LinkedIn is cited as a key tactic used by marketers to reach a B2B audience, according to a recent study by BtoB and the Association of National Advertisers.
Generally, marketers are making a stronger push into social media, with 57% saying they are either currently utilizing social media, as opposed to 15% in an earlier study.
(Source: “Harnessing the Power of Newer Media Platforms for More Effective Marketing” survey)
I’m surprised to see that corporate blogging falls further down the list. Is this because marketers in this space aren’t the people who can maintain these blogs? Does this task fall to subject matter experts who might be in another part of the organization.
Interesting to see that search engine optimization outranks paid search marketing: a sign of the times given the tight marketing budgets?
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.
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?
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).
This week I want to highlight a report from eMarketer that reports small businesses intending to spend 25% more on social networking in 2009 than they did in 2008.
Perhaps more of this segment’s audience now uses these tools (another report this week states 35% of adults are members of a social network). Perhaps small businesses now understand more about this area. Either way, a glimmer of hope in the currently gloomy economic environment.
HP’s Tac Anderson talks about social media tactics including corporate blogging
Some good tips from HPs social media evangelist, such as think about your target audience and build content appropriately.
“If your customers are CXO’s (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO) then the reason you have a blog is because the two most influential factors to a CXO’s decision making process are the Two G’s: Google and Gartner. Google is speaking to the importance of all search and Gartner is speaking to the importance that analysts play. Blogs are great for reaching both. There’s no lower bang for your buck tactic to reach the two G’s than having a high quality blog.”
Google uses corporate blogs to announce cutbacks
The medium is the messsage here, rather than the story. Google has for some time been using its blogs to release information about the company that would normally have come from a press release. Will more companies start doing following suit?
Tools for monitoring blogs and other sites: Social Media Explorer
SEO Toolbar for Firefox gives you a good indication of how a blog (or any website) is ranked by Google in particular and the web in general. Go ahead, check yourself out.
Most influential advertising, marketing and media blogs – Advertising Age
The Power 150 list of the top blogs. You’ll find some choice reading on these sites. Trend data on the blogs also available here.
Adult participation in social networks now at 35 percent
This number has raised more than 300% over the last 3 years, according to research by Pew Research.
Corporate blogging: think about presentation as well as content
Design being such a subjective thing, I’m not sure I agree with all the changes recommended in this blog makeover, however there are some good points such as including a photo to make the blog more personable and organizing posts by categories.
HP study shows humans will pursue status over wealth
A report by social computing scientists at HP labs looks into what degree we will go to to obtain social status. Their findings? We will go as far as to give up monetary rewards, if we think we can gain status. Is this what powers participation in social networks?
GSK and Centocor Abandon Their Pioneering Corporate Drug Blogs
Citing the fact that these were personality-led blogs where the personalities concerned left the company, GSK has stopped updating its AlliConnect blog and the Johnson & Johnson-owned Centocor has let its CNTO411 blog wane. Both companies continue blogging in other parts of the organization.
Tips on blogging content from Your PR Guy
Focus on the stories that are most useful to your client base: success stories, problem solution stories and testimonials. These tips are aimed primarily at small businesses but should be considered by any corporate bloggers.
Social networking budgets on the increase according to eMarketer
Small businesses are expecting to spend more on social networking than on any other form of digital marketing over the coming year. Significantly, most of this group does not blog and apparently isn’t about to start.
Friendfeed, the aggregating social network now has an interesting feature: if you use Twitter, you can automatically post your Friendfeed activity as Tweets.
Friendfeed is ideal for pulling together all your updates on Flickr, Del.icio.us, Flickr or other online social networks. Twitter is rapidly becoming the de facto service for letting the world know what you are up to and has a network far exceeding that of Friendfeed (just check out Google Trends). Tying these two services together provides a great opportunity to broadcast the updates you make to your social networking accounts.
It works something like this:
To set this up, go into your Friendfeed account settings and at the bottom of the page you will see the ‘Feed Publishing’ options. Select the “Post my FriendFeed entries on Twitter” option and enter your Twitter account details. That’s pretty much it.
I have to say that in some respects, this service could be seen as a necessary fight for survival for Friendfeed. Like the video wars of the early ‘Eighties, there is only really enough space for one player in the market (if you recall, VHS took the lead and effectively eradicated Betamax). As users we suffer fatigue, and really don’t want to be tied to too many competing services. Friendfeed does have some advantages over Twitter in terms of its aggregation possibilities and the recently-updated interface, but Twitter, and the micro-blogging revolution it is fueling is definitely stealing the limelight. In effect, Friendfeed could be construed as being another one of the API services available to Twitter.
In case you are new to either of these services, here’s some tutorials to help explain how they work:
The growth of news feeds on social networking sites continues to gather momentum. The New York Times recently ran a piece by Clive Thompson on being connected digitally. Facebook set a major trend when it created the newsfeed allowing you to see all your friends’ updates at a glance. Services like Twitter continue this trend – adding a social component to the way we find information. Rather than just searching for documents that interest us (think Google), we can follow friends (or trendsetters) and sniff along these trails to dig up new information.
The article touched on some interesting issues around social networks:
- ‘Ambient awareness’ is the academic term for maintaining incessant online contact (eg. rapidly scrolling through the Facebook news feed to see what all your friends are up to this week).
- Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has researched the number of acquaintances a person can know at any given time. He suggests this number is around 150 people. After this, it is difficult to keep up (although the PR professionals around me seem to break this rule).
- We can form many more ‘weak ties’ – that is looser acquaintances with whom we don’t develop such strong ties. For instance, many users keep two Twitter accounts: one for their weak ties and another for that more intimate circle of family and friends.
- Be careful – as these spaces become more pervasive, if you don’t define yourself, you will find others will do that for you.
To it’s credit, the article finished on a positive note (something that rarely seems to happen when the print world opines on the digital one). There can be a therapeutic side to documenting your activity on Facebook or Twitter – it forces you to look at your life more objectively with increased self-awareness.