More social media tools than you can stick a pin into

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So you think you’ve finished your studies? You may have graduated years ago, but let me tell you, in today’s economy, school is never out.

If you don’t have it already, you need to develop a philosophy of life-long learning. Things are changing much too fast to rely simply on what you learned at uni or TAFE.

For example, whether you’re a small or a large business, you can’t stick your head in the sand and ignore trends like social media. That means not only mastering existing tools, but staying abreast of emerging tools, as well.

It’s pretty clear that most businesses should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But when it comes to using some of the newer social media tools for your business, how do you pick a winner? You need to look at factors such as the take-up rate, how it integrates with other tools, and whether it offers something that is not only different, but hopefully useful, as well.

Google+ is one on the cusp (though, supported by and integrated with the raft of Google tools, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be there for the long haul).

The location-based tool Foursquare, used by more than 15 million people who check in at locations and share their visits with friends, has had a lot of publicity and has attracted venture capital investment. But how important is it to people to become the ‘mayor’ of frequently visited spots? Are people using it mainly to make their friends jealous about where they can afford to go on a holiday?

A tool that I think ticks more of the boxes is Pinterest, an online pinboard service that, in the words of CBS Moneywatch, “attracts people who need to organize the chaos of Internet-age information overload.”

Pinterest describes itself as a social network meant to connect everyone in the world through the things that they find interesting.

The site lets you create and curate multiple pinboards in any category you can create, as well as following others’ pinboards. It falls somewhere between window shopping and actual collecting. You can log on through Twitter or Facebook, so you can tell your friends and customers about your boards.

At the same time, In contrast to Facebook, Pinterest pinners may end up choosing to follow people they don’t know purely based on the photos they curate, creating seemingly random new networks.

Read the full article on Smarter Business Ideas

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Skittles aftermath: Nothing to see here, mosey along now

Following on from yesterday’s post on the Skittles.com saga, the interest in this story in social media circles has been phenomenal, but now that Skittles has yanked the #skittles Twitter Search page from its home page (you can still find it if you go looking deeper on the site) like a spam Twitter account, the post-mortem has begun in earnest. It’s a bit like a digital version of the finger-pointing that goes on after disasters such as the recent Victorian bushfires.

Catherine Taylor writes today in Social Media Insider: “Now, it’s time to drown in social media clichés, like the following: The mere fact I’m writing about this means the campaign achieved some success. Awareness of Skittles on the Web probably hasn’t been this high, ever. The underpinning for the strategy for this campaign is in itself a social media cliché: The consumers own the brand.

“But I’d also like to offer that, in obsessing about this campaign, social media watchers are becoming their own cliché. What stood out to me in looking at the tweets about Skittles this morning wasn’t the naughty stuff, which seems to have run its course, but the whole meta phenomenon where people aren’t talking about Skittles per se, but what the Skittles campaign means for social media. Then there’s all the hand-wringing about the fact that some people said naughty things about Skittles and how that somehow mars the campaign (no pun intended, though Skittles is made by Mars). C’mon. Do you really think the agency and client were so naïve as to not know that would be part of it?

“It’s time to move on to something truly important. Kudos to Skittles and Agency.com for embracing the idea that it’s not the brand home page that defines the brand. That’s a good thing. But we knew that already.”

To quote from a couple of the comments on Catherine’s blog post:

 

“We have to be very careful about what strong thinkers we are and make sure not to over-intellectualize these new age approaches as marketing professionals. This wasn’t about us. This campaign or experiment thereof was about where we’re going. It wasn’t rocket science, but I’m sure it worked. Skittles displayed a direct interest in finding their consumers where they are likely to be found and used their consumers to communicate the brand however the consumer chose to in their very own language…and the consumers did just that!”

“I’m not sure what you need to know to wake up and be MORE IN TOUCH with your audience. They got trashed on Twitter because Twitters are about REAL, organic, testimonials and truth in real time. Spending the time, and $$$ with an agency that didn’t understand nor grasp that from the get go, shows that someone at the top of this, should have done more homework, or solicited better advice about using Twitter. Every agency in the world wants to jump on the bandwagon and utilize Social Media. If you don’t understand how to properly “engage” consumers using Web 2.0 technology, you need to be careful, for it’ll blow up it you face.”

“The only important question is will this cause people to buy more Skittles? I look forward to learning the answer.”

“I think the real value is less about the execution and more about the philosophy that drove it. If it means anything at all, it’s that this campaign is a recognition of the importance of the role social media plays in brand-building. The game has changed. It’s not 1999 anymore.”

It will be interesting to see how the campaign is viewed in the fullness of time. Brilliant tactic or big mistake? What do you think?

More ‘adults’ using social networks

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey.

While media coverage and policy attention focus heavily on how children and young adults use social network sites, adults still make up the bulk of the users of these websites. Adults make up a larger portion of the US population than teens, which is why the 35% number represents a larger number of users than the 65% of online teens who also use online social networks.

Online social network applications are mainly used for explaining and maintaining personal networks, and most adults, like teens, are using them to connect with people they already know.

  • 89% use their online profiles to keep up with friends
  • 57% use their profile to make plans with friends
  • 49% use them to make new friends
  • Other uses: organize with other people for an event, issue or cause; flirt with someone; promote themselves or their work; make new business contacts

Full report here: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Adult_social_networking_data_memo_FINAL.pdf

Social network for health

Here’s a great example of social media used by the healthcare industry, from MediaPost: Health insurance company Humana has developed some social media tools, including a Facebook application, to help customers keep their New Year fitness resolutions.

“One game, the ‘Freewheelin’ Cycle Challenge,’ is inspired by the company’s bike-sharing program. In the online game, users race against virtual opponents–such as a cheerleader or Marine drill sergeant–in a bicycle race. Energy and speed are gained by capturing nutritious snacks while running over junk food.

“The game is available at http://www.humanagames.com, a Web site set up in May by the health insurance company as a way to explore how to use games and technology to further messages of health. The game is being promoted through information and blogs on popular casual gaming sites, and can be emailed for maximum viral effect….

“The other application, available via Facebook, is called ‘The Battle of the Bulge.’ Through the social networking site, users answer a few questions and are assigned a virtual waistline. Through the Facebook network, other users can ‘fling fat’ at you, which would expand your waistline and lead to a possible online heart attack. Answering health-related questions correctly can shrink the size of the virtual waistline and enable you to throw fat at your friends.”

A Humana spokesperson said the application leveraged the competitive aspect of Facebook.

LinkedIn grows, for all the wrong reasons

It turns out the current financial crisis in the US is creating one boom market – online business social networks. Sign-ups and usage of LinkedIn (or as I explain it to people, “Facebook for business people”) is soaring as people who are afraid they will lose their jobs enrol and update their CVs. Apparently LinkedIn is up to nearly 30 million members, mainly in the US, while German-based network Xing has hit 6.5 million members.

Some ideas on measuring social network impact

Everyone is talking about the value of online social networks for business, but how on earth do you measure how well it’s working? Gary Stein has just written a terrific piece for the Clickz Network outlining three ways you can, as he describes it, measure the value of friends. Those ways are:

Volume: Perceived Value of Your Page – the number of friends generated and the rate at which they have joined up. As Stein writes, “Part of the value that each friend gives you is not only the actual connection, but — because the connection is made public (that is, the number of friends you’ve made is put right on your page for all to see) — that connection also communicates to other visitors. It’s the difference of walking by an empty café versus walking by a café with a line out the door.”

Conversion: Take up of Your Offers – The key thing, Stein writes, is to keep track of how well your unique content or offers is taken up. “Have a very clear single call to action on the page and make sure it is communicated via e-mails, alerts, or RSS feeds.”

Advocates: The Best of the Best Friends – 10% of your traffic will only visit once or twice, while your top 10% will come back constantly. “The key task is to be able to isolate this top group and have a plan for bringing them more closely into a relationship. A big part of the reason you’ll be on a social network is to have your messages passed along by others. The top 10 percent are probably your best chance of catalyzing that spread.”

Stein predicts that next wave of analytics will be centred around social networks, with measurement tools similar to those produced by the search engines. In the meantime, companies could do much worse than following Stein’s advice and work on maximising activities that boost those three measures.

More thoughts on social media business models

I suppose it’s no surprise that there’s a lot being written about viable business models for social media at present (see yesterday’s entry). Bernard Lunn at Read Write Web posted an article last week that has too many great points in it to summarise, so I encourage you to follow the link and read the article. Essentially, he opines that social media are at a fork in the road where they need to decide whether to remain a walled garden or an open, utility-type model. Interestingly, he says that MySpace is in a much more comfortable position than Facebook, and that LinkedIn is the most likely network to make a walled garden work (maybe it’s my age and stage of life, but I find LinkedIn much more useful than the others – anyone agree or disagree?).

Some other relevant articles that have been posted in the past few days:
Enterprise Adoption of Web 2.0: It’s Happening
Will Social Networks Remain Low-Ad Districts?