Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Altimeter Report Provides Facebook Page Guidelines, Benchmarks

In the latest of a series of practical and helpful resources for marketers, Altimeter Group has released a free report entitled The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing.

The report, based on input from 34 industry vendors and consulting agencies, outlines – you guessed it – eight criteria for determining the success of Facebook pages from companies’ perspectives, and in doing so provides a useful set of general guidelines for marketers managing or launching Pages.


 

The report also uses those criteria to evaluate the success of the Facebook pages for 30 well-known brands.


Some key findings:

  • Most of the brands examined did a good job of branding their pages and keeping them updated. However, making them pretty and posting content isn’t always enough.
  • The brands generally did poorly at setting users’ expectations, engaging in two-way dialogue, encouraging peer-to-peer interactions, fostering word-of-mouth and providing calls to action.
  • Most brands neglect to set expectations through guidelines, commenting policies etc. Strangely, Nestle still hasn’t learned its lesson.
  • Most brands hide the identities of the team interacting on Facebook, lowering the “authenticity” of interactions. Brands under fire online fared worst for this.
  • Brands still tend to talk at people, not with them.
  • Few brands deliver direct calls-to-action to fans, thus missing out on opportunities for conversion.

The report also delivers a few recommendations for Facebook page administrators:

  • Put aside your read-only playbook and tap into two-way social marketing
  • Bolster your Facebook pages with applications from third parties
  • Connect the Facebook experience with existing efforts, like your corporate website
  • Measure and analyze based on business goals – not by fans or “likes”
  • Reduce risk: Use the success criteria to analyze your efforts over time

There are a few holes in the report, including a couple of dubious conclusions – I hardly think that not explicitly encouraging peer-to-peer interactions counts as “muzzling” your fans, for example – and a sample size of five per industry is far from sufficient to draw conclusions about entire verticals. Overall, however, Altimeter has released a useful resource for marketers with success criteria, best practices and the case studies for which we are all clamouring nowadays. For those reasons alone, I highly recommend that any communicators using Facebook to reach their audiences download and read this report.

Check out the report, and let’s add to it – what are your best practices?

Why Facebook’s Community Pages Could Give Brands Headaches

A couple of weeks ago I received a worried call from a friend working in PR for a large company. Her opening question went something like:

“What the heck are Community Pages on Facebook, and why is there one for my company?”

Community Pages 101

Facebook’s Community Pages are an initiative from Facebook to create “the best collection of shared knowledge” on a wide variety topics. Right now the content from the pages is pulled from Wikipedia (if available) and from your friends’ updates, so they’re often pretty bare but apparently Facebook plans to enable users to add content in the future. The social network launched roughly 6.5 million of these when they first launched.

In theory these pages should be a good thing for companies. The intent, according to All Facebook, was to take generic topics that aren’t necessarily brand-focused and to create Community Pages for them. Facebook states:

“Generate support for your favorite cause or topic by creating a Community Page. If it become very popular (attracting thousands of fans), it will be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community.”

So, if your Facebook Page falls into “owned media” in our social media ecosystem, Community Pages would fit more into “earned media.”

Over time, Community Pages would reduce the number of errant brand-related pages set up by individuals – a good move from a brand’s perspective. As Christopher Heine at ClickZ wrote, “Big brands that have seen their official Facebook fan numbers hindered by third-party fan pages will likely welcome the move.” The piece also noted that “community pages will indeed help make official brand pages more distinct from third-party pages and groups on the site.”

Causing Headaches for Brands

Here’s the problem, though – alongside generic causes and topics, Facebook has also created Community Pages for many well-known brands. As my friend put it:

“But we already have a Facebook page! What do we do with this?”

Right now, she can’t do anything.

As Facebook states in its FAQs:

“At this time, there is no way for people who choose to connect with a Community Page to add their own pictures or edit the information.”

Many companies have spent time and money building sizeable communities on Facebook through their curated fan pages. Now they’re seeing Facebook roll out yet another form of pages which undermine their efforts. As it it weren’t confusing enough already, we now have:

  • Pages – representing an organization or person
  • Groups – for communities of interest
  • Community pages – theoretically about topics, causes or experiences but seemingly also about brands

These Community Pages also create an additional challenge for companies – they’re a monitoring nightmare. Community Pages are pretty much impossible to monitor effectively, as right now each user only seems to see content posted from their own network. That means everyone sees a unique page driven by their friends.

As if there isn’t enough noise on Facebook already, companies now have to deal with a third wave of pages about their brands – and this time they have absolutely no control over them.

Let’s take Roots, for example (not where my friend works). They’ve created a reasonable-sized community of roughly 14,000 people through their Roots Canada page, and they maintain it regularly. They run contests and promotions, and have a solid level of engagement from “fans” (or whatever we’re calling them now – “likers”?).

However, that page now has to compete with other Community Pages including Roots Canada and Roots. These pages are effectively off-limits for the company, and compete directly with the community the company has already invested in developing.

This isn’t unique to Roots – do the same for Microsoft, for example. When I searched for Microsoft, for example, four of the eight results shown in the drop-down were Community Pages, at the expense of Microsoft’s own pages for students and for Windows 7.

On Control…

Now, I’m of the view that companies don’t “own” their brand – that brands are really the sum total of peoples’ perceptions about the entity in question. This isn’t about that.

I also get that companies don’t “control” their online presence – I work in social media; I actually appreciate the fact that people talk about things that interest or are important to them .  This isn’t about that either.

This is about the world’s largest social network encouraging companies to set up shop on their network and to invest in their presence there, then pulling the rug out from under their feet and launching a new aspect to the network that dilutes the investment for those companies.

It’s funny if you think about it – in the past Facebook would hand over control of fan pages to companies; now they’ve launched a new type of page that’s designed specifically so that brands can’t control them. It’s quite ironic given Facebook’s repeated moves toward enabling businesses to interact more and more with its users.

Managing Risk For Your Community Page

As for my friend and her concern about her company’s new, unsolicited Community Page, I had limited advice to offer. Most of the content, at least initially, is pulled from sources out of the company’s control, so I really only had two recommendations:

  1. Keep a close eye on your Wikipedia page – your company’s information is pulled from there, so brand-jacking efforts may shift there even more if Community Pages take off.
  2. Enter your company’s official website if it isn’t already included on the page – Facebook lets you enter that, at least.
  3. Pay even closer attention to monitoring other social sites. Facebook still offers no effective way to monitor your brand; however as more and more Facebook content is made available on the wider web, you may see more spill-over if an issue does bubble up, and these pages make it more important than ever to catch those issues when they do.
  4. Prepare in advance for how you’ll react if a crisis does emerge. How will you decide whether to respond? Where will you respond? How? Who will do it? Picture Nestle’s recent Facebook issues but in a forum where, even if you wanted to respond, you couldn’t.

What do you think? Is this move good or bad for marketers, and what other tips would you offer to help organizations manage their Community Pages?

Social Gaming Hitting A New Level

Xbox LiveLast week, Microsoft rolled out a new update to its Xbox 360 dashboard. Among other changes, the update added Twitter and Facebook functionality to “Gold” users of its service. CNET tells us that “millions” are already using these new services.

The new add-ons allow users to do the usual things that you would expect to do with Twitter and Facebook – browse profiles, tweet, etc, but they also do one very important and very powerful thing, too:

They allow you to see which of your friends on these services are using Xbox Live.

Why is this a big deal? Because, if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of logging on to spend a few minutes playing your favourite game online and being confronted with a bunch of kids yelling vile insults at you. Thanks to those types, I rarely (read: never) play online with people I don’t know.

The problem with that philosophy, though, is that it can be hard to find which of your friends uses the Xbox Live service, leaving the online experience feeling somewhat empty. With these new features, you can scan your Twitter follower and Facebook friends lists to find your fellow gamers, and quickly and easily connect to them.

It’s another step in the merging of social media and social networking into the things we already do online.

  • Mass media websites have incorporated social media tools such as RSS and commenting for a while;
  • Movie producers have used social media features during movie and DVD launches (Fight Club is a great example);
  • Now, social media is further encroaching on one of the largest entertainment industries around – computer gaming.

My bet: in a couple of years, this kind of feature will be so ingrained that people won’t think of it as a “social media” feature – it’ll just be a given when they turn on their console.

What do you think?

Youth Vs Adults: Strong Ties/Weak Networks

The kids are all about social media. They’re publishing content, streaming video and Twittering wildly. Right?

Wrong.

Just as social media practitioners use and view these tools differently to the general population, we need to remember that young people use these tools differently to us. They’re informed about the tools but while they’re highly active online, we we can’t just assume that “social media tools” are the way to reach them.

Young people ≠ adults

This weekend I attended the inaugural PodCamp London in southern Ontario where Jonathan Kochis ran a fascinating session on Youth, Social Media and the Web, running through some key research around the ways young people use social media. 

A few key points of difference between young people and adults:

  • 88 per cent of teens have participated in online social activity, however their use is driven by friendship and existing connections.
  • Many adults use social media tools to organize events; to build their networks; to promote themselves or their work. Teens don’t care about any of those uses.
  • Teens skew towards MySpace and Facebook. Tools like LinkedIn (business networking) and Twitter skew much older.
  • Young people can see Twitter as Facebook’s news feed with most of the features stripped out. As a result, few teens use it.
  • Tools like LinkedIn and Twitter require an investment in time to gain gratification (establishing a network, creating value for others, delayed rewards). Meanwhile, teens look for instant gratification.

Talking with Jonathan and others after the session, I reflected that much of the difference in perspective, along with these other factors, comes down to the nature of our networks.

Professional adults (successful ones, anyway) look to build their networks. They’re constantly meeting new people, learning, and sharing knowledge. We develop new connections all the time, but many of these are loose – passing meetings at a conference, conversations at parties, conversations over coffee or dinner. Over time we work to make some become stronger, but most remain loose. We have what I call “thin networks.”

Young people, meanwhile, don’t care about developing a “network.” They care about their friends – what they are doing, where they are, what they’re planning to do at the weekend. They have a small network, built on existing relationships and full of strong ties.

Twitter ≠ Facebook

This may explain why Twitter skews much older than Facebook.

Of course, Facebook started with the university crowd which explains part of the younger skew, but it also allows more in-depth connection with people. You can see everything your friends are doing – the events they’re attending, the photos they’re posting, the videos they’re watching and the people they’re talking to.

Twitter, meanwhile, is much more transitory. Conversations come and go, as do connections (it’s much easier to follow someone on Twitter than to add a friend on Facebook). It’s very top-level and, on the surface, one-dimensional (just short messages; no multimedia aside from links to it). For people with small networks who are already closely connected to their friends, Twitter doesn’t (currently) solve a problem. 

This isn’t a bad thing. What’s more, it’s certainly not a universal picture – there are certainly plenty of young people using Twitter. However, in general, I think it’s a useful reminder for us that “we” are not “they” and we can’t generalize our use of social media tools to the broader population.

So what?

Why should public relations pros and marketers care about this?

Because it has a clear and important effect on our communications programs. Twitter may be taking over the world, but only in some demographics. Meanwhile, if you’re trying to reach young people through Twitter or through an approach relying on volume of connections rather than quality of connections, you may be disappointed.

What other differences do you see between young peoples’ and adults’ use of social media?

(Side note: congratulations to Bill, Will, Titus and everyone else involved in PodCamp London. Great job, guys)

Don’t Like What You See? Fix It

Over the last little while I’ve seen numerous people complaining about how some social media tools are becoming “too mainstream” for their liking. For them, as more and more people join services like Facebook and Twitter, they lose their relevance and usefulness.

My response: Social media tools are opt-in, so if you don’t like what you see, fix it.

Recently, I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the high volume of automated Alltop tweets in Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter stream… so I don’t follow him. It’s nothing personal; just me controlling what I want to see in my stream. You can apply a similar principle across your social media toolkit. You don’t need to bail completely out of using these tools just because of the way people are using them.

  • If you don’t like the large number of new people signing up for Twitter, don’t follow them.
  • If your Twitter stream is too populated for your liking, cull it.
  • If you don’t want to connect to that long-lost high-school boyfriend/girlfriend on Facebook, don’t.
  • If someone’s blog has shifted focus and you no longer like it, don’t subscribe.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give feedback to others, or that other people should disregard that feedback. That’s still important.

It does mean that you have the power to control your online experience… so quit complaining and do it.

Objectives First

A while back I wrote a series of posts on communications planning. One of the most popular posts within that series, which still gets a few hundred views per week, was on one on setting communications objectives. As I said at the time:

“As the old saying goes, you need to know where you’re going before you can know how to get there.”

Fast forward to this week, when Skittles re-launched their website with a completely new structure drawn almost entirely from other social media sites:

Naturally the bloggerati took notice, and began passing judgement on the website. The topic quickly shot to the list of top “trending” words on Twitter. While I was bemused that Skittles didn’t seem to be engaging on Twitter despite using the service on its site (Twitter.com/skittles is currently a locked personal account with very little activity), aside from that I tried to refrain from commenting on the effort itself.

Why?

Because we don’t know their objectives. All of the people ripping into this site are doing so with no clue what Skittles was trying to achieve.

  • Is it a short-term effort to kick-start buzz and discussion online?
  • Is it an attempt to position a 35 year-old brand as youthful?
  • Is it to simply raise awareness of the product?
  • Is it a genuine attempt to embrace social media?

We just don’t know.

While I’ve fallen into the trap of evaluating communications efforts in the past without knowing all of the information, this time I’m holding off.

To everyone else out there, who seem to know for sure that the site is a huge success/failure, I say:

“Do you have any idea what equals success in this project for the Skittles brand?”

Social Media Isn’t Anti-Social

Someone suggested to me recently that social media people are, well, anti-social. That they seem to spend all their time in their parents’ basements, and that they have no social life.

Really?

Last night – a Monday night, I might add – I watched 650 social media “nerds” cram into a nightclub in Toronto for the HoHoTO christmas party, to support the Daily Bread Food Bank.

When telephones first became common, I have no doubt that many people thought of them as anti-social. I’m sure they asked, “what’s wrong with just talking face-to-face?”

Now, people are saying the same thing when comparing the telephone to social media.

Just as before, they’re wrong.

Social media doesn’t reduce your connections; it increases them.

Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of social media users who spend way too much time in front of the computer. There are way more, though, who use these tools to supplement them.

Here are just a few ways that social media can make your life more social, not less:

  1. Enabling disparate people to organize events like HoHoTO or Third Tuesday Toronto with tools like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr;
  2. Letting geographically separated people stay in touch via multiple media with blogs and social networks like Facebook;
  3. Strengthening professional networks with tools like LinkedIn;
  4. Reduce the time you need to learn from others in your professional path or with your own interests, with RSS readers like Google Reader;
  5. Talk via audio or video with people around the world, with tools like Seesmic, Utterli, Skype and Oovoo
  6. Find new people who share your interests with tools like Facebook Groups, Meetup and Twitter.

I’ve referred to tools in each of these examples, but let’s look at what these examples are really all about:

  1. Organizing social events
  2. Staying in touch
  3. Building your network
  4. Learning from others
  5. Connecting with people around the world
  6. Making new friends

Anti-social, huh?

(On a related note, a huge thank you to all the people who used social media tools – and telephones – to pull together the HoHoTO event. What a huge success, and an amazing feat. You should all be very proud)

Which Sites Are You Deeply Engaged With?

Last month, Yahoo and ComScore released the results of a joint research project which showed that our of an average of 85 websites that people visit each month, people are really only “deeply engaged” with about 1.5 of them.

Stopwatch The article got me thinking about the sites that I am really engaged with; the sites which I visit almost every day and on which I spend most of my online time.

I’m a little more active online than the ‘average’ person – I can think of five sites with which I consider myself “deeply engaged”:

  1. Google – without doubt, this is one of the sites I use the most. If Google didn’t function properly one day… well, I’d use another search engine… but aside from that I’d be quite put out.
  2. Twitter – whether I’m on the site itself (which I do with increasing frequency as I continue to have problems with Twitter’s API limits) or accessing the service through a desktop or mobile application, I probably use Twitter more frequently than any web service other than Google.
  3. Google Reader – usually the first website I check each day – I do still scan mainstream newspaper sites, but I pull most of my reading material into Google Reader. I spend more time actively using this site than any other.
  4. Facebook – I’m getting back into Facebook as time goes on and I increasingly look to use social media tools to keep in touch with my non-techy friends. Most of them use Facebook so I can still be a geek while staying in touch with them.
  5. Delicious – as with Twitter, I often interact with delicious in irregular ways (usually via the Firefox extension). However, I use it multiple times every day, whether I’m adding to my 1,000+ bookmarks or pulling resources out of them. I use it to track media coverage, to compile my reading lists, to save resources… the list goes on.

Does this resonate with you? Which sites are you really, deeply, engaged with?

(Image credit: Daino_16)