Category Archives: Facebook

Google social search and Twitter: natural bedfellows?

Google has now officially rolled out the latest iteration of its social search which includes much tighter integration between social elements and what the big search giant is commonly known for uncovering: web pages.

Google has been displaying results from social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and its own Buzz in its search results pages, but these were typically segmented out at the bottom of the page.

With the latest update, these are now intermingled with other page results:

(see the first and third result)

The New York Times points out benefits, such as seeing links to pictures from your friend who recently went to Mexico when performing holiday searches for that same destination.

I’m not convinced this will hit such mainstream applications for one reason. There’s a big elephant that is still not in the room: Facebook.

Let’s face it, this is where most of the sharing happens. According to recent reports, we’re talking about 100 million photos a day that just wouldn’t make it into the Google search result pages. Going back to the New York Times example, there’s a big chance that Facebook is where those Mexico pictures would have been posted, so they’ll never make it to the Google search results page.

What kind of results will show up? Areas where Twitter is particularly strong: news (as the recent events in Egypt made clear), technical information (eg. the code samples and tips often searched for by developers), and location-based searches that could show up results from Foursquare, Gowalla and other similar services from local searches.

At the individual level, those who stand to gain are those who have built up a following by sharing content – the curators. (A by-product of social search could be an increase in SEOs employing Twitter curation/syndication models). It will also help breakdown the time zone barrier that has long segmented the Twitter crowd: if you post a Tweet at lunchtime in London, it will be pushed way out of my Twitter feed by the time I wake up in San Francisco. However, if you happen to be in my network, I could see your tweets show up in my search results, even weeks after the tweet.

If these social results start showing up in a larger number of searches, this is obviously a boon for Twitter (as well as the other networks Google features). It’s effectively a free SEO boost.

And what could be construed as a snub to Facebook.

The fight for content from each other’s network has been pretty public. Will this be enough pressure from Google to force Facebook’s hand into releasing its well-guarded trove of user activity data?

That remains to be seen. One potential issue of adoption is that Google social search is heavily tied to Google Profiles and the search giant still has some way to go to make these as visible and user-friendly as other services out there (um, Facebook springs to mind).

Still, go ahead and hook up your Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube accounts to your Google profile and try social search for yourself.

Social media is no longer disruptive (Social Media Week SF Breakfast)

So, looks like I managed to bookend social media week in San Francisco catching the PeopleBrowsr event on the first day, and today, one of the final sessions with headliner Shel Israel. I’m sure there’s no need for introduction, but just in case.

An interesting takeaway for me was Shel’s statement that ‘social media is no longer disruptive… it’s in the process of normalization’. What does that normalization look like? Facebook and Twitter buttons are on the website of almost every major brand out there. It also means many companies now have a dedicated person performing some form of social media management role – generally spawned out of the marketing or comms department (although potentially covering much more than that).

Shel mentioned how brands like Dell and Best Buy are hiring journalists to come into the organization and report what they see. As the other Shel present (Holtz) emphasized to me, this is significantly different from journalists jumping over the fence and becoming PR professionals. This is journalists independently reporting about what they see within an organization (kind of like when a journalist team embed themselves in an army unit during conflict, but without the need for body armor).

Shel Israel also described how companies (including IBM) are using social media to inform product development. Upcoming features and betas are shared with users prior to general release. As Shel points out, amongst other things, there can be huge cost savings in marketing departments: no need to go out and try and convince an audience they need to buy a product they didn’t really want in the first place.

As Katy Keim, CMO for Lithium later suggested, we are moving to a paradigm where social business is just a metaphor for good business. In fact there’s no reason to call it ‘social’ business (ties up with what Charlene Li said years ago about social networks becoming like air).

I do strongly agree with the sentiment that ‘social’ is now heavily woven into the business psyche – it’s getting increasingly difficult in business circles to find individuals who will discount the importance of social media in practicing business today (which wasn’t the case two years ago). However, our business processes and organizational silos are yet to materially come up to this ideal. One example I heard this week: social media monitoring is still largely only applied to marketing campaigns, rather than building a picture of all conversations happening around an organization. Whilst the spirit of disruption may no longer be there, I think there is still some change management ahead of us before all business is truly social.

See more of the conversations around this event on Twazzup.

Attend a future Social Media Breakfast (East Bay).

It’s fine to plot the interest graph, but what happens next? (Social Media Week panel)

In a panel discussion today on social listening at the swanky new SF PeopleBrowsr office, the interest graph formed the basis of a lot of the discussion. I guess I’m out of touch with social media monitoring as this concept was new to me. First we had the social graph, of which I’m aware: a mapping of all your connections (say friends and family) to whom you are connected across social networks. Now with some degree of overlap, you can also plot an interest graph: this time mapping connections based on a shared interest. Susan Etlinger of Altimeter used the example of a fashion site where people build connections based on couture. You may not share these interests with your grandma, but only a small subset of your friends, and the extended network of aesthetes you meet on the fashion site.

Jodee Rich from PeopleBrowsr suggests these interest networks are of more value to businesses as it gives a truer value of an individual’s importance to them. Businesses will get more value by targeting their communications around those people who have authority in that interest area (interest graph). Context is everything. You only have authority in relation to an interest (or theme). Having 500K followers on Twitter means nothing unless those followers share the common interest which is of value to the business tracking you.

This got me thinking where my own social presence and my social and interest graphs lie. By day I work in the technology sector and I generally share with people with this interest (from within my company or external folk) on Twitter. This is where I geek-out. Now I do have the other side to my online communication: where I share pictures of my newborn, other interests like music and art and bizarre oddities I find on the web. This extra-curricula activity all happens on Facebook. And rarely do the twain meet. I know not everyone divides up their online existence to this extreme, but many will have some degree of division and in these cases businesses need to ensure that they have tools that can map across the different networks in use.

When it came to what businesses should do with all this listening intelligence they build, I felt that there were more questions than answers. Tim O’Reilly proffered that sophisticated companies will go beyond business intelligence and use social listening to shape business processes. Effectively molding products and services around what the audience says it wants. However, he also suggested that this ‘autonomic’ model of business should have some human component if I understand rightly what he later said about ‘humans going the last mile’. Computers can only go so far before some level of human intervention is required to make sense of the data and take appropriate action. I’m uncertain as to at what point human intervention really makes sense and I know this is a hot topic of debate in decision management science.

O’Reilly also states that ‘great companies have everybody listening’. Listening isn’t just the domain of marketing or comms departments, but everyone can get involved and use this input from the market to drive the company forward.

I can see a flaw in this plan: the tooling.

I have problems enabling anyone to listen who doesn’t have social media responsibilities written into some part of their function. Even if I can get them access to a social media monitoring dashboard, they’ll be looking at the predefined generic terms determined by the marketing/comms team that setup the tool. This won’t include the terms that a local office would need to monitor the conversation relevant to them. So I inevitably end up pointing them to personal social media tools like Tweetdeck, which lacking any kind of workflow, offers no scope for coordinating conversations.

Brian Solis deserves a shout-out for doing a wonderful job of guiding the conversation and even working in a ‘sexy’ Marvin Gaye reference.

Like a fart in church

The canonical view in corporate marketing is that you start high level at strategy and then work your way down onto tactics and execution. There are domains where this approach can rapidly desintigrate. Like social media.

For years I preached the message so eloquently spelled out by Forrester’s Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: work out a plan where technology doesn’t figure until right at the end, eg  the ‘POST’ approach:

P-eople
O-bjectives
S-trategy
T-echnology

I’ve sat through countless social media planning sessions where choirs of field and web marketing pros rabidly discuss social aspects to marketing campaigns or even social media programs they are looking to adopt. I’ve seen detailed strategy documents, audience demographic analysis, competitive analysis and detailed rollout schedules.

All wonderful works of fiction. An amazing number of these never turn into anything more meaningful than blogs that live no longer than fairground goldfish or Twitter accounts that stealthily limp along with monthly tweets.

Last week I sat down to talk social media strategy with a local team with trepidation: I could see myself going down a path I’d been down before.

But something out of the ordinary happened.

Within minutes we wandered into heretical geekdom and started scribbling down the relative merits of various social media platforms. We went through some of the capabilities of the blogging platform at our disposal. Other possibilities for blogging include Posterous and Tumblr which are great for mobile access. When it came to Twitter, I explained the success we’ve seen with the curation/syndication model. We talked video: we have a member of the team that is a big Justin.tv fan so we may as well leverage what he’s building there.

After about an hour we had mapped out a landscape of our social media properties, come up with a plan to link them together and were ready to talk about what kind of content we ideally should chase. Everything in me was telling me that we were putting the tactical cart way before the strategic horse. But somehow I felt we’d come closer to a workable plan in this hour than I’d ever have expected (although obviously the proof is in the proverbial pudding and I’ll report back on how this works out).

There’s an aspect of social media that doesn’t necessarily apply to other areas of marketing. That’s the principle that if you don’t have passion in your area of interest, really don’t bother. Not least because of the level of engagement required. Even though I’m in one of the most privileged places to practice social media, for most employees social media effectively needs to be a part time hobby until you can build a following and break out on your own. The gold dust lies in finding those that are already hooked and milk them for all they’re worth.

So even if you are confident that you have an audience you can engage with in the blogosphere, and a clear objective and content strategy, don’t set up a new blog until you have an individual or team with a proven track record, or who at least are chomping at the bit and can stump up some posts upfront to show they are committed.

Ditch the strategy and follow the lead of your foot soldiers instead.

There – I’ve said it. And like flatulence in a place of worship, you may find that you irk the establishment, create titters in the crowd and feel an initial embarrassment. But you’re being human. And in the social media space, that’s generally what you need to win.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM and a profane Catholic who tweets from his little corner of the B2B tech universe @cagedether.

(image courtesy of Slimbolala)

Foursquare to use predictive analytics to beat Facebook?

There’s a growing battle in the location-based services business between Foursquare and Facebook. Foursquare, with its past emphasis on gaming and status building (who wants to be the mayor of the local laundromat?) is now focusing on a more functional aspect: helping people decide where they should go next. According to a report in Brandweek (backed up by this article on a recent job ad), Foursquare sees offering recommendations as its chance to avoid being squeezed out of existence by Facebook, who, with over 500 million users, is the ostensible gorilla in the room.

How does it plan to do this? Brandweek suggests it will adopt predictive services which are common on sites like Amazon and Netflix:

"Those services crunch behavior data—what movies you watch and books you read—to suggest new products. Foursquare wants to do the same, only with recommendations of real-world activities."

For instance, let’s say you are a sushi freak living in Chicago who’s been active on Foursquare for the last year. You’ve been using Foursquare to capture badges for most of the top local Japanese eateries. Foursquare can see your penchant for fine sushi in the windy city and look across its network for others in your area who share the same passion. It realizes that there is a new joint downtown and can suggest you check this out.

How does this crunching work? The data is mined along a process which runs something like this for each individual visitor:

  • What are the past actions you have recorded
  • What patterns can be determined from your actions
  • Who else in the network is like you
  • Where are the gaps between your actions and their actions?
  • Offer as predictions these actions that people like you have performed

Note, this obviates the need for a user to fill in a vast registration form listing all their likes and interests. The system can figure this out by looking at past behavior.

In terms of making predictions, systems need to be smart enough to factor in elements that can cause shifts in our patterns of behavior:

  • Seasonality (no taste for raw fish when snowing)
  • Change in tastes (eg. pregnancy pushes sushi off the menu)
  • Removing system bias (eg. not only favoring well-established popular places, but allowing new entrants a chance to prove themselves)

Whether Foursquare makes a concerted move in this direction remains to be seen, but as web and mobile applications creep further into every aspect of our existence (with their inherent ability to track behavior), expect to see an increasing use of business intelligence and predictive analytics to create smarter systems offering us more relevant information.

Blog early, share late: research findings

Early birds catch the blogworms. Or so suggests research by blogging metrics maniac Dan Zarrella. You have the best chance of getting eyeballs to your posts if you get that content out before 10am US Eastern time. In a recent webinar hosted by Hubspot, Dan unleashed a torrent of findings from his surveys and research of over 170,000 blog posts.

This fine infographic does a great job of summing up general reading/feedback trends seen across the blogs studied:

Whether it’s views, links or comments, most activity happens early in the day. Saturday is a big day for commenting. Which could well be related to this activity on social networks:

Retweeting follows a similar path. It looks like most people read content early in the day, with little variance across the week. As we get nearer the weekend, people start getting social: whether that be retweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook (and getting around to commenting).

Judging by the success of this webinar, interest in blogging definitely isn’t on the wane, which makes me somewhat skeptical about a recent study suggesting that although corporate blogging isn’t exactly dead, it’s reached saturation point.

There was no evidence of this during Dan’s study of blogging, which had the Twittersphere ablaze for the full hour of the presentation. You’ll see there was particular interest in the tie-up between blogging and other social media: in particular those duelling siblings Twitter and Facebook. And that’s where blogging can really come into its own: as the content destination for inbound marketing tactics across Facebook and Twitter.

To my mind the Dan’s research also highlights a key difference between search- and social media marketing. For search marketing, attracting those indefatigable search bots that trawl the web for new content is a time-independent task. Just make sure you get content out in short order to win favor from the recency filter was the long and short of what I was told not so long ago by search experts here at IBM. The time of day really has little importance: algorithms aren’t more likely to read posts in the mornings.  Whereas this research from Dan bears a closer resemblance to the findings you might see around email marketing which is often deemed to be time-sensitive. Readership is near-synchronous and content is highly perishable. And if you are blogging outside the time-zone of your key audience, beware. Your content could well end up overlooked. As you may have noticed, I’m taking Dan’s messages to heart and working on getting this content out in a timely fashion. Right, now time for breakfast!

For further details on this study, check out the aforementioned post by Dan or listen to the On Demand recording of Dan Zarrella: Science of blogging

IBM strides towards inbound marketing

In a recent interview with David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now, Ben Edwards, VP Digital Strategy and Development here at IBM talked of the move from outbound to inbound marketing.

See an excerpt of the interview:

What exactly does this mean? If you aren’t aware of the term ‘inbound marketing’, HubSpot has an excellent definition. Essentially, rather than pumping a message out through broadcast channels like billboard advertising, inbound marketing is more concerned with finding people that are researching your products or industry and engaging with them at that point.

This has a particularly strong fit with online marketing, whether that be a traditional channel like search or an emerging discipline like social media. On that note, Ben points out there are over 400K employees at IBM: 200K have profiles on Facebook and roughly the same number have a presence on LinkedIn. Add to that 30K declared IBMers on Twitter and you’re looking at a lot of connections! The communication through these channels is more about engaging in conversation. It’s more about helping those prospects that might be interested in your products and services speaking with employees who have expertise in that area.

For instance, if an IT architect from the retail sector is looking into a business process management (BPM) solution, she can join an IBM BPM group on LinkedIn and ask questions of IBM experts before synching up with the regular sales process.

To make this a reality, we’re seeing more integration between the IBM website and IBM social networks. Take a look at this section on the newly revamped Software Overview page:

image

There’s a virtuous circle at play here. Giving prominence to social media on the corporate website helps drive up community involvement. As these communities grow, whether they be on Twitter, Facebook or on IBM’s own domain, they will channel more visitors back to the IBM site. All without spamming email inboxes or cluttering freeways with billboards:

image

On the subject of advertising, IBM has been experimenting with a new generation of online ads that moves away from the traditional broadcast model and lets the viewer interact and provide feedback through the interface. Here’s an example on Slashdot:

image

The inbound marketing model serves as a good framework to look at the future of marketing where the communications are conversational, relevant and requested, rather than authoritative, broadcast and pressured. Social media usage at the business level shows no sign of abating, and it’s encouraging to see major corporations like IBM embracing this change at the highest level.

Could IBM be the Facebook of the enterprise?

Colette Martin over on the Forbes blogs picked up on a thread which has been floating around the net for the last couple of months: whether IBM can be to the enterprise what Facebook is to the consumer space. That is, can IBM be the social network du jour for company intranets?

IBM has been an early innovator of the internal use of many web-based technologies: email, instant messaging and intranet technologies. The question is whether it can extend that innovative thinking into the social networking space.

What would this platform require? Colette suggests:

“The ability to selectively connect, to share information, to respond/comment on information, and to be able to integrate with other company data and systems”

adding:

“The concept of groups would be key – with the ability to create sub-groups within groups, and groups that bring other groups together”

I’d heartily agree with all of these features. On the subject of sub-groups, some years ago I was ready to execute our social networking strategy across the Ning network, only to find that we couldn’t create relationships between groups (hierarchical or otherwise). This was a major hurdle given that we would not be able to link different product sub-groups across a product line group, so we were forced back to the drawing board.

Social email

Another feature I would like to see in an enterprise social network is the ability to make email more ‘social’. By that I mean highlight emails from those with whom you have a relationship on a social network. I’d prefer to see emails first from those in my team and with whom I frequently work. Both Facebook and Google have recently implemented social emailing capabilities. In the enterprise, where email can be such a resource drain, social email capabilities offers the potential for a considerable increase in productivity.

The extra-intranet

As a social media marketer, I spend a significant amount of time trawling our intranet for content that can be exposed externally. This can include product walkthroughs produced for the sales teams or partners, deeper technical information on our customer case studies, intra-departmental communications. Obviously some care has to be taken to ensure nothing confidential seeps out of our walls, but I’m constantly surprised at the amount of content we have that can be exposed. I’m also woefully aware of the duplicate effort our marketing teams go through to make sure their external marketing campaigns are also promoted within the company.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could post relevant content simultaneously externally and internally? If I have a blog post talking about a new product release, what if I could just check a box so that this message is pushed across both our internal and external social networks? I’m not suggesting this be the default setting(!), but I can see considerable value in having the ability to share content both internally and externally.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant

If you are interested in learning more about the enterprise social networking space, I recommend checking out the 2010 Gartner report on Internal Social Software.

IBM, along with two other vendors, make it into the visionary/leader quadrant: potentially giving them the best shot at becoming the Facebook of the enterprise.

More on IBM social computing solutions

Read Colette Martin’s post on Forbes

Read the source post from Drew Neisser on Fast Company