Archive for 2010

Live-Blogging Mesh Marketing #mm10

Edelman (my employer) is a long-time sponsor of Mesh and Mesh Marketing.

As part of our activities for Mesh Marketing, our team is using ScribbleLive to live-blog the event for people who couldn’t be there.

Here’s the feed:

A Closer Look At The New Radian6 Engagement Console Features

Earlier this week I posted a review of some new features Radian6 has incorporated into its online dashboard. Today we’ll take a look at some additions rolled-out to their Engagement Console tool.

The changes to functionality are four-fold:

  1. Extensibility
  2. User roles and permissions
  3. Improved search functionality
  4. Shared macros

Extensibility

The latest version of the console allows developers to build new extensions into the console through the Engagement Console API. This might take the form of additional commands, built-in searches, or web pages pulled into new windows.

User roles and permissions

One of the new changes I touched on in the last post was the addition of “Super User” roles. Super users have an additional screen in Radian6′s online dashboard where they can see users and profiles, and edit each.

The inclusion of Super User functionality in the Engagement Console brings with it the ability to define “workspaces” and “permissions” for other users.

Workspaces

Workspaces are the areas where the stacks (columns) in the consoles are displayed. Super Users can set the base Workspaces for sets of users so, for example, certain users would always see certain topic profiles in their console.

Permissions

Permissions let you control how the console is configured for other users. As Ryan Strynatka, Director of Product Management, put it to me:

“You can turn various components and capabilities on and off.  For example, want to remove the ability to launch a personal FB stack and restrict the ability to respond on Twitter stacks – you can now do that.  In fact, you can completely pare down the EC you so that it looks and feels more like a desktop widget – just content flowing in without workflow capabilities and so forth.  In the Agency world, this might be interesting for routing content to customers.”

Improved search functionality

The new console incorporates three new elements into the existing search functionality:

  1. Creation of topic stacks by keyword group: allowing more targeted search results to be displayed (you could, for example, focus in on company and brand mentions rather than broader industry conversation).
  2. Filtering of search results by custom date: a very useful feature, especially for people working on social media audits and reports after the fact – in the past the lack of this feature rendered the console largely unusable for this purpose.
  3. Twitter profile search: Improved integration with Twitter allows you to quickly search for Twitter user names and have user profiles pop up within the console. Useful for folks engaged in real-time monitoring.

Macro sharing

Right from the beta version of the Engagement Console, the inclusion of easy-to-create macros has been a winning feature, allowing users to easily recreate previously time-consuming tasks, and apply them to multiple posts, with the click of a button.

With the new version of the console, you can now share your macros with other members of your team, or with members of specific projects – bringing a new element of consistency to macros which might otherwise be intimidating for less-advanced users.

Summary

When I first reviewed the Engagement Console earlier this year, it provided an excellent tool for engagement from an end-user perspective. These recent changes add additional benefits from the user side, but also from an enterprise viewpoint.

All-in-all, this is a very useful set of changes. Combined with the enhancements to the Radian6 dashboard, this represents a useful step forward for Radian6 which benefits both end users and enterprise administrators alike.

What would you like to see?

The Radian6 team will undoubtedly keep rolling-out adjustments over time. So, what other changes would you like to see?

Digging-in to the new Radian6 Dashboard Improvements

Last week, Radian6 announced a whole raft of improvements to their platform and to their engagement console. Our team uses Radian6 for many clients, and I’ve used the tool for several years now, so I thought I’d take some time to dig into the updates and distill the key improvements for you.

This time around: changes to the Radian6 dashboard.

Key Changes

  • Refresh button
  • Keyword proximity searches
  • Enhanced query support
  • Better special character support
  • Percentage change analysis
  • Quick search function
  • Super user functionality
  • Google Analytics integration
  • Enhanced security

Here’s what they mean to you…

Refresh Button

This feature – a really simple one – is one I’ve been asking for for months now. Nothing flashy; just the ability to refresh widgets by hitting a button instead of waiting for the next refresh or going into the widget settings, toggling a setting then coming back out. Yes, it should have been there already. Yes, I’m happy that it’s there now.

Keyword Proximity Searches

Proximity searching is a logical addition to solve the problem of irrelevant and spam search results. A “proximity slider” lets you choose the maximum distance that can separate your keywords, up to a maximum of 20 words.

Enhanced Queries

Radian6′s lack of boolean or boolean-esque support has been a pain point for me over the last few years. As a result, creating queries has been a time-consuming beast. The latest update simplifies things – instead of creating:

  • Term A AND Term B; or
  • Term A AND Term C; or
  • Term A AND Term D

you can instead easily create the equivalent of:

  • Term A AND (Term B OR Term C OR Term D)

Better Character Support

47 additional special characters are now recognized. The main implication: you can specifically identify @replies and hashtags; especially useful when searching for a hashtag that may double as a regular word.

Percentage Change Analysis

In a nod to people using Radian6 to produce regular reports, you can now include a comparison of time periods within your topic analysis widgets.

Quick Search Function

Radian6′s new ‘quick search’ functionality lets you both filter your existing River of News widgets quickly, and quickly create new widgets from the left-hand sidebar. Useful for following a hunch around emerging conversation trends.

Other changes:

  • Super Users – power users who can set other users’ permissions (from read-only accounts to folks with full) and create new accounts.
  • Google Analytics – adding Google Analytics to the suite of integrations that Radian6 enables. Given the number of sites that use Google Analytics, this could be helpful for many companies.
  • Enhanced Security – SSL-enabled login.

Conclusion

Overall, this is an excellent set of new features from Radian6. There’s nothing ground-breaking in here, but for regular users of the dashboard, there are a host of features that should make their lives incrementally easier.

In particular, the query improvements and user administration enhancements should make those overseeing monitoring accounts happy. Meanwhile, the special character recognition, refresh button, percentage change analysis and quick searches will help those using the system on a day-to-basis.

(Coming soon: a look at the changes to the Radian6 engagement console)

Cooks Source: How to Avoid an Unnecessary Crisis

Situation:

When food writer Monica Gaudio discovered that Cooks Source magazine had lifted an article she’d written and printed it in the magazine, she emailed the magazine to inquire about how it had come about. When the editor of the magazine asked what she wanted, Gaudio told the. she wanted an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia Journalism School as compensation.

Instead, she got this:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

The response when Gaudio posted this email was jaw-dropping. Thousands of people posted comments to the Cooks Source Facebook page, which went from a couple of hundred fans to three and a half thousand “fans” over the next two days. These comments rapidly turned from general outrage to quite offensive mockery. Commenters also began to review other content on the site, only to find it had been taken from sources such as NPR, Martha Stewart and the Food Network.

Discussion of Cooks Source Sources on Facebook

To make things worse, the editor of the magazine began to post both defensive and aggressive comments on the page, including some that were downright rude, at one point referring to a commenter as “dumbass.”

The magazine tried abandoning the old page and moving to a new one, saying that the old one had been “hacked” (in fact it appears to just have been regular commenters) but the crowd followed them to the new page, despite their setting of the page’s default to just show posts by the page administrator.

Old page:

New Page:

The uproar has done more than just mire the reputation and Facebook page of the magazine; it has also cost them advertisers as some have apparently pulled their ads in protest. It also turned into a mainstream media story as numerous outlets (including the Washington Post and the Guardian) picked-up on the controversy.

Analysis:

Cooks Source has provided us with a textbook case study of how not to manage an emerging issue, from both a non-digital and digital perspective. However, five simple steps could have managed this issue down before the crisis unfolded.

This issue could have been easily managed – the aggrieved party simply asked for an apology and a small donation – but the response to the issue turned it into a full-blown crisis that has advertisers bailing from the magazine. Still, even though their original Facebook page has been rendered unusable by irate commenters, the community manager is still posting aggressive, combative posts on the new page… and getting the same reaction as before.

There are several simple steps companies can take toward avoiding this kind of situation:

  1. Ensure your business practices are legal to begin with – in this case, don’t plagiarize (lesson: some things can’t be fixed by PR or digital).
  2. Develop a moderation policy for your social media properties, so you have something to point to if you are faced with offensive comments.
  3. Ensure everyone is educated around both general and social media-focused employee policies. Proper training and pre-existing rules of engagement should have prevented both the initial email and the ensuring negative online spiral.
  4. Avoid aggressive or defensive responses – both in email and on digital properties. In this case, the issue may have been solved with an initial email reply that apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again. Instead, an aggressive and clearly inaccurate email provoked a virtual storm. Furthermore, the conduct of the magazine’s editor on the Facebook page ensured the situation went from bad to worse.
  5. Know when you can’t win the battle – don’t dig yourself into even worse trouble by trying to win the battle, and in doing so lose the war. Know when to disengage from the back-and-forth and stick to stand-alone statements rather than trying to win the argument.

What would you add?

5 Take-Aways on Social Media and Politics

Discussion around my recent post on some alleged unethical social media use during Toronto’s mayoral election got me thinking around some broader topics that have emerged recently.

Without further ado, here are five thoughts on themes I’ve seen recently.

1. People who try to tie social media success or failure alone to campaign results are nuts

I’ve said it many times, communications is evolving away from silos and towards integrated campaigns. As this continues, we’ll see fewer and fewer stand-alone “social media” successes and more and more multi-channel successes – for example, owned properties supported by earned media, paid ads and social channels.

People who continue to produce analyses of whether social media drove the success of a candidate, or whether better social media would have improved the odds of a candidate, are missing the bigger picture. We should be looking at the overall communications approaches of campaigns, and how they communicate the selling points of candidates and parties.

Take-away: Consider the bigger picture rather than analyzing artificial silos.

2. Buzz is very different to mobilization

The volume of online chatter about a candidate may say something about candidates, but is very, very different to activating those people to take action. The fact that people are discussing something doesn’t mean they are going to do anything about it. That’s especially the case when the online discussion is passive – that is, that it’s happening about offline activities but isn’t backed-up with online engagement or a call to action.

Take-away: Share of voice is only one metric. Look at other metrics alongside it, and analyse those metrics to provide useful insights and recommendations.

3. Social media doesn’t reach everyone

…and neither does the Globe and Mail. Neither does cable news. That’s why organizations – political and non-political – need to adopt communications approaches that integrate multiple media to reach people, multiple times, with consistent, simple and compelling content.

Take-away: Bring marketing, media and PR together to create integrated plans for optimum results.

4. Crises CAN emerge online

Crisis communications is a fascinating topic nowadays. There are plenty of scenarios where a situation can emerge online and translate into a critical election issue. For that reason it’s critical that organizations monitor online channels – and not just about themselves, but about their key issues – on an ongoing basis to identify issues early and provide additional time to mitigate them.

Take-away: Monitor before issues emerge, rather than after they hit, to create additional opportunities for issues management.

5. Communications can only solve so much

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Communications can’t solve everything. If your policies are poor, good communications won’t help. If your product or service is poor, or your customer service is awful, good communications is likely to draw more peoples’ attention to that.

Yes, poor communications can ruin even the best policies – the best policy in the world is no use in a campaign if no-one understands it or knows about it – but communications can only do so much.

Take-away: Make sure the underlying fundamentals are good before pointing the finger at communications.

Unethical Social Media at its Worst: Rob Ford’s Fake Twitter Account

The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, CTV, the Torontoist and blogTO all ran stories in the last day, alleging that staff of Toronto’s newly-annointed mayor elect, Rob Ford, used a fake Twitter account to deceive a voter into handing over incriminating materials during the campaign.

According to the reports, Ford was recorded offering to buy prescription painkillers on the street for a voter suffering from fybromyalgia, and tapes of the call were sent to the Toronto Star.

According to blogTO:

“In fear that the Star would release the information, Nick Kouvalis, a key Ford campaign member, tasked Macdonald with getting a handle on the situation. According to Maclean’s, “Kouvalis pulled aside Fraser Macdonald, the team’s 24-year-old deputy communications director–whose prior political experience consisted largely of his involvement in a model parliament club at Queen’s University–and told him to ‘do everything you can to get that tape….’”

Fraser Macdonald allegedly established a fake Twitter account (@QueensQuayKaren), with a bio that claimed ‘Karen’ was a “downtown Toronto gal who likes politics, my cat Mittens, and a good book,” and pretended to be a supporter of rival candidate George Smitherman. They allege he then befriended the person who made the tapes in order to get a copy. After receiving the tape, the campaign leaked it to the Ford-friendly Toronto Sun themselves, rather than having the less friendly Star release it at a time when it could be more damaging.

The fake Twitter account then continued its activity under the guise of being a supporter of rival candidate George Smitherman for the remainder of the campaign, posting messages including:

“I can see Ford’s appeal. I don’t agree with him on everything, but the man speaks the truth. George needs to improve on that.”
“@ThomsonTO that bitchy attitude sure got you far, Sarah [a rival candidate]. It’s funny that I once respected you. Now you’re just a total embarrassment”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the account was deleted shortly after the mainstream media caught wind of the deception. Fortunately, the Torontoist captured all of the tweets from the account beforehand prior to this happening. You can see them in their entirety here.

As a digitial communicator, I find myself actually getting angry when I think about this kind of tactic. I have no issues with the way the campaign leaked the tape once they had it, but the way they allegedly went about getting it is just disgusting.

Let’s go over this again – according to these reports, Rob Ford’s staff:

  1. Set up a fake account pretending to support the other candidate
  2. Mislead a voter into handing over incriminating material to them

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Macdonald actually gloated publicly about the stories today, telling people to get over it:

Is this the kind of behaviour we should expect from our elected officials or their staff? As Dave Jones and John Leschinski pointed out, political campaigns have for a long time populated the Letters to the Editor sections of newspapers with letters under false names. Similarly, cynics will point out that politicians of all stripes have broken promises.

Consider: companies have been hung out to dry for years for this kind of deceptive behaviour when the consequences are far less substantial.

This isn’t just about politics. I don’t care which side of the political spectrum people fall; deceptive and deceitful tactics should be out of bounds. Given the uber-high standard to which we hold companies in the social space, I would hope that people would consider this kind of behaviour to be just as despicable.

If this is the kind of behaviour that is considered normal for the people we trust to run our governments, then our moral compasses are pointed in entirely the wrong direction.

I’m not sure if the City of Toronto’s code of conduct for council members technically applies during an election, or if the city’s Integrity Commissioner has jurisdiction over the actions of the staff of election candidates, but if either applies then I’d hope that this isn’t the last we hear of this.

Facebook Strategies: Content Over Creative

Are you focusing your Facebook investment in the right place?

The immensely smart Jay Baer directed my attention to research conducted by Jeff Widman of Brand Glue, who found that 99.5% of comments on his clients’ status updates come from peoples’ newsfeeds, not from the pages themselves.

Interesting, right? As Jay notes, this means that a lot of effort which is expended on customizing fan pages on Facebook is, frankly, wasted.

The first time that people come to your page is absolutely the most critical. They’re not going to keep coming back for the sake of coming back. So, your job #1 as a steward of your brand’s Facebook page is to draw people to your page and maximize your conversion rate of visits to “likes.” Beyond that point, investment in “ongoing” features for pages may be money down the drain.

The continued rise of Facebook community managers

This shines the light firmly on community managers as the key to Facebook success for brands. As with so many other aspects of social media, it’s not all about having a flashy, creative, well-designed page layout. It’s not about dazzling people with creative gadgets. Success on Facebook depends on companies  providing interesting, valuable content that engages people through their home base on Facebook.

Facebook itself doesn’t make things easy for brands. Well, to be more specific, it doesn’t make things easy for brands who provide mediocre content. You see, Facebook doesn’t treat all content equally. The site uses an algorithm to prioritize content based on both recency and on engagement with that content. The key, then, with Facebook content, is to ensure that the things you’re posting actually drives people to interact with it rather than passively consume it. To do the latter is to ensure that the content appears in few peoples’ streams and is soon relegated to just appearing on your wall for the 0.5% of people who may interact there.

This isn’t universally true, of course. Specific initiatives can draw people to engage directly on your page (contests, for example). However, that kind of interaction isn’t sustainable from either side of the equation.

The rise of spacial marketing

My colleague Steve Rubel has begun to talk recently about a new dimension we need to add to our digital engagement: time. In an age of Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds, it’s no longer enough to post the right content in the right place. We need to post it at the right time, too.

Mashable yesterday featured research conducted by Vitrue into the days and times that Facebook users are most active. As they summarize:

  • The three biggest usage spikes tend to occur on weekdays at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • The biggest spike occurs at 3:00 p.m. ET on weekdays.
  • Weekday usage is pretty steady, however Wednesday at 3:00 pm ET is consistently the busiest period.
  • Fans are less active on Sunday compared to all other days of the week.

To maximize our effectiveness, we need to take data like this and optimize our timing even further to reflect the activity pattern of our own community.

Shift your budget

The bottom line is that many marketers on Facebook are paying insufficient attention to content design while paying undue attention to creative design. While look and feel does matter, instead of spending the bulk of your budget on custom design and widgets, consider splitting that budget differently, with more of a focus on:

  • Converting people from visitors to fans – optimize your page; use tools like Kontagent to test and tweak your apps to get the best possible results
  • Effective community management – generating genuinely useful content and interacting with people in the community over the long term, and driving towards your objectives

Do you agree? How do you approach your Facebook activity?

Win a Ticket to The Art of Management in Toronto

We’re well into the Fall conference season now, and there are some great events coming up in Canada – UnGeeked Toronto (this week) and Mesh Marketing (which Edelman sponsors) are two great examples.

Another conference that caught my eye is the Art of Management – a conference focused on management and innovation, rather than my usual marketing niche – on November 15.

The organizers of the conference have provided me with two tickets, worth $399 each, to give away to readers of this site. To enter, leave a comment on this post with a link to a blog post by someone else that you think we should all read, and tell us why it’s so interesting by 11:59pm next Thursday (November 4). I’ll randomly pick the two winners.

The event has an amazing line-up:

  • Malcolm Gladwell – best-selling author of Outliers, Tipping Point, Blink etc
  • Michael Eisner – former CEO, Walt Disney Company and author of Working Together
  • Simon Sinek – Professor at Columbia University and author of Start With Why
  • Nilofer Merchant – CEO & Chief Strategist of Rubicon and author of The New How
  • Mitch Joel – President of Twist Image and author of Six Pixels of Separation

In case you need convincing about the conference, here’s what Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, had to say about last year’s management program:

(Note: the conference is in Toronto. You’ll be responsible for any travel and accommodation costs associated with getting there)

Book Review: Accidental Genius, by Mark Levy

When I first received an email from Beth Harte, asking if I’d be interested in checking out a book on writing, I have to say I hesitated. However, having now finished Mark Levy‘s Accidental Genius, I have to say it’s proven to be one of the most compelling reads so far this year.

Accidental Genius focuses on the art of free-writing – freeing your writing by letting your mind run rampant while you’re writing whatever it is you’re working on. Free-writing is effectively focused around removing the roadblocks you have to your writing by forcing you to write continuously, wherever your mind takes you.
I’m actually using a lot of the lessons from reading Levy’s book while writing this review – as I write, I’m letting my mind wander over the book, what I learned from it and the reasons you might want to check it out (of course, I’m also going back over it later – now – and editing). So, as I write this my fingers can barely keep up with my thoughts and I’m going all over the place, while Toronto’s municipal election results blare on in the background.

Levy’s book walks the reader through a series of incremental steps as it introduces you to the concept of freewriting. Each chapter is relatively short – just a few pages, and the book itself is only just over 160 pages, so it’s a relatively quick read.

The book is divided roughly into thirds in terms of content focus – the first third introduces you to the basic concept of freewriting – how to go about it, why it’s useful and what you may be able to get out of it. The middle portion of the book focuses on additional tools to help you make use of the skill – things like prompts, games to play to free your mind from barriers and so on. The final section looks more at putting the skills into practice, and helping others to benefit from them.

To my surprise, Levy’s focus isn’t just on improving your writing, although that’s certainly a large part of it. Accidental Genius also shows how you can apply this skill to reveal more creative solutions to problems, and how businesses may take advantage of freewriting exercises to reveal creative ideas.

I mentioned that this is one of the more compelling reads I’ve had recently, and it’s frankly the only one I already find myself putting into practice. Instead of censoring myself as I write, I now allow my thoughts to wander a bit and then go back and edit later. It’s made writing much less stressful for me, and has resulted in blog posts and presentations taking far less time to prepare.

I find myself consciously turning to the lessons I’ve learned from the book, and that’s something that I can’t say about many other books I’ve read this year.

(Thanks to Beth Harte for the connection, and to Mark for providing the review copy)

Trust (or Lack of it) and One-Way Social Media

Last week I wrote about the biggest challenge digital communicators face. However, it’s far from the only one; in fact it’s one of many. One of the big emerging challenges right now is that, after a few years of PR agencies leading the way, we’re seeing advertising agencies throw their hats into the ring for social media in a serious way.

As I’ve said before, I do think PR agencies can learn a lot from ad agencies, especially around scale and creativity. However, one area where I believe we’re strong, as I’ve heard Shel Holtz say before, is in the area of relationships, which we think of as “our turf.”

Ad agencies, to generalize, often come up with big ideas but they’re often based around one-way “push” messages, rather than dialogue (in fitting with the short-term quarterly campaign-based model of thinking that I’ve discussed recently). The campaigns that do solicit feedback rather than action, do so in a superficial way (contests, for example), rather than in a way that reflects genuine engagement and relationship-building (Dell IdeaStorm, MyStarbucksIdea, for example (Starbucks is an Edelman client).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve done a fair amount of thinking about Edelman’s Trust Barometer survey and how the results speak to some of the challenges that PR agencies currently face. The 2010 Trust Barometer results speak clearly to the implications of this approach.

While trust in digital communications is now up to the point of other media (people trust search engines more than corporate communications nowadays, for example), a one-way approach is perhaps the least suited to building trust with companies’ stakeholders. The results show that one-way uses of social media actually marry two of the least-trusted sources of information – advertising and company sites (this is consistent with Forrester’s take on the strengths and weaknesses of different media). They then layer that on top of social media which, while gaining in credibility, is still not credible as a source on its own.

The picture we’re left with is a complicated one. How do you work academics, experts or analysts, for example, into consumer-focused promotional activities?

It’s hard, especially as, for many, social media is still seen as kids in their basements watching YouTube videos. My take on this is three-fold:

  1. Social networking sites, in general, are populated by people with whom we have no connection. We’re more likely to trust people we do know, rather than an abstract “crowd” on Facebook (for example).
  2. These sites are still new, and while they’re increasing in relevance (hence more journalists using them as sources) they still have some way to go.
  3. For social sites to be trust-worthy, we need to move beyond just creating a presence on the sites and to focus on providing useful content from credible sources and building relationships over the longer term.

That’s why I think our approach to digital engagement is one that works, and one of the reasons that I think that social corporate communications is going to be a fascinating area over the next few years as companies figure out how to reach people in ways that build trust as well as attention. It’s also another signal that communicators’ jobs now, perhaps more than ever, revolve around reaching people with multiple sources of information – it’s an “and” world, not an “or” world.

Do you agree?

(Image: Edelman’s 2010 Trust Barometer)