Archive for the social media Category

When is an audience not an audience?

Posted in social media with tags on April 13, 2011 by wisdomlondon

When we talk about marketing activity, we often talk about our audience as a means of ensuring relevance and effectiveness.  But in social media, it’s a slightly misleading term.  Here’s why….

It’s easy to assume that because a Twitter account has 5, 000 followers, there’s an audience of 5,000. Or that a group (on Facebook or LinkedIn, for example) with 400 members means an audience of 400. But that’s a hopeful, bordering on lazy, view.

Social media essentially means a tide of information and updates coming at us across devices and you only have to look at how you consume this content yourself to know that a good deal of it is ignored, deleted or muted without a second glance.

So how do you measure audience more meaningfully? I’d venture the view that engagement is a critical measurement tool – after all, it’s only when an individual engages on some level that we can truly call them an audience. It’s been said to me recently that engagement is a meaningless term used by social media people – I say it’s the true meaning of audience. Of course, we can’t measure everything, so some assumptions have to be made about the number of people who engage on the quiet – without interacting, responding or sharing. But it’s fair to say that your follower counts are not representative of your active audience.

So here are my rules of thumb:

  • Don’t get hung up on the numbers, because they are not entirely representative
  • And therefore, don’t rest on your laurels because you’ve hit the magic  1, 000, 2, 000 or 10, 000
  • Go back to analytics every time – knowing where, how and when people have taken action is what really counts
  • Think of your follower count as ‘potential audience’ and then look to how you increase the proportion of that figure to become ‘engaged audience’ – that’s where the numbers truly mean something

Now go and get yourselves a standing ovation…

Kate Spiers is a director at Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media.

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Platform, simplicity and involvement: Keys to developing the perfect app

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, social media with tags , on March 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: M Bartosch

If you want to get closer to your customers, you can’t get closer than their ever-present mobile phones.

Packaging up your brand, service or product in a mobile or tablet-friendly app ensures that customers stay close, no matter where they are, and can enjoy a enhanced and personalised version of the brand experience. If you get it right. And when you do, greater loyalty and increased spend are just some of the benefits.

But developing an app which delights – and not to mention justifies the investment – is not straightforward. There is a whole host of considerations to take into account, and this will only expand as mobile technologies and operating systems continue to evolve.

I asked two experts in app development about what it takes to build a brilliant app.

Mark Rock is founder of audio-sharing platform Audioboo, where sound is social. Launched in 2009, Audioboo sees around 100 000 individual audio plays per day – and mobile has played a huge part in establishing this reach.  It’s available via iPhone, Android and now Nokia apps.  Gilbert Hill is business development director at Governor Technology, a web development agency with a specialism in app development.

iPhone, Blackberry, Android, WP7…. How do you decide where to place your bets?

For Mark Rock, it was a fairly easy choice: “iPhone has by far the most integrated development environment and because iPad and iPhone share the same OS, then your app will work on both, he explained. “In terms of market size, Android is the king but it’s harder to maintain (as a platform). Blackberry is a pain, simply because of the sheer number and different shapes handsets come in. WP7 looks good but has only a very small market share at present”. Gilbert Hill sees opportunity in WP7 for this exact reason. “We’re getting more and more enquiries about WP7 development as clients update their mobile app strategies to include more than just one platform.  There are now about 350,000 apps available in the Apple ecosystem – that is a huge pond in which to command attention.  By contrast, other platforms like WP7 are less populated which means each app has a real chance of making a splash”.

So, once you’ve figured that out, do you go for in-house development or with a dev shop?

Our experts represent either sides of the development fence, and both offer compelling arguments.  Hill argues that “compared with straight web dev, mobile development now means dealing with multiple platforms, each with own quirks and capabilities.  Add to that the fact that each handset also has its own challenges”. Not only that, he explains, but there’s a talent issue too – agency devs are up on a broad spectrum of technologies and can represent cost savings too. On the other hand, Rock explains that in-house has been perfect for Audioboo. “Our development process has been quite iterative, so it’s given us flexibility to have a developer in-house.” But sometimes a blend of the two is needed. “We build Audioboo’s iPhone app in house and then show that to our Android developer as a design to emulate”.

So far, so good. Now for the crux of it – user experience (UX). What matters most?

Both Rock and Hill agree that simplicity is the number one attribute to which to aspire. As Hill points out, “Familiarity of experience can trump novelty”. Mark Rock also cites user journey (is it intuitive? will the user get lost?) and useful error messages as critical UX considerations.

Launch time!  But how can you ensure great uptake?

Well, it seems it’s all about the app selling itself – so, getting the technology and experience right in the first place.  High profile users help, of course. Mark Rock explains: “We were lucky to have been taken up by some big media players in the first 3 months – Guardian, BBC, FT. We also engage with users on Twitter and our user forums a lot, which leads to a network effort, particularly as we allow autoposting to Facebook and Twitter – so it becomes part of that mainstream”.

For Hill, it’s about engaging users early on – in some cases before you even start development. “It always depresses me when someone proudly informs us of an App they have already commissioned based on an idea brewed up in an internal ‘team-think’ session, and the end user has been left out of the process”.  Understanding what users want first, engaging them in the development process (consultation, Beta test groups etc) and keeping close to those users is key.

And it doesn’t end there.  All apps need to be updated, to keep them fresh, fast and functionality-rich. But when?

It’s clearly a balance.  On one hand, updates prolong the shelf life of an app, but too much turns users off.  “We update maybe twice a year and only when we have significant new features to add or a major bug that many users have complained about, says Rock. “But you do see companies using updates to push their app up in the download charts. We just don’t think that’s a compelling user experience”.

As with concept and development, Hill suggests that updates can provide an opportunity for loyalty-building: “If you start the process by polling users for what they want they will love you for it, and become advocates rather than just consumers.”

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a focus on new and emerging technologies and their application for outstanding communications.

Social Media Audit: Gaining Essential Clarity

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags on March 3, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: M Bartosch

Whether you’re just starting your social media journey, or are fully underway, such is the pace of technological and behavioural change that constant assessment and reassessment is a must.  Social media does not stand still, and neither should your thinking.

Quick and meaningful

One of the tools we use to assess in a quick yet meaningful way is the Social Media Audit.  It sounds pretty unsexy, doesn’t it? But it’s an exercise which provides a genuine insight into what is happening and not happening, what much be done, and where that sits within your industry and alongside your competitors.  We often use this as a pre-strategy phase, to allow us to present a clear view of the “as-is” situation from a very objective standpoint, and to pave the way for defining future direction, opportunity and action.

How it looks

You can pretty easily audit yourself, but even better is to have a third party do it for you, for genuine objectivity.  At a very high level it addresses:

  • Current use of platforms – where, how, who, when
  • Notable results to date
  • What’s working, what’s not, what needs to happen next
  • Internal factors, such as buy-in, engagement and knowledge levels
  • An assessment of available resource (time, people and money)
  • Benchmarking against competitors and across relevant industries

Clear vision

What you get at the end of it is a clear view of where you are in social media terms, which you can then hold up against objectives.  Is current activity working? Where is it not? Which areas need more or less focus?  In addition, it will provide you with a list of immediate remedial work to be done – whether it’s tweaking a process to allow you to respond better, updating profiles, linking platforms or dealing with unmoderated comments. Sometimes these quick fixes can make a big difference.

As with most good social media activity, it’s as much about good planning and process as it about ideas and creativity. Making an audit a regular priority, whether quarterly, six-monthly or yearly, is simply good practice. How else can you be sure that your strategy is working, can be practically managed and is succeeding in setting you apart from the crowd?

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London, a communications consultancy with a pragmatic approach to social media. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Online Competitions: Essential Considerations for Marketers

Posted in brand, marketing strategy, social media with tags , , on February 17, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: Felixco Inc.

For many brands, online competitions are a great way of engaging existing audiences and customers, as well as building awareness further afield and driving inbound traffic.

But competitions aren’t necessarily simple. Trial and error is often the best teacher, but here are some pointers for the thought process you need to work through, when designing and running an online competition:

1. Objectives are all

Be clear about what you want to achieve, or you can’t accurately measure success. Do you want more newsletter sign-ups? To build awareness of a new service or product? Referrals? Or – equally important but trickier to quantify – to build brand loyalty and engage customers?

Once you’ve defined your overall objective, you can then agree some basic measures and design the competition accordingly.

2. The prize is right

You need a compelling reason for people to enter a competition. Let’s face it, we can get what we want pretty easily these days, so make it worthwhile.  The prize or reward should also be commensurate to the effort required of the entrant to participate – lots of effort should equal pretty damn magnificent prize.

Which leads to…

3. User experience can make it or break it

To make a competition really fly, barriers to entering need to be as low as possible.  The mechanism for winning needs to be thought out well, and should be informed by your objectives.

For example, if you’re building awareness and driving traffic, asking people simply to sign up at a dedicated space online to enter works best.  And fortunately, this is quick and easy for the user.

To engage is a little more complex. You might be asking people to generate content (post pictures of customers using the product in question, write something, share something, make something). Again, keep it simple and keep the UX at the forefront: Are instructions clear? Is the platform for sharing up to the job? Are you asking too much?

4. Work your channels

Decide wisely where the competition should live. Facebook works well for engagement style competitions, as you can drive discussion and it’s a ready-made platform for sharing – posting comments, pictures etc is intuitive.

If it’s awareness you need, a blend of online channels works well. An e-newsletter could launch the competition, driving traffic to a dedicated webpage, which has sharing and bookmarking buttons. Announce it on Facebook and Twitter too.

Working with a partner for the competition increases your audience (and might give you access to a whole new audience), and can increase your punching weight when it comes to the prize, so it’s worth considering.

5. Rules is rules…

There are rules guiding online competitions and you must be aware of them. Factors such as timezones and jurisdictions (for closing dates), the Gambling Act 2005 (which demands that competitions should not be “illegal lotteries” – so skill should be involved and no payment asked) and the CAP code need to be adhered to.

Law firm Pinsent Mason LLP has created a great guide here.

6. Data! Data! Data!

A competition is a prime opportunity to collect data – don’t miss it.  Think about which details you ask for in a sign-up style entry and consider an extra question, which might provide you with vital insight into consumer behaviour. But keep it light-touch – this should not compromise the UX.

Basic monitoring for competitions on social media platforms can provide good insights into key influencers and brand advocates.

And, of course, keep a close eye on your analytics, to observe traffic spikes, entry patterns and user behaviours – then work that knowledge when designing your next competition.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency. Follow Kate on Twitter here and contact Wisdom London here.

What consumers want from corporate social media: Accountability

Posted in social media with tags , on February 14, 2011 by wisdomlondon

There are myriad reasons to engage with consumers on social media channels. Awareness, intimacy and advocacy are just some of the potential upsides.

But when the going gets tough, there’s one thing above all others that consumers really want. Are you optimised for accountability?

The fine line

Demonstrating accountability, especially when things aren’t going quite right (customer service issues, or a technology failure, for example), can mean the difference between drawing customers closer than ever before, or losing their trust completely. And, as we know, the social world is a pretty unforgiving place when consumers feel let down.

Think about the travel chaos caused by adverse weather at the end of 2010. We all accepted that it wasn’t the train operator, airport or airline’s fault, but we did expect accountability in keeping us informed. What we most needed was a commitment to providing the information we were looking for, quickly and as accessibly as possible. We wanted to know that our needs were being taken seriously.

Some succeeded and many didn’t.

So what’s the lesson here?

Don’t wait for disaster to strike before kicking into gear. Plan all of your communications with accountability in mind – and for crisis and customer service communications, this should be at the forefront. An unerring commitment to providing information, and the articulation of your efforts to rectify a situation should underpin all of that. In addition:

  • Monitor like crazy: Be aware of issues the minute they break (major or minor), and commit upfront to solve it, whether or not you have the solution right away.
  • Use judgment: Is it appropriate to continue campaign comms about offers and promotions while there’s a bigger situation to deal with? Sometimes not. Be prepared to temporarily divert from the plan.
  • Make it personal: It’s frustrating communicating with a nameless avatar when you need answers. If the situation is serious enough, it might be time for management to come to the social media frontline and demonstrate their overall accountability through a dedicated Twitter stream, Facebook announcement or shared video.
  • Be transparent and set expectations: Keep lines of communication open around the clock if necessary, let customers know what’s happening (even if it’s not conclusive), and deliver on promises.

Consumers get that to err is human. And when brands can demonstrate passionate accountability for solving problems and providing answers, they’ll most likely find that forgiveness really is divine.

Link: An analysis of Eurostar’s crisis handling on social media channels

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency. You can follow Kate on Twitter here and contact her here.

Virality Is For B2Bs Too: How To Create Shareable Content

Posted in marketing strategy, social media, thought leadership with tags , on February 11, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: Graur Codrin

What makes content shareable?

A key outcome of social media engagement is amplification of messages – that is, broadening reach and getting your name   / brand / message / expertise in front of a potentially huge audience. Critical if you’re building a brand, marketing with a specific message or building awareness of a particular cause.

Whether or not something goes viral is a tough one to predict (and can look pretty try hard if it fails), but what we can control is the shareability of our content or assets, and optimise them for sharing and WOM (word-of-mouth).

We have numerous examples of shared content gaining viral status in the consumer field (Old SpiceTippex Shoot the Bear etc) yet, as with many social media approaches, this can be harder to pull off in the B2B sphere. But not impossible.

What kind of assets are we talking about?

Video is almost synonymous with virality – not least because most end up on YouTube, the worlds 2nd largest search engine, and where they are most easily shared. However, with corporate firewalls sometimes making ubiquitous YouTube inaccessible, we need to think about about other assets, too – blog posts, data charts, guides, infographics, reports, images, statistic sets, apps, tools and animations.

Assets are in their very nature of some value, whether informative, humourous or simply useful. But that in itself does not necessarily make them shareable. So what does?

Making assets shareable

When you think about stuff you’ve shared online recently, whether via a Twitter retweet, a link on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even an old-school attachment  on an email, what made you share it?

Most likely was that it provoked some kind of emotional response. It fulfilled some kind of need that you recognised others may also have. That asset might have:

  • Made you laugh
  • Taught you something you didn’t know
  • Presented information in a brilliant way
  • Made your life easier
  • Applied to something happening in the world right now
  • Reminded you of something important
  • Provided inspiration
  • Surprised you with stand-out statistics
  • Made you feel good (happiness, belonging, nostalgia)
  • Made your life in some way better

It’s these emotional responses that make us want to share, and it’s sharing that creates virality.   Get people to share en-masse, with passion and with those who have reach, and you win.

B2B virality

To achieve some sense of virality in the B2B sphere, you obviously need to make content shareable, but you also need to think along slightly different lines. Buying cycles in B2B are fundamentally different. After all, even if you could get 100, 000 views of your video on YouTube, does that get you closer to closing a consulting deal or software sale? Not necessarily. The measures are different, and in recognising that we can identify meaningful ways to make content shareable in the B2B world:

Relevance: Is the content relevant beyond a niche market or specific management layer? (although niche can work too)

Promise: Does your asset promise something new and valuable? People do not share same old, same old. It’s bad for our street cred.

Human factor: Will sharing this make you feel good, look good, be seen as forward-thinking, help you connect to someone? Ben the Bodyguard is a really handy service in an essentially dull field (online security) but a cutting-edge website and sharp humour made it eminently shareable and created huge buzz before launch. In B2B humour needs to be smart. Would a professional share this with another professional without crossing boundaries?

Usability: Is the asset in a format that’s easily shared? A quick download or view, a link which requires no sign up to view, a platform that can deal with high volumes. But think in terms of parameters too. Banned platforms, over-large attachments and links that don’s specify where you’re directed can leave the asset dead in the water.

What people share in b2b, with a few examples:

– Validated facts and stats (quote the sources!)

– Killer quotes and soundbites

– Methodologies, analysis and hypothesis (like Gartner’s Technology Hype Cycle)

– Diagrams and process models (such as B Solis’ Conversation Prism)

– Hot off the press content that’s totally new – there’s kudos in being the first with breaking news

– Great apps, services and tools

– Reports, surveys and points of view

– How to guides (we did our own very successful Twitter clients guide)

– Insightful interviews (TED’s YouTube channel has seen over 58 million upload views to date)

– Games and challenges (Sage did this very effectively within LinkedIn a few years ago)

Virality for B2Bs is completely achievable, but to make it work we must first realise that consumer virality and B2B virality are two different beasts. The B2B world has a whole set of nuances, expectations, parameters and behaviours to navigate. It’s hard to benchmark the two – measures will be different, as will outcomes.

Thanks to Graeme Fraser for his help with the Sage example.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a track record in supporting B2B communication.

Blogging to Build Thought Leadership: Considerations and Recommendations

Posted in social media, thought leadership with tags , on February 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: Renjith Krishnan

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a group of VCs discussing blogging as tool to build personal brand and support an overarching corporate brand at the same time.

There were many questions, ‘what if’s and principles to be agreed. It struck me that their exact pain points with blogging apply to any business which is striving to develop and market thought leaders (read: most B2Bs), so it seemed worth a post on the considerations and possible solutions we touched upon:

Objectives and objectivity

It’s clear that any kind of blogging activity must support clear and agreed objectives. But not only that, it should be assessed as the best channel to support certain objectives, rather than blogging for blogging’s sake. Objectivity is needed here – blogging is rarely a means to an end, and it does require commitment. Sometimes responding to relevant questions on Quora (to a ready made audience of influencers) is preferable. Sometimes a guest post or bylined article is more appropriate for a particular expert.

Our recommendations?

  • Agreed communications objectives, for the brand as a whole and for each individual
  • Agreed ways of measuring success, and a common view of what “good” looks like
  • A rock-solid editorial calendar, covering multiple integrated channels (blogs, website, PR alerts, events, third-party sites and networks) to ensure a balanced, on-message and consistent flow of content

Tone and supporting the brand

Whilst personal experiences and viewpoints should shine through in a blog, there’s still an overarching brand affiliation to bow to, whether you’re blogging on your own domain or the corporate one. Clarity, transparency and two-way lines of communication are vital.

Harder to grasp for business – and especially newcomers to blogging – is the issue of how much personality you bring to a blog. How chatty are you? How will you respond to comments? How much will you share of your life, interests and personal experiences on a blog? Here, relevance is key, as is a natural approach. So long as it’s on-message and consistent with the overall tone, say what you like within reason. But also think about what your audience (actual and intended) might expect from you. Are you fulfilling that?

Our recommendations?

  • Blogging guidelines, as part of a wider social media policy will provide clarity. This should include, where appropriate, sign-off policy, company disclaimers and descriptors to be used, and a clear view of how content will be syndicated more widely (company Twitter feed, company news and blogs, newsletters, external blogs)
  • Develop spokesperson personas: It’s worth each individual expert spending time to develop their online persona.  That takes into account their own personal communication style and areas of expertise, audiences, experience of social media, time they have available to commit to it, level of comfort in engagement online and so on. This helps each individual adopt a balance of the channels, which are most relevant and practical to them and allows them to use those channels in a way which is natural, informed, and not forced

The bigger picture

If blogs are to be used for marketing thought leaders and building awareness, then the bigger picture should frame this. Which other channels might be used to complement and amplify the blog content? What are your colleagues covering? And for that matter, what about your competitors and industry counterparts?

Our recommendations?

  • Never blog in silo. Always be aware of what else is being communicated via your organisation, how and when
  • Join the dots where you can. Comment on colleagues’ blogs and share widely. Consider guest posting and linking back. Blog about events and news too
  • Continually aim to improve through review, benchmarking against others and seeking feedback

Blogging is recognised as being a great way to demonstrate expertise, spark conversation and debate, and build personal brand – but in a highly regulated and traditional industry, it can be challenging to get things off the ground. That doesn’t make it impossible though. Small steps, a genuine commitment to the long-term and an eye on the bigger picture and objectives are the keys to a new business blogger’s success.

Kate Spiers is the founder of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency, with deep expertise in B2B communications and social media adoption.