Category Archives: Microblogging

Have you considered segmenting your Twitter strategy?

I had an illuminating discussion with Delphine Remy-Boutang (@DelphRB), who is a social media marketing manager at IBM. She has run some successful social media campaigns and has pulled together some great slides evangelizing the use of social media for B2B marketing.

One of these presentations contained the following Twitter strategy:

TwitterStrategy_Ogilvy

(Credit for the information on this slide goes to Ogilvy)

There can be some real advantages for segmenting your Twitter strategy along these lines:

  • You can micro-manage your audience (eg. customers only see product release information, and not events aimed at prospects)
  • You can task different parts of the organization with running separate channels
  • You may choose different Twitter tools and clients based on the audience (eg. event coverage could be handled through Tweetdeck whereas you might want in-depth social media monitoring tools for crisis management)

I’d say there are some caveats around this approach. The biggest being that this only really makes sense in larger organizations. If you have a smaller ecosystem or there’s only a few of you to manage Twitter, you may just want one handle that pulls all these functions together. In this case segmentation doesn’t make sense.

Another issue to be wary of is ending up with silos for each of these segments. There may be instances where you need to cross-pollinate and share information. For instance, what happens when customer support questions end up being directed to the Product Promotion channel? You need to have an effective way of routing these Tweets back through to the support organization. This problem isn’t confined to just this strategy or Twitter, but rather a larger problem symptomatic of our markets turning into conversations.  It is often marketing departments who monitor these conversations, but marketing may not be best-placed to engage. Organizationally, we need to resolve these problems if we are to effectively communicate in these emerging channels.

For me the strongest message implicit in this strategy is this: we shouldn’t just think of a Twitter channel of another way of broadcasting our marketing messages. Sure, this is one facet of Twitter communication, but there is a much wider picture which we need to take into account.

Finding Twitter communicators in your organization using Tweepsearch

If you work in a large or distributed enterprise and are tasked with finding the members of your organization who are bullish about the use of social media, you may have realized just how tricky this can be. In these days, where company communications are slipping further away from the centralized model and into the hands of employees, there is no easy way to locate those employees who could be your best advocates.

If your organization is anything like the ones I’ve worked for, these individuals often fall outside the traditional folk who have handled corporate communications: PR, product marketing, field marketing, etc. Working in the B2B tech space, many new communicators are popping out of the cadre of young developers entering the company. We as communicators/marketers can play a great facilitation role: imparting comms training to willing subject matter experts. Problem is finding these people.

Step up Tweepsearch

Tweepsearch is a very specific Twitter tool: it just searches Twitter profiles. This makes it particularly useful for finding those folks on Twitter who are affiliated with your organization. Eg. for IBM, here’s a sample of the Twitter profiles the service throws up:

The service lists the number of followers, to give a sense of the degree of influence, and the number of updates which gives an indication of the level of commitment.

Next step is to isolate those handles that look most promising and start contacting them directly.

Other uses of Tweepsearch

This isn’t the only use of this service: a topic search can help locate those people on Twitter who share your interests. You can also search by geography if you want to find those who Tweet on the subject of your locale.

So, go ahead and give Tweepsearch a whirl. Let me know if you find new uses for this interesting tool.

Shel Israel to Twitterville: stop following me!

Working in social media around the Valley, it’s easy to fall into the trap of turning into a geek groupie. The digital glitterati are everywhere and, yes, because we live in a world of social media, they are omnipresent (regardless of what your social network of choice might be). You can spend hours on Tweetdeck watching the lives of industry pundits unfurl. It’s the virtual equivalent of a medieval court with a number of well-placed nobles (read industry pundits) throwing out scraps to the courtesans in their wake.

If you are looking at business applications of social media, you are probably familiar with one of the number of Twitter handles around which much of the readership revolves: @jowyang, @scobleizer, @guykawasaki, @mashable and of course, Mr @shelisrael. Many of us, if we’re honest, with our retweets and attempts at drawing them into the conversation, have the not-so-hidden desire to emulate them.

To a degree rightly so. This field is largely a meritocracy and most of these folks have gotten to where they are by proving their mettle. However, last night, one of the cadre voiced dissent. Shel Israel, presenting at an SNCR event promoting the launch of his new book Twitterville, proclaimed ‘we are not the influencers’. Shel made an impassioned plea to get out there and follow anyone with passion and relevance within your sphere. If you’re a company, look first at your customer base and employees (Lionel Menchaca and the Dell story of customer engagement is one of the featured case studies in the book). The core message: don’t just go after the social media influencers, ie. don’t blindly get pulled into a herd mentality.

This, however, sparked the most lively debate of the evening. The fact that the cult of celebrity transfers so well to Twitter (check out the number of followers for @britneyspears or @stephenfry if you don’t believe me) does suggest that even as we move away from a broadcast medium like TV, at heart we still need our media royalty. The masses will follow the few.

If I understand Shel correctly, he is calling for us, as social media and communications experts, to really move away from that old broadcast model and explore the small pockets of communications these new social tools open up. Unfortunately somehow the conversation got derailed and this point was not revisited before the event closed.

Shel’s point resonated with me as I know I’m as guilty as anyone of spending time analyzing the strategies industry bigwigs and analysts put forward, mesmerized by the latest technologies and trying to figure out which social media monitoring tool will give me the biggest bang for my buck. How much am I missing? That social media monitoring tool is important, but its nothing unless there is commitment to really listen and react to the conversations it uncovers.

An immediate step I’ve taken is to set up some search channels in Tweetdeck around our core brands. For those Tweets I can’t deal with, I can parcel them off in the relevant direction within the organization (mainly product marketing). Even though I’m no subject expert in the technology I market, there’s no reason why I don’t engage with this crowd, eg:

  • Explore ways to wire them closer into the organization
  • Plough them further for information on their applications and what’s working well
  • Tie them into our partner organization that offers beta versions and exclusives to the privileged few

Just to name a few ideas. A practical way to use Twitter where it works best: to engage at the personal level.

So, if Shel doesn’t mind, I can steal his mantra and say, ‘go – stop reading this blog and find your real thought leaders out there’. The unsung heroes within the company ecosystem you discover on Twitter will prove the worth of your social media efforts.

Bit.ly lowers the bar on URL shortening

With the speed of development in the social media space (especially that ever-growing corner that pertains to Twitter), it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. When this announcement first hit last week, my initial reaction was, to be frank, that this is just a bit of a gimmick. The news was thus: Bit.ly, the popular URL shortening service… wait for it… just got shorter.

As reported on the mighty Mashable, Bit.ly launched j.mp, offering the exact same shortening service, but now with a discount of two characters. Oh, and you don’t need to worry about this being a separate service: it’s nothing more than a redirect. So if you have a bit.ly url you suddenly find putting the squeeze on your 140 chars, just switch out bit.ly for j.mp. But really, how important is this? At the time, it got banked to the back of my mind and I moved on with my life (well, that bit of it that doesn’t belong to Twitter).

And then, last night I found myself with the problem this service is designed to fix. My Earth-changing Tweet was two over the limit. Within seconds, I amended my bit.ly link and Tweeted on unabated.

Just to spell this out, here’s an example of how this works:

Before:
http://bit.ly/Z8EDw (a whopping 19 characters)

After:
http://j.mp/Z8EDw
(weighing in at an impressive 17 characters)

Oh, and for you naysayers who think a mastery of letters would get you round having to use this service, beware: there will come a time when you may hve 2 eat ur own wrds.

All we need now is someone to crack a way through that pesky ‘http://’. Someone needs to get in bed with Twitter (Bit.ly, are you feeling slutty enough for the job?) and take the throne as the URL shortener of choice, allowing us to free up a further seven characters that the http garbage takes up.

Wow, even my local hardware store loves Twitter

Last week I paid a trip to my local hardware store in the Mission area of San Francisco. It’s crammed tight full of all the trinkets you need to aid you on the path to home improvement. Lo and behold, an amiable young Latino assistant guided me straight to the pump adapter I needed. Purchase made, I headed out.

Later, whilst checking my receipt, I noticed some interesting text tacked on to the bottom: ‘Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/colehardware‘. Intrigued, I explored further, and discovered some interesting applications of Twitter from this local hardware chain:

Hot or not?
Report on what’s big this year:

@egebhardt Hi. Thanks for sharing us as a source for canning supplies. Appreciate it! Canning is really popular this year! Rick (Read Tweet)

Why do this? Show you are an expert in your area by sharing sales information – we all love to think we’re part of the latest trends.

Promote latest offers
Let shoppers know of deals and other goodies that could entice them:

Get a great Cole Hdwe canvas shopping tote free with a $25 purchase. Show this tweet at checkout or use coupon in Hardware Hotline. Rick (Read Tweet)

My personal feeling is if you do this too often, you’ll come across looking all salesy. Cole seem to get the balance right by just dropping these offers in occasionally.

Site updates
If you have new features/web content you want to draw attention to, why not publicize through Twitter:

Check out our new Profile page! Photos of our staff, stores and more! Had it created for just 100 bucks. Interested in who? Let me know. (Read Tweet)

Again, not the most riveting content to completely fill a Twitter channel, but useful information on occasion.

Promote promoters
Thank your evangelists and those who sing your praises. Use Twitter to keep the glow warm:

@nancybroden Hi Nancy! Thanks for the tweets about our recycling, and for spreading the work. Appreciate it! Rick (Read Tweet)

Twitter is a great tool for knowing who your supporters are, and engaging them in conversation. Use tools like Twitter to build up relations with your strongest advocates. You can also use these groups for testing new products or obtaining market intelligence.

Be personal
As you can see, all the above posts are signed off ‘Rick’. This imbues the channel with a personal feel. It’s Rick from Cole Hardware who is speaking, not a faceless monolith.

Promote your social networking
Cole has done a great job of promoting Twitter (and Facebook too) through its offline shopping experience. In this case an ad on the bottom of the receipt alerted me to its Twitter channel. If you are putting effort into Tweeting, don’t hide under a bushel. Look at the points where you talk to customers (and other constituents) and let them know they can converse with you through Twitter and other channels.

Even though Cole Hardware have only recently ventured onto Twitter, they already seem to have a strong grasp of how they can use the medium to add value to their customers’ experience. I look forward to watching this channel evolve and to see how Twitter becomes more pervasive in our lives.

The Dirty Little Secret of Social Media: Longevity

In what seems like a lifetime ago (about 4 years past), I worked search marketing on the agency side. As an account manager, I spent many a meeting reassuring hyperactive marketing execs that great Google rankings (well, this also included Yahoo and Microsoft back then) were just around the proverbial corner. With search, the grunt work happened up-front and once the content was put in place and scooped up by the mighty indexing engines, the rankings and associated traffic would largely drizzle down like snow in pre-war Narnia. You just had to wait for the reward.

This didn’t always reflect the way the campaigns were sold, mainly for the following reasons:

  • The demand to offer short term results
  • The desire of the agency to garner a long term maintenance contract
  • The lack of a crystal ball to tell us exactly when the results would come in

The same can be true of marketing-led social media campaigns.

Like a merry-go-round that you continually tug with the same force while it slowly gathers momentum, social media campaigns can often need more than a year of development and careful nurturing before they come to fruition. You build a platform, seed content and promote the hell out of it, but meanwhile have to appease the executive whilst you act, measure, and patiently wait. Whether you’re setting up a blog, forum, social network, Twitter profile, YouTube channel or whatever, if you’re not one of the legendary few to achieve instant cult status, be prepared for the toil.

Then, after months or more, if you got your planning and strategy right upfront, the crowd gathers and the chatter grows. Now you have a successful social media campaign on your hands and you have graphs pointing in the right direction to show the powers-that-be.

socialMediaResults

How long does the glow hold?

Depending on the nature of the campaign, you may find yourself having to do little more to keep those page views coming. Not that I’d recommend it, but you can put a social network out to pasture and (almost in spite of yourselves) still see information grazers stumble by. In 2002 we froze an academic/business community we had spent two years building and it still continued to out-rank our corporate site on Google for our core target keywords for at least six years after.

So where’s the issue?

With all the attendant hype around social media at the moment, this activity is often bolted on to that lead generation machine within the marketing department that’s charged with building the sales pipeline. I’ve heard rightful skepticism within field marketing departments that claims over-hyped social media is heavily lubed in snake oil. I can definitely see where this point of view comes from. Marketing circles are abuzz with talk of how you’ll achieve greater results than ever before by using social media. The statement is expressed in the present, rather than future tense. I’ve seen networks shut down because of this.

Greatest treasures lie in the murkiest depths

On those grounds, should social media be foresaken? You can probably guess my response, but I think not. Social media marketing campaigns are at their most effective when they are stripped of the constraints of short-term lead generation. Most efforts work on creating Awareness and Thought Leadership:

Social Media Lead Generation

(Note there are social media activities that go beyond the point of sale, but these are often driven by other departments, such as support.)

As you can see above, there is little crossover between social media and lead generation across the sales cycle. So measuring success based on lead generation metrics will show few results. Just like the PR function which is measured on metrics other than the prospects it brings to the pipe, so social media campaigns need to develop their own yardsticks – whether it be the added visibility or the kind of engagement metrics online news sites are measured against. This will feed the sales pipe, but indirectly, just like PR. Now for the icing on the cake: few other marketing initiatives show such on-going returns. With social media you’re often building an asset that will show little depreciation over time.

More tortoise than hare

Try and keep social media campaigns away from the demands of lead generation. Have goals but make sure the top brass aren’t expecting to see results in the same quarter. Chances are, they’ll be paltry. But keep in it for the long haul and assuming all the pieces come together, manifold results will head your way.

Will social networks be like air?

According to Charlene Li, prominent social media analyst and founder of the Altimeter Group, the answer to this question is a resounding ‘yes’. The idea, that has been floating for some time, is that rather than us making a conscious effort to visit Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, these will be so interwoven into the web experience that we’ll hardly realize we are using them (hence the parallel with air: we hardly notice we need the stuff to breathe).I recently had the opportunity to hear her expound further on this idea on an SES webcast hosted by Matt McGowen.

She proffered the compelling example of buying books on Amazon. It’s one thing seeing book recommendations from people with supposedly similar tastes and interests. But what about if you can bring your social network to the table – ie. those in your group who also buy books from Amazon. Wouldn’t you be interested in knowing what they’ve bought too? Given that we’re more inclined to take advice from those we trust, book recommendations from our friends are more powerful than those from a stranger. That leads to the benefits for site owners: more sales to be made by allowing us to see relevant information from our circle of friends (often referred to as the social graph). So runs the theory.

Social networks will be like air

Mirroring the mall

In the real world, this scenario plays out in malls and shopping centers across the globe every Saturday afternoon. For instance, gangs of school girls prowl malls and shops, bonding over rails of the latest skin-tight jeans and boob tubes, sharing fashion tips of the moment and goading each other to spend. This is often the beginning of a social shopping habit that can last well into the 40’s, if the Sex in the City ‘gang’ are anything to go by.

Whilst the social aspect to shopping has been around as long as we’ve had high streets, the online shopping experience has been largely a solitary affair. The somewhat bulky task of emailing a page to a friend is about as social as it gets. But all that could change if Charlene’s predictions play out and social networks are weaved into the general browsing experience. The web also allows us to go that much further. You can tap networks of friends from around the globe and even those you wouldn’t necessarily shop with (eg. work colleagues).

As Charlene points out, this is more than the future: this ‘social portability’ is already available through services such as Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect – both services that can embed social elements into any old web page. Launched over the last year, both services have been growing steadily.

I should point out that you can take your social graphics and apply it to whatever the application: it doesn’t just have to be shopping. For instance, if I’m attending an event, I could start networking and finding those with similar interests before I arrive. When it comes to commenting on blogs, we’re already beginning to see tie-ups with Twitter, so my followers can instantly check out my opinions on other blog posts.

How social do we want to be?

Will these connection services become more prevalent in the future? I think so. Will this be the dominant/pervasive model? Here’s where I have some reservation. There are times where, to paraphrase Greta Garbos, we just want to be alone. Some of our shopping is by necessity furtive: like buying a surprise gift, or pandering to those desires that fall outside the social norm.

There’s also the question of the notion that ‘social’ intrinsically means ‘good’. At the extreme think Lord of the Flies and Stalin. The alphas in any group can cajole and bully us into accepting their tastes (and in some instances berate us to the extent that we don’t make a purchase we would have made if alone). The privacy of online shopping can be a healthy respite from this.

Just exactly how neat is our social graph?

We have many sides to our personality and have friends for different reasons. In reality we share different parts of ourselves with friends, work colleagues and family, to name just some groupings. This leaves many of us with more than one social graph. What’s more, many of these graphs bleed into each other. Think of the work colleague you get close to and consider a friend. Existing social networks like Facebook are still grappling with how to factor this in and allow us to manage our social graphs in a more useful way. Going back to the Amazon example, are we really interested in seeing the book-buying habits of all our so-called friends?

Conclusion: social networks with limited connectivity

So whilst there are a number of advantages to tying our social graph into our web browsing experience, there are instances where the model isn’t appropriate or may not offer relevant information. There comes a point where our social graph fragments and can’t be neatly modeled. Furthermore, there is something compelling in the solitary aspect to the web.

In closing I’ll offer an anecdote around listening to music online. Recently, two music-loving friends who had previously been fans of Last.fm said they had switched to Spotify.  Both offered the same reason: you don’t need to show the world what you’re listening to. In a race to be social, are we forgetting one major appeal of the web: the joy of being anonymous?

More information

Charlene Li webcast on ‘how to integrate social media into your business strategy‘ (including a discussion on how social networks of the future will be like air).

eBay’s Richard Brewer-Hay on social media and corporate blogging

ebay_rbhLooking over past blog posts, I’ve noticed that I do have a penchant for hyperbole. However, if you have a little over six minutes of your time to spare and want tips on running social media programs for a large brand, then don your headphones and listen to this short video from Richard recorded at TWTRCON.

Main points:

  • eBay has a full time corporate blogger! How many other brands can claim the same? Richard views his role as that of an internal reporter and spends a lot of time finding out what the eBay community wants to know and then running interviews at the corporate level.
  • Consistency is important when it comes to maintaining a blog. Richard tries to get out at least four posts a week.
  • Many in the industry talk of being transparent and honest. Most people are referring to external communications, but this applies just as much internally. Brand, legal and corporate communications departments all have to understand what you are putting out there.
  • eBay have been among the first to start a social media corporate disclosure program: eg. earnings releases are published on Twitter
  • They are undertaking a social media audit to isolate all social media properties. Twitter questions: Do you use Twitter for business? What’s your handle? Blog questions: Do you blog for the business? What are your goals, messaging, objectives? How do you measure these?
  • eBay are aware there are ‘disparate places where conversations are happening’. They are looking to setup a central platform to pull all this communication together.

Check out this excellent short video on eBay’s social media strategy