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.

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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.




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