is an inexpensive way to extend such checks. It also allows employers to evaluate aspects of an employee that may not be evident from background checks or interviews.

Searching online and finding social network information is so cheap and easy that it’s a way for employers who cannot afford to hire such services to check on prospective employees.

One could argue that looking at people’s profiles is an invasion of privacy. But first, the information that employers can find is already publicly available. Second, most social applications allow privacy settings that prevent unwanted viewers of your profile.

You need to ask whether you are using social networks for a social experience (i.e., just to have fun) or do you consider such use part of your professional persona? In the first case, you’d be smart to set everything to private and don’t allow access to anyone you’d mind seeing you drunk, stoned, half-naked, etc. In the second, follow my golden rule: don’t put anything online that you would not be comfortable seeing splashed on the front page of your local newspaper.

Finally, how on earth do you police whether or not employers look at your social media profiles? I think the question is a valid one, but framed somewhat naively.