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How To: Kill A Brand With Social Media

Posted on May 14, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Brand_AxeSocial Media is the new darling of many brands, the silver bullet that will fix all ills. While some brands have made major in roads in discovering a new method of expanding their ability to reach their customers and potential customers some have quite obviously become so over enamoured with Social Media that they have forgotten the basics of managing a brand.

Lack of Alignment

While most Twitter users are aware of the amazing job that Frank Eliason has done for ComCast on Twitter, acting as a one person rescue squad for their customer service issues, the rest of the brand has not aligned with this new way of doing business. A quick search on google for customer service at ComCast continues to result in many more horror stories than it does in success stories. Why? Because having one or two people creating a good impression on one platform is not enough. If there is no brand alignment behind the philosophy of listening and responding then all of the Social Media efforts in the world will not turn a brand around.

A search on Facebook brings equally crushing results, of the first ten (page one), one is fairly obscurely related to ComCast, Six are Anti-ComCast groups, One is a fan page for ComCast technology, one is a fan page for ComCast Interactive Capital and one appears to be a group for past employees.

Twitter is Not Social Media

As popular as Twitter is, it still only has a 5% penetration, being on Twitter, even if you do it well is not a Social Media Strategy. Twitter is at best a small part of an overarching strategy that includes not only the tool set, comprising tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube etc but also the internal education and alignment that ensures these tools are part of a much broader “Social” focus within the organization.

Brands like Zappo’s aren’t good at things like Twitter and Facebook because they have some awesome marketing department working 24/7 to provide thrilling content. They are good at Social Media because their stated aim is to be the best service company in the world, they just happen to sell clothing and footwear. When you start with a socially focused goal like that, it’s hard not to be a success in Social Media.

Which brands do you think have focused too much on the platform and not enough on the philosophy?

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Will Facebook Sell Recommendations?

Posted on April 15, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Social Media | Tags: , , , , |

As Facebook continues to evolve it is interesting to note how much attention they have given to the development of the Fan page concept. Originally Fan pages were a very limited, cut down version of the personal page. They had much less functionality and their ability to provide a communications platform was minor.

The recent revisions of Facebook were overshadowed by the new look homepage which met a lot of resistance from users when it was first launched. With all that attention the other changes have been largely overlooked. Fan pages have become identical to the personal page. They can have all of the same content artifacts (pictures, video etc.) they can even be programmed to take other tools through the Facebook Markup Language (FBML).

The latest development which I really took notice of yesterday for the first time was the inclusion of Fan pages in the “People you might know” section. I find this interesting for two reasons, firstly Fan pages arent limited to People, so under People I might know now appear branded products. Secondly, I see this as a move toward monetization of friend recommendations by Facebook.

Here is the current recommendation list for me:

fansuggestionsOf these three, one is a business run by a friend, so that’s fair enough, one is someone I have never heard of and the other is the comedian Chris Rock. A quick google search told me Anthony Robbins is a Life Strategist – who knew? Well apparently someone in my friends circle, or at least that is my assumption. People you might know is usually based on 2nd order friendships, in other words, friends of friends, I actually use this quite a lot as it’s a good reminder of people I want to connect with and haven’t yet. The addition of Fan pages is interesting to me because Brands that have fan pages that friends have become fans of already show up in the righthand sidebar of my homepage. Now they are showing up as “recommendations” – what would a brand pay to appear in that list?

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Is Making Friends Social Engineering?

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Dr. Frankenstein and His Monster

Two sessions at SXSWi that I attended have had me thinking for a few days now. They were seemingly unconnected, one by Brian Brushwood of Scam School and one run by David Armano & Russ Unger on the topic of Friendship is Dead.

The Right Words

It occurs to me that the language that we are using to using to describe friends & friendship has been overtaken by the way in which people employ activities that used to be described by them. The one that, for me, exemplifies this is “making friends”. As children we were encouraged to “make friends” with other children, as adults we are impressed with the ease that some “make friends”.

Whilst the concept is popular, and has a clearly understood meaning, I wonder if it has not been overtaken by the technology now employed by so many to “make friends”. Social Networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace etc. have made Making Friends, easier even for those who were previously lacking in real life social skills. The ability to be physically removed from a situation allows everyone to be more social.

However, are these friendships “made”, are they in fact manufactured rather than grown? I would argue that real friendships are the result of an organic process, not a manufacturing process. The technology that has brought people closer together has also enabled people to employ ever increasing amounts of social engineering to “make friends”. Social Engineering, Transactional Analysis and other behavioral theories cover the same basic principles and when online behavior is compared with these theories there are some obvious correlations.

Influence

There are six generally accepted methods to influence a person’s behavior, liking, reciprocity, authority, scarcity, commitment & social proof. If you map just three of these to behaviors on Twitter for example, and look at what Twitter users see as “good behavior” recommending someone by mentioning them in something like the #followfriday posts or by Retweeting their posts, these actions can be seen to be both acts of liking and acts of reciprocity. When you examine the Twitter ranking tools they all place a high value on these types of activity. These acts of “friendship”.

To become influential on a social network requires not a friendly nature but simply an understanding of social engineering. Guy Kawasaki, in an article in Entrepreneur, talked about how to increase your Twitter followers, one method he recommended was to @reply to A listers (or SMores as he refers to them), not because they would respond but because others would see you in a conversation with them and make the assumption you had a relationship, this is the use of Authority.

There is more to it than Numbers

Of course its easy to read this post as simply me being cynical, and actually I am far from it. My own experience of using Social Networking has been very positive. Facebook allowed me to find old friends and extend relationships with new ones. However, not everyone online is using Social Media with the same intent. Numbers have become increasingly more important, especially as Marketers see the potential in Social Media. Businesses run on numbers, so measuring Influence on the basis of numbers becomes an easy way to identify people worth connecting with. The number of readers a blogger has, the number of followers a Twitter user has.

I argue that these are manufactured, that they are transient, and relate more to popularity in the celebrity sense than they do with Influence. That is not to say that influential Social Media users don’t have large numbers of followers, but there is not necessarily a direct correlation. That is where it becomes really difficult to measure influence.

Friends or Influence

So are we seeking to make lots of friends or are we seeking to increase our sphere of influence? Is the aim to be seen as a friend to all, or to be seen as influential? Is there room for both? Can we “make friends” to increase our sphere of influence and still be geniune?

Image by Dunechaser via Flickr
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Tasting The Rainbow: Skittles & Brand Ownership

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Skittles.

Again this week I am provided with the thoughts for my post by Marketing Profs newsletter – “Get to the point”. Last week it was their coverage of the Cenk Uygur story and his view of the branding issues surrounding Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s.

Today, I was equally amazed to read the following comment in their newsletter, entitled “When the Crowd Attacks”, it tells the story of how Skittles tried to be involved with the Social Media crowd and got their fingers burned, Marketing Profs close the newsletter with the following advice:

What’s the lesson here? Simple: Don’t be afraid to let users help shape your brand, but remember it is still your brand. As in any healthy relationship, sometimes even prospects need a little pushback.

“Your brand”, if it were their brand then why would companies try to court public opinion and why would it apparently impact brand based organizations so heavily?  Just as companies have very little sway over their stock price because the value is controlled by those willing to buy or sell the stock so companies have little or no influence over their brand. Far from being “your brand”, in the world of Social Media, a brand belongs to whoever wishes to use it to exert influence.

A company that thinks they own their brand are likely to face a very sharp wake up call – Motrin anyone? Motrin displayed all the traits of a company that thought it owned its brand, the influential “mommy bloggers” proved them wrong. So did Skittles get their fingers burned by trying to play along with the Social Media crowd? As far as I can see they got some mileage from their campaign and then it ran its course, what they were guilty of was not recognizing the limited life that their campaign has. This is the world of Twitter, blogs & Facebook. It moves at the speed of crowd-thought, which is much faster than most organizations can compete with. In my opinion Skittles did the right thing, they tried something new, different and hopefully they have learned from it. That’s a lot better than many companies who are currently paralyzed trying to work out how to be involved with the “cool kids” at the Social Media party and not end up with a virtual wedgie.

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How To:Get Your Blog in the “A” List

Posted on February 10, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Facebook, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

With Social Media tools being so readily available now it seems that some people are getting very obsessed with ranking tools.

I have written about these several times, Twitter Grader, Twinfluence and Facebook Grader most recently.  I decided to do a little experiment whilst at the same time promoting my blog.

I used the “NetworkedBlogs” application on Facebook to add my friends to my blog network.  Its a very easy tool to use. You simply send an invite to your friend network on Facebook which asks them to join your network. If they do it displays your blog thumbnail on their profile page and adds them to the list of “Fans” for your blog.

It allows you to include a personal message with the invite, which I like to do, emphasizing this is really from me. That it gives the invitee the opportunity to not only see what I am writing but also what I am reading – I currently have 30 or so blogs in my network, so this is a virtual blog bookcase.

One of the things that NetworkedBlogs does in their application is provide a list, by topic of the Top 50 blogs.  My blog appears in the Social Media list.  What I wanted to show with this post is the subjective nature of these types of lists.

Take a look at the screenshot below

Social Media List

Social Media List

You will see that my blog appears immediately above that of Scott Monty, Ford’s Social Media evangelist. WOW, right, my blog is more popular than that of Scott Monty! I have made it, I’m on the “A” list. No more waiting for restaurant reservations or perhaps at least invites to cool parties at SXSWi.

Thankfully, both for me and those who know me, I am a little more grounded than that and a lot more cynical. Of course my blog isnt more popular than Scott’s (btw if you haven’t already started reading it, you really should). What this shows is the small group of blogs that are being measured. I am sure Scott receives thousands of readers a day, my readership is no where near that level.

This is what happens when you take a very small sample of data and extrapolate it to show importance, influence and popularity. Without lying I can state that my blog is now rated as the number 11 blog in Social Media on Facebook. Everyone knows that Facebook has 150 million users ergo I must be popular, influential and important.Don’t get me wrong I am not dissing the NetworkedBlogs application, it has actually brought me several new readers, for which I am always grateful, but in reality I am not in the “A” list, nor anywhere near it. If you would like to join my blog network please do 🙂

So the next time you are impressed by the fact that someone quotes a Social Media “rank” or “Score” dig a little deeper and find out just how that is being measured.

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Social Media Ranking Tools – One Step Beyond?

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Business, Facebook, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently those wacky folks at Hubspot released another of their Grader tools. This one is for Facebook. It joins the others in their stable of Press Release, Website & Twitter.

I like Hubspot, I like some of their tools. I use Press Release & Website Grader as they provide a pretty decent overview of a press release or website and allow you to focus in on the areas that can stand some improvement.  They are great tools for small companies that can’t afford to call in an expensive consultant.

When Twitter Grader came out, I wrote a post about it and did a comparison between it and Twinfluence for Mashable. At the time, I pointed out that this smacked somewhat of a high school popularity contest but that there was some use for it in terms of an approach that can be learned for engaging in Twitter.  When I used Twitter grader there were currently 5000 Twitter users being graded, so whatever grade you achieved it had to be measure against that fact. Right now it measures against just over 1m Twitter users. That seems a reasonable sample, actually its less than 25% of all Twitter users, so even now its real value is limited.

Enter Facebook Grader – this, in my opinion is one tool too many.  Firstly it is even more skewed as it is an early tool and currently is only measuring against just under 7000 Facebook users – that is 0.04% of the Facebook community. So basically the number it produces is, to all intents & purposes meaningless. Now I agree that for some these tools can be seen as “fun”. Sure why not. However, there are those who will take these tools seriously and use them to convince others that they are some kind of Social Media whizz just because they scored XX on one of these sites. Worse still, companies looking for some measure of success might actually start using this as a metric against which to assess their Social Media campaign.

What I do like about Facebook grader, Yes there are somethings, is the fact it analyzes your profile and points out where you have gaps in it.  Perhaps you missed the part on your profile for “Hometown” or “About Me”.  These are good things to point out and are more in line with Press Release Grader & Website Grader. But please take away the numerical score or at least make it relevant to something else.  More to the point, please take away the Facebook “Elite”.  Social Media is not about “Elitism” it is about community. Perpetuating the myth of popularity equaling Elitism is serving no good at all.

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