Pinterest and the Flock+Flood Effect

The new shiny object in social media is Pinterest. The growth of Pinterest in 2012 has been phenomenal, and that gets marketers excited to jump in with both feet to capture some of that growth.

Before Pinterest there was Instagram. Before Instagram there was Foursquare. What starts to happen is we see all the social media blogs start reporting big numbers on infographics and before you know it, there’s a feeding frenzy of people who can’t wait to get in on the hottest new thing and start selling their stuff.

But let’s take a moment and remember to breathe. In a previous blog post I used the analogy of marketers peeing in the pool with social media sites like Pinterest. We don’t fully understand the site. We don’t know how to measure data from Pinterest. We don’t know how to track brand mentions, or see where our content goes. We don’t have proof of any sustainable marketing activity, but who cares? It’s hot!

Before proceeding with any sort of brand building, it’s good to take some time to understand the site and its ecosystem before flooding it with noise.

Marketing Chart: Agencies Rate Effectiveness of Social Media Tactics

From Marketing Sherpa’s chart of the week, agencies rate the effectiveness of their clients’ social media tactics. The timing of this chart couldn’t be better as Google today merged Google Search with Google+. Improving search rankings continues to be one of the more important strategies in social media. Agencies are at the intersection of their clients’ marketing objectives and all the new social tools.

Pay special attention to the last line for advertising. Only 12% of respondents thought advertising on social sites was ‘Very Effective’. And out of all the categories, advertising had the highest number of agencies saying it was ‘Not Effective’. It’s a little eye opening to see advertising as the least effective tactic for social media whereas building one-to-one relationships and moderating the company’s social sites were at the time. It just reinforces what we’ve been hearing over and over about social media. Successful social brands engage with their community and have 2-way dialoge. Brands still doing the old fashioned one-way broadcast tactic are still doing the traditional advertising thing, and it’s probably not working very well.

We’ve found Facebook ads to be almost useless. We’ve seen very few successful case studies for Facebook ads for small to medium sized brands. Larger companies with funds for running a campaign across multiple channels are seeing the best results for Facebook ads. I say Facebook ads are near useless today because of Google+ brand pages. There we see a more direct correlation between a brand page, Ad Words and Search results.

Social Media Crystal Ball 2012

photo provided by UTC.edu

2012 should be a pivotal year for social media and human history. We’re reaching the peak of the bell curve and social media is getting closer to mass adoption. More human beings are starting to embrace the social web globally. This year started off with the promise of sCRM or better social CRM for brands, especially smaller brands. We’re not there yet but better software is being created every day.

In 2011 we also saw the birth of Google+, Google’s social layer not social network. The year is ending with a bang as we witness major redesigns on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook Timeline. Amidst the slew of redesigns, we also witnessed a ripple in the social fabric with version 2.0 of Path. Up until now, mobile had one kind of “feel” when it came to social apps. The user stream has always been a critical part of, “what did my friends just do and where?” With Path 2.0 we have seen the next level of UX design with an emphasis on mobile. Path 2.0 raises the bar for what users want from a mobile experience. Apple took a different tack with the mobile experience with the addition of SIRI. Now you don’t have to even type anything on your phone, you can just say it.

Technology continues to evolve rapidly in every facet of our lives. ATM’s rolled out 30 years ago, but now you can just take a photo of a check with your phone to deposit it. And smart appliances will be one of the fastest growing segments of technology. Imagine telling Siri to start preheating your oven to 350 degrees as you drive home.

Here’s the Bakas Media prognostications for social media in 2012:

+ The Social Media Revolt - Brian Solis raised this point with his new book, The End of Business As Usual. Over the past 3 years businesses have reluctantly adopted social media because they had to. But many businesses immediately focused on fluffing their followers and fans rather than focusing on quality interactions. Through various gimmicks like contests or promotions many brands built a faux following but still haven’t committed to true engagement. Did you know 90% of people who Like a brand on Facebook never go back to the page after liking it?

We’ll likely see a push back from consumers who may start unliking and unfollowing brands who provide no value to them.

+ Political Impact Takes on Different Feel From 2008 - President Obama harnessed the power of social media in 2008 and used it to win the election. In 2012 Obama will surely build upon his significant social footprint while the Republicans bicker over who’ll be their candidate. Once the Republicans get their candidate, Obama will have already created momentum with his massive email database, Facebook engagement and Twitter following. But unlike 2008, consumers and voters have more history to draw from. They are more savvy to the fact that Barrack wasn’t the one talking to them over the past 4 years on Twitter.

Social Media will still be a factor of course for data and polling, but it won’t have the same magic as four years ago. Back then Obama had clarity of message. His campaign wasn’t fighting for attention on social sites like he will this time around. Now, there’s many more brands also working to get the same mind share. Ultimately, the conversations leading up to the presidential election will mirror most political conversations that are too black and white. You either support this candidate or that candidate, and you can’t wait to tweet all sorts of venomous things about the other party.

This time around, social media may have its biggest impact tapping the important young voters and different racial groups. We’ve seen how social media impacted governments around the world, but here at home things can get too hot which becomes a turn off.

+ Mobile Commerce Will Emerge - Major shifts in human behavior, especially as they relate to technology take time to develop. Mobile commerce will be significant and it’ll be huge which is why it’ll take a while to happen. The groundswell for mobile commerce has been building for a couple of years but a few key factors have held it back.

First, the phones available on the market aren’t equipped to handle seamless mobile transactions. That’s where Square saw an opportunity and created a little adaptor to plug into iPhone headphone jacks. Second, privacy hasn’t been perfected. According the Forrester, consumers’ #1 fear of mobile commerce is that their private information could be compromised. Third, data has yet to be standardized. Our true forecast for mobile commerce to really reach mass adoption is 2014, but in 2012 it will emerge with a big foot forward.

+ The Convergence of Media - If you’ve watched any television this fall you may have noticed NBC, FOX and ABC are starting to put the hash tag to the show on the screen while you’re watching. While I watched The Biggest Loser and X-Factor this season, I noticed the faint tiny hash tag text in the lower right hand corner of my television. During the show people can go on Twitter and join in a conversation about the show using the hash tag. And X-Factor leveraged Twitter for voting throughout the season. Unfortunately, these ideas fell short because the television networks and shows still don’t get the concept of responding to people and having 2-way conversations. In 2012 I see an improvement in community management from shows on TV.

So there you have it. These are just my predictions for the coming year. At the end of 2011 I said Nimble would become a major player but that didn’t happen so who’s to say if any of the above visions will happen. What do you think?

Why Getting Followed Back Isn’t as Important as Which List You’re On

One of the questions I get frequently is who I follow back and why.  From 2008  to early 2010 I would follow most people who followed me, but what began to happen is I started to lose touch with people I was following.  My stream was flowing with tweets from 30,000+ people and I couldn’t keep up.

So I changed my approach to Twitter and broke my single Following stream up into Twitter lists. Thanks to apps like Tweetdeck, I found it easier to see what people were saying once I took that one stream and broke it up into multiple streams.  Twitter lists are one of the most powerful features on Twitter.  I’m always constantly adding people to lists based on interest.  I have a list for people I’ve met in real life and another list for wine friends.  There’s another list for quality content and another just for sommeliers.  Not only are my lists valuable, but I also follow other people’s curated lists:

 

Each list can be imported into Tweetdeck into its own column making it easier to see what people are saying.  In this screen shot of my Tweetdeck you can see I have lists imported “Quality Twitter Content”, “Tweeps I’ve Met” and “Sommelier’s” Twitter lists in their own columns:

With this approach I’m able to see everybody and give more attention, which is ultimately what this is about.  If I just follow someone back and they show up in my main stream there’s a low probability they’ll be seen.  So when people ask me why I haven’t followed back, I usually answer it’s more important to see which list or lists they’re on.  The benefit of following is the ability to DM.  DM’s are a valuable way to communicate one to one, so now I follow others back so we have that ability.

If you don’t use Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite I’d suggest looking into using them to sort information and streams.  Twitter is going to continue to be an important part of our culture as a form of communication.  The tools you use to help manage the communication in your life will determine how powerful Twitter can be in your life or business.

Don’t Pee in the Pool — How Marketers are Ruining Social Media

Remember the first time you got a Groupon offer and couldn’t wait to claim it?

Remember back in the 1990′s when you first recieved an offer to buy something via email?

Remember the first time you saw ads on Google or Facebook over on the right side of your screen?

How many of you watch your favorite shows recorded on TiVo so you can fast forward through the commercials?

Did you ever have a Yahoo! email account? If you did I bet you haven’t signed lately in because of the continual spamming of your IN box.

 

The click through rate (CTR) on banner ads back in the mid 1990′s was between 50-75%. Now the click through rate on banner ads is less than 1%. Based on the Epsilon Email Trend and Benchmark Report, the average open rate for email campaigns is 22.2% and the average click-through rate is 5.9%, almost half of what it was in 1995.

Twitter advertising considers a 1-3% engagement rate on promoted tweets to be a success. Direct mail marketers also feel a 1-3% response rate is a success. I’m no math wiz but to me a 1-3% response rate sounds lousy. Wouldn’t you rather have a 70% or 80% response to your marketing efforts?

 

Now we see the Groupon or LivingSocial offer in our IN box and we delete it before opening it. We tune out the ads on the right side of the screen on Facebook and Google. We get all sorts of marketing emails first thing in the morning because marketers have seen studies that suggest people check their emails first thing in the morning. The problem is everyone has seen those reports, and we’re filling email IN boxes at the same time with marketing bullshit.

The proverbial “they” are getting tired of being marketed to. Consumers have pretty much seen it all. There are very few new ideas in the marketing world, so marketers latch on to anything mildly successful and replicate it. Marketers take something good like a clean swimming pool on a summer day and pee in it but it’s not their fault.

So how can businesses market and sell their stuff? After all, that is what makes Capitalism work. In America we have a green light to sell as much as we can and make as much money as we want. The things holding us back from that are competition and ourselves. We’re afraid to trust our gut and try new ideas.

The answer is not going to be what business owners want to hear. The answer is to care. Care about each individual person who touches your brand online. It takes time — lots of time. More time than business owners want to pay for. They want a current employee to “check the tweets and Facebook” after their other tasks are done. It’s an oh-by-the-way after thought. Failure is already taking shape. Business owners don’t want to invest in a team of employees who can proactively manage the online community. They might have one person handling things. Business owner approach social media on the cheaps because they want to pay for their vacation home in Hawaii or get their kids into the best school. So their brand marketers have to take short cuts, which is what leads to peeing in the pool

At this moment in history all businesses and marketers have a rare opportunity, this window will only be open for a short time.. Twitter and Facebook were clean swimming pools in 2009 and 2010. But marketers started to catch on and eventually polluted the pool with contests and gimmicks to fluff their follower numbers. Now Google+ is a clean slate. Before marketers can ruin it there’s a gap in the timeline that precedes mass adoption. How do we get people’s attention to hear our marketing message? Soon we’ll run out of new social networks to infiltrate which means we’ll run out of opportunities to have “clarity of message” like we now have on Google+.

Social sites are going to keep evolving. SEO experts who gamed the system to get first page rankings are now finding the game has changed. All the sites we’re on will keep iterating but the thing that can stay constant is a solid, dedicated team of community care providers will provide consistency. No matter what we throw at consumers, they’ll quickly learn to tune it out. The one thing people respond to is to be loved or cared about. The social tools make it possible to do that. They just want you to commit to them.

 

Return on Attention: Defining the new ROI

 

This post was originally posted March 1, 2011 but that blog has been taken down.

The ROI question has got to be the number one question asked.
“If I’m going to adopt new media, what is the return on investment?”

What IS the ROI of anything, especially new media? What’s the ROI of a 2 over 2 direct mail piece? What’s the ROI of in-store POS? How about a magazine ad—what’s the return on running an ad?

We know reach is one factor to pay attention to.  When a business runs an ad in print, they’re paying for the reach of the publication.  If there’s 50,000 subscribers, we don’t know if all 50,000 are going to see the ad, or even act upon it.  But we know a percentage of them will.  The quality of the publication and quality of the actual ad determine if the ad captures attention and/or influences behavior.  The key word there is attention.  Did the ad capture attention?

Online marketing (including social media marketing) combines things we already know about reach, impressions and attention.  In an increasingly fast paced digital world, social media marketing has a great deal to do with how much attention we can capture.  Whether it’s in email, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare or on a blog, we’re creating content and messages to stand out from the overload of information, even if just for a few seconds.  Attention is fast becoming the new currency in new media.

 

“Attention is fast becoming the new currency in new media.”

 

What a brand does with attention ultimately answers the question about return.  But because the “return” in new media is affected by a new variable called time, the ROI takes on a form we haven’t seen before.  Time is now a multiplier because of Curation.  In layman’s terms, marketing messages before new media had a short lifespan.  Now, digital content (emails, YouTube vids, FB posts) live forever.  We’re curating our online lives into indexed, searchable content.  That means over time, marketing messages will still be relevant.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with this formula to explain ROA:

 

ROA = time(impressions + reach + influence)

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Take the marketing dollars you put into new media, divide by the dollars you get back.  The result is a metric that’s both measurable and can be improved.  The higher the number, the better your return.

That means a YouTube video created in 2011 could lead to sales in 2016.  That’s a huge paradigm shift in how brands communicate with customers people.  It’s up the brand to decide what to do with that attention—Engage or Lose out.