This is a guest post by Robert Purcell. Robert is a member of the IIA Social Media Working Group which seeks to support businesses in the development of strategies for engaging with social media. As Marketing Manager for Post Consult International Ltd. (PCI), Robert’s main focus is developing the marketing and product strategy for the company’s Security Solutions offered under the corporate brand, Post.Trust. Post.Trust is a national-level Certificate Authority, wholly owned by An Post, providing security solutions that enable organisations to communicate with one another more securely and confidently in a trusted environment. You can find him on LinkedIn or @robgerard on Twitter.
Engage! Revised and Updated: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
Brian Solis (Author), Ashton Kutcher (Foreword)
The second edition of Engage! written by social media thought leader Brian Solis really is a fascinating read. I haven’t read the first edition, but this instalment focuses more on enabling you to design a new media engagement program specific to your business and your customers. It empowers you to develop metrics and KPIs to measure the success of your activities and translate that data into bottom-line benefits. As anyone who has ever tried to champion a social media program within their organisation knows; the first question you are asked is, What’s the ROI of social media? This book will help you answer that question.
A word of warning though – Engage! is not a book you can pick up and read from cover to cover. Sections of the book are quite dense and academic – but then isn’t that what you would expect a Complete Guide to be? The book doesn’t define its target audience but whether you are new to social media or experienced in social media marketing, this book has plenty of substance and will serve as a source of reference in your social media activities. As Solis says, this is an opportunity to “hit ctrl-alt-del and restart with a fresh perspective”.
The book starts by defining social media and introducing the arsenal of social media tools available for creating touchpoints across the Social Web. It explores building a framework to amplify the visibility of your social objects, extending the reach of your online presence to new audiences, and defining the end game, ultimately guiding people to action through participating, listening and engagement.
Solis reminds us that understanding the rules of engagement is critical in this new world of socialised media. It’s about training and putting the necessary policies and guidelines in place to ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn book. The latter part of the book looks at the realignment and restructuring the organisation as part of this socialisation process. Finally, it focuses on the management of this social media activity; how to track, measure and translate that social data into tangible value for the business.
Solis discusses the concept of unmarketing as one of the most effective forms of marketing in this new genre of socialised media and really unmarketing underpins the ‘How’ organisations should use Social Media. Marketing is no longer about broadcasting brand messages – it’s about embodying the characteristics of your brand, being an active participant in the conversation, contributing value to earn relevance, build influence and create brand advocacy and loyalty toward a desired outcome.
At times, reading the book was a bit of a slog and I found myself going back over passages each time I picked it up because there was a lot to absorb. But on the whole, I found it uplifting and insightful, reaffirming my understanding of the real power of Social Media – so stick with it. Solis’s voice comes through the words on the page, inspiring the reader to embrace the social web, to champion new media engagement and become the expert to drive change within the organisation. The book is ‘peppered’ with frameworks, methodologies and tools to assist you in your journey towards building a two-way information bridge between the organisation and the online communities in those networks you choose to participate.
As Solis says, “The future of business is social”. Social Media cannot be confined to one person or department. The entire business must socialise. Organisations must embrace and ride the social wave or risk being engulfed by it.
“The greatest advantages of social media reside in its ability for worthy individuals and companies to shape perception, steer activity, incite action, and adapt to the communities that establish the market. Engage or die.”
Okay no prizes for original titles for me when writing about Google’s new service Buzz. I’m now seeing it in my Gmail from my PC but so far I have checked it out more often on the iPhone. I fear Google may be a little late to the party on this one but the promised open-ness (“Connect sites you already use. Import your stuff from Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader.”) should allow people already familiar with other Google services to tap into it. I already use Friendfeed in a very lacklustre manner admittedly but it fills my lifestreaming void (Bet you didn’t even know you could have one of them eh?) Increasingly many social networks do allow this cross pollination through RSS feeds and APIs. The amount of replication as a result can be overwhelming and irritating. I know one of the things I’ll be doing next week while waiting for the arrival of Nipper 3.0 will be sorting out all my feeds, where they’re going and who’s seeing them. I know, the excitement!
However not everyone is enthralled by Buzz. Laurent Francois of Social Media Today feels that the assumption that Google make that you automatically want to be visible or see all your Gmail contacts is a big assumption and a questionable attitude to privacy.
But what’s the buzz for business? The mobile version is location specific (although it’s been having a fine time pinpointing my location so far) allowing users to “view buzz near your location” or “Post buzz tagged with your location”. This could be a great boon to businesses using Buzz and Google Maps as one of the functions allows the user to see Buzz “Nearby” and add in locations not unlike that other new-ish kid on the Irish block, Foursquare. Businesses could buzz about special offers, events, opening hours etc. and pick up passing buzzers. Despite Laurent’s fears above it will still be up to customers whether they follow the buzz on businesses or not. For customers however it’s nice to know that you can click on the nearby button when you’re thinking of a purchase and seeing if any nearby businesses are offering any specials, whether they are open and what your options are.
Calling all business bloggers! If you blog for your business, no matter what size, we want to hear more about your experience. We would like to gauge the effectiveness of blogging for business, start collecting data about trends, the costs involved, your target audiences and the benefits. We look forward to sharing the anonymised results of this survey and analysis of the data with you in due course.
This is an initiative of the Irish Internet Association’s Social Media Working Group to gather information about blogging for business in Ireland. This survey was run last year (results available online) and formed part of the data for the guide “Join the Conversation: A Guide to Blogging for Business” Your response will be completely anonymous and the survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.
Did you complete the survey last year? Please take the time to complete it again; it will help us gauge developing trends in blogging for businesses in Ireland.
Thanks to our Google alerts I just happened upon this post by Simon Murphy of Deloitte where he shares insights about the development, release, collation and results of Deloitte’s 2009 CIO Survey. It is very interesting to read that he concludes that LinkedIn proved by far the biggest pull to the survey results followed by his colleague Harry Godddard’s guest post here on the IIA blog and inclusion in the November Digital Digest. The fact that we also push these sources out to various social networks was undoubtedly helpful in spreading the word.
The survey results are well worth a read and with my nerdy social research background I am very happy to read on Simon’s blog that Deloitte plan to run the survey again next year. Nothing like the promise of some longitudinal data to get the heart racing of a cold Tuesday morning!
A guest post from IIA Social Media Working Group Member Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications. You can check out Eoin’s blog here. (I particularly like his most recent post at time of writing about the implications of using multiple usernames across social networks.)
IIA Member Company SimplyZesty recently ran another successful measurement camp. The session itself was attended by less than normal but ran to a familiar structure with two presenters followed by a group activity based on three case study scenarios.
Overall although online is much more measurable than traditional media the demands to quantify it financially have not been met to date. The first wave of measurement has been around physical numbers i.e. numbers of followers, number of posts. These give a topline indication of engagement but translating this into actual worth is tricky. How much is a follower/friend actually worth? Sure it’s great to get some “thumbs up” and “love” but what are these actual measures worth? For property owners such as bebo this poses real challenges. Engagement models are generally built around the pushing and advertising of the page profile but savvy brand holders want more. The burden of responsibility is getting pushed back to the property owners as marketers want more metrics to gauge success while platform owners need agreement on values attached to elements so that they can build charging models. Currently the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertising model is the main charging structure used. If the platform owner is charged with the financial delivery then they need to have full control over the creative, which again would pose problems.
Philip McCarthy now ex Bebo gave a good overview of some campaigns that they have run and admitted that measurement is still at an early stage. Bebo does engagement very well but an experience with Coca Cola Burn posed interesting questions about what he should have charged. Current values are around 3 euro cost per thousand which would indicate a value of €60k for the Coke campaign that achieved 20m impressions. The campaign achieved 17,000 visits to the site, 126 comments, 7 photos, 70 quizzes, 679 skins used.
Engagement is something that social media does really well and according to Philip there must be a value to it.
Philip debated using traditional rates that are charged for advertorials, something that is pretty much set and understood with traditional media. Basing digital charging models on established off line models has merit in that brand owners understand them but is probably not the best starting point.
The establishment of a base line measurement was discussed that could be used across other media but no one has yet taken this step to any great degree.
Where this gets particularly difficult is in getting values on things like thumbs up, love and other signs of engagement used on different social networks. It’s great to get them but what do they really mean and what value could be put on them?
One of the areas discussed that could help on measurement in the real world was the use of redeemable bar codes. The idea being that rather than a virtual present that people could send a ‘printable’ bar code or even one that could be displayed on a phone. This could be taken to an outlet and redeemed. This could help track social media activity to actual sales. For example a coffee shop could build an app that allows users to send a coffee to friends. The friend could print out or show the barcode that would be scanned through at an actual coffee shop. By doing this the coffee shop could measure the actual sales generated by the voucher and social media activity. Some good work in being done in this area by IIA Member Company Zappa but problems still exist for terminals to read bar codes on screen.
The overall feeling from the event was that some leadership needs to be established in measuring the value of online campaigns and that the current metrics, while good, are not financially based enough for brand owners. The UK Measurement Camp has also suffered from similar problems.
My own observation is that once criteria that are reasonably sound are established Klout, TweetLevel for Twitter, or Technorati for blogs could start to become industry standards. At some point someone needs to take a brave step. The online community will undoubtable respond and some progress could be made.
UPDATE: From today (29 June 2009) Facebook pages with 100 fans or more can get their own vanity URL. We need a lot of help so please fan us up on Facebook today
Eoin Kennedy, IIA Vice-chair and Social Media Working Group (SMWG) worker has a great post on his blog about the key activities a company should focus on when setting themselves up on Facebook. This is a checklist that was developed by Matt Matheson of Thinkhouse (and fellow SMWG member) for the SMWG’s recent breakout session at IIA Congress 09. It is well worth checking it out, if only to satisfy yourself that you are doing a few things right.
A new addition to this list could of course be a Facebook vanity URL. A vanity URL is best explained as follows: www.facebook.com/yournameorcompanynamehere. These went live on Saturday and there was a land grab with no small amount of controversy in Ireland anyway. I managed to get my second choice for my personal Facebook page although my name does not seem to be associated with anyone else. I don’t care too much about my own personal brand but I do care about the IIA. The IIA are a real latecomer to the Facebook party and recent changes to how a company can represent themselves and use Facebook have tempted us to get involved. (Oh yes and of course a small matter of a keynote speaker but we didn’t want to seem TOO reactionary!) We also haven’t promoted our Facebook page much yet.
Photo right owned by jasonlam (cc) However I was a little ticked off that we couldn’t secure a vanity url for our Facebook page because we don’t have a 1000 fans! A quick gander at some of our members who have Facebook pages for a LOT longer allows me to feel that my irritation is justified. The Institute of Designers in Ireland, a member organisation too, has a very healthy 260 members at time of writing. Blacknight have 189 fans, the Flowers Made Easy Group has 184 members: I could go on. My point being that not many of these Irish companies groups or pages have 500 fans or members never mind 1000! (Okay so Barry’s Tea have over 3,000 but who doesn’t love a nice cuppa?) How are we going to ensure that we get our vanity URLs, people? The IIA is up against the Iraqi Interim Authority and the Indian Internet Alliance here and some others besides!
So in the vain hope that the powers that be in Facebook might read my humble wee blog post please reconsider and drop the required number of fans to a more realistic 250 fans, even just for Irish online businesses. Otherwise who’s going to pay for all those social ads…?
Of course I’ve just realised what I have to do next: set up a protest group on Facebook – Give Irish businesses vanity urls too or some such.
This week’s case study has been written by Gordon Jenkinson of Jenerate.
Bacardi Ireland distributor, Edward Dillon & Co, traditionally used normal micro sites such as www.blive.ie to promote their sponsorship of music events on the Internet throughout the year including the hugely popular Oxegen and Electric Picnic festivals.
In 2008 they looked at the possibility of using social networking to get better targeting and some viral penetration to a wider audience. Given the target audience and the fact that Bebo and MySpace were not receptive to alcohol advertising, Facebook was chosen as the platform upon which to build an interest in the brand, to run competitions in association with the Blive events and generally to help spread the word on the Bacardi Blive sponsored events throughout the year.
A Facebook profile page was set up and maintained as well as a Facebook application to manage competitions and acquire information for the Bacardi eCRM database. The general idea of the competition was a chance to win VIP tickets for you and your friends through a custom built Facebook application.
To encourage the viral spread of this through Facebook in the run up to the events the winner was the Facebook user that had the most friends with the application added to their profile. This gave users control over winning the competition rather than it being a pure lottery.
User positions were updated hourly and notifications sent to entrants on a regular basis telling them how many more friends they needed to add to get to first place. This information had the desired effect and entrants realising they only needed 10 more friends to get to the winning position started sending it around to increase there position. As well as this, they could see the top 5 people and also there current position at any time throughout the competition.
Banner advertising on popular Irish sites and flyers handed out throughout the year were used to seed the initial entrants and get the competition going. Other spot prizes for fans of the page and users of the application were given out between the events to encourage participation and interaction with the Bacardi Ireland Facebook presence.
As part of the competition sign-up, entrants were asked some brand questions to gauge brand recognition and opinions. Details were collected and stored in the Bacardi eCRM database and used for future campaigns and event notifications.
The final result was an almost four fold increase in the number of competition entrants and an even bigger increase in term of brand interaction across the Bacardi Facebook profiles and the blive.ie website.
A large aid to this interaction was the use of Facebook photo galleries where people were photographed at Blive events and encouraged to tag themselves in the Facebook albums. These photos were not only available on Facebook but also pulled directly from Facebook into the blive.ie website. These photo galleries created significant post event traffic to the Blive.ie websites as well as interaction and sign-up to the Bacardi Facebook pages.
One of the main lessons learnt from this successful experiment with Facebook was to create an application that runs with or without Facebook. As part of the process visitors were asked if they had a Facebook account and were directed to the normal competition site or to the Facebook one. Almost as many entrants came through the normal site as through the Facebook application.
Also, the integration of the Facebook photo albums using the Facebook API allowed the viewing of tagged photos within Facebook or from the normal site. It’s also useful to copy or mirror interactions with Facebook pages onto your normal site this allows visitors to what would normally be a static site to see some comments, events and other banter focused around the brand.
With the introduction of Facebook Connect late last year the options for this type of website integration to Facebook is even greater, allowing completely Facebook-integrated websites.
The other more complex aspect is ensuring that the promotion of the Facebook pages and application are sufficient to seed it and the rewards for sign-up are clear and worthwhile.
Monitoring of visitors and the decisions they make is very important. This was monitored using analytics during the campaign and the sign-up pages and the navigation from the initial page through to competition sign-up were optimised for more competition entries.
The IIA supports responsible drinking and encourages readers of this post to visit www.drinkaware.ie.
Garrendenny Lane Interiors is a home business based in Carlow. Owned and run by Lorna Sixsmith, it offers a new and unique way to shop for your home. Rather than browsing in a standard shop in town, Lorna’s background in Interior Design allows her to provide a personal service where products can be displayed in a relaxed “home” environment. Not having a shop front in the town does mean that Lorna faces some additional challenges in promoting the business.
Interior design is a relatively new career choice for Lorna, having worked as a teacher, lecturer and head of department previously. Within those roles, she had to plan, deliver, work to targets, (persuade teenagers to complete coursework – easier said than done!), work to time scales and lead teams. While her current business has many of the same requirements – working from home means that these tasks are all done by her and at any hour of the day (or night).
The website was launched in late 2007 and the online shop (www.garrendennylane.ie) opened in August 2008. It stocks items such as kitchenware, bed linen, accessories for children, gifts, tea sets, clocks and candleholders. Such a wide variety of products can make search engine optimisation tricky on a small site.
Lorna first heard about blogging via an Enterprise Board training course and had her web developer integrate the blog into the website to get the most benefit from incoming links. Lorna freely admits that IT is not her strong point – but this does not hold her back from running a successful blog.
Some of the benefits of blogging provides for her business are:
- A better opportunity to reflect her expertise in the Interior Design business on a regular basis
- Information is available to customers 24 hours a day
- Customers have the opportunity to see some of the latest projects
- Constantly updated content keeps customers returning
- The blog and twitter account provides direct access to customers in a way that is difficult with static web pages
- It’s easy to post photos and descriptions of new products without producing a catalogue type interface
- Products can be promoted in a more personal way – without the bland description a traditional online shop may have
- The blog offers more opportunities for search engine optimisation
- Twitter allows customers comments and questions to be dealt with immediately
Lorna spends up to one and a half hours per week writing for her blog (circa three posts per week) and spends about the same time following other people’s blogs. This will be good news for business bloggers that are concerned blogging will take up too much time. Almost 32% of the respondents to the IIA Business Blogger Survey noted that they spent four to eight hours per week on their blogging activities. Lorna recently appeared on RTE’s Not Enough Hours program – where she claims the amount of blogging she does was exaggerated. The program did highlight the difficulty of balancing a work and home environment.
From the first day the blog articles were a mix of personal items, product reviews and tips. Lorna felt that this mix would be most suitable for her target customers because it enhances the personal service she provides. She feels the personal touch is very important for her business – both online and for direct contact. While the blog articles provide a behind the scenes view of her business she also provides an unusual twist on the theme. Customers can send photos of a room (via email or twitter) and get interior design advice by phone and email. The importance of seeing the products is not forgotten either as she sends samples via the post.
It’s not yet clear how useful Twitter will prove as a long term business tool for GarrenDenny Lane Interiors. While it provides direct contact to customers (especially home users outside of normal business hours) Lorna is aware how some users seem to be addicted to it. The majority of her customer contact is via the blog, email or phone calls. Currently she monitors activity on Twitter but only occasionally “tweets”. While also using Google Adwords, Online Directories, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote the business, Lorna says the blog is the focus of her activities. She does admit to being new to Twitter and has not ‘worked’ it properly yet.
One of the major issues for businesses is which metrics can they use to measure the success of a business blog. The IIA Business Blogger Survey found that the top ways that Irish businesses measure the success of their blogging activities include receiving positive feedback from customers and being referred to positively in other, more traditional, media. On both these counts Lorna has been successful with her blog but says she still has a lot more she wishes to achieve. Specifically she says she needs to write articles with a higher focus on potential search engine optimisation.
Her success rate so far has been excellent – she says 30-40% of her business has come via her blogging activities. Her blog has helped her gain customers(*) and make sales in the UK and in the US as well as Ireland. The exchange rate has meant that sales to the UK have drastically reduced but she says the export sales she gets are related to the blog. Lorna also guest writes for an American blog and sends a monthly newsletter that helps remind her customers of her online presence.
With house hunters and home decorators becoming increasingly Internet savvy it’s important for businesses like Garrendenny Lane to not just have an online presence but to be available for their customers and to give them direct access to real people. Lorna is leading the way in showing what a small business can achieve.
(*) How does Lorna know she is gaining customers via the Blog? At this point one might expect details of Google Analytics accounts, cookies and other tracking mechanisms but Lorna uses the most reliable method of all – She talks to her customers. When a customer contacts her with queries – she makes a point of asking them how they found her.
Thanks to Emmet Ryan of Villa81 who made this video which sums up the launch yesterday of “Join the Conversation: The Guide to Blogging for Business“.
I am delighted that the IIA Social Media Working Group are launching “Join the Conversation: The Guide to Blogging for Business” today. Being a member of the working group (and we are all volunteers) I know how much work went into the guide and all the agonizing that was done over the tiniest details . I hope you find it useful and inspiring. However the whole group would love if you could share your thoughts and feedback in the comments here or via twitter, by email, by skype; whichever is your preferred medium!
I have prepared a social media press release for those of you who might like some background information on the guide and those involved. This includes links to media, images, content and a Delicious page with all manner of related content. It might be worth grabbing a feed for this as I will add to it as more content appears online. I hope you find this a useful way of sharing information and I would love any feedback you have on this approach.
A big thank you as well to IIA Member Company Vermillion Design who developed the design of the Guide. It is designed to work best on screen but can be printed also.