Could Facebook Pages eventually take over blogs?

by It's Open

Facebook Pages have gradually grown over the last year, offering more and more features to customise your page. The leading social network is usually fairly wary about allowing users to customise their experience, so the introduction of the Facebook language FBML is an interesting one.

With FBML, you can create your own landing page, with clickable links and images. We’ve already looked at Facebook shopfronts last week and, in theory, you can replicate the majority of your blog or website on your Facebook page.

So, what’s stopping you? Well, at the moment FBML is still fairly basic. Templates with Flash are hard to come by, leaving the pages looking a little flat. You’re also at the mercy of the Facebook server, which has its many issues. The majority of pages are static too, meaning regular updates are time-consuming to edit and upload.

However, it will be interesting to see where Facebook go with Pages in the future. With more flexibility and ease of use, this function could prove to be a contender for those wanting a more simple blog.

Could Facebook change the whole future of blogs? A social networking service offering full blogging capabilities would be an interesting concept indeed, but will they be the first to take that step?

What do you think?

Small businesses take to social media

by Rob McLuhan

The growth of social media use by smaller businesses has doubled in less than a year. In a poll of 269 companies carried out by Daryl Willcox Publishing,  54% said they use it, compared with 27% last December, with more than a third posting updates every day.

LinkedIn emerged as the most popular choice, used by almost three quarters of the companies, with Facebook used by 64% and Twitter 63%.

Among companies that don’t use it, lack of time was the main reason cited (35%), although a large minority (31%) said their customers didn’t use it. A quarter said they didn’t understand it.

Sixty percent reported a positive impact on their business. Main reasons for using it were networking, attracting new customers and raising brand awareness, although a few (14%) said they were doing it just because everyone else was. Unlike big brands, few used it to offer incentives such as money-off vouchers.

More details here.

Should you use Formspring to communicate with your customers?

by It's Open

Formspring is a service that allows visitors to ask you questions, both anonymously and named, on any subject they like. It’s a prime example of a social network that experienced a surge in popularity, followed by a lull when the service was simply forgotten for the Next Big Thing.

The main reason a lot of people allowed their membership with Formspring to lapse is due to the anonymous nature, leading to some abusive questions and comments to be made to each Formspring account. While this isn’t a new occurrence in the online world, it did pick up a lot of speed on this particular site.

But does that mean companies should avoid the service? A thick skinned community manager can keep an eye on what’s going on, dealing with constructive criticism and removing abusive content. As an interactive FAQ section, it’s an interesting way to extend your social media strategy and improve your relationship with customers.

This kind of approach works well with online retailers, particularly for the fashion, technology and cosmetic markets. It’s a lightweight version of a forum, allowing users to ask all those niggling questions that they don’t wish to call or email about.

What do you think about Formspring? Would you use it?

The dos and don’ts of using FourSquare

by It's Open

If you’re reading this, the likelihood is you’ll have heard of Foursquare. The location-based social network is being touted as the Twitter of 2010. Companies are now using it to promote their business and offer customers promotions and discounts.

But it’s not a simple process of ‘checking-in’ everywhere you go. Like all social networks, it requires an understanding of the basics to get the most out of the service.

Here, for your reference, are five rules to stick by for Foursquare:

Do add your own notes when you check in. Useful tips will go down well with other visitors, whether it’s recommending a particular dish at a restaurant or warning them to avoid the bathroom facilities!

Don’t check in everywhere. No one needs to know if you’ve just been to KFC or the doctors. Use it to highlight the most interesting, important activities.

Do link it up to your Twitter and Facebook. Your followers may be interested in the latest restaurant you’ve visited or conference you’ve attended. Just make sure you follow the point above and avoid spamming your accounts.

Do grow the community by adding new places. Fellow users will appreciate it and you’re more likely to reach the Mayor status.

Don’t forget others can use this information to their own advantage. Checking in and out of your own home could endanger your own safety, and also leave you open to crimes like burglary.

Blogger releases new Total PageViews gadget

Blogger has announced the release of two more official gadgets for their templates: Total Pageviews and Popular Posts. Total Pageviews will display the number of views your page has had, while Popular Posts will display a snippet of the top 10 most popular posts on your blog.

These two releases follow the addition of a Stats tab, giving bloggers further information on the visitors of their blog. The expanded analytics bring the popular blogging platform a step closer to WordPress in terms of drilling down into your blog.

Blogger is an excellent example of an online service that constantly listens to feedback in order to improve the experience for its users. A social media strategy needs to constantly adapt and change according to the needs of your business and customers, and this includes your blog or website. Blogger have therefore managed to increase their competitive advantage by keeping an open mind and being flexible.

However, it will be interesting to see how popular the Total Pageviews gadget really is with bloggers.

How likely would you be to display your pageviews on the site for visitors to see?

Is a social media strategy suitable for every business?

We’re constantly bombarded with information on how to get the most out of our social media strategy, whether it’s ROI, awareness or creating a community. But is a social media strategy suitable for every business? Should your business interact on the big three: , and ?

The beauty of social media is the variety of sites and services available to fit in with your personal strategy. While Twitter and Facebook is a good fit for retail sites like that rely on a light-hearted community spirit, building merchants and security companies need something a little more serious. LinkedIn is a more appropriate service for these kinds of companies, especially for your visitors to interact on the groups or company profile page. Ecademy is also worth a look.

A blog can suit the majority of businesses, although the tone of your blog will vary depending on your product or service. In order to increase the reach of your blog, you can add your blog links to sites like StumbleUpon and Digg. Thinking outside the box, you could build your business into virtual world Second Life with a bit of clever marketing. A particularly useful option for online businesses.

A social media strategy doesn’t have to revolve around the big three, so consider what’s best for YOUR business.

Which is better, traffic or engagement?

Have you ever had a post that went viral, bringing plenty of traffic to your site but very few comments or interactions? Would you consider that to be a good or a bad thing?

The reality is, engagement is actually extremely tricky to measure. While traffic can be measured by page views, time spent on the site and sources, engagement is more complicated. How can you measure how engaged a visitor is with your brand? The answer is for you to take a qualitative approach to your social media activities, rather than a quantitative one.

Measuring based on the amount of time people spend on the site assumes that those who spend longer there are automatically more engaged. However, how do you know that the person who only logged on for a couple of minutes wasn’t a regular visitor who found exactly what he or she wanted straight away? Your readers could already be engaged and maybe they don’t need to spend time browsing through the website, like a less engaged visitor would.

Comments are one indicator of how engaged your visitors are, particularly when they comment regularly or take the time to leave extended opinions. Keeping track of how many people share your content is also an indicator of its appeal.

Overall, you should try and aim for an equal measure of traffic and engagement. The traffic will win visitors over, but high-quality content and a decent social media strategy will keep them coming back for more.

How do you measure the engagement with your brand? Do you rate traffic above engagement?

Source: Econsultancy

ItsOpen in action

by Justin Hunt

Here are some case studies we have put together of some of the work we
have been doing in social media.

Sorry we cannot disclose the names of the organisations. However this should give you a good flavour of what we have been up to and how we might be able to help you!

Using social media for B2B marketing

ItsOpen was asked to plan and facilitate a knowledge-sharing day for a world leading enterprise technology company. The aim of the day was to plot a B2B social media marketing plan.

We started the day with an overview of key trends and developments in social media, identifying the opportunities and the risks associated with each trend.

We shared industry relevant examples of companies already engaging in B2B marketing campaigns using social media and evaluated their success.

One of the key challenges brought about by social media is that organisations increasingly have to become publishers of their own content, rather than rely on established media companies or agencies to do it for them. In this context we first looked at examples of what makes engaging B2B content, followed by two interactive sessions where we shared and discussed ideas to help the team start the process of creating a good practical plan for content production based around everyday activities.

How to manage a social media-driven crisis

Social media has put the customer in charge. He or she can be heard around the globe and have an impact on institutions in an instant. In the new online environment people can find each other and coalesce around you  – or against you in seconds. Well-organised groups of customers have the same power as mass media these days.

ItsOpen was asked to provide a high profile public organisation with advice and support on how to ensure it was well prepared for managing a social media-driven crisis.

As part of this project, we shared examples of how companies had badly mishandled social media situations and thereby exacerbating their problems and ruining potentially helpful networks .

We provided strategic advice and practical tips on how the organisation should prepare in order to detect risks to its reputation, as well as how to be primed to respond effectively across social media platforms in the event of a crisis.

ItsOpen provided this individual organisation with an accessible crisis management manual to help ensure a common reference point in a time of crisis, as well as help instil best practice thinking in the culture prior to any difficult event.