Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is EdgeRank?

Every time you think you’ve got Facebook worked out they go and make changes. Yes it can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, but these changes are making it easier for the passionate publicist/marketer to reach audiences. These changes are making our jobs easier.

I love the direction we are moving in. SEO bandits are becoming helpless, like dinosaurs, as they try to tweak and hack their way through Google’s forever changing algorithm. Companies are being forced to learn what their customers actually want after they’ve ‘liked’ a page on Facebook or followed someone on Twitter. Social Search and Social Rank is the future and will inevitably lead to better content, better customer service and, eventually, better competition.

So what’s new? 

The latest change to Facebook is EdgeRank.  Remember when it took you forever to read through all the latest updates in your Facebook News Feed? Wonder why it only takes a few seconds to read updates now?

Well, if you haven’t noticed the change, there are now two settings on your Facebook News Feed; Top News and Most Recent.

So what is all this chatter about EdgeRank? 

Facebook looks at everything a page publishes as a ‘social object.’ Every object receives a specific EdgeRank. Objects with a high EdgeRank appear in 'Top News' feeds. Objects with a low EdgeRank do not. 

The consequences of EdgeRank? 

Getting people to ‘like’ your page will no longer guarantee access to their News Feed. In my opinion this is a good thing.   

How does EdgeRank work?

In short an object’s EdgeRank is based on three factors: 

1) Affinity/Relationship between creator and user. 
2) Interaction/Engagement. 
3) Timeliness/Latest News. 

Put these together and you’ve got an object’s EdgeRank. Of course Facebook won’t tell us exactly how you gain higher EdgeRank…that would just ruin all of the fun and inevitably result in a million EdgeRank specialists charging hundreds of dollars for services that result in emptiness (just like SEO experts in my humble opinion.)

1) Affinity.

An object’s affinity score is based on the interactions between the customer and the page that publishes the object. Customers who regularly interact with a page will receive a higher affinity score. In other words, more engagement leads to more access. 

Each time a customer visits your page, clicks the “Like” button, comments on your status or looks at a picture you’ve posted, you increase the affinity score with that user. 

Conclusion: Affinity is how a customer tells Facebook, “you know what, I like updates from this page…keep me posted.” 

2) Interaction/Engagement.

Activities that require higher levels of user engagement get a higher score than those that don’t e.g., leaving a comment on a photo takes more effort than clicking the “Like” button on a page. Updates that receive higher levels of interaction will score a higher EdgeRank and are more likely to show in a customer’s News Feed. 

Conclusion: Engagement is how a customer tells Facebook, “you know what, I like updates from this page…keep me posted.” 

3) Timeliness/Latest News.

Most people don’t want to read yesterday’s news. Newer objects have a better chance of showing up in your news feed than older ones. 

Conclusion: Keep it current.

So there you have it.  Engagement is fast becoming key.  No surprises there then.  But how do you increase engagement (or at least increase the chances of some interaction)?  Tomorrow we will discuss strategies and best practices to increase the chances of engagement.  

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How To Create Twitter Lists

Categorizing your Twitter followers into lists takes little effort yet the benefits are ten fold.  So why haven't you started?!  For me the answer was simple, I just never knew how!  Having worked with many clients, (from advising all the way to full content creation) I soon discovered that arranging followers into manageable lists helped focus my activities.

Here follows a step by step guide on how to create lists, both public and private.

Getting Started - Lists

Once you have logged into your Twitter account you will see the Lists option just below the 'What’s happening?' box (where you usually type your Tweets.)

Simply click on the List option and you should see the following:

Once you click on the Create a list option a window will pop up similar to the one below:

Begin by typing the name of your list e.g., family, social media experts, clients, friends etc into the List name box. 

However, a word of warning: The name used in List name will become your list’s URL e.g., twitter.com/username/Family

Even more importantly you will be asked if you want your list to be public or private.  This is equally important.

What's the difference between public lists and private lists?

Public Lists – These lists can be seen by anyone and anyone can follow them. For example, public lists are ideal for recommended follows.

Private Lists – When Twitter says private, they mean private. Only the creator of private lists will be able to see or subscribe to them.  Why would you do this I ask you cry…this list could be used to monitor your competitors activities on Twitter...and you wouldn't want them know to know this now would you?

So this is part one of Twitter Lists.  Soon I will blog about the way you can utilize these lists to increase your productivity on Twitter.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Social Media - Being Genuine is Key

We all know the stereotypical image of the publicist; a bullying, Blackberry-obsessed, cut-throat, 'kill their own mother to get an article on the front page of The New York Times' screaming mess.  We’ve created the monsters and myths and now we have to live with the consequences.  It's not pretty.

But do not despair publicists for there is still hope for us all! Now is the time to not only rebrand ourselves, but to really change the way we reach out to the people!  No more jargon to clients about Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare blah blah blah! No, it is ideas, not technology that we must embrace.

Consumers, smarter than ever, can smell bull from a mile away – you know that eye catching headline, the one you spent ages getting the key words all lined up and ready to go, well that smelt the worst.

Guarded, mistrustful, and much much MUCH more intelligent than people dared give them credit for in past, consumers get dizzy from all the spin that's thrown at them. In short, they assume deception.

So what can we do?

Being relatively new to this PR business (around 5+ years now) I consider myself somewhat of a New Age publicist.  Quite simply I live and I die by these three criteria: 

1) Listening.
2) Thinking like a consumer.
3) Being as creative as I can whilst monitoring my competitors.

1) Listen.

Gone are the days when publicists dictated reality. We don't control the news anymore, if we ever did. You want to claim that your client's product is the best in the world, well it damned well better be. If it isn’t then there's a wealth of customers on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums claiming otherwise.  I know who I believe.

If your claims don't match what’s being said on the web (aka the reality) then mistrust between company and product increases even more. This makes your job, as a publicist, a million times harder. Listen to your target audience before you say a thing. There are a wealth of monitoring tools out there, most free, so there are no excuses. If a customer voices their dislike just acknowledge it! Trust me, ignoring a negative comment does not stop them from existing. Also, if you take one thing away from this blog entry promise me one thing....you will never delete a negative comment from your Facebook page. This is social media suicide.  I'm speaking from experience...hey, we all had to learn sometime!

2) Think like a consumer (this is easy, you are one).

Do you know why I consider myself a good social media advisor? Easy - I use social media sites 24/7 just like the consumer I am. Sure we are not all the same, but  I feel like I know certain benchmarks that work. 

Example of thinking like a consumer:

If a client asks me to create a Facebook page for them I only have to ask myself, “why would I add your page and what do I gain from doing so?” If I can’t find an answer then that raises some serious concerns. Does the client have the willingness to pull some resources together e.g., money, manpower, time for meetings etc to provide valuable content to it's fans? Social media, despite the myth, is not cheap...time is money my friends.

So what am I trying to say? Well, I don’t ‘like’ a page because I like a brand; I ‘like’ a page as I gain something valuable from doing so e.g., exclusive information only available to fans, exclusive coupons, latest deals, insider information etc. Always think like a consumer and your content has a better chance of gaining some coveted ROI (I will be posting about ROI in the next few months).

3) Be creative (oh, and monitor your competitors).

And so we reach the final part of my philosophy. Be creative and monitor/learn from your competitors. I’m on Twitter and Facebook Monday – Sunday. It’s hard, frustrating and time-consuming work (yes I know it’s a shock…social media is not easy), but the more you put in, the more you get out. 

Read every article and book you can get your hands on…and don't be afraid to experiment. We are all learning here. I’ve made mistakes but I’ve also had incredible successes. The world is moving so fast that we, as professionals, have to adapt to the latest technologies and develop our skills from day-to-day. 

Recommended Reading: 

Final Thoughts

We now have a wealth of case studies and successful campaigns. Not all have worked, but we can always learn something, even from failures. 

I will now leave you with one of the most creative examples of social media I think I have ever seen. It incorporates all of my criteria; Listening, thinking like a consumer and being creative (actually, being very brave.)

“After ranking last in a consumer preferences survey of national chains in 2009, Domino’s Pizza launched its humility-filled Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign, which featured consumers hating on the product. Consumers complained that Domino’s Pizza crust tasted like cardboard and its sauce tasted like ketchup, among other pitfalls. Domino’s listened and its chefs got to work, reinventing a “new pizza.” (Mashable)

Leia Mais…

The Importance of Twitter Lists

It won’t take long, as you sift through the wealth of articles on Twitter, to realize that this 5-year-old company is fast becoming a powerhouse for news syndication, customer service and brand building.  When the entire world is tweeting about a government assassination before the President has even confirmed the news…well, it speaks volumes.
We’ve come to understand the importance of the #Hashtag over the years and are finally beginning to compile a good set of ‘guidelines and best practices’ (which we all know will continue to evolve) but there is still one important organizational tool that appears to be overlooked – lists.
Twitter lists became available in 2009 allowing users to organize their feeds into groups. Sure it isn’t the most exciting feature available but if used correctly it can act as an invaluable tool for streamlining your contacts and day-to-day activities on Twitter.
 “…you can create a list that groups together people for whatever reason (the members of your family, for example), and then you can get a snapshot of the things those users are saying by viewing that list’s page, which includes a complete tweet stream for everyone on the list.”
Why List Building is important

Twitter, like any other social network, thrives on the community building aspect. As a business, you really should be segregating your audience into various communities e.g. partners, journalists and customers.  If you want to know what your consumers are thinking, and you don’t want to read through the hundreds of updates from CEO’s, marketing teams or the ever increasing ‘bots,’ then tomorrow’s post is for you.
In short, Twitter lists provide you with a finer level of control over your followers.  This way you will never miss a compliment, question or, we hate to bring them up, complaints.
Come back tomorrow for a step-by-step guide on how to create lists in Twitter.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Does social media really work?

Mashable recently posted an article, Social Media Has Almost No Effect on Online Retail Purchases, which sparked an interesting debate within the comment section.

You can check out the full article here, but the report from Forrester Research and GSI Commerce basically reaches the conclusion that, “… social media rarely leads directly to purchases online.”  The data indicates that less than 2% of orders were the result of shoppers coming from a social network, with email and search advertising being much more effective mediums for converting browsers into buyers.

What hit me the hardest however was Fiona Dias’ personal conclusion:

“It’s been a mystery to me why the media is excited about social media. From a retail and commerce perspective, it seems to have no effect.”

Things to bear in mind before we all run away from social media:

How do we measure the effectiveness of social media effectively?

We don’t know how this data was gathered. Sure, a person might not click on a link posted on Facebook but what about those who use Facebook and Twitter as a conversation tool?  What if someone just asks others what they recommend?  Have Forrester and GSI Commerce taken this social aspect into account?

In short, social media isn’t always measurable (or should I say, “social media isn’t always EASILY measurable.”)  Here’s an example:

I’ve seen a friends posting about a new artist and how great their album is.  No link is provided to purchase the album directly, but they have liked the bands page and I take a look at it.  I’ve then searched for this album on iTunes or Amazon.com and purchased.  Although the cause for me buying the album came through Social Media, wouldn’t the statistics show I used search to purchase.  It’s serious food for thought.

What was the return on investment in regards to this 2%?

2% does sound pretty small, but what was the revenue generated from this 2% compared to the money spent gaining it?  If I’m using social media to sell homes and it only takes one person to run the Facebook page or Twitter account, then a 2% increase is pretty damn good.  If it takes four people working full time to gain a 2% increase on sales of 99-cent pencils then Dias’ criticism might be warranted.  This is the kind of data we need to know before we condemn social media.

Are we just missing the point entirely?
Is social media a waste of time?  Is social media just another bandwagon, blown out of proportion by the media?  In short, NO!

Social media is about engagement.  How many customers who purchased Dell computers are retained because of the companies amazing use of Twitter when dealing with customer’s problems?  How many customers have AT&T retained through engagement on their Facebook page? (I had personal experience with this, and believe me; if it weren’t for their Facebook page I wouldn’t be using them now).  Are we only looking for new customers or are we looking to retain?  This is all money in the bank.

One comment left by another reader sums up my personal philosophy:

“Social media is how you build brand loyalty and provide great customer service. Brand loyalty and customer service doesn’t track easily to new purchases in the sense that User Click Ad – User Sees Product – User Buys Product.”   AMEN.

Another comment also gives us insight into the importance of social media and how its effectiveness is sometimes subtle:

“Social media isn’t going to lead to direct purchases a lot of the time — BUT if you have no social media presence, chances are you’re not going to keep my attention very long. I hate e-mail newsletters clogging up my inbox from retailers. But Facebook and Twitter? Yeah, I’ll tolerate some quick info from you.”

The Future of social media?
I guess we need to hear from Forrester Research and GSI Commerce on the methods used, the companies participating and the criteria.  Was this a simple “add a link to a Facebook wall and see how many sales we gain from it?”  I hope not, but I’m suspicious of the findings here.  Social media is more than direct sales.  It is used to retain, engage and build meaningful brand relationships.  This also leads to money in the bank.

Where does this leave us?
The results of this research leave us asking more questions and looking for better ways to monitor our activities.  This is no bad thing.  But to dismiss the effects of social media from a direct sales point of view, in my opinion, misses the point entirely.  I also find it very hard to believe that social media ad spending will hit $8.3 billion in 2015, according to a new report, if companies are not seeing some positive ROI.

Let us know your thoughts!

Leia Mais…