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Ever wondered about…Social Commerce?

Posted in brand, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags , on January 6, 2011 by wisdomlondon

JC Penney Facebook StoreWhat is it?

It’s where shopping and social collide, by embedding social touchpoints in the selection, consideration, and purchasing processes.

At the crux of it is recommendation and sharing. Early examples are Amazon’s reader reviews (which are proven to be powerful) and eBay’s seller ratings. And now it’s moving beyond reviews. For example, @asos allows you to share (by tweet and various bookmarks) and ‘Like’ items direct from their e-commerce site, letting your friends and network know what you like, have bought, or recommend. It works experientially too: Diesel installed booths in their Spanish stores to allow customers to post pictures of themselves in Diesel clothing to Facebook walls.

It plays strongly to sharing and the idea of trust and recommendation economies. Greater conversion rates and increased word-of-mouth (WOM) are the clear benefits.

Why should I care?

Social interactions are becoming central to the way we make buying decisions, so social commerce is a natural development and can play well to many brands and services.

And of course the big news is that by integrating platforms like Facebook and e-commerce ‘shopfronts’, valuable data can be extracted about purchase history, buying habits, Likes and sharing.

But what needs to happen is for social commerce to work seamlessly alongside campaigns, physical shopping experiences and other channels – particularly advertising and mobile.  So expect to see increasingly sophisticated approaches.

Who’s doing it well?

You’d expect FMCG brands to have got a handle on this and sure enough there are some good examples out there:

  • Levis launched the Friends Store, a retail site which integrated Facebook, thus encouraging sharing, interaction and brand advocacy.
  • Retailer JC Penney recently launched a Facebook store where – critically – transactions can be completed without leaving Facebook.
  • But it’s not just about Facebook. French Connection launched last year “Youtique” on YouTube, which allows shoppers to click and buy directly from a video.

It’s all well and good for big brands, you might say.  But the rest of us had better get used to social ubiquity in the buying process, whether for consumer products or business services. Using Facebook login, for example, could create a nice opportunity for businesses to connect similar types of users and clients to share experiences, as well as getting closer to and more personal with the people who make buying decisions. But there needs to be a reward for the user in this scenario – connect with Facebook to access free content, for example, or to participate in an online event – or register for an offline one.

Here’s an excellent infographic from Social Commerce Today: 2010 – A Year in Social Commerce.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology and a pragmatic approach to social media.  If you’d like to talk about embedding social touchpoints in your customer interactions, please get in touch!


Ever Wondered About…Diaspora?

Posted in Ever Wondered About... with tags , , , , on September 5, 2010 by wisdomlondon

By Kate Spiers

What is it?

In its own words, Diaspora is the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all open source social network. Strapline: Decentralize the web.  This is a timely mission, given current debate around privacy and control online.

It will work like this: Each user has a ‘seed’ which they own and host where they choose. Seeds will be able to connect directly to others, rather than via a mid-way platform where privacy is surrendered in any way.  The seed aggregates all of your information (FB updates, pictures, blog posts, tweets etc) and you can share with whomever you like over a direct and secure connection. More power to you.

So yes, it will snap at the heels of Facebook in particular.  Recent privacy issues with Facebook make this a truly viable alternative for those who have voted with their feet and jumped ship, or who plan to. The promise of full power over your data could surely not have come at a better time…

Why should I care?

So many reasons:

Diaspora goes live on 15 September as an open-source developer release, with the alpha consumer version launching in October, so expect plenty of build up and analysis – there’s no getting away from this baby.

Super-interesting to us on 2 major counts:

  1. It’s a Kickstarter project, crowdfunded on a spectacular scale.  The initial $10 000 goal was swiftly surpassed and a total of 6479 backers pledged over $200 000. There is appetite for this in spades.  But backing the project with $50 is different to investing our time, effort and trust in a brand new platform. The rate of adoption will be the true measure.
  2. A new way of sharing online comes to the fore.  How will this affect the rest of the centralised web? Is the mood turning? Will Facebook lose users and how will it respond? One way or another, we suspect Diaspora will make its mark.

Anything else I should know?

This is the work of a group of 4 NYU computer science students, Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy.

The group was inspired to create Diaspora by a February 5, 2010 speech by Columbia University law professor Eben Moglen to the Internet Society’s New York Chapter, “Freedom in the Cloud”, in which Moglen described centralized social networks as “spying for free.”

Features will include: Secure filesharing, instant messaging, VoIP, encrypted backups and OpenID.

Ever Wondered About is a new series on the Wisdom London blog, where Kate Spiers and Jill Ruthenberg aim to demystify and explore what’s shaping our social interactions.  Coming up: Ning, and PPC.  Wondering about anything else?  Tell us and we’ll investigate!

Have you Ever Wondered About….Audioboo? Click to wonder no more.

From “mass” to “micro”: When to take online offline

Posted in social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by wisdomlondon

So, by now we’re all becoming pretty adept at building relationships online through smart leverage of social media channels, embracing communities and participating in online conversations, en masse. But is online engagement enough?  And, if we’re honest, are we sometimes hiding behind it just a little bit?

It’s an interesting dichotomy.  On one hand, a lot of people are still unconvinced that the conversations taking place online could ever take the place of traditional face-to-face interactions and lead, somehow, to increased value for their business. On the other hand, we have plenty of believers who genuinely embrace the conversation and participate in the communities driving it, but who are not harnessing this energy to move their business forward.

Mass to micro

Failing to recognise the right moment to take the online conversation offline – to take mass communication micro, or one-to-one – is a major factor behind the lack of traction many businesses experience in their often carefully-cultivated social relationships. It’s here that we risk missing out on the opportunity to forge closer relationships, delve deeper into areas of mutual interest (and find out some incredibly interesting stuff in the process), have great conversations that are not limited to online formats – and ultimately, extend our sphere of influence.

It’s a matter of judgement …and of seizing the initiative.

Look around…

To start, we need to take a realistic look around.  Some connections are better off remaining online, or as part of the wider conversation. For example, when engagement is limited to passing and acknowledging information, the benefits of taking it offline can be hard to identify. But there are some factors which are tantamount to a flashing neon sign, signalling when the time is right for going offline, and for taking our communication from “mass” to “micro”:

When 140 doesn’t cut it anymore: Is someone commenting regularly on your blog or engaging in discussion with you on Twitter? If you sense a meeting of minds, let it flow. Whether or not the other party is a potential client is irrelevant at this point.  You have the opportunity to expand ideas and concepts further…and you’d be a fool to ignore that.  Hint: go for coffee, arrange to get together at a mutually-interesting event or meet-up, ask them personally (email/phone) for their take on a blog post you’ve drafted.

When you see a client engaging as a fan or ambassador for your product or service online: Online thank yous and positive comments on Twitter / Facebook, along with external blog mentions, should not be ignored. This person has an opinion about you and your service. They doubtless have plenty more thoughts to share on specific aspects of it, or would probably happily serve as a valued sounding board for new concepts…and of course, that will likely lead to greater engagement with your brand and enhanced word-of-mouth possibilities.

When it would be coy not to: You’ve engaged with someone for months or even years and view them as a true online buddy.  Don’t be coy – your relationship can go from strength to strength on the back of some occasional one-on-one debate and banter.

The great thing about all this social conversation is that there is a spirit of openness and community which provides endless potential for value to be gleaned. And it’s OK to tell someone you don’t know personally, or whom you consider to be ‘out of reach’ (an industry leader, for example) that you appreciate them, or that you have an opinion on what they are saying.  We don’t need to wait for introductions anymore. So don’t be shy (or lazy) about it.  There are brilliant people in your online who should become real-life contacts, with whom you regularly engage both online and offline, at a mass and micro level.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London and can vouch for the value of taking mass to micro.

Follow Kate on Twitter ..but feel free to mail me, call me or buy me a coffee too 😉

(un)conventional wisdom: Ian Huckabee

Posted in social media, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Second in this series of shared wisdom from some of the most interesting people we know comes courtesy of Ian Huckabee of Weejee Media.

Ian is a web marketing strategist and founder of Weejee Media, which specialises in search engine marketing and social media marketing.  But more than that, Ian is a natural communicator, lateral thinker, thought-provoker and wise man*.  Take it way, Ian:

“It’s now proverbial that most people would rather get one good opinion from a friend on social media than thousands from a search engine. What is relevant today is not necessarily what search engines have indexed but the social signals we pick up in real time. Look at the real time results on Google’s search engine results pages. They include a live feed of updates from Twitter, Facebook fan pages and blogs. Content authority is changing. What blogs ushered in during the early 2000s micro-blogs have escorted to center stage today: your opinion.”

*Ian managed to turn around my entire frame of mind last week with a one-line response to an email.  I’d told him my day was a nightmare and I got this in return: “Turn it into a dream”.  We all need friends and collaborators like this.

Thanks to Ian Huckabee

Can niche social networks compete with the big boys?

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by wisdomlondon

It’s hard to believe that Facebook turned 6 this month. I mean, hasn’t FB always been around? And what did we do before, when we wanted to tell the world what we’re doing at the weekend? Can anyone remember?

I met with entrepreneur Ivan Massow this week to take a trip down memory lane – 10 years back, to the start of the millennium when life was increasingly moving online. It was then that Ivan founded Jake, one of the first online social networks, and aimed specifically at providing a network for gay professional men.

Ten years is a long time in cyberspace, we agreed, as we looked back at the inception of Jake. Was it a given that Jake would be online, I asked. According to Ivan, yes. The idea of online groups, bringing together friends, colleagues or simply those with a shared interest was taking shape (remember Friends Reunited?) and as a rule, states Ivan, the gay demographic are early adopters. So Jake was born, providing a safe (paid-up members only), filtered (professional) and vibrant online space for business connections to be made. Added to that were – and still are – face-to-face networking events, special interest groups (media, culture etc) and a messaging service, JakeMail.

So far so good. In the past 10 years, Jake has attracted around 40 000 members and a whole host of high-profile sponsors and advertisers, mostly in the luxury and lifestyle markets (think Porsche, Mulberry, and so on).

But, I wondered, how has the advent of social media as a business communication norm changed things? The market is now very different. The behemoths that are Facebook and LinkedIn dominate – ubiquitous, constantly evolving and, critically, free. So how does a niche social network like Jake compete? Does it need to? And can it compete?

Well, the answer it seems, is not so clear-cut. First and foremost, Ivan said, Jake can compete for the very reason that it’s niche. It fulfils a very particular requirement that many other social networks do not. For a start, it’s an open book once you’re a member: all members are gay professional men. So, suggests Ivan, a certain amount of pre-qualification is already done. You know the score. Unlike other social networks, for example, you don’t need to be ‘introduced’ or ‘friends’ or a ‘connection’ before you can start to network or contact new people.

On the other hand, however, the tech-savvy business world demands more from their social networking these days than they did 10 years ago. It’s not a case of choosing one social network or another to be part of. Not only do we belong to multiple networks, but we increasingly expect them to interoperate, to better suit our needs. So that’s where Jake’s going as it’s functionality is overhauled: LinkedIn and Facebook functionality will be introduced, along with iPhone and Blackberry apps. And basic membership will be free, with members paying only for specific business services online.

So, it seems, competition is not necessarily the key. All social networks offer something different and the chances are, we’ll happily consume all that they have to offer, so long as it suits our needs and especially if it’s for free. There’s space for all of them so long as they do their job and make our lives easier, more interesting and more connected. As Ivan pointed out, we’re all fundamentally the same as we’ve always been, even when we were running round in loincloths. We want the same things. We still need to forge bonds, build communities and connect. That much won’t change.

Wisdom’s 3 factors for success: Niche online networks

  1. Actually be niche. Do it well, stick to it, build on it, don’t deviate. Your ‘nicheness’ is your richness.
  2. Create a specific, niche world within your network by choosing the right affiliations for advertising and sponsorship, partnerships and services, that reflect your target membership’s aspirations.
  3. Constantly notice how your members interact, both within and outside of the network. What do they need? Do they have to go elsewhere for certain functionality – and could you provide that?

Image by Astrid Harrisson

What are your experiences of niche social networks? Will they survive? How many social networks do you use? Are there any niche groups that need their own social network? We want to hear your thoughts!

With thanks to Ivan Massow, Astrid Harrisson and Sarah Killick.