— blending the mix

Archive
September, 2011 Monthly archive

UPDATE: Andrew Grill, CEO Peoplebrowsr in the UK has been good enough to provide me with screengrabs of my own KRED score whilst KRED is still in invite-only mode.

You will be able to see the simple yet valuable way in which KRED:

1) Provides a good deal of scope to evaluate my ability to influence others to take action: 668/1000

2) Puts a number (out of 9) to my willingness to interact with others: 6/9

As we all well know, the world of measuring influence is fraught with problems. Tools like Peerindex and Klout are the life-saver for lazy markteers and pr’s looking for the easiest way to find influencers to talk about their product. Debate about their algorithms-aside, both Peerindex and Klout are now beginning to demonstrate attempts at one of the fundamental issue that relates to influence, which is one of context.

On what topic is a person influential?

I may be influential on cricket, football and (hopefully!) marketing, but not at all influential about music or art. Just because I have an opinion about these latter 2, does not make me influential about them. But, tools to date have done a pretty poor job of identifying the distinction between the things I talk about and the things I am influential/knowledgeable about.

There is also another factor that I think will take longer to fathom and something which I talked about on Social Media Today when looking at how trust usurps influence. To everyone outside my close-knit communities, I have an influence on a small number of topics. However, to my closest friends, my opinion on everything is valued. Is there a layer boundary at which all attempts to measure influence by topic are limited?

Peerindex provides you with a score based around a number of general topic areas, thus:

Interesting, but still quite general which is not great.

Klout attempts to nail context more granularly by trying to identify specific topics. It is unclear whether this is being run against a lookup table to determine more general topics (social media, marketing etc.) or whether it is simply filtering the most frequently used words from the places it digs for you. As good as this might sound though, it is perhaps more damaging than doing good. As it struggles to handle a huge range of topics I discuss online, it presents, quite frequently, topics that I barely even remember writing about, let alone think I am knowledgeable enough to consider myself influential on.

Do Peoplebrowsr have the answer though? This week they launched KRED, a topic-based influencer tool which identifies not only how “influential you are” but also the topics on which you are influential, and, how “social” you are i.e. how likely you are to share content.

This has always formed the basis (albeit manually) for my own influencer identification . You can always look identify influential people, but (an acceptable approach aside) how do you evaluate the likelihood that person is a sharer or likely to post about you (or even that their posts are particularly well travelled).
KRED attempts to do this. I am really impressed with the way that it, at its core looks to be designed to address the key issues around influence.
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What are the consequences of the recent Facebook changes?

So I’ve take a few days to assess the changes – there’s always a mad rush to be the first to review a new site and it’s pretty obvious (to me anyway), that Facebook is hell bent on becoming the platform for the web. But rather than opening up from the cliche’d “walled garden”, it is inviting people “in” to it – which is why their launch choice of social apps is so important – apps with critical mass, technologically advanced or are an innovative fit with Facebook’s re-volution.

The new platform for the web – Pre-IPO growth?
In reality, it is too easy to say that Facebook is becoming the platform for the web – with close to 800m users, the draw, simply of people and friends alone is significant. But the announcements this week demonstrates a clear desire to use applications and tools (as much as the people who use them) as a major driver in its next period of growth.

Thinking back to the great 2006/7 app-rush, there was a flood of interest in Facebook as users and brands could do more in Facebook than ever before. Fast-forward 4 years and we’re in the same boat, except this time, the apps that are now integrated into Facebook are proven successful services, bringing with them millions of members.

These services naturally relied on people wanting to spend time away from Facebook (music, news etc.) but the emerging trend (not just in apps, but new services too) certainly seems to be one of creating new experiences in Facebook.

Take a look at Techcrunch Disrupt winner Shaker, creating a Habbo Hotel-style social gaming experience sat on the Facebook platform, or Color, the new in-Facebook streaming app – again works only on Facebook. With the integration of music and video into Facebook it certainly seems a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. All of which adds a significant number of users to Facebook – and commercial value.

As an aside, I really wish that Loic Le Meur had pursued the video platform that Seesmic created and found a way of integrating this into Facebook!

Are the apps up to the job though?
At the moment, this really only applies to Spotify, but it certainly is the case that as an app, it is pretty basic. Spotify Mobile updates seem erratic, more about basic bug-fixing than new features and the desktop app updates even more rarely – something which is exactly what is happening in the social space at the moment. Spotify’s biggest advantage is also its biggest downfall. Creating playlists. It is so easy to create new playlists, it is nigh-on impossible to organise them.

Sound familiar? This is exactly the problem that Google+ and Facebook are now managing with friends and friend lists – Apple have managed it with ipod, so what is Spotify’s solution? This issue of noise is only going to get worse as more and more friends experience musical serendipity.

Spotify and indeed all entertainment services now need to consider themselves as social platforms – spotify is a social platform that plays music rather than just a music playing one with sharing functionality – and this will require a fair amount of innovation based on what exists at the moment.

This is a significant change in mindset if we are to avoid seeing services simply use Facebook as another broadcast mechanism.

Frictionless Sharing and Privacy Issues
Spotify’s integration with Facebook is now so tight that new users have to have a Facebook account to make it work. Furthermore, anything and everything you play on Spotify, wherever it may be being played, is now being fed back into Facebook. Whilst it admittedly causes some concerns about the fact that you might secretly listen to The Saturdays (erm…!!) it is a brilliant way to find stuff that you didn’t know about or that your friends are listening to.

I was initially dead against this, it took me right back to the old days of Facebook Beacon when exactly the same kind of pre-opted-in boadcasting happened but having played with it for a while longer, I totally see the benefit.

As Brian Solis suggests, this change alone is forcing us to re-evaluate what we believe privacy to be or mean. We have all traditionally been free and easy with our information, but we have all been comfortable with this because WE have been in control of what is public, even if it is to a limited number of circles or friend lists. This changes everything. Are we happy to have the people we consider friends to alter their judgement of who we are by the minutae of our listening and reading habits?

Ask yourself this question though. Has the benefit of finding new music or even old favourites you’d forgotten about been of more value to you than anything your friends might have seen that may have a tinge of embarrassment? Have you learnt more from reading a Guardian article about a sensitive topic your friend also read than suffered as a result of others seeing you have read the same article?

Whatever your view of privacy, what this frictionless sharing introduces properly into our lives is genuine serendipity. For the last 5 years, services and algorithms have been trying to find ways to only show us the things that it thinks we are interested in – some work, some fail miserably.

Trust usurps Influence
This brings me onto the issue of influence. We are all influential about all sorts of different topics – yet when it comes to our closest friends, we will happily accept advice about a topic, track, film or pair of shoes from our friends – wherever their area of expertise may lie. The same applies to music and news. Music is often discussed as the emotional glue that binds many of us from different backgrounds together and we are much more likely to try something new that our friends have discovered.

As apps and services wake up to the opportunities that tighter social integration bring, I expect the trust we have in our friends to introduce many more and much wider experiences and products than we currently see. Which brings one massive headache with it – how do we measure this influence?

Are we doing this because we can or because people want it?
In the space of just 2 weeks, Facebook has introduced Friend Lists, Subscriptions, a mini-stream, new profiles/timeline, integration with spotify and news apps. Is the everyday user of Facebook (i.e. the person who simple uses it to communicate with friends) capable of understanding the benefits of all of this innovation?

Are we likely to see an 18-year old student divide their, say 500-odd friends into specific friend lists and subscribe to different bits of content from each list? I suggest not.

Are they going to be MASSIVELY concerned about the auto-posting to their walls of content they interact with? Yes.

Are they going to be MASSIVELY concerned that sites they visit outside of Facebook are being fed back to Facebook? Yes.

Cookie issues aside (which Facebook are now addressing) and complex account management aside, “chain statuses” are aplenty with scare stories of what can be seen on your wall and what data facebook can see. “Normal” users are scared. However, all of these changes are necessary to ensure that we have a way to manage what will become a deluge of information from streaming movies to music and news.

Noise management is perhaps the most crucial aspect underpinning all of these changes. As Facebook brings the web to IT and becomes our main window to the web, without a proper way of managing this information, we will sink…and take Facebook with us

What does this mean to you?
Think social. If you are a brand or agency, Facebook is now forcing your hand. No longer can a strategy be based around the “if” of Facebook, but now more the “must”. And that is not just about Facebook Pages either. Crucially, you must now consider how your brand can be social. And being social is not, as we discovered last week, about simply using old message techniques on new platforms. It is about behaving in new ways and taking a fresh look at your product and service in entirely new ways.

However you look at it, the world has just changed. Massively.

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UPDATE: HERE IS THE NEW FACEBOOK!

Some really interesting changes were announced at Facebook today which really lay down the gauntlet.

Google+ introduced a new, slick way (via circles) of managing one of Facebook’s most challenging aspect, noise. We’ve all joined with gusto, dozens, if not hundreds of Pages and have hundreds of friends, yet they are all vying for a slim bit of space on our walls for our attention.

Google+ presented a simple way of consuming news from different friends, making life easier. Users reported higher levels of engagement and interaction than they had experienced on several long-established networks and many claimed that they had achieved a level of followers in just 2 months that had taken them years to acquire. It was clean, simple and effective.

But would the general public adopt Google+? Does the general public want to, having invested so much time in Facebook, really want to leave to join one which is largely, a white wall with a few comments and familiar faces on it?

And, it looks like today will be the day we find out as Facebook integrates even MORE of our everyday web services into our Facebook experience. With issues of noise and friend management ironed out with subscriptions and friend lists, we now have major lifestyle/entertainment brands  like Spotify, Netflix, Nike +, right here in our Facebook streams – all in a better, cleaner, more structured order.

With Deals/Places expected to happen shortly, it seems that Facebook may have just managed in bringing the web to it.

Here’s some of the latest images, Facebook have supplied, and sign up here!

 

 

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You probably don’t need me to tell you that the use of any social media channel needs to be considered carefully – and by that I don’t just mean “should you, shouldn’t you”, I mean “what are you trying to get out of it”.

Anybody can (and frequently does) create a Facebook Page, gain some kind of traction through a promotion, then things stutter. Or, perhaps they’ve launched an app, enjoyed a massive spike in interest and then back to normality. But what about every day in between? Factor in weekends, evenings or even holiday periods and you have a tough time getting people engaged.

But is it right to blame the agency or community manager for failures to grow user bases and engagement? What if fans are simply interested in what they can get OUT of the Page AND THAT IS IT?

If the loosest of all reasons a brand should be on Facebook is to increase audience engagement – then the figures uncovered by conversation monitoring and insights company here in the UK, Market Sentinel are a worrying sight.

Research provided by their Skyttle Friends (Facebook Page analysis) tool shows that even the mega-celebrities are struggling to engage fans in anything like the volumes you would expect from such significant fan bases – so what chance do brands with less than 30,000 have for example. And note, that there is not ONE brand in this top 20 list.

The KEY statistic here is the tiny number of CORE fans each Page has, or rather does NOT have. It effectively tells us how many fans interact more than the Page average (which is generally once). As such, in most cases, engagement levels are so low, an individual only needs to interact with the Page a couple of times to interact more then almost 99.99% of the whole fans base.

So, if the goal of your Facebook efforts is to increase engagement and you are not looking at these figures, you are failing on a MASSIVE scale.

Don’t forget too, that with the way Edgerank works, if people don’t interact with your Page regularly, you disappear off their walls. Bad times.

nb. To calculate the core fan count, the average number of posts-per-contributing fan is calculated. This number ranges from 1.14 for Bob Marley to 2.03 for Bob Marley. Any fan whose comment count is higher than the average is a “core fan”.
 

So what are YOU going to do to get people coming back for more?

 

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We all seem to have a bit of a downer on Groupon. For various reasons, there seems to be a morbid fascination with bringing down what is (or rather, was) essentially the global leader in local deals. Everything seemed fine – deals initially presented a wonderful opportunity to get something local to us (and we probably knew of) for a lot less. But then everyone jumped on board and websites with a naturally local geography began delivering local deals on top of the global deals.

It all went a bit pear-shaped, amidst complaints of providers having to give too much money to Groupon, not making any money out of the deals (many claiming they were losing money) and customers claiming that their deals were not being honoured (as a result of the loss-making nature of the deals).

One of the big unknows is one of reputation though – Groupon’s is all over the place (thanks, in part to the recent departure of the Group Head of PR). For the first time, thorough research has been carried out analysing the reputational impact of the businesses that take part in deals – and it doesn’t make for good reading.

The research, carried out by John Byers and Gerogia Zervas from Boston University and Micahel Mitzenmacher from Harvard University studied over 16,000 Groupon deals in 20 US cities between January and July this year. They monitored each deal every ten minutes or so to determine how sales varied over time and also counted the number of Facebook likes that each deal generated.

At the same time, they collected Yelp around 56,000 of them from 2,332 merchants who ran 2,496 deals–examining how merchant reputations changed before and after a Groupon deal.

Interestingly, their methodology looks to be sound as they were able to arrived at more or less the same value of sales through their period of analysis as Groupon announced in their corresponding period figures. Further analysis points to the direct impact that Facebook likes have on word of mouth, contributing significantly to a deal’s popularity.

However, the most interesting aspect (as the graphic shows) is the negative impact Yelp scores by customers who have redeemed the deal. In the cases where the Yelp reviewer mentioned either “Groupon” or “coupon”, review scores were 10% lower than average. In the case where BOTH words were used, review scores were 20% lower. It is worth noting that this is NOT totally indicative of ALL experiences, and the research is based only those reviews which included one or both of these words – the volume of reviews is much more significant. Groupon’s Hidden Influence on Business Reputation

Evidence certainly lends itself to supporting the Groupon model as not only a profitable but also sustainable one, but my feeling is that a lot of the criticism should rightly be levied at the naive partners not understanding what they are buying in to.

Sure, Groupon sales teams are no doubt aggressive in their approach, but the horror stories of not understanding cashflow and not phyisically preparing for what a deal ACTUALLY requires are aplenty. From poor stock management to physical space in the shop and poor customer service – the groupon deals merely highlight these issues more than you realise.

In the words of the researchers:

“This could indicate that a more critical audience is being reached, or that the fit between the merchant and these new customers is more tenuous than with existing customers”.

The interesting point would be whether or not the deal prompted a typical non-reviewer to post a first time review, or a frequent poster to post a more negative one than usual.

But, whilst it’s easy to Groupon Bash, are the merchants themselves as much to blame? Could or should Groupon be more proactive in preparing a business for a deal? After all, if Groupon are sticking with the line of recruitment marketing being one-off costs, then more merchants having successful deals and therefore repeat deals would make much more financial sense.

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