Archive | December, 2012

7 Social Media Tactics for 2013

31 Dec

As social media matures, it’s no longer a test outside of your budget. Adding to this pressure, social media conversion rates are low relative to other marketing strategies. Therefore you must coordinate and integrate social media marketing into your overall marketing plans to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

To get your 2013 marketing plans on track to increase revenues, here are seven social media tactics based on solid research that you need now.
Leverage the power of social connections. Consumers are more likely to respond to recommendations from their friends than social media ads. The recommendation has the unstated endorsement.

 Actionable marketing tip: Encourage customers to share your information on social media venues. Additionally, use social media advertising to target your audience and to send them to your page rather than off of the social media site.

Think beyond Facebook for social media. While Facebook is too large to ignore as a marketing platform, it’s not as effective as other social media options for converting to sales. Specifically, research by Shop.org, comScore, and The Partnering Group found that 70 percent of consumers click through on a retail blog to the firm’s website and 68 percent of consumers use YouTube to browse and research products. Further, consumers follow more brands on social media platforms other than Facebook.

 Actionable marketing tip: Build owned media in the form of a blog and video. Then distribute this content on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in addition to social sharing.

Be device indifferent to maximize reach. Performics and ROI Research found that consumers use a variety of connected devices to access social media. Interestingly, they didn’t include televisions.

Actionable marketing tip: At a minimum, have a mobile strategy to ensure that consumers can access your site from your social media location regardless of whether they’re using a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Show your emotional side to increase virality. Wharton professors Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman in an article entitled, “What Makes Online Content Viral?” from the Journal of Marketing Research found that positive, emotional, and/or surprising, useful information increases social transmission. Actionable marketing tip: Create remarkable content to enhance the chances for engagement and social sharing.
Skip promotional-speak to build customer trust. Face it, your customers are savvy and can smell an ad a mile away. Even worse, they don’t trust your ads. They trust and seek content in a variety of formats.

Actionable marketing tip: Develop useful content shoppers seek before they purchase. Answer their questions, show them how to use your products, and provide customer reviews. Socialize inside the square with photos. Photographs are audience magnets. Images attract attention and pull your audience in.

Actionable marketing tip: Create an integrated content strategy around photographs using Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Instagram.

Continue customer relationships initiated on social media with email. The reality is that social media has low conversion rates relative to email, according to Monetate. Going from social media engagement to “Buy Now” isn’t effective.

Actionable marketing tip: Build an email house file to continue the dialogue with prospects and then convert them.

To improve your marketing results from your social media strategies, start by acknowledging that consumers are active on social media venues to socialize. Then leverage the power of social media to engage with prospects, customers, and the public to build trust and continue your relationships on email and other owned media where you can convert them to sales.

What other social media-related research are you using to build your 2013 marketing plans and why?

Advertisements

The 10 Best Social Studies of 2012

24 Dec

The range of social media research produced in 2012 has been wide and diverse: from what works on Twitter to explorations of meme “virality”; from Facebook’s power to motivate to the hidden dynamics of friend networks; from SMS power in the Arab uprising to the questionable creep of social “Big Data.” We offer this list with the usual disclaimer: Our selection is meant to be useful, not definitive. Missing from this list is a lot of great scholarship, including analysis of bullying in a networked world, as well as much more on how social media is changing the way we participate in politics.

In any case, here are 10 papers from 2012 worth considering — some light reading for your holiday downtime:

  • “Who Gives a Tweet? Evaluating Microblog Content Value”: Paper from Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, the University of Southampton, and Georgia Tech for the Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference. 

    The researchers analyzed more than 43,000 ratings of tweets from 1,443 users and organized the tweets themselves into broad content categories: Question to Followers, Information Sharing, Self-Promotion, Random Thought, Opinion/Complaint, Me Now, Conversation, or Presence Maintenance. They found that only 36 percent of the rated tweets were considered worth reading. “Given that users actively choose to follow these accounts, it is striking that so few of the tweets are actively liked,” the researchers note.

    The most-liked categories of tweets were Questions to Followers, Information Sharing, and Self-Promotion. The least popular: Presence Maintenance (“Hello Twitter!”), Conversation, and Me Now (the tweeter’s current mood or status).

    The authors conclude with a list of “best practices” for Twitter content: “[Posters should] embed more context in tweets (and be less cryptic); add extra commentary, especially if retweeting a common news source; don’t overuse hashtags and use direct messages (DMs) rather than @mentions if more appropriate; happy sentiments are valued and ‘whining’ is disliked, and questions should use a unique hashtag so followers can keep track of the conversation.”

  • “Structural Diversity in Social Contagion”: Study from Cornell University and Facebook published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    The researchers analyze the patterns of approximately 10 million Facebook users and their networks and find that the diversity of users’ networks is strongly related to engagement levels. More active Facebook users have friends on the site spanning numerous social circles: “Simply counting connected components leads to a muddled view of predicted engagement […] However, extending the notion of diversity according to any of the definitions above suffices to provide positive predictors of future long-term engagement.”

    The researchers conclude that “these findings suggest an alternate perspective for recruitment to political causes, the promotion of health practices and marketing; to convince individuals to change their behavior, it may be less important that they receive many endorsements than that they receive the message from multiple directions.”

  • “Tweeting Is Believing? Understanding Microblog Credibility Perceptions”: Paper from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research for the Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference. 

    The researchers, examining survey and experimental data, found that perceptions of an author’s influence, topical expertise, and reputation all enhance a tweet’s credibility; other perceived markers of credibility include the public profiles of tweeters and how often their posts are retweeted. Typical users are not unduly concerned with the credibility of tweets on celebrity news and restaurant reviews, but are concerned with the veracity of breaking news and political content. Users tend to most trust tweets from individuals they follow and trending topics listed on Twitter, and are very concerned about the credibility of tweets they find through Twitter searches and online search engines.

    While the perceived credibility of a tweet was linked to its author, it was not associated with the truthfulness of the tweet itself. This held true regardless of the assessor’s experience with Twitter; in fact, more experienced users typically rated tweets as more credible overall. “Those with more experience with a given technology view it as a more credible information source” than those with less experience, the researchers note.

  • “News and the Overloaded Consumer: Factors Influencing Information Overload Among News Consumers”: Study from the University of Texas at Austin published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

    The researchers analyze survey data from more than 750 news consumers to look at their patterns of reading and viewing, and to assess which platforms and formats make people feel most/least overwhelmed by the information deluge. The findings suggest that people feel overwhelmed on platforms such as Facebook or e-readers, but, interestingly, not necessarily on platforms such as Twitter or YouTube. Over all, the study suggests that it is not the number of news outlets that consumers follow that creates the feeling of “overload,” but rather the platform and corresponding manner in which news is consumed.

  • “Misplaced Confidences: Privacy and the Control Paradox”: Study from Carnegie Mellon published in Social Psychological and Personality Science

    The researchers conducted three survey-based experiments with more than 450 participants from a North American university on the release or accessibility of personal information online. The goal was ultimately to see how, in practice, humans respond to increased privacy controls.

    “Paradoxically,” the researchers note, “participants were more likely to allow the publication of information about them and more likely to disclose moreinformation of a sensitive nature, as long as they were explicitly, instead ofimplicitly, given control over its publication.”

    They stress that they are not advocating that individuals should necessarily disclose less information online — but they underscore that the propensity to share more is influenced by structural factors such as site controls: “Control has become a code word,” the scholars write, “employed both by legislators and government bodies in proposals for enhanced privacy production [but] higher levels of control may not always service the ultimate goal of enhancing privacy.”

  • “A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization”: Study from the University of California, San Diego, and Facebook, published in Nature

    The researchers tested the idea that voting behavior can be significantly influenced by messages on Facebook. On Election Day 2010 — the Congressional midterms — 60,055,176 Facebook users were shown messages at the top of their news feeds that encouraged them to vote, pointed to nearby polling places, offered a place to click “I Voted” and displayed images of select friends who had already voted (the “social message”). Two smaller groups — each about 600,000 people — were given either voting-encouragement messages but no data about friends’ behavior (an “informational message”) or were not given any voting-related messages.

    The data, the scholars write, “suggest that the Facebook social message increased turnout directly by about 60,000 voters and indirectly through social contagion by another 280,000 voters, for a total of 340,000 additional votes.” Strong ties between friends proved much more influential than weak ties: “Close friends exerted about four times more influence on the total number of validated voters mobilized than the message itself […] Online mobilization works because it primarily spreads through strong-tie networks that probably exist offline but have an online representation.”

  • “Why Most Facebook Users Get More Than They Give”: Report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. 

    The researchers find that extremely active users have an outsized impact on the Facebook experience of everyone in a network. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of Facebook users are considered “power users.” Because of them, the researchers note, the “average Facebook user receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives feedback in terms of ‘likes’ at a higher frequency than they contribute.” Moreover, “At two degrees of separation (friends-of-friends), Facebook users in our sample can on average reach 156,569 other Facebook users.”

    Within the sample, the most influential power user could reach nearly 8 million other Facebook users through friends-of-friends, while the median user could reach 31,170 people. Other report findings relate to the offline profile of users: “There is a statistically positive correlation between frequency of tagging Facebook friends in photos, as well as being added to a Facebook group, and knowing people with more diverse backgrounds off of Facebook.” In addition, the more active a Facebook user is, the more likely he or she has attended a meeting or political rally: “Heavy Facebook users were much more likely to attend political rallies and meetings, to try to influence someone they know to vote for a specific candidate, and to vote or intend to vote.”

  • “Competition Among Memes in a World with Limited Attention”: Study from Indiana University and Northeastern University published in Scientific Reports

    The researchers use a complex statistical model to investigate the “mechanisms of competition” among memes and “how they shape the spread of information.” Ultimately, the findings suggest that the virality of memes may less controllable or explicable than assumed.

    The scholars compared patterns in their model with actual Twitter patterns and found strong similarities. This suggests that viral memes can happen without any of the usual explanations — influential user involvement; quality, appeal, or cleverness; or outside world or media events driving attention to certain concepts. The key mechanism appears to be that, because users have limited attention, some “memes survive at the expense of others.”

    The authors do not assert that “intrinsic meme appeal” has no importance in driving viral trends, but the fact that similar viral effects can occur without external impetus has important implications: “This appears as an arresting conclusion that makes information epidemics quite different from the basic modeling and conceptual framework of biological epidemics.”

  • “Critical Questions for Big Data”: Paper from Microsoft Research, New York University, Berkman Center, University of New South Wales published inInformation, Communication & Society

    With data mining techniques increasingly being used across industries — and with social media data a big part of this — the researchers take a hard look at the “Big Data” phenomenon. They note that it is playing out in several dimensions: It is about “maximizing computation power and algorithmic accuracy to gather, analyze, link, and compare large data sets”; it is also about “drawing on large data sets to identify patterns in order to make economic, social, technical, and legal claims.” Behind all of this, the researchers note with skepticism, is the “widespread belief that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge that can generate insights that were previously impossible, with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy.”

  • Various studies on global protest, the Arab Spring. 

    A lot of new research (some rounded up here) has focused on social media tools used in the service of protest and political activism in challenging circumstances. From the Arab uprising to other global hot spots, scholars are analyzing the outcomes. Many studies provide interesting insights while acknowledging the real limitations of available data.

    Recent noteworthy papers in this area include: “Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations From Tahrir Square,” in the Journal of Communication; and “Blogs and Bullets II: New Media and Conflict After the Arab Spring,” from the U.S. Institute of Peace. For useful background data in this space, also see the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s December report “Social Networking Popular Across Globe.”

New LinkedIn Company Page Functionality!

17 Dec

Looks like LinkedIn is at it again!  This time helping us to “drive member growth and deepen engagement by highlighting  groups on your Company Page. LinkedIn is really making an effort to make their Company profiles more engaging and exciting.

I was kind of bummed when they took away our ability to add our blog feeds automatically to our profiles, although targeted updates and update statistics more than made up for it.  Now we have a new feature to add to our company page:  Featured Groups.

Previously LinkedIn had plugged the groups it thought were relevant into this section – but now you get to choose.

You only get to add three groups, and you must be a member of the group – or even better, own or manage the group. While its just a logo right now – I expect to see more from this section in the future.

Here are LinkedIn’s directions for adding your featured groups. It takes just a minute to set up.

Adding Featured Groups

  1. Go to your Company Page (you have to have a company page.  If you don’t, read this post)
  2. Click the blue “Edit” button at the top of this page.
  3. Scroll down to the “Featured Groups” section. (This will be under the company description and specialties.)
  4. Start typing the name of the group you’d like to promote. (You can only add three although you can change them up as often as you want)
  5. Click the “Publish” button on the top right when you are finished.

Note: You must be a group manager or member to promote the selected group on your page.

Tip: Encourage your group members to follow your Company Page so they can get the latest company news right on their homepage!

What’s New on Pinterest- Business Pages!

10 Dec

Want a Pinterest page for your business?

Until now, there’s only been one kind of account on Pinterest, but that’s just changed. There’s now a Pinterest Business home page, which allows you to join up as a business or convert your existing account if you already have one.

What’s new?

As far as we can see, nothing really fancy at present, but there are a couple of things definitely worth knowing about – and the launch of business accounts no doubt signals Pinterest’s intention to do more with businesses and brands in the future.

For the time being, it’s worth converting your account if you’re using Pinterest for a business – just go to the Business Home Page and click the “Convert your existing account” button.

Verifying your Pinterest Business Page

The next feature is that you get the ability to verify your account against your web domain. This means that your full web address will be displayed on the top of your home page, along with the Pinterest red tick of approval.

The verification process is likely to be a minor challenge for those not keen on delving into their web server, as it requires the upload of a small html file to the root of your domain. The file should be browseable via http://www.yourdomain/%5Bpinterest verification filename, in our case]pinterest-2963b. You’ll need FTP access to your web server, and may need to speak with your hosting company about where to put the file.

Once you’ve uploaded the file there’s a link on the Pinterest screen prompting them to check for it, and provided you’ve got the location right then you’re all set.

New ways to promote your Pinterest account

There are also some new shiny toys in the Goodies section of the site. These include code for a Pinterest “follow” button which can be added to your website, which should definitely be added to your social media links if you’re using Pinterest for curation!

There’s also a rather nifty Board Builder which helps you display up to 30 of your favorite board’s most recent pins from within your website, via an iframe. We’re already finding these things tricky to navigate, so hopefully they’ll all be set into an easy to use Business menu soon.

Given all the excitement about sharing and conversion rates via Pinterest, we’d expect some form of analytics to follow the new business page rollout reasonably soon. In the mean time, some apps like Reachli (formerly Pinerly) are filling the gap.

 

Choosing the Perfect Keywords for SEO

3 Dec

It’s a common request; I want my website to rank higher in the organic SERPS (search engine result pages). Ideally, you’d like to list in the top three, but you’d settle for making it on the first page. If you want to rank higher in the SERPs, you need to start paying close attention to your keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases that your potential customers are typing into a search engine to find a particular product or service.

When you begin the process of choosing the SEO keywords that you’ll be using as part of your website copy, you’ll find that the process is part guess work, part trial and error and part research.

First, you’ll need to ask yourself some basic questions about your web audience and your products and services.

1.    Who uses your website?
2.    What product or service are you selling?
3.    Why/How is your business different?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start putting together a list of words that adequately describe your business. If you own a bicycle repair shop, it’s likely that the words “bicycle repair” will be included in your search. Don’t feel that you have to limit your keywords to just one or two words. Pick a variety of short phrases to test out such as, “bicycle repair Orlando.”

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about what they would type into a search engine when looking for your product or service. Also think about more specialized products or services that your shop might offer that people might search for, such as “beach cruiser rentals.”

Once you’ve come up with a list of potential words and phrases, it’s time to do some research. Pull up a Google search page and start typing. Many times Google will guess what you’re typing and auto fill the rest of your keyword or phrase. This information will give you an idea of what people are searching for. Doing this little test may help you tweak your keywords or phrases.

Next, you’ll want to find out how many people are using your keywords to see what your competition looks like for particular keywords or phrases. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to tell you how much competition (high, medium or low) you have for a particular keyword or phrase.  The keyword, “bicycle repair” for instance, comes in at medium competition with 165,000 global searches a month, whereas “bike shop Santa Monica” has low competition with only 1,300 global searches per month.

When it comes to using your chosen SEO keywords in your content, remember not to overstuff your writing with keywords. There’s no hard-and-fast rule to how many times you should use the keywords – just make sure that your content sounds natural. Using keywords too many times can lead to the content sounding “robotic.” The best SEO copy not only includes targeted keywords, but also provides meaningful information to your reader. As Google continuously makes changes to its search algorithm, organic search will be highly dependent on meaningful content to weed out spam indexing.

In other words, don’t just write meaningless content on your site as a placeholder for your keywords.  And remember, constantly updating onsite content can help you climb in the organic search rankings, but it also takes time.