Erica Lynn

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Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Social Media and Business in 2013

Deborah Sweeney of Social Media Today says “2012 was definitely a year of growth” and that “usage on the sites will undoubtedly continue to grow” in the article titled Where Businesses Meet Social Media – Predictions for 2013. She suggests the following will improve social media practices for businesses in 2013.

A Slightly More Personal Touch
By now we as marketers have figured out social media is not just another channel for promotion. But rather a two way communication tool between customers and companies. Sweeney predicts more CEOs and owners making personal accounts on social media platforms to interact with their business’s customers. By doing this CEOs can forge a personal connection with their customers and be seen less as a corporate entity but more of a helpful friend.

A Blurring of the Borders between Business Websites and Social Media
Sweeney states “currently, there isn’t much of a connection between business websites and social media”. By position the company website as the hub for all social media content and overlapping posts on social media platforms we have begun to blur the line. Sweeney suggest as social media use continues to grow “businesses will begin trying to blend their social media presence and their website. This could mean giving customers the option to post what they just bought on Twitter and Facebook, à la Amazon, or it could just mean that websites are going to be a bit more intuitive and streamlined so jumping from a business’s Facebook account to its website is not such a shock.” To achieve this integration it will be important to marketers to understand not only what the company wants from social media usage, but the customers as well.

Higher Expectations for Employees to Play Along
The incorporations of more of the human element (mentioned earlier) is important to a company’s social media presence. Sweeny suggest one way if doing this is by “asking employees to both promote and interact with the company online”. This suggestion is dependent on the nature of the business of the company and attitude of the employees. Sweeny mentions “some businesses already monitor their employees’ social media accounts, and there have been reports of people being fired for badmouthing their employer online”. But in order for any business to succeed (with or without social media interactions) relies on business owners, CEOs and employees will being team players and supporting the business they work for.

Source: http://socialmediatoday.com/deborah-sweeney/1076211/where-businesses-meet-social-media-predictions-2013

Other links of interest:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/12/11/5-ways-social-media-will-change-the-way-you-work-in-2013/
http://www.meetup.com/SEM-San-Diego/events/84908212/

Google Apps no longer free for businesses

Originally when using Google Apps, business had the choice between the free version or the premium version. Since then Google has put a price on its Apps at $50 per user, per year. According to an ‘official blog post’ the reason for this mandatory price is that businesses “quickly outgrow” the basic version.

The new version of Google Apps will include 24/7 phone support, a 25GB inbox, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. While $50 per user, per year may sound like a reasonable price that might be hard to tell small business owners who have not ‘outgrown’ the basic version. That, and the fact that things will not change for existing customers (no matter what their size) might decrease to amount of businesses that use Google Apps out of pure spite.

Thankfully, Google Apps will still remain free for individuals, and (thanks goodness) Google Apps for Education will continue to be free for schools and universities.

Sources: http://mashable.com/2012/12/07/google-apps-for-businesses-free-version/

Other links of interest:
http://mashable.com/2012/10/18/google-apps-improvements/
http://mashable.com/2010/11/18/google-apps-overhaul/

YouTube begins using Collaborative Filtering

According to Wikipedia, Collaborative filtering is a “method of making automatic predictions (filtering) about the interests of a user by collecting preferences or taste information from many users (collaborating). Wikipedia also states this technique was first used in business by Amazon.com. Amazon “Build an item-item matrix determining relationships between pairs of items and used the matrix, and the data on the current user, infer their taste”.

This can been seen on websites when a user views an item and the website generates a cash of other items the user my like based on what other customers have bought in the past who bought the particular item being viewed.

YouTube has also adopted this feature by having a channel guide follow the user while they navigate through the website. This guide suggests channels the user might like to subscribe to and videos they should be interested in based on their browsing history.
This channel guide is also designed to correspond with the users existing subscribed channels and not only guide the user through the website, but on all devices. Write designer, Josh Sassoon and Engineer, Alex Nicksay say all a user needs to do is “subscribe to their (your) favorite channels and the Guide lets them (you) know when there are new videos waiting for them(you) to enjoy” the guide also “suggests the latest and greatest channels they(you) might like, and shows them(you) what your friends are sharing across the web.”

The most noticeable change the user will notice is the absence of the titles above the videos. They have been moved to the bottom to minimalize the space between the user and the video window and search bar.

Sources:
http://mashable.com/2012/12/06/youtube-changes-subscribe/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaborative_filtering

Other items of interest:
http://mashable.com/2011/12/01/youtube-gets-its-biggest-makeover-ever-becomes-more-google-like/

Has Coca-Cola upped the anti for company website?

According to an article posted on Clickz.com titled ‘Coca-Cola Relaunches Website as Socially Enabled Digital Platform’ Coca-Cola has “revived an internal print magazine in digital form in a relaunch of its website”. Coca-Cola’s new website Coca-Cola Journey is something much different from the typical company website. The website focuses on creating conversation by posting content relating to everything from social causes to company news. According to the article the website content is divided into types such as:

• Stories
• Opinions
• Brands
• Videos
• Blogs
• Business
• Community
• Entertainment
• Environment
• Health
• History
• Innovation
• Sports

The website also includes “hi-res photography, video, and audio” as well as “infographics and a Debate Board, which polls readers on a range of Coke-related topics.”
The website also supports 26 other Coca-Cola products by allowing the user to choose from other Coca-Cola brands and have search them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube right on the website.
The website also supports a blog called Coca-Cola Unbottled. This corporate blog is updates daily and according to Ashley Brown, director of digital communications and social media at the Coca-Cola Company, “a ‘lean forward’ experience that’s updated daily (while) Coca-Cola Journey publishes more in-depth and long form pieces that provide a ‘sit back’ experience.”
Has this rich content, storytelling website design becoming the standard for company website? With everyone jumping on the blogging wagon content marketing has become much more popular and therefore more common. I think Coca-Cola has found a way to re-invent content marketing with this website design and found a way to put themselves above most (dare I say all) company websites.

Sources: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/2226488/cocacola-relaunches-website-as-socially-enabled-digital-platform

Twitter awards of 2012

With 2012 coming to an end it is time for the anticipated Twitter awards. The award categories this year include:

• Tech
• Conversation starters
• TV and Movies
• Sports
• Food
• Retweet

Category: Tech
In third place right in front of Skype, is Instagram. Runner up goes to iPhone with At&t taking home to top spot. Unfortunately this first place spot is due to amount of discussion on Twitter as At&t being the ‘worst-rated wireless carrier’. Maybe next time At&t.
Category: Conversation Starters
Runner up in this category goes to #oomf (one of my followers), with #nowplaying taking home to trophy. #blessed rounds out the three with #quote not far behind. Maybe next year #MRKT3311 will earn a spot.
Category: TV and Movies
Thanks to social TV and movie watching this award was an easy one to give away. Family Guy wins top spot followed by Big Brother. American Dad placed third, in front of Hey Arnold and American Idol. Surprisingly the most tweeted about movie of 2012 was Think Like a Man, right in front the of Hunger Games with The Avengers rounding out third place.

Category: Sports
With no big surprise #NFL takes home the cup with #Nascar in second followed by #MLB. #replacementsrefs received an honourable mention with the most tweets in September as well as #Olympics with most tweets in July and August.

Category: Food
Who know people loved pancakes this much. The number one most tweeted about food of 2012 was #IHOP, with #Starbucks in second and #Waffle House in third.

Category: Retweet
Now for the award of the year, most retweeted tweet. The award goes to (drum roll) President Obama’s victory tweet on election night. Not only does this tweet win most retweet tweet of the year, but also takes home the grand prize of most tweet retweeted ever!
Thanks everyone and good night

Source: http://mashable.com/2012/12/11/twitter-2012-topics-discussed/

Other links of interest:
http://mashable.com/2012/12/11/twitter-looks-back-on-2012/
http://mashable.com/2012/12/11/sports-twitter-2012-year-in-review/

Facebook page for soup?

Recently Campbell’s has launch a new line of soups for the ‘20 something’ called “Campbell’s Go”. These soups are sold in microwavable packages and include such flavors as:

  • Coconut Curry with Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas
  • Chicken and Quinoa with Poblano Chilies
  • Spicy Chorizo and Pulled Chicken with Black Beans
  • Golden Lentil with Madras Curry
  • Creamy Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda

To best reach the ’20 something’ target market Campbell’s has incorporated a hung amount of digital content into their marketing plan including, Facebook and Tumblr pages for each flavour and daily posts on Buzz Feed under the title “Campbell’s Go™ soups”. They have also begun sponsoring Buzz Feed’s ‘Nom Nom’ feed.  Campbell’s has also teamed up with Spotlight digital music service and developed play lists based on each flavour and has sponsored the latest instalment of Angry Birds the Star Wars edition.

My question is, is it worth it? Do ‘20 somethings’ buy soup from a grocery store? Or is that done by the primary grocery shopper, usually a parent. And when they do buy soup from a grocery store I would assume is it a ‘20 something’ like me, living on their own with a strike food budget.  I know when I shop for food I am forced to look at the price, and usually can’t afford flashy soups with their own play lists and Facebook pages.

Source: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/2226481/campbell-soup-trying-to-attract-millenials-with-digital-content

Other links of interest:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandy-thompson/understanding-millennials_b_1520969.html 

Interest Graph vs. Social Graph

Like the Social Graph, which connects people based on who they know, the Interest Graph also connects people with a different common denominator. The difference occurs in the reason or source of the connection. An Interest Graph will connect people based on their interests including; hobbies, passions and curiosities without knowing each other or having any pre-existing relationship.

The idea of connecting people based on their interest through social media was first seen on Twitter.  Twitter was created in 2006 and according to an article written by Dr. Tony Hirst, “Twitter, as it grows rapidly in public consciousness as the place (or “backchannel”) to chat around live events as diverse as television and radio broadcasts, conferences, and “trending” hashtags, increasingly provides a snapshot of “the interest graph”. Twitter has become the place in the digital world where users are interacting on the bases of the idea of connecting with people based on interest, rather than relationships,

This concept of Interest Graph has become the basis for a number of different social media platforms including;

  • Pinterest, an online photo sharing website which allows the user to following other user’s photo galleries (pin boards) with the same interest.
  • Quora an online question-and-answer website created and edited by users allowing people to discuss topics that interest them .
  • Thumb a place where users can give their opinions of other users photos asking for feedback and recommendations.

As previously mentioned the Interest Graph differs from the Social Graph. I believe in the future the line that separates the two kinds of relationships will become blurred. Users of Social Media will begin to integrate the people they interact with that on their Social Graph with the people they met through their Interest Graphs. In other words, there will no longer be a distinction between friends they “know” on Facebook and friends they met through their interest on Social Media platforms such as Quroa or Pinterest. This has already begun to happen the other way, where users follow the friends they know on Facebook on Interest Graph based social media platforms. A certain degree of it is already happening by people using groups on Facebook (Ex: Birth without Fear, a Facebook group of mothers who post comments and pictures about their experiences as a new mother). I predict the relationships will go beyond becoming friends on Facebook, but becoming friends who physical interact. This has already begun to happen with the creation of meet up groups, where a group of people interested in something will physically meet up and participate in an activity. I predict on the near future this meet up group style will become a social norm and the questions will no longer be “how do you know them?” but “what interest do you guys share?”.

Sources:  http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/engineering-and-technology/technology/communities-and-connections-social-interest-mapping

Other links of interest:

http://mashable.com/2012/06/19/interest-graph-marketer/

http://www.livechatinc.com/blog/2012/07/how-to-create-an-interest-graph/

 

How to use Social Content

We talk about marketers using content on social media platforms like it’s a new thing, but according to Lee Oden author of the article 5 Deadly Sins of Social Content the “B2B world has used content to romance customers across long buying cycles with great success for many years. But with increased importance among consumers, search engines, and social platforms, online marketers are emphasizing content in the marketing mix now more than ever.”

The article suggests there are 5 common mistakes made when using social media content and why they are important to avoid.

  1. Have a plan

Like anything else in marketing (or business for that matter), there needs to be a strategy. The article states that “experimenting with social media applications and platforms is a practical first step” but, it cannot be seen as a strategy. The article makes an excellent point in mentioning that the strategy should not be ‘set in stone’ but rather be adaptable and able to keep up with the changes of that particular social media platform, or changes in technology in general. I think this is very important to note because the social media landscape changed daily and this uncertainly forces the strategy to be solid and fool proof as possible, some things I believe makes for a great strategy.

  1. Take it personally

The article states that “companies that view social media platforms simply as a distribution channel fail to create value for the very audiences they’re trying to reach.” This mistake is often made by companies.  Examples can be found very easily during a 15 minute surfing session on Facebook or Twitter. The article says “people don’t typically use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, Pinterest, and other social applications for keeping tabs on corporate press releases, product announcements, and promotions. Reasons for social media usage are most often personal.” When I think about myself using Facebook or Twitter my main goal for usage is to keep in contact with friends and family (Facebook) or get the news in real time (Twitter). I am not actively looking for ads, deals or promotions on my favourite products or services. Oden suggest “marketers can achieve much better success with social content by empathizing with customer needs, interests, goals, and pain points.”  The good news here is that not many companies are doing this properly so that leaves room for the companies to do it right and get notices (and sales) because of it.

  1. It’s a community, not dictatorship

The social media community has proven to be fickle and sometimes illogical. The reason I say this is that it seems the common laws of marketing are not always followed in the space, and it is often difficult to predict the outcome. The article suggest “provide(ing) something of value before expecting anything in return.” and  “it’s smart to find out more specifically what consumers and those who influence them find valuable as inspiration for a social content plan.” This idea or model is built on that fact that it’s a ‘give and take’ relationship that by providing customer with something of value (content) they will be more likely to give something back to the company, wither that be a simple thought of a purchase, trail run of a product or complete loyalty to a brand.

  1. Promote it, even if it has legs

The article suggest “a lot of marketing budgets have invested in creating content for companies but many purists feel that great content should be left to attract attention based purely on the quality of the information. There’s a feeling that if content is really good, it will attract traffic and engagement all on it’s own.” This may sounds like a no brainer but its easy to assume that everyone in the community will think the content is as great as you do, and will love it just the same. That might be true, but the content still needs to be promoted and supported through other ways. The article states “with a hub and spoke publishing model, themed content is published into a repository that represents a “go to” resource for topics that the brand wants to be known for. At the same time, that content can be promoted through spokes or social channels among communities that are interested.” I think this is also a way to be seen as an information authority at the same time as showcasing great content through multiple channels.

  1. It never stops changing

As previously mentioned the social media platforms are always going to be changing and having an adaptable strategy is important. But it is also important to continuously monitor and analyse the content that is published on these platforms. The article states “As the community grows, even more sharing of links and traffic is involved with brand content. The increase in engagement, search visibility, and social sharing provides a rich set of data with which the brand can improve content creation. It’s a cycle of hypothesis, implementation, and analysis that can improve how effectively a brand is able to refine social content effectiveness at inspiring business outcomes.”

Sources: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2163384/deadly-sins-social-content

Other links of interest:

http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/2156596/brands-content-marketing

http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/

Corporate Blogging Done Right

My company recently decided it was time to join the blogging world. Naturally working in such a large company there was a number of different opinions concerning what the blog should be about, what kind of information it should included and how it will increase the bottom line. After hearing /watching these conversations I decided to look into corporate blog best practices.  Below are a few best practices I think that are important outlined in an article titled “10 tips for corporate blogging” on Mashable.com written by Erica Sallow.

Establish a Content Theme and Editorial Guidelines

Establishing a content theme and editorial guidelines allows the reader to have a clear understanding of what the blog is about and why they should care to read it. The article recommends to “chose a blog name and theme that fits well with your company’s expertise, but don’t be afraid to branch out into a larger space.” I believe by doing this the company is able to position themselves as the information authority by blogging about the company’s expertise but also communicating they are innovative by discussing and new ideas and changes.

Editorial guideline are a great place to start when hashing out what fits in the blog and allows the writer to stay on track and always delivery well thought out content.

Choose a Blogging Team and Process

Being that blogging is a form of content marketing, the content of a blog must be perfect (or close to it). By choosing a team of core bloggers with great writing skills and outgoing attitudes the blogs will be reflect these features and as  create engaging and interesting content..

The article outlines two options regarding the process the blogger (and/or blogger team) must follow.  One, having an editor or a group of editors and two, allowing the bloggers to post at their own will. I believe it is important to have an editor to make sure the blog doesn’t ‘miss the mark’ in terms of content, and make sure it supports the company’s brand. Also, any writer will tell you it is difficult to edit and fact check their own work. That being said, I believe a best practice is to have an editor.

Humanize your Company

This relates to choosing a blogging team and process. The article suggests “think(ing) of it (the blog) as a conversation between people, not between a brand and one person.” Be allowing blogger to have their own by-line on blogs is makes the communication feel more like a conversation with an expert, rather than a monotone ‘how to manual’ from a brand. The article also suggest allowing the blogger to have their own voice and writing style. While this can be beneficial I believe the voice or writing style needs to be complementary to the brand.

Avoid PR and Marketing

This is often hard to do because a blog essentially a marketing tool. The article suggests “if (the blog is) maintained correctly, it will act as a repository of real analysis and opinions provided by your company’s fine employees.” You often see corporate blogs writing about new promotions or upcoming sales. The article suggests “stay(ing) away from trying to sell your readers. There are appropriate venues for that, and your blog shouldn’t be one of them.” It is important to keep this in mind when choosing a blogging team and/or creating an editorial calendar.

Welcome Criticism

The article suggests to “make it a policy to welcome criticism, thinking of it as an opportunity for feedback and improvement.” This is a best practice that I believe can be applied to anything done in the corporate world, or life for that matter. Being that blogging is a form of social media welcoming criticism and dealing with negative feedback is part of the game and can be very useful when done right.

Outline a Comment Policy

The article warns “if you open up your blog for full feedback (which you should), you will get a variety of comments — constructive, complimentary, hateful, and spam. Be prepared for everything.” The article suggest creating a comment policy that will help your team deal with each comment in the correct way and make sure everyone else on the team is doing the same thing. The article suggests having a process when deciding when to reply, delete, by pass or answer a comment. I believe it is important to answer every comment and only removing comments with offensive language or inappropriate content. Each comment presents an opportunity for customer relationship management, risk management or customer engagement.

Get Social

By adding social media share tools to your blog you are allowing your “readers to promote your work” according to the article. The article also suggests passing on comments to the appropriate person in the company and having them respond to the customer while maintaining the same personal tone. I think is this great advice because it shows that the blog is not just a place for friendly posts and updates but rather a genuine communication tool that allows the customer to reach further into the company if they would like. By responding in a personal way the company is able to strengthen these new relationships and hopefully generate a positive brand image (and sales).

The article also suggests “promoting your social presence on your blog, by implementing links, buttons and widgets that link to your social profiles. This will enable readers to stay connected with you across platforms.” In my opinion this only works if it is done consistency. When using social media it is important to choose tools that are complementary to increase you social media presence and perceived know how.

Having a Strategy

It is easy to get lost in the social media world and to only use tools because they are available, or worse, because everyone else is doing it. Think anything else in business a bog needs a clear strategy that can guide the blog through times of industry and technology change.

Source: http://mashable.com/2010/07/20/corporate-blogging-tips/

Other links of interest:

http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/01/05/the-10-best-corporate-blogs-in-the-world/

http://blogs.constantcontact.com/product-blogs/social-media-marketing/negative-feedback-on-social-media/

Effective Communication Levels Using Social Media Tools

Recently I was asked to participate in giving an effective communication presentation to my company’s marketing team.  Being a member of the commination department, my team and I

chose to focus on the process of communication and choosing the correct tool for each situation.  This led me to think about effective communication in the social media age, and how it has changed for companies. With the emergence of social media we are introduced to a number of new tools all with their own roles and rules changing the hierarchy of levels of communication. The article titled “5 Levels of Effective Communication in the Social Media Age” found on Mashable.com discusses integrating social media into the different levels of communication, each level having a specific purpose and etiquette. The article states “When we do not understand the role of these levels, they can become huge time wasters. When we do understand them however, they can help us more effectively engage and navigate these new waters.

Below are the 5 levels of communication outlined by the article, the appropriate tool for each level and the reasoning behind each choice.

Level One: The Public Reply

The public reply refers to a company communicating with its customers through a channel where the customers can receive information and reply publicly. Imagine a company wanting to encourage discussion about new products, promotional items and new special, or wanting to hear from a customer about their experience with using their product, dealing with the front line sales staff or filing a complaint. The article recommends this be done by using Facebook through comments on Fan pages or (even better) Twitter, where the company can use @replies to send and receive short viewable messages. By using these social media tools the company remains transparent by utilizing an open/viewable channel for the customers to interact with the company. The article states “Public interactions are a great starting point for a channel that never existed before social media, and if done correctly, can often lead to more fruitful direct communication.”

Level Two: The Direct Message

In this case, the direct message refers to a company sending a direct message to its customers
within a social network. The article suggests this is done only after a relationship is established through a public reply and that “a direct message creates a private connection without opening the floodgates of e-mail.” The direct message can be used when managing unhappy customers or communicating information to specific customers not appropriate for public viewing. The article suggest this be done by Facebook but never Twitter because of the limited length of messages and the function of only being able to receive direct messages from your followers.

Level Three: Email

As previously mentions email can often “open a flood gate” or in this case, allow for more in-depth communication. The fact that email can be forwarded and sent to more than one people at once allows for more than one person to get involved and aid in resolving the problem. For example, a customer can be unhappy with the level of service they received from a particular employee at one of the many store locations of the company. By using email to company is able to engage in a conversation with the customer asking them for more information including details such as, what exactly the problem was and at what store they were dealing with. The email can them be sent to the manager of that region, customer service representative of that region and anyone else who could help fix the problem. But, as the article states, “When not used effectively (email), can become a huge time drain, as people write lengthy messages without much thought of the time and attention they are asking of recipients. This fine line makes e-mail tough to master in the social media age.” But if written properly the email can engage the customer while solving the problem and maintaining a private channel.

Level Four: Phone

Although it may seem with the emergence of social media the phone call and the art of conversation are no longer needed, but the phone call still has it advantages. The article states “hearing someone’s voice allows people to get a better sense of one another. While communicating via text, a person can take time to carefully craft his or her words, potentially presenting an image that may not be true or is harder to trust. A phone call allows for more immediate back-and-forth, and can be particularly helpful if a subject matter is delicate or people are considering a more in-depth relationship.”

The phone call is often a good choice when an issue is more complex than previously thought or needs a ‘back and forth’ dialog to work out the best answer to solve the problem. It also allows for the communicators to know the message has been received unlike emails or Facebook messages which can remain unopened for months without the sender know it. It also cuts down on the time needed to discuss something removing the time gap between receiving and responding to emails or Facebook messages.

In a world of new social media communication tool it is easy for a company to not use the phone or see it as a ‘last resort’ but essentially it remains the most effective way for a small number of people to commination next to face to face meetings.

Level Five: In Person Meeting

Much like the art of conversation understanding body language is a lost concept, but something that should be resurrected. Through our body language we communicate things like comfort level, passion and overall vision. The article states “Meeting with someone in person allows for communication to occur on multiple levels, and people often come away with a much better sense of each other. “

While a meeting can be “enhanced by the natural progression of first digital communication”, the effectiveness of the commination cannot be entirely relied upon to manage in depth conversation often needed to resolve complex problems. The drawback of face to face communication is time and money. I have learned it is important to look around the table of a meeting and questions each person’s attendants bases on cost of time and resources. Social media has allowed companies to curb these costs by not having meetings as a starting point of communication, but a later stage that can be utilized at a higher level.

Source: http://mashable.com/2010/02/08/communication-social-media/

Additional links of interest:

http://mashable.com/2010/01/12/zen-social-media/

http://mashable.com/2010/01/07/social-media-changed-us/

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