Archive for September, 2010

30
Sep
10

Facebook is Now the Second Largest Video Site in the U.S.

by Frederic Lardinois

Google’s YouTube remains the most popular video sharing site in the U.S., Facebook is now the second most popular place to watch videos online. According to the latest data from comScore, Facebook just took the #2 spot from Yahoo and continues to grow rapidly. While Facebook.com served 166 million viewing sessions in July, this number was up to 243 million in August.

In contrast to Google’s video properties, though, where the average user spent close to 270 minutes in August, Facebook’s users are far less engaged and only watched 21 minutes. Traffic to YouTube continues to grow – though at a relatively slow pace – it’s worth noting that the time the average user spent on the site last month was actually down slightly (282.7 in July vs. 269.5 in August).

The newest entry in comScore’s top 10 last month was the Break Media Network, which is home to sits like Break.com, Screen Junkies and Holy Taco. In total, Break Media reached 42 million viewers last month. The network also featured in comScore’s top 10 for June. Back then, the site only saw 26 million unique viewers for the month. Hulu fell out of comScore’s top 10 this month.

22
Sep
10

How to Build 24/7 Relationships, Using New Media

New rules for how to keep in touch with your customers.
by JENNY COMISKEY

The old 1-800 style of customer service is slowly being eroded. Companies are recognizing that every interaction matters and are therefore starting to open up new channels of communication to offer instant access, robust feedback loops, and rapid response.

Customer service is often driven reactively, relegated to a cost center and considered a negative touchpoint. Despised by customers and riddled with clichés, it’s a broken system that reflects poorly on an organization’s underlying structure, culture, and brand values.

Today, real-time connectivity is changing the game. New communication tools are supporting open access, robust feedback, direct participation, and immediacy of information. We are seeing consistent evidence that one-way, linear flows of communication are shifting to continuous dialogue through multiple channels.
TAKE ACTION: Designing for Life’s Changes

1. Don’t invade, connect
Build continuity throughout the life of the relationship with your customers, without invading their space.

2. Transform monologue to dialogue
Host a dialogue that gets both sides talking in order to create a continuous loop: listen, respond, act.

3. Create redundancy
Design multiple points of entry. Allow access from all sides, in multiple channels, tailored for any number of situations.
4. Outside in/inside out
Open up access to what’s going on behind the scenes. Make it human by making it authentic.

5. Leverage existing platforms
Don’t invent, integrate. Systems are already in place so that you can communicate via tools consumers already use.

THE EVIDENCE: Stories from Around the Globe

Always-on Customer Service

People are vocal when things go wrong and new media tools amplify this, but the online shoe company Zappos has turned that to its advantage. Zappos maintains an Insights page, a Facebook account, and each employee has a Twitter account, which allows them to act as ambassadors for the company.

Jeanne’s last job was at a traditional call center, where it was just one call after the next: “I felt like a robot, with no connection to the people I worked with or the person on the other end of the line.” When she started at Zappos, the first thing she was asked to do was to set up a profile and Twitter account. “Once I even sent a woman flowers after she’d opened up to me about a family incident.”

How might you build personal connections with your customers? How might you turn negative interactions into positive ones by responding to issues in real time?

Meaningful Micro-moments

It’s been hard for Jane, a 33-year-old New Yorker, to find a doctor she can trust. And it doesn’t help when she has to wait two hours for a three-minute appointment: “If I’m sick, I’m sick, and I want to know what’s wrong as soon as I can.”

Since she signed up for the Hello Health service, she’s able to communicate with her doctor rather than with the system. She can use IM, video chats, and Facebook-like profiles to ask about even the smallest things. Jane is a self-described hypochondriac and needs reassurance that, yes, it’s just a cold. The fact that her doctor is always there for her, either in person or just a simple email away, means everything to her.

How can we transform the old system with new tools? How can we make getting a medical checkup as simple as getting a coffee at Starbucks?

The New Public Dialogue

During the 2008 US election, Jenna watched speeches on YouTube, got updates on her mobile phone, and subscribed to feeds. “Never before have I felt so involved,” she said. “When it came time to watch the inauguration, I could see it with my Facebook status updates on CNN.”

Citizens the world over have discovered the utility of mobile phones, YouTube, and Blogger to produce their own news coverage and influence world events. Dumisani Ndlela, a journalist in Zimbabwe, wrote about the use of SMS jokes to make sense of the election stalemate. Halfway across the world, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regretted that his governing party ignored alternative media there: “It was a serious misjudgment. We made the biggest mistake in thinking that it was not important.”

How might governments reach the public using the social networking tools? How can citizens and NGOs use them to make government more transparent, accountable, and responsive?

Simple Tools for the Little Guys
Michael Coffey, chief executive of BlueCotton in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is using tools like Twitter to enhance customer service without significant infrastructure investment. The 25-employee, $4 million company lets customers design their own shirts online. Two of Coffey’s factory workers have recently used iPhones to send photo tweets of completed shirts right before shipping. “Customers have some anxiety when they purchase shirts online,” Coffey says. “The tweets help alleviate those concerns and create real fans of the company.”

Bridging Services for Direct Access
Being stuck in a tree of menu options isn’t what you need when things are going wrong. Often what people want is to simply talk to a person. GetHuman.com is a cheat sheet that tells frustrated consumers the right buttons to push on a telephone to reach a human in the customer service department at hundreds of companies. From full-service suites to message boards, many services are emerging to help consumers navigate complex systems that weren’t built for customer satisfaction.

Portals for Public Action
Services that aggregate voices to support popular action are already widespread. Vote Report India is a collaborative election-monitoring platform that disseminates information and supports citizen action. Users contribute direct SMS, email, and web reports on violations of the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct. The platform compiles these direct reports with news reports, blog posts, photos, videos, and tweets related to the elections. Citizens can monitor all relevant sources, in one place, on an interactive map.

Be a Pattern Spotter

Now that you’ve been exposed to a few different examples, don’t be surprised if you start seeing Life’s Changes patterns all around. Keep your eyes open and let us know what you find, especially if it’s the next new pattern.

PATTERNS are a collection of shared thoughts, insights, and observations gathered by IDEO through their work and the world around them. Read more about PATTERNS here.

Jenny Comiskey has collaborated with a wide range of clients to define new platforms, service experiences, and innovation strategies. She has an abundant curiosity for uncovering the small nuances of individual behaviors, complementing that with a macro view of emerging social and cultural patterns. Jenny is most at home when tackling messy systemic issues, applying design thinking to reframe complex problems, enable positive impact, uncover new opportunities for value creation, and define “what’s next.”

Aradhana Goel is the design and innovation lead for IDEO’s portfolio in India and focuses on strategic program and partner development in the region. She has extensive experience ranging from architecture and urban design to experience design to service innovation. She is passionate about understanding human behaviors, how they inform the collective societal patterns, and how these patterns intersect with technology and business needs to inform innovative products, services, environments, organizations and systems.

Simon King is an interaction designer whose work spans macro and micro, from long-term platform strategy to pixels and milliseconds. His areas of interests include adaptive systems, multi-channel platforms, and information visualization. At IDEO Chicago he has worked on a diverse range of projects including medical devices, financial services, mobile payments, and the digital experience of the Olympic games. Simon holds a masters degree in Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a BFA in Graphic Design from Western Michigan University.

JENNY COMISKEY
For over 10 years, Jenny Comiskey, a senior design strategist, has collaborated with a wide range of clients d

20
Sep
10

Social media provide valuable way to get customer feedback


Monday, September 20, 2010
How many Facebook fans do you have? How about Twitter followers? Should you even be worried about these tools to grow and sustain your business? All types and sizes of organizations are jumping to make sure they have a social media presence, but there is a method to how business owners should be using these outlets to their advantage.

A lot of companies are struggling to figure out what they want to do with social media. Many are using social media as an advertising tool to push messages to their target audiences. At the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, we recently released results of a survey with Network Solutions showing that 62 percent of small-business owners are using social media to stay in touch with their customers, compared with to only 46 percent six months ago.

In addition to using social media as an advertising channel, companies are also increasingly using social media as a listening tool to “hear” what customers are saying about them.

You’re listening, but are you really hearing your customers?

Social media has generated an unprecedented volume of word-of-mouth chatter surrounding brands and products. The water-cooler conversations and backyard barbecue banter has made its way online with people turning to online ratings and reviews, blogs, discussion groups, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.

As a business owner or an entrepreneur just starting up, social media can provide valuable customer feedback by allowing you to eavesdrop on the virtual conversations and online interactions happening between your customers on social networks.

For example, say you own a bake shop in Georgetown. You can’t control what people post about your business on the review site Yelp, but you can pay attention to it. If everyone’s talking about your chocolate frosting, that’s great feedback to slather it on more cakes, or think about tweaking your recipe — depending on what they are saying.

Use what people are saying online about your business to your advantage:

— Don’t forget about the silent majority. Many forums are dominated by a small group of individuals who may not be representative of the broader customer base that has chosen to remain silent. Studies have shown that 99 percent of social media users are actually quite passive — they are using the sites to read what others are saying. It’s that vocal 1 percent making all the noise. Think about this before you react to a negative string of posts.

— Social dynamics in the forum can influence who posts and who remains silent. In the face of conflicting opinions, less involved and more positive customers increasingly remain silent, letting the more critical customers steer the ratings environment. In my own research, I’ve found that consumers’ decision to contribute a product rating is linked to the variety of opinions that had been posted previously. When there is already a consensus of opinion on a forum, more positive and less involved customers are more likely to add their own positive post. But when there was disagreement, the posting participants tend to share negative opinions. My study also shows customers are more likely to provide online ratings for products they feel strongly about — whether positive or negative.

— Don’t overreact to negative feedback. They say negativity breeds negativity, but negative reviews don’t necessarily mean that your brand or product is uniformly disliked. More favorable customers may have chosen to remain silent. Trying to appease your dissatisfied customers may be quite costly — and not necessarily worth it. Instead, encourage the less involved to post. Less-involved customers tend to be more favorable, while more involved customers tend to be more critical. If you’re trying to foster a positive tone, provide incentives for posting reviews to those who don’t normally post. Offer coupons or discounts. Use Twitter to offer a special deal just for followers and encourage them to re-Tweet it.

— Don’t be afraid of disagreements. While disagreement among opinions tends to attract more negative posters, it also fosters more discussion. This insulates product sales from a few uncharacteristically negative opinions. At the end of the day, the question is: Do these dynamics affect product sales? An online opinion forum tends to take on a life of its own. While the temptation is high to strategically manipulate the opinions expressed, the benefits in terms of product sales are limited — not to mention the steep downsides associated with the legal ramifications and the potential for negative publicity.

Wendy Moe is an associate professor of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Her current research focuses on technology-enabled measures of early product success and examines online product reviews and search engine activity as predictors of future sales. Moe is organizing an Oct. 1 Social Media Forum conference at the Smith School in which business practitioners will discuss social media strategy. More information and registration is available at http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/smf/.

17
Sep
10

News Sites Study Social Media Publishers Seek Insight on User Behavior; The Best Time to Send Out a Tweet

By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO

News organizations are getting more scientific about studying the value of the online readers they are hooking through social media services like Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., as they seek new ways to exploit the channels without cannibalizing their businesses.

Kenneth Fuchs, an executive at Sports Illustrated, is studying the habits of the magazine’s Twitter followers.

Sports Illustrated is researching the habits of its 1.2 million Twitter followers through informal surveys and polls, and examining what they click on. Kenneth Fuchs, vice president of digital for Sports Illustrated Group, says he hopes the work will help the company build products that resonate with its core fans.

The Time Warner Inc. magazine is also tracking the impact of stories that spread virally, such as a recent project on the best NFL performers by jersey number.

At the Washington Post, managing editor Raju Narisetti says his team is looking for patterns that could illuminate whether certain types of stories are more appealing to audiences in social networks than on other sites but that it is “very early in the game.”

The paper, owned by Washington Post Co., has started compiling a daily tracking report showing what social networks are driving audiences to the Post and what those users are reading. “The cause and effect” of how an action from the Post, such as tweeting a story, affects the story’s viewership is still “fuzzy,” Mr. Narisetti said, “but over time, it will get better.”

The efforts come as publications are reporting surging traffic from social media, as they rush to load up their sites with new tools that encourage readers to share their content among friends on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Google and others.

Forty-two percent of social-networking users regularly or sometimes get their news through social-networking sites, according to a report released this week by the Pew Media Center. That is leaving some publishers with the sense that they are better off trying to reach users where they are congregating than trying to corral them on their site.

News companies have been pursuing a more metrics-driven approach to disseminating their stories for years. To date, they have often focused on quantifying the impact of search traffic, studying what keywords usually land people at their sites.

Now they are looking for similar patterns with social data, using it to attract new readers, better personalize their experience on the site and potentially target ads.

The television division of E. W. Scripps Co. has begun to closely monitor metrics, including how many people hide content the company pushes out through Facebook.

Like other publishers, Scripps creates fan pages for its television stations and updates the pages with links to content on their website. Those updates are sent to people who have become fans of the pages, but consumers can click an “x” in the corner if they don’t find it relevant.

“You can have a fan, but they are worthless to you if they hide your posts,” said Adam Symson, vice president of interactive for Scripps television division.

Still, some publishers remain cautious about tapping social networks too aggressively, wary that consumers are just grazing headlines without clicking through and that the publishers are giving up data, and potentially revenue.

In a recent survey of 100 online publishers, including traditional news organizations, more than 90% said they have concerns about integrating with Facebook, including how the social-network uses data about their content and who will benefit from long-term revenue. The study was conducted by research group Thinktank Research and sponsored by ShareThis, a social media and analytics company.

Justin Osofsky, director of media partnerships for Facebook, said the company is constantly listening to feedback from publishers, who are enthusiastic about doing more with the site. Facebook collects data about what articles people are sharing in order to post that content to their News Feeds and those of their friends.

A company spokesman said that nether Facebook nor advertisers use personally identifiable information about users who share articles for ad targeting. The company does allow publishers and others to access anonymous, aggregated data for analytics purposes.

Facebook is coaching news companies how to use tools such as one that allows them to analyze the demographics of users who become a “fan” of their page on the site.

Some publications are going a step further. The Economist, for instance, has begun using a service called SocialFlow to determine the optimal time for it to release tweets so that they’ll catch the attention of people following the magazine’s Twitter account.

SocialFlow Inc., a New York-based start-up, monitors what topics are being discussed in real-time on Twitter and other social-media services to determine when to release a tweet about a certain topic to increase the likelihood it will be clicked. The company charges $2,000 a month for a publication’s first Twitter account.

Washington Post’s Mr. Narisetti said he sees more ambitious uses of social data down the line, including looking at how many social referrals come from the Post’s own social-networking pages or from Facebook users who recommend a story on their own.

Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at Jessica.Vascellaro@wsj.com

16
Sep
10

The Rise of Social Service

The Rise of Social Service

By Christopher J. Bucholtz
CRM Buyer
09/16/10 5:00 AM PT

Two trends — social media and the ascendance of service — represent a major opportunity for businesses wise enough to seize on them. By building the right social media connections, companies can offer customers better service at reduced costs in ways that augment loyalty. Remember, though, that social media is a two-way street: It’ll show the world your flaws as clearly as your strengths.

Although many CRM projects were deferred or cancelled in 2009, Forrester’s latest research emphasizes that organizations are investing again to improve their customer-management capabilities. Download Forrester’s report (a $1,749 value) to find where: www.compareCRMsolutions.com

ocial media’s explosion over the last few years has had some obvious implications for CRM.

At first, as in every new thing in CRM, the implications for sales were appreciated first (although they have yet to be fully realized). However, this time around, there are other forces at work — namely, economic forces. There aren’t that many new customers to acquire in this economy. Thus, customer retention is a big issue — and what better way is there to retain customers than provide excellent customer service?

These two phenomena — social media and the ascendance of service — represent a major opportunity for businesses wise enough to seize on them. If embraced and executed upon gracefully, the results can be beneficial to all involved: Customers will get better service, companies can facilitate better service at a reduced cost, and the interaction between company and customers can lead to increased loyalty.

Knowing Your Product Better Than You Do

Here’s what I mean by this. An increasing number of customers are not going directly to businesses for answers to their questions — they’re going to their peers via social media. As a result, they’re essentially offloading your service organization of significant traffic without you ever knowing about it.

So your service organization is being relieved of some traffic. The other good news is that often, customers know more about the ins and outs of your products than you do — you made it, but they bang on it all day. They’re the ones that spot the idiosyncracies, have figured out work-arounds, and can recommend accessories or additions to solve specific problems that you may never have anticipated. Thus, these peers are providing different and often better service suggestions than your service team can.

In both situations, it’s important that your service organization pays attention to these conversations. First off, you can track the topics people are seeking assistance with and move to help address them. Secondly, you can look for these off-beat customer solutions and, where appropriate, bring them into your own knowledge base and boost your ability to respond to direct customer service requests.

A Personalized Approach to Loyalty

But it doesn’t stop with passive listening. The third benefit that “social service” can yield comes when your service teams starts participating on these social channels. They can play a key role as both peers and representatives of the organization; selecting the right people to fulfill this important role can help increase your profile on these forums and drive even more customers in the direction of “social service.” It also helps create a closer relationship between the customer and the company — a personalized approach to loyalty.

We all know that customers are even more loyal when a problem is resolved to their satisfaction than they are when there’s no problem in the first place; this is one way of cementing that loyalty, and it’s a way your service organization can do it in the one-to-many context of social media, amplifying the effect.

The channels we’re talking about here are the usual suspects — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, customer forums, and even your own company-sponsored forum. It pays to learn where your customers are having these service discussions; finding that out is the critical first step that will allow you to begin using these channels to capitalize on the virtuous cycle of social service.

First, Get Your House In Order

Note, however, that social media will amplify exactly what you can deliver. If your service processes are broken, going social will only broadcast your incompetence to the world. Social media will not magically untangle Byzantine processes or make indifferent employees suddenly care about customers. It’s a supercharger on your service engine — and without that basic engine, a social service approach is not going the car go by itself.

If you think that these ideas are over-the-horizon, think-about-it-next-year concepts, check the numbers. A survey conducted in May 2010 by Forum One asked this question: What is your most important social media goal? Almost a quarter (22 percent) said the most important goal was customer service, and 15 percent said the most important goal was fostering peer-to-peer customer service. That’s 37 percent of the respondents taking social service seriously — and it’s a percentage that will only grow as the effectiveness of social service makes itself felt.

15
Sep
10

Phone-based text messages and social media Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter are changing how companies interact with consumers.

ExactTarget gathering showcases social media
By Tom Spalding and Erika D. Smith
Posted: September 15, 2010

Phone-based text messages and social media Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter are changing how companies interact with consumers.

This was evident Tuesday at ExactTarget’s tech conference, where executives rolled out the company’s new “Interactive Marketing Hub,” software that powers all forms of interactive marketing in real time across e-mail, mobile and social sites.

“In the last decade, e-mail has been the workhorse of communication,” said Scott Dorsey, CEO of ExactTarget, the 700-employee Downtown Indianapolis company sponsoring the three-day private gathering at the Marriott Downtown.

“Marketing is shifting in a more fundamental way,” Dorsey told the crowd. “With social media, mobile, websites, everything has changed.”

ExactTarget’s “Interactive Marketing Hub” will give users a Web-based, real-time “dashboard” of all comments made about a particular company on the Internet. The software also helps clients create and keep track of targeted marketing campaigns using social media, creating an integrated approach rather than different silos.

A Nielsen study showed that of all U.S. Internet users, e-mail usage dropped from 11.5 percent of their computer time spent in a day in June 2009 to 8.3 percent this June. Social network usage rose to 22.7 percent from 15.8 percent in the same period.

Richard Branson, a serial entrepreneur, commercial space travel proponent and the chairman of Virgin Group, said during a speech at the conference that social media can help customers interact with each other and the brand and create a better experience.

A food-deprived customer on a Virgin flight, he said, used a Twitter app to complain about being hungry instead of pushing the flight attendant button. The company was monitoring conversations, and the ground crew conveyed the message to the air crew, which helped the passenger.

“Conversations can change the world one moment at a time, one person at a time,” Branson said.

Also speaking at the conference is Dick Costolo, chief operating officer of Twitter, who delivers a Thursday lunchtime keynote address on how marketers can use the social site to drive business for clients.

ExactTarget, a privately held company that had considered going public a few years ago, built a business as experts at communicating with lists of e-mail users who have chosen to receive electronic ads, news and deals from ExactTarget’s clients. The company also helps its clients get their messages out on Facebook and Twitter.

But consumers “have a megaphone,” Dorsey said, and that’s only going to increase. “Embracing the fact that consumers have a voice is imperative.”

13
Sep
10

social media tools are beginning to support serious endeavors, including crisis response efforts by FEMA, the DHS, and police and fire departments

Social media to the rescue
By Bart Perkins
September 13, 2010

Computerworld – Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter link people around the globe. But until recently, they have been oriented toward leisure activities such as connecting with friends and playing games. Now, social media tools are beginning to support serious endeavors, including crisis response efforts by FEMA, the DHS, and police and fire departments.

In 2008, Egyptian police detained a UC Berkeley graduate student, James Buck, for photographing a protest near Cairo. Buck tweeted “Arrested.” His followers notified Berkeley, which obtained his release through the U.S. State Department and local attorneys. In 2009, two young Australian girls trapped in a storm sewer used their phones to update their Facebook status. Friends notified authorities, who rescued the girls. More organized uses of social media during emergencies are in the offing. The American Red Cross recently hosted the Emergency Social Data Summit to discuss capitalizing on social media during emergencies.

Crisis responders are attracted to social media because they are:

Pervasive. Facebook has over 500 million subscribers worldwide, with 1 billion projected by 2013.

Inexpensive. It is nearly always more cost-effective (and quicker) to build systems on an existing platform. Social media apps are relatively easy to develop, allowing relief organizations to spend their time and money meeting victims’ needs rather than building complex IT infrastructures.

Flexible. Social media platforms were designed to facilitate customization and extension. This allows an app to be repurposed for multiple disasters. The Ushahidi application, developed to track violence in Kenya, was adapted to track volunteers, supplies and shelters following the Haiti earthquake and was also modified for use in the response to the BP oil spill. The Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” survivor registration Web site, which was designed to help reconnect friends and families after Hurricane Katrina, was recently updated to include a direct feed to Facebook and Twitter. In addition, people away from their homes during a disaster can visit the American Red Cross Flickr site to see disaster photos and determine whether their neighborhoods sustained damage.

Crisis responders are beginning to augment official information channels with up-to-the-minute data from social media. But privacy concerns abound. In a crisis, reconnecting family members is critically important. But the same data needed for that could potentially be used for harmful purposes, such as robbery or identity theft. Moreover, emergency responders need access to potentially sensitive personal data of the sort that social media services have been criticized for sharing. This raises the question of whether crisis responders should be able to override privacy controls within various social networks.

Finally, emergency responders often obtain information from phone-call-based services such as 9-1-1 emergency systems. A recent Red Cross survey found that people who weren’t able to reach emergency operators quickly by dialing 9-1-1 often turned to e-mail or social networks. Unfortunately, few 9-1-1 call centers can accept data from social media; valuable text messages, photos or videos can’t be forwarded to responders. That’s not good, especially in an emergency.

Social media platforms are maturing and becoming serious communication channels that facilitate problem-solving in creative and unexpected ways at commercial, governmental and not-for-profit organizations. How can your company use them to achieve its goals?

Bart Perkins is managing partner at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage Partners Inc., which helps organizations invest well in IT. Contact him at BartPerkins@LeveragePartners.com.

03
Sep
10

social media done right is all about improving customer lives through a better online experience

Social Media Are Easier Than You Think
By MP MUELLER

With so many new technologies and tools, we business owners often feel as if we’re playing catch-up — as if we don’t even know what we don’t know. In just the last few years, there’s been a land grab by newly minted social media experts staking claim to social media prowess. Last month, the team over at Thought Lead hosted an online meet-up of 60 social media and online marketing experts titled The Influencer Project. The one-hour seminar gave all of the experts 60 seconds to offer their best advice on how companies could increase their influence online. For anyone with attention-deficit impulses (ahem) this was nirvana.

Marketing and Twitter and Facebook stars like Guy Kawasaki, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing and Gretchen Rubin, who penned The Happiness Project, suited up. I was sold on attending the free gathering when I saw Scott Porad, who created the LOL cat phenomenon I Can Has Cheezburger, would be chiming in, too.

While the conference focused on helping social media companies enhance their influence, the takeaways apply to many small businesses. We listened here at Door Number 3, and we were surprised. As mystifying as social media can seem, the collective advice sounded like a primer for — here’s the surprising part — parenting 101 or social skills 101. Basically, all it takes are good communication skills:

Tell great stories. The secret to creating brand allegiance is giving people a story along with every purchase. And what better venue than a social community that is there expressly to interact? Follow smart people like Brian Solis to learn how to hone your company’s storytelling skills.

Mr. Solis is a principal at Silicon Valley’s new media agency, FutureWorks. Check out his Conversation Prism, which is a visual synopsis that shows how all of the social media sites out there can be leveraged and how they overlap and build on each other. Be multidimensional. Share your passions as well as your expertise. People buy products from companies whose values they align with.

Be consistent. And flex your Twitter finger. Share good content consistently and your audience will keep coming back. Talk about things you know, provide relevant and interesting info. If they like what you’re serving, people — not unlike livestock — will come back at the same time every day for their daily diet. Repeat your Twitter posts up to four times in eight hours — you’ll get the same amount of click-throughs each time because people don’t go back to read what they’ve missed on Twitter. Make sure the story you tell about your brand is authentic and, yes, be consistent.

The content can’t be all about you. My friend Lisa often jokes when we are catching up, “Enough about me talking about me. What do you think about me?” The social media consultant Michelle Greer, who won the 2009 Austin Social Media Award, says social media done right is all about improving customer lives through a better online experience. And that starts with content.

Start a conversation, educate, entertain and create a better user experience. Stop talking about your products and services. Offer free samples and creative thoughts. Social media give you the power to listen to conversations and connect the dots. People want something to talk about and rally around. Social media allow businesses and nonprofits to bring people and passions together. In 2008, Ms. Greer organized the first Blood Drive Tweetup, a crowdsourced fund-raiser that doubled the traffic for the Central Texas Blood and Tissue Center. The project became a national blueprint for other blood banks around the country.

Listen, respond and take it offline. Social media are really just about talking to people, so start that dialogue on Twitter and Facebook. Then listen intently and respond. Identify bloggers who are influencers with your target audience and reach out to them. Freshbooks is an online time-tracking and invoicing company in Toronto that keeps the dialogue running with loyal customers on Facebook. The Freshbooks team members have titles like Chief Handshaker, Chief Cat Herder and Support Rockstar. And they take it offline, hosting suppers with their users to find out what they like and need.

Meanwhile, Pandora Radio holds town hall meetings across the United States where Pandora users can tell Tim Westergren, the chief executive, what kinds of music they want to hear. And then, guess what? Pandora fans blog about it, and upload video of meetings to Flickr and YouTube, further sharing the love for the brand.

Pandora has truly hit a sweet spot with customer service. Proof? The Onion satirized the company’s zeal to find the music a listener wanted in a “news” story. And then, of course, Pandora posted the story on Twitter.

Be transparent, be honest. Creating a good relationship requires these things. It’s no different online.

Social means not being alone. Use it as one tool of many to reach and motivate your target audiences. The real sweet spot in marketing your company comes from a confluence of different vehicles where the net effect is your brand being seen, heard and reinforced on many levels. Each medium has its strengths: television delivers emotion and impact. Coupons can drive trial and purchase. Search advertising lets people find your company easier. And billboards often direct people to your closest location. Social media, done well, strengthen the bond between the company and the end user. To create enduring brands, a marketing program uses many different touch points.

There. Demystified. Building your company’s influence through social media requires simple, straightforward communications skills. The only thing you may not have known about creating influence through social media is that you had the power to do it all along.

MP Mueller is the founder of Door Number 3, a boutique advertising agency in Austin. Follow Door Number 3 on Facebook.

02
Sep
10

Apple jumping into the social networking business with Ping

From Apple, a Step Into Social Media for Music
By MIGUEL HELFT
Published: September 1, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple jumped into the social networking business on Wednesday, introducing Ping, a service built into iTunes that is intended to help users discover new music and, presumably, buy more songs from Apple.

Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, showcased Ping at an event here along with a string of other new products. They included updates to Apple’s iPod line of music players and new software that allows wireless printing from iPads and iPhones.

Mr. Jobs also introduced a much-anticipated upgrade of its Apple TV set-top box that is smaller and, at $99, significantly cheaper than its predecessor, which did not sell well. It allows users to rent television shows from Fox and ABC for 99 cents, and like many other devices, it can also stream movies from Netflix.

Mr. Jobs said the changes to the iPod lineup, which include new versions of the Shuffle, Nano and Touch models, were the most significant since Apple introduced its first music player in 2001.

“This year we’ve gone wild,” Mr. Jobs said. Sales of iPods have declined this year, but revenue from them has continued to grow as more buyers choose the higher-priced Touch model.

An unexpected announcement from Mr. Jobs was the introduction of Ping. With it, users will be able to follow friends and see what music they have bought or enjoyed, what concerts they plan to attend and what music they have reviewed. They will also be able to follow bands and get updates on their new releases, concert tours and other events.

Many other online music services like Pandora and Zune Social from Microsoft already have features that allow friends to share information about music.

While other social networks have struggled in the shadow of Facebook, some analysts said that Apple had a chance to turn Ping into a success. The service will be instantly available to 160 million iTunes users, as long as they download the latest version of the software, which Apple released on Wednesday.

“Apple wants to create even tighter links with iTunes users and keep them a click away from buying a song,” said Mike McGuire, a vice president with Gartner. “Ping will give people more reasons to spend frequently and rapidly.”

While Ping may put Apple in competition with Facebook, its impact on the struggling MySpace may be more pronounced, analysts said. MySpace has emphasized music over the last few years.

“This isn’t about reconnecting with your girlfriend from eighth grade,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “This is about talking to people about music.”

A spokeswoman for MySpace declined to comment.

Mr. Jobs said Ping would have simple privacy controls. Anyone will be able to follow bands and receive their updates, and users will be able to say whether they want to be followed by anyone or only by people they approve.

The new iPod Touch is thinner than the previous model and comes equipped with front- and rear-facing cameras, as well as Apple’s FaceTime video chatting software. It also has the same high-resolution retina display that Apple first showcased on the iPhone 4 earlier this year.

The Touch comes in three versions; the cheapest has 8 gigabytes of storage and costs $229.

Apple shrank the iPod Nano by replacing its wheel interface with a touch screen. It costs $149 for an 8-gigabyte version and $179 for 16 gigabytes.

In introducing the new version of Apple TV, Mr. Jobs acknowledged that the set-top box had not been as successful as he had hoped. The new version replaces the download-to-own model with a rental service that has shows from Fox and ABC for 99 cents. Mr. Jobs said the other networks had yet to agree to Apple’s pricing.

“We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us,” he said.

But that is far from guaranteed. All television studios are wary of distributing their shows in new ways on the Internet for fear of harming their existing businesses, which rely on cable and satellite subscriptions.

Fox and ABC agreed to Apple’s pricing model only after lengthy negotiations and heated internal discussions, especially at Fox’s parent, the News Corporation.

ABC’s participation is not surprising, given that Mr. Jobs is the largest shareholder and a board member of its parent, the Walt Disney Company.

For its part, Fox suggested that its agreement with Apple was something of an experiment. In a statement, Jim Gianopulos, the chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said the studio was excited to work with Apple over the next several months to “explore this innovative offering.”

Other networks, like CBS and NBC, are pointedly not participating in the rentals program. “Episodic television is not a pay-per-view business,” said Keith J. Cocozza, a spokesman for Time Warner, which owns HBO, TNT and other channels. Companies like Time Warner are instead supporting the existing subscription TV model, which is being gradually extended to the Web.

Analysts said that the new Apple TV was likely to be more of a hit than its $299 predecessor, in part because of its low price, but also because of software that allows users to stream content from their iPhones and iPads to their TVs through the set-top box. But they said Apple’s challenges in securing more content underscored the continuing difficulties that technology companies faced in cracking the TV market.

“Apple has not yet made a significant play for control of the TV,” James L. McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester, wrote on his blog.

Brian Stelter contributed reporting from New York.

01
Sep
10

social media should be fully interleaved with your company’s total communications plan

Radio: The original social media
31 August, 2010 11:18:00

Neil Glassman
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I fell in love with it as a kid that radio was one of the original social networks. AM had Top 40 formats (mashups), DJ shout outs (tweets), contests to win logo T-shirts (badges) and exclusive clubs to which everyone belonged (Facebook groups). I got into late night talk shows (blogs), which had an intimacy and affinity with listeners that radio has lost and web social networks have yet to fully discover. Later, FM jocks changed my music buying habits and political views (influencers).

Now that I have one foot firmly planted in social media and the other precariously in radio, I note that radio has evolved away from its “social” roots, with radio brands failing to fully leverage the new social media platforms that could bolster their listenership and bottom lines. There are many pundits more informed than I am who can predict whether better integration with the other social media platforms can help “save” radio. My position is that the other social media platforms are tools that can help radio in the here and now.

It’s always good to start by establishing a few basics, such my definition of social media and my biases when it comes to broadcast radio.

I despise the terms “new media” and “old media”. Let’s use “linear media” to refer to those platforms — broadcast radio and TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. — that are fundamentally unidirectional. User participation requires a back channel — postal mail, telephones or private emails.

“Digital media” puts two-way communication on the same technology pipe. A website serves content based on my requests, drawing content from a variety of sources in a non-linear fashion. “Social media” is an advanced form of digital media with a content provider hosting a media stream on a platform that allows significant user generated content. Social media grants users the ability to interact with the collective, as well as other users individually — user connections are non-linear.

Me? I’m a lifelong radio listener who still gets chills when a jock pulls off a flawless segue. I admire the radio personality who — though s/he is communicating with me via a point-to-point data network, with no eye contact — sounds like s/he is talking directly to me, along with hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of others.

I’m also a big branding guy. That’s how I make my living — helping businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) create and maintain strong brands as the foundation of their marketing. You may have noticed I used the phrase “radio brands” above, when you might have been expecting “radio station” or “radio group”. It’s your brand — whether your company consists of a bunch of studios and a tower or data centers and electrons flowing through networks — that defines your business. If it does not match your brand — or, better yet, enhance your brand — perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it.

When we speak of social media, let’s not ignore the “social” elements of “linear” broadcast radio. I was fortunate to have been with Telos Systems when its telephone hybrids vastly improved the sound of call-in and talk radio just as those formats experienced exponential growth. The technology of talk radio is social; the use of the telephone for a back channel does not seem out of place because it predated digital media platforms. Stations with local call-in and talk are better poised to have a brand that is social, as opposed to stations with their own brands subjugated by the brands of national hosts. I’m not saying it can’t be done by the latter group — I’m just saying it’s more difficult.

During my tenure at Telos, I helped promote a George Clinton audio concert to demonstrate Macromedia Shockwave — the precursor to Flash — that turned out to be the first multimedia event to grind the Internet to a halt because too many were trying to log in. Of course, the technology got much better. Was I naive to think that streaming technology would be embraced by radio brands as a way to decentralize programming sources and increase their potential audiences to, well, everyone in the world? Not quite how it played out.

Streaming’s social potential has been demonstrated by platforms that allow favorites and playlists to be shared. Most of the streaming platforms also facilitate sharing with other social media platforms. Last.fm is an example of a social streaming platform. Remind me to ask someone at CBS why the powerful CBS brand is not more prominent on Last.fm.

Stations have the option of adding HD Radio. The technology was (and still is) flawed, but the radio industry has managed with far-from-perfect tools in the past and used them with great success. Endless-loop tape cartridges stand out as an example. HD Radio was the hand we were dealt and, better than no hand at all, I was a strong proponent of the technology.

I was persistent and insistent — did any of you attend one of my presentations on behalf of BE? — when describing to programmers and managers how HD Radio created new potentials for innovation and profits. But the introduction of HD Radio in the US met the perfect storm of roadblocks — the decline of radio advertising, the recession and the failure of consumers to consider broadcast radio as an element to be included in their digital entertainment toy box. That last one may be partially attributed to the attraction and growing popularity of social platforms; there is nothing inherently social about HD Radio not found in analog broadcast radio.

Though we are still in the early stages of the social media evolution, its rapid rise and successful use by brands to increase sales tells us we can’t ignore it. Actually, we have to incorporate it into our sales and marketing or our brands will be left behind. New platforms — like location based services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla — continue to roll out and are embraced by consumers. Social media is blossoming in the recession; imagine what might happen after recovery.

When I say radio brands must engage in social media, I don’t mean just getting a Facebook page, a Twitter account, etc. These current platforms may or may not achieve permanence. Think of another social media platform for early adapters — CB radio. The technology is far less important than what the drivers wanted to do with it.

Research shows that brands that engage in social media with strategies are far more likely to profit from their efforts than those without strategy. No surprise there. The good news is that the best successes stories in social media are B2C — business to consumer — representing your relationship with your listeners. The bad news is that B2B — business to business — how you get your revenue, is less proven.

Radio brands have assets appropriate to social networking that presently are just slides on business plan PowerPoint decks in some other industries:

– Local radio brands are expert at building loyalty/community among listeners.

– You’ve got experience earning both national and local advertising.

– No matter how the mudslinging over FM chips in mobile phones shakes out, your brand is portable to nearly every mobile phone using social media. And your signal is portable to nearly every smart phone.

– There are just so many hours in a day people can listen/watch/chat/etc. Your task is to retain and increment your listeners and advertisers; new entrants concentrate solely on conversion, which is based on their being compelling to your audience and you’re not.

I recently did a webinar on B2B leads generation and conversion using social media entitled, “Why B2B Leads from Social Media Are More Like Joe Biden than Lady Gaga.” One of my key points was that a brand’s social media must be a part of — not apart from — it’s overall strategy.

Many companies are uncertain whether digital media activities are the responsibility of marketing, sales, customer service, human resources or some other department — the answer is all of the above. Note that I said digital media, as some brands are still having this internal debate about their websites as well as their social media.

To be successful, social media should be fully interleaved with your company’s total communications plan. This may require internal education and, sometimes, a change in corporate culture. If, as one outstanding marketer told me, Facebook will become the operating system of the Internet, brands cannot risk failing in the social media universe due to lack of strategic deployment.

There are those who dismiss the social media tools and science we have. Someone who says that marketing using social media has yet to take off is probably right. However, we’ve enough experience and best practices to be strategic — and some of those who are building solid B2B social media foundations are starting to see benefits from their investment. It may be a new frontier, but let’s be sure to use the maps and compasses we have to help us navigate our way to sales and profits.

— Neil Glassman is a digital and linear media marketing strategist whose clients benefit from improved new customer acquisition and enhanced customer retention. He has helped turn startup underdogs into wonderdogs and guided underperforming brands through their midlife crisis. He blogs on the WhizBangPowWow and Social Times. Based in New York City, he’s a pretty good cook.




Twitter

Blog Stats

  • 19,395 hits
September 2010
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930