Archive for June, 2010

ITV incorporates social media into news bulletins

Further evidence - if you needed it – of social media becoming increasingly more pervasive. We are going to see broadcasters incorporating social media more into their programmes. This is just the start.

Social media is going to be accessible through more and more platforms.

Watch PepsiCo’s social media monitoring operation

Here’s a YouTube of how PepsiCo is monitoring what people are saying through social media about its brand.

The company has a control room with banks of screens. It looks like a TV production room. But maybe it’s a glimpse of the future: showing how brands will need to re-organise themselves to keep fully informed about how stories and comments about their campaigns are playing out across the social web.

Sharing links in emails

Is it a good idea to include sharing links to social media in your marketing emails? One would think it couldn’t hurt, yet an email marketing company that recently surveyed its customers reports that only 13% did so. However those that did enoyed significantly higher click-through rates – an average of 30% more.

The number of links provided also has an influence on click through. Most of the icons were for Twitter and Facebook, as one would expect, with MySpace and LinkedIn featuring less strongly, and Digg hardly ever. But whereas messages with just one icon showed an average of under 9% higher click throughs over messages with no icon, those with three or more generated over 28% higher click-throughs than those with one icon, and 55% higher than those with none.

Food for thought. More details here.

Dell update

A newspaper based in Austin, Texas, has done an interesting update on the use of social media by its friendly neighbourhood computer giant, Dell.

After launching a social media and community department four years ago, to manage consumers’ burgeoning use of the Internet, the company now treats social media just as much a part of doing business as conventional advertising, the paper says, using it in all its departments to connect with customers.

Some 3.5 million people communicate with Dell via Twitter, Facebook, Direct2Dell and IdeaStorm, according to the company’s latest statistics, and around 1.5 million customers follow it on Twitter.

Recently it recruited three high-profile social media experts, including Adam Brown, who was previously director of digital communications at Coca-Cola.

Read the article here.

‘Power’ Twitter tips

Chris Brogan has produced a list of ‘power’ Twitter tips. It is a long list. But there are a couple of nuggets in there for businesses.

In particular I like: ‘invite your customers to Twitter, then make it worth it for them’

I think too many companies view Twitter from their own narrow perspective and not enough from the perspective of their  diverse range of stakeholders.

Also, I just don’t think that pumping out links to press releases to every stakeholder is a credible strategy. To journalists and analysts yes, but not to every stakeholder of your business. Twitter needs to be used more imaginatively.

In an established media context, companies don’t offer the same story to every newspaper, radio station, and publication regardless of the different editorial styles and demographics, so why should they use social media as if it is read by one passive monolithic audience?

I also liked this tip for businesses: ‘use Twitter as a personalised communications tool, not another blast’

I couldn’t agree more.  Social media presents a unique opportunity for businesses to present themselves in more individual ways, and to treat customers and stakeholders in more personal ways.

The participative social media culture invites businesses to drop the corporate mask, get involved, and be more friendly.  Think First Direct with its friendly, real customer service and less like a big stony hearted, impersonal Government department helpline.

It is essential that businesses use these tools to reach out to their stakeholders, to build influential online coalitions with the aim of creating online fan communities.

The aim is to be less of a  stranger to your customers and stakeholders in this networked world, to listen to them, to take on board what they are saying and to talk with them. This is so you win their trust and acceptance and become recognised members of their communities.

Then if a problem or issue raises itself they are less likely to go screaming off, forming a mob, and generating diastrous comments about you. They will instead come to you directly and listen to what you have to say.

Some companies are behaving as if they can act despite what is being said on social media or in denial of existence. Such a position is unsustainable.

Facebook claims now to have about 400m active users worldwide. I think if the FT or Times had those numbers, then companies would be investing in resources to get their messages across!

Disney’s CEO on importance of social media engagement now

It is really worth setting aside a short amount of time to watch this fascinating FT interview with Bob Iger, CEO of Disney.

Iger  succinctly explains his views to FT editor, Lionel Barber, about the importance of organisations embracing social media to remain relevant to their audiences.

He underlines the fact that companies cannot expect audiences to come to their web sites any more and says that you ‘have to fish where the fish are’.  He says a critical reason for embracing social media is that Disney wants to remain relevant. As  a brand it doesn’t want to allow itself to be relegated to the old platforms; and it wants to be there first so it learns quickest.

A great quote from Iger in this interview with Barber is when he says: ”The status quo is not a strategy.’ He emphasises the need that the world is changing  and that Disney has to look at that world from the perspective of its consumers and not from the perspective of people who don’t want to embrace social media for a host of reasons.

Iger argues that social media presents a platform to learn from customers, listen to customers, communicate with customers and trade with customers.

Disney has  the right mindset from the top – and that matters a lot.  Iger sees social media for what it is. He is not threatened by it. He wants the business to adapt to it quickly and that is what Disney is doing.

Fancy a social burger anyone?

A New York burger restaurant has decided to integrate social media fully into its offering with customers being encouraged to order on iPads and create their own commercials on Youtube.

Is this the start of the re-engineering of restaurants to make themselves more relevant to social media?

Google index gets a Caffeine boost

Search engines are racing to incorporate social media. Last week, Bing announced that it would start adding realtime updates from Twitter and Facebook to its search results. Similarly, Google also announced changes to its infrastructure, which are designed to improve the freshness and visibility of social media in search results. Google’s realtime upgrade is arguably more fundamental, as it is premised on a two-year redesign of the underlying index.

Previously, Google separated its index into layers, which were updated at different speeds. The main layer was usually updated every two weeks. Known as Caffeine, the new system separates the index into billions of ‘batches’, each of which refer to specific websites. Rather than analysing the web in larger layers, Caffeine now trawls content in smaller batches. This enables Google to update its index on a continuous and global basis.

As a result, the underlying index is constantly in flux; it is estimated that Caffeine now analyses hundreds of thousands of web pages every second. According to the official announcement on the Google Blog: “If the Google index were a pile of paper, it would grow three miles taller every second”. All of which has required a significant investment in new hardware and software. For example, Caffeine is built on the new Google File System (dubbed GFS2), which processes and stores content from the web with reduced latency. In turn, GFS2 resides within more powerful custom-built server hardware, which are believed to include new innovations such as solid state hard drives.

In sum, the race to analyse and index the growing torrent of social media is a challenging and expensive process – but one that will increasingly differentiate the web services of the future. The pressure to do so will escalate as more of our digital attention shifts to mobile devices, where recommendations and social search are taking over from straightforward search. Compared to its relatively static predecessor, the realtime web will require companies to nurture a very different set of technologies and skills if they are to remain visible.

Stay alert

Have you got all your bases covered when using social media? Or are you relying too much on the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In?

Blogger Adrienne Graham points out that most of the training provided for businesses on the benefits and uses of social media tend to concentrate almost exclusively on these three sites. It’s true these are the front-runners, but it’s not just about them, she argues. It’s about ‘a cross section of community sites, blogs, bookmarking sites, photo sites, sharing tools, audio and video tools and some even more advanced tools that are used in conjunction with one another to have a robust social media experience’.

Her point is that the Internet is constantly evolving, and even the biggest sites come and go. What happens if Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In stop being “cool spots” for the “in crowd”?

‘Where will you go then? Where else are you looking to help build your brand? Are you listening to or using podcasts or Internet Radio stations? Are you tapping into video and live streaming sites? Are you paying attention to how people are using various blogging and forum platforms to showcase their knowledge, talent and expertise? What about international sites like Viadeo or Xing? What about the social networking forums like Ning and Collective X?’

Graham says that, as part of her drive to establish a small business, she had no choice but to check out every available avenue. Her article is a useful reminder on the need to stay alert – access it here.

Shock social media eavesdropping horror

The row about privacy on Facebook makes me wonder whether we are going to see a re-run of the media outrage we saw a while back over junk mail and call centres.

We certainly will if the Daily Mail has anything to do with it. Take last week’s odd piece in which, according to the newspaper’s headline, ‘secret new software allows BT and other firms to trawl internet looking for disgruntled customers’.

Companies such as easyJet, Carphone Warehouse and Lloyds TSB are also monitoring social networking sites to see what is being said about them, the paper fumed. Privacy campaigners have accused them of ‘outright spying’ while legal experts have suggested that firms making unsolicited approaches to customers could fall foul of data protection laws.

To give substance to this, the Mail’s hack found a Facebook user who had posted a comment calling BT ‘a bunch of unaccountable, business shafting, useless b*******’, and who within hours had been contacted by BT asking if there was anything they could do to help. He told the paper that he found this ‘quite Big Brotherish and sinister’, and had since changed his privacy settings so that only his friends could access his page.

Businesses, of course, have a completely different view of this, and one that we at ItsOpen have been enthusiastically promoting. They need to be proactively monitoring the Internet for negative comment, and then stepping in where possible to see if they can resolve the problems.  In most cases customers are delighted to find that the company is actually trying to help, and may even become advocates for the brand in the future. (To be fair, the article did give them the space to make the point.)

Also, if you post an angry comment on a public forum, then you surely shouldn’t be shocked to get a reply from the individual or organisation you’ve slandered. The article implies that BT rang him up at home, when of course it simply posted a comment further down the thread.  So where is the privacy issue? And the point of the call wasn’t to make threats – it was to help.

As for the ‘secret new software’, it’s been around for yonks and is commercially available. And if it happens to be monitoring this site on behalf of BT, let it take note: I’ve had epic problems with the company’s laughable  technical help line recently, and I’d love to hear from it with assurances that nothing of the kind will ever happen again, and perhaps a hamper of goodies to compensate me.

The Mail’s outrage is clearly manufactured, and I’d argue has more to do with the drive to boost circulation than any genuine issue. But is there a serious point here if, in treating businesses as pantomime villains, it changes perceptions of social media as an open forum, and the Internet too, for that matter.

Perhaps we should see this in the context of the conflict between old media and the new, the bitter resentment of the hidebound, conservative press at the johnny-come latelies who have the affrontery to allow views and information to be shared for free.