Category Archives: Social networks

Finding a Google+ numeric ID

If you are working with the Google+ API for tracking or other purposes, you may have noticed that you need to match against the numeric ID for the G+ user account.

This isn’t the easiest thing to find and took me and a vendor quite a while so let me share what I figured out.

There are effectively 2 ways:

1) Via the URL of the profile page

This one is pretty straightforward Winking smile For some accounts, clicking on a profile will take you to a URL like this:
https://plus.google.com/116376707133710026460/posts

Here the numeric ID is 116376707133710026460.

2) Via the link URL in posts

Now, for some G+ accounts, the URL structure is different. For instance, if you click on my G+ profile, you end up here:
https://plus.google.com/+darylpereira/posts

So, how do I get to my numeric ID? You go to one of the user’s posts (you need to have public posts for this to work) and right-click and select ‘Copy link address’ or ‘Copy URL’ or whatever the option is for your browser:

Google Plus Numeric ID

If you paste this URL into a doc, you’ll see it’s in this format:
https://plus.google.com/112665405531807287877

So, the numeric ID for my account is: 112665405531807287877. 

Voila! I hope this helps if ever you have a service which needs numeric Google Plus IDs.

Does your brand have a social command center?

There’s a lot of social networks out there. There are a lot of folks both inside and outside your organization creating digital content. How do you track all of this so you can know what’s being said and be a part of the conversation?

At IBM Pulse this week just gone, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager for Ecosystem Development and Social Business Evangelist, ran a session sharing her top trends in social right now. She answered the question directly using the example of the American Airlines social command center.

The airline industry typically generate a lot of social media activity: for instance American Airlines is mentioned about 42K times a week on Twitter alone! So how does American keep on top of all of this activity? Using a Social Command Center from IBM Business Partner MutualMind:

Mutual Mind AA Social Command Center

The solution has two key components: deep analytics in order to be able to hone in on the content that matters, and pointed visualizations including content tag clouds and heatmaps.

As Jonathan Pierce, American Airlines Director of Social Communications, points out, the Social Command Center instantly spots breaking trends, tracks social mentions and images, and monitors global geographic regions.

It’s one thing having a tool to monitor social trends, but you need the right team ready to respond. American Airlines has a social team that engages customers directly and can engage cross-functional customer care teams. It monitors sentiment and interestingly also monitors the overall effectiveness of American’s customer service.

So, as you refine your social strategy, are you developing a Social Command Center that can help forge stronger customer relationships?

At IBM, we are working with MutualMind to provide an engagement center during the upcoming SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX. Come along and check us out in the Convention Center!

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.

IBM turning 100: smarter planet, social media and meat chopping

2011 is quite a year for IBM. It marks its one hundredth year as company; as a brand.

What does this mean to me. Partly a reflection on what a brand means. Especially as I’m one of the newer entrants and wasn’t around when Big Blue was busy innovating punch card systems, typewriters, mainframes and the PC. Coming from an acquisition which only completed in the last two years, I have a much more recent relationship to the IBM eight-bar logo.

I was part of the web team that hoisted that infamous logo onto our website (before we transitioned over to the IBM.com domain for real) and from one point of view, that really was the extent of the change. Our teams remained intact and the day-to-day duties of the marketing organization remained largely unchanged: we had to continue our efforts of guiding prospects interested in our technologies. As always, we bemoaned the poor decisions of upper management and whined about the inflexibility of our business tools and processes, but now we just had a new object for our venom. So at one level I’d say the change has been superficial. A rebranding feels like little more than painting the lounge. Or a fresh application of lipstick. I had worked for a relatively large technology company. Now I work for a very large technology company.

But a brand goes beyond that.

It exists in our culture; our imagination. Hell, even my next door neighbor (an early-retired teacher) launched into an anecdote of how when he was studying at college he produced his essays on a shoestring budget by cobbling together bits of second hand IBM Selectrics typewriters he picked up at garage sales into one workable machine.

Currently IBM is driving a concerted push to create a ‘Smarter Planet’. I originally had my doubts around this campaign given my background in search marketing – we normally look to the market to find keywords to chase that fit our business objectives. This all felt a bit backwards. At the time (two years ago) ‘smarter planet’ didn’t even register as a search term. No one was talking about it.

I had yet to see the power of a major brand in exerting thought leadership.

Promotions appeared everywhere: from major newspapers to airports. But this was more than just an advertising campaign – internal business projects got on board too. This has given birth to such wonders as a machine that can compete at Jeopardy.

What has been the result? The Smarter Planet initiative is still very much a work in progress but just take a look at how search volumes have mushroomed on Google:

(click on image for more details)

The concept of a ‘smarter planet’ is now in our consciousness (or at least our Google-brain).

This level of cohesion and singularity is even more astounding given the dispersed nature of the IBM workforce. There are very few big hubs and campuses: around half of the workforce work remotely. This leaves little scope for water-cooler discussions but rather a heavy use of telecoms and social computing to bring teams together over teleconferences, screen share sessions or even ‘idea jams’ (short-term online discussion forums covering a set topic).

Internal communications also bleeds out onto the external web. As analyst Charlene Li points out in Open Leadership, “In 2005, IBM led the way… as one of the first companies to put in place blogging guidelines” and in December Mashable listed IBM as one of the top four companies to work for if you’re a social media professional. The nature of the organization has created the demand for social computing. Being one of the homeworkers, I’ll often find out about IBM initiatives through platforms such as Twitter.

So, it’s funny to think that with humble roots in the meat chopping business, IBM is now a global B2B technology force with an indelible print on our culture stretching back 100 years. And it continues to leave its mark: whether it’s easing congestion in major cities as part of the smarter planet initiative, or creating a large social media footprint. And I get to play my small part in this evolving story.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM who tweets from his little corner of the B2B technology industry @cagedether. For more on the IBM Centennial, search Twitter for #ibm100

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)

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

The end of email marketing is nigh

Or at the very least it needs to adapt or it’s going to die.

Given that an open rate of 20% is considered an industry high (more data from MailChimp, in case you were in any doubt), 80% of the emailed population don’t get around to open these sterling email missives. Now let’s be conservative and say half of them have either switched email, gone on vacation, departed their mortal soul or not reported back the open rate for some technical reason, that still leaves around 40% of all those emailed who consider the message spam.

In the past, that has been a hit the email marketer has been willing to take, given that this was primarily a numbers game and only a small percentage of responses was needed to declare victory on a campaign.

(image courtesy of Google)

However that small percentage is very likely to shrink given a couple of recently announced features. Both Google’s Priority Inbox and Facebook’s updated messaging system prioritize the display of mail from friends and respected sources. This could have a significant impact on bulk mailings: rather than these messages appearing as part of the stream of messages that makes up an inbox, these messages could be considered unwanted and get buried. In effect, this will slash the open rates from email marketing campaigns. Given that the Gmail and Facebook systems are used largely by consumers, you can expect to see a hit on B2C campaigns first.

Now is this only a B2C issue? I suspect not. Most companies acknowledge that email puts a considerable dent into productivity of their workforce. As corporate email vendors start offering companies the ability to make email communications more efficient, expect to see the performance of traditional B2B email marketing campaigns tank.

Earning respect

‘Respect’ is a key buzzword in all of this. Email marketers will have to have more respect for their constituents’ inboxes. They will have to engage through other channels (like social media) to earn the respect of the target audience so their brand hits the priority list.

They will also need to ensure their messages are more relevant. Marketing analytics tools (a subset of the emerging business analytics sector) can be used to look at past data on the behavior of the target audience to pinpoint those most likely to open an email and respond. For instance, a mailing can just be sent to those individuals who have clicked on a related link in a past campaign.

These same tools allow for more customer-centric marketing practices such as creating content using messages that marketers know have proven to have the strongest resonance. Relevance breeds respect and if you can become that ‘respected source’ to your target audience, you stand a much better chance of having continued success with email marketing campaigns in the future.

So, pardon my apocalyptic hyperbole, but be aware that recent developments in the email industry have the potential to shake down the marketing industry in 2011 and beyond.